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Captain America: The First Avenger Blu-ray

Captain America: The Clothes Make the Icon

Creators from Joe Simon to Steve McNiven talk about Cap's classic costume and shield!

"Captain America: The First Avenger" comes home October 25 on Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray, DVD and digital download, and from now until then Marvel.com will bring you daily doses of Cap action! Come back every day for new looks behind the scenes of the film, looks back at the stories that inspired Captain America's cinematic adventure, words from the cast and crew and more!

By Chris Arrant

Captain America might be one of the oldest heroes in Marvel’s classic pantheon of characters, but his costume remains as timeless as it was the first time co-creator Joe Simon drew it. Cap has served on the front lines of comic books since his debut in 1941, and over the past 70 years the Sentinel of Liberty has worn the same patriotic and timeless costume almost without interruption. With Steve Rogers' return to the name and the costume in FEAR ITSELF #4 And CAPTAIN AMERICA #1 this past summer and "Captain America: The First Avenger" coming to Blu-ray in less than a week, it’s a time for reflection on the legacy of the outfit.

Captain America Comics #1

Over the years since Cap's creation, our hero's costume has remained virtually unchanged--and for good reason.

"I hope it’s because Jack and I did our jobs well, and made it one of the most recognizable uniforms in comic books,” explains Joe Simon, who co-created the character with Jack Kirby. “It didn’t hurt that the first issue of the title sold more than a million copies. Back then, every copy was read by more than one person, so millions of readers came to recognize Captain America, all at once. During World War II, an entire generation knew him as the great American hero.”

Part of the success of Captain America lies in the patriotic costume which proudly uses the American flag as its inspiration.

“The colors of the costume were a no-brainer, and the shield was probably the result of my long-time love of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table,” Simon revealed. “I was doing covers for The Blue Beetle at Fox Comics, which also featured chain mail on his costume. I liked the looks of the design, and incorporated it into Captain America.”

Although Cap wasn’t the first patriotic super hero in comics--or the last--he quickly entrenched himself as the quintessential American hero in comics.

“There have been other heroes with the red white and blue theme, though,” says the iconic creator, "so for us it was just a matter of making it work as a uniform. Given the genius of Jack Kirby, it’s not surprising how it turned out--he could make just about anything work.”

Steve McNiven's cover to Captain America (2011) #1

Over the years, a verifiable who’s who of artists have drawn Marvel’s star-spangled soldier, and as CIVIL WAR artist Steve McNiven joins that pantheon in the recently relaunched CAPTAIN AMERICA series, he’s in awe of the outfit as well.

“The costume shouldn't work, with all the colors and textures, big red boots, etc., but somehow Kirby's alchemy created a costume that transcends its constituent parts,” McNiven tells Marvel.com. “That's why I didn't muck with it, other than some seams and pouches. Change one thing and it all falls apart.”

When asked about the specific design elements that Joe Simon and Jack Kirby pioneered in the creation of Captain America, McNiven couldn’t hold back.

"The flag iconography works well on the costume, reinforcing the ‘America’ in ‘Captain America,’ but from a design and drawing point of view the vertical stripes on the stomach area work well to help portray the torso twisting in action,” the artist explains. “The ‘A’ on the forehead works to establish the facial plane when sketching in Cap's head. The real difficulty is wrapping the scale mail around the upper chest, but if done well can enhance the three dimensionality of the form. I could go on and on but when it comes down to it, it's just a great costume to draw!”

McNiven’s admiration for the Captain America design is echoed by another comics veteran with ties to the hero: Alex Ross.

“Part of what works so well for the costume is that it’s short-sleeved. Something about the bare white arms gives it a unique quality. There’s a certain flair that comes from the buccaneer style in the gloves and boots, and those flairs are very important keys to design. When drawing the character, these flairs give a much more impressive swirl and kineticism to his majesty.”

Cap as imagined by Chris Samnee in Captain America and Bucky #620

One of the most iconic “flairs” to Captain America’s ensemble is, without a doubt, his shield. From the original triangular design to the more popular round shield that took its place, it’s become a signature part of the Super Soldier’s character. In the new series CAPTAIN AMERICA AND BUCKY, artist Chris Samnee gets the opportunity to draw both the original 1940s version of the duo as well as the modern-day iterations of the heroes.

“I'm kind of fond of both the triangle shield and the round one,” speaks the artist. “The triangle because the red and white vertical stripes echo the stripes on Cap's torso. I like the balance between the two. That said, the round one looks so great. And the image of Cap throwing his shield and having it return like a frisbee really only works with 'ol' Roundie' as I call it.”

"Ol’ Roundie" proves to be a favorite amongst the artists who have drawn it, even with co-creator Joe Simon who came up with the triangular shield first.

“[Replacing the triangular shield] turned out to be a good thing, since the round shield could be used offensively as well as defensively,” said the Eisner Hall Of Fame creator. “Now I think it’s the most iconic part of Captain America’s costume."

“It’s an almost perfect graphic symbol design,” adds Ross. “With the circular template to wrap the stars and stripes around, it’s lucky Joe and Jack did it first. It’s become the character’s most identifiable graphic, while also being incredibly simple and pure.”

According to Ross, one of the biggest reasons that the classic Captain America costume has remained virtually unchanged since the 1940s is one simple fact: kids can draw it.

“One of the most underrated but important aspects of good costume design is how well the design can be drawn by those who come after the original creators, whether it is subsequent professional artists or the fans that read about them.”

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