With the release of "Thor" on May 6, 2011 and "Captain America: The First Avenger" on July 22, 2011, Marvel.com presents the Essentials, a series of articles showcasing each character's expansive history and mythology in the Marvel comics.
From character retrospectives to a look at memorable storylines and interviews with key creators, the Essentials will act as the perfect guide for fans both old and new! Look for new Cap Essentials every Monday and Thor Essentials every Thursday as we head toward the release of each film!
By Jim Beard
War changes men, sometimes for the better. Captain America may be one of the greatest heroes of all time now, but he gained his masterful experience during the conflagration known as World War II, and inspired a generation of crusaders to come!Return with us now to that thrilling yet dangerous era in America’s history and witness for yourself all the fascinating factors that make up the Sentinel of Liberty’s wartime life! And remember: loose lips sink ships!
|Captain America Comics #1|
The 98-pound Weakling
Steve Rogers wanted to serve his country any way he could, but the army labeled him too frail to serve in uniform. Then, a secret experiment and a “super-soldier” serum presented the puny patriot with the means to become a hero--Captain America! Now a fighting symbol of liberty, Cap made history as a one-man brigade against the spreading scourge that threatened not only his beloved nation, but the entire globe.
Cap’s origin at the outbreak of World War II’s been told many times over the years and each time we gain new insights on the famous tale. We recommend not only the original version from 1941’s CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS #1, but also its retelling in 1965’s TALES OF SUSPENSE #63 and 1991’s ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN AMERICA.
|Captain America: Who Will Wield The Shield? art by Luke Ross|
Over There, Over There
At Cap’s side strode Bucky, his youthful partner and confidante during the war. The two served as soldiers in the American army but kept a watchful eye out for missions that only Captain America and the teen-age titan could tackle. Together, they forged a legendary team that’s remembered to this day, and their adventures and the enemies they faced rank as some of the greatest World War II stories ever told.
For a particularly harrowing account of an overseas Cap & Bucky adventure, take a look at TALES OF SUSPENSE #67--and while you’re at it, we should point you towards the WINTER SOLDIER: WINTER KILLS one-shot and CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER VOL. 1. For even more of Cap’s World War II tales, check out the AMERICA FIRST, THEATER OF WAR and SINS OF THE FATHERS collections.
|Tales of Suspense #77 interior art by Jack Kirby and John Romita|
Peg o’ My Heart
Inevitably, Steve Rogers met someone he could share his heart with while the bombs burst around him. That someone went by the name of Peggy Carter, and she took her place in the history books as Cap’s wartime sweetheart. Originally a member of the French Resistance, Peggy became engulfed by the conflict and she and Steve lost each other until finally being reunited in modern times.
If your own heart can stand the ache, take a gander at “The Girl from Cap’s Past” in TALES OF SUSPENSE #77--reprinted in CAPTAIN AMERICA MASTERWORKS VOL. 2--and then look forward to their tearful reunion in CAPTAIN AMERICA #162, collected in ESSENTIAL CAPTAIN AMERICA VOL. 4.
|Giant-Size Invaders #2 cover by Lee Weeks|
Watch Out, Axis; Here We Come!
Cap’s appearance on the homefront and overseas inspired others to don colorful costumes and fight for liberty, too, and soon the whole lot of them banded together for mutual benefit. Declaring themselves the Invaders, Cap joined with the Sub-Mariner, the Human Torch and Toro, the Whizzer, Miss America and others to give the Axis Powers even more to tremble about. Later wartime groups that the Sentinel of Liberty palled around with include the Liberty Legion, the Crusaders, the V-Battalion and the All-Winners Squad.
|Captain America #6 cover by Steve Epting|
To the Hero, an Adversary
A brilliant Nazi scientist sounds like the perfect opponent for Captain America, and so it came to pass in the wicked form of Baron Heinrich Zemo. Few foes of the Captain made such a mark on the hero as Zemo. With his evil concoctions and sinister schemes he accomplished the near-impossible: made the war an even more arduous journey for Cap. It’s Zemo that crafted the drone plane that led to Steve Rogers' long suspended animation in ice and Bucky’s seeming death in the final days of World War II.
|Ultimate Captain America art by Bryan Hitch|
Ultimate Cap at War
The Ultimate Universe’s World War II raged no less furiously than that of the classic Marvel Universe--and so to did it prove to have forged its Captain America. The details may be different, but the man who’d ultimately take his place in the Ultimates in modern times looked back on those times as the testing grounds for his heroism.
It’s all there in the ULTIMATES BY MARK MILLAR AND BRYAN HITCH OMNIBUS for your amusement, education and edification, True Believers!