By Jim Beard
Over seven decades ago, history occurred with the debut of Captain America in 1941. 70 years later, Steve Rogers and his star-spangled alter ego have grown to iconic status, remaining a mainstay of the Marvel Universe while also expanding into the realms of television, film and more.
On April 4, 2014, the Sentinel of Liberty returns to the big screen in "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" from Marvel Studios. As the countdown to Chris Evans picking up the shield once more heats up, we present the definitive comics history of Cap, from his debut to the modern day.
After setting the deceased Red Skull’s body on a fiery pyre in CAPTAIN AMERICA #301, Mother Superior and the Sisters of Sin attacked the still-aged Cap while the Avengers tried to rejuvenate the living legend. Fortunately, our hero survived and returned to his peak fighting form.
Batroc sent weapon masters Zaran and Machete to try their hands at mastering Cap, and ended up stealing his famous shield in CAPTAIN AMERICA #302, which they then turned around and sold to Stane International in CAPTAIN AMERICA #303. When Cap offered Batroc a free shot on him in exchange for information on the wayward weapon, he managed to track it down and retrieve it in CAPTAIN AMERICA #304, but not before facing off against a Stane agent sporting armor made from the same material as his shield.
A ghostly vision sent Steve Rogers packing to England in CAPTAIN AMERICA #305, where he fought Modred the Mystic disguised as Captain Britain. The real Captain Britain teamed with America’s champion in CAPTAIN AMERICA #306 to defeat the wily magic-wielder. After an encounter with the wacky criminal Madcap in CAPTAIN AMERICA #307, Cap fought the Beyonder in the streets of Los Angeles in SECRET WARS II #1, then investigated the mystery of the Armadillo on the grounds of the West Coast Avengers compound in CAPTAIN AMERICA #308. The Beyonder, looking in on Cap’s travails, decided to take the form of the hero, who he saw as the ideal of a perfect specimen of humanity.
Madcap returned in CAPTAIN AMERICA #309 to bedevil Cap’s partner, Nomad, which in turn led to Jack Monroe’s departure from the hero’s tutelage. The villainous Sidewinder formed the Serpent Society, a team of snake-themed criminals, in CAPTAIN AMERICA #310, and Steve met the beautiful Diamondback, a woman who’d worm her way into his heart in the days to come. CAPTAIN AMERICA #311 saw Steve hired by Marvel Comics to draw their Captain America title, and 1985 wrapped up with the momentous first appearance of the Flag-Smasher, a freedom fighter who fought against the “oppression of national rule,” in CAPTAIN AMERICA #312.
1986 kicked off with a pitched battle between the Serpent Society and M.O.D.O.K. in CAPTAIN AMERICA #313, a fight which cost Bushmaster his arms. Cap refused the dimension-hopping Nighthawk’s request for aid against the Squadron Supreme in CAPTAIN AMERICA #314, but helped him squash three outrageous villains from his Earth.
CAPTAIN AMERICA #315 brought a scuffle between our hero and the Porcupine, and the Armadillo sauntered back into Cap’s life in CAPTAIN AMERICA #316. At that same time, Steve’s girlfriend Bernie announced her intention to move to Wisconsin to attend law school, which brought rain clouds to the two lovers’ world. After an encounter with a team of miscreants called the Death-Throws in CAPTAIN AMERICA #317, Steve himself moved out of his apartment building, signaling a new era.
The so-called Scourge of the Underworld assassinated Blue Streak, formerly of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Super-Agents, in CAPTAIN AMERICA #318, so Cap began to track down the villain-killer in CAPTAIN AMERICA #319. Not resting on his laurels, the Scourge executed a master stroke by eliminating 18 different costumed criminals at the Bar with No Name, somewhere in Ohio. Cap disguised himself as the late Mirage and lured Scourge into a trap in CAPTAIN AMERICA #320, only to witness the man’s own death at yet another Scourge.
Flag-Smasher joined a like-minded group called Ultimatum in CAPTAIN AMERICA #321, then perpetrated a daring Alpine assault on the Sentinel of Liberty in CAPTAIN AMERICA #322. With no time to rest and recuperate, Cap met John Walker, the Super-Patriot, in CAPTAIN AMERICA #323, and began to realize that Americans might fear him in CAPTAIN AMERICA #324.
The year ended with the beginning of one of Captain America’s most trying times: a daring takeover of Avengers Mansion by Baron Zemo and the new Masters of Evil in AVENGERS #274, an event that our hero would not soon forget.