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.
1971 brought Captain America that which he’d lost long before, a partner to share triumph and tragedy with—one he’d lose again by the end of the year.
Things opened with a bang as M.O.D.O.K.’s origin came to light in CAPTAIN AMERICA #133 and the former A.I.M. scientist created the operative called Bulldozer to clear out the slums of Harlem. Cap countered the destruction by taking on the high-flying Falcon as his trusted confederate and partner in crime-fighting.
Mob boss Stone Face immediately took umbrage at the partnership in CAPTAIN AMERICA #134 and Falcon’s sister and nephew got caught in the crossfire between villain and heroes. Meanwhile, oddball
S.H.I.E.L.D. scientist Dr. Erik Gorbo transformed himself into a huge simian known as the Monster Ape in CAPTAIN AMERICA #135 and took Cap down with him when he attacked the construction site of Project: Earth Dig.
That project, an attempt to delve deeper into the Earth than ever before, brought the Monster Ape and the Sentinel of Liberty into the lair of the Mole Man in CAPTAIN AMERICA #136, which soon became the last resting place of Gorbo when he sacrificed himself to save the girl he loved.
Captain America heard the Falcon’s first arguments over going it alone in CAPTAIN AMERICA #137. That urge to fly solo brought Harlem’s champion into renewed conflict with Stone Face and into fresh fighting with Spider-Man. That fracas spilled over into CAPTAIN AMERICA #138 when Cap joined in the tussle, a situation which also centered on Peter Parker’s friend Glory Grant and the apartment building she lived in.
Then, from an incredible decision came one of the most important moments in Steve Roger’s life since his reawakening from frozen sleep: becoming a policeman. It happened in CAPTAIN AMERICA #139, and Steve fell immediately into a tangled mystery of missing officers that lead him to a lonely graveyard in CAPTAIN AMERICA #140. There, as Cap, he found the villainous Grey Gargoyle behind the disappearances and turned to the Falcon to once again help him in a desperate time.
Unfortunately, the bird man became the unwilling zombie of the Gargoyle in CAPTAIN AMERICA #141, and Cap learned of the criminal’s target: S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Element-X, which they kept in their mountain fortress. In final battle with the Grey Gargoyle in CAPTAIN AMERICA #142, our hero, his partner and S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Sharon Carter managed to trap their foe in a rocket which launched into space and carried the stony bad guy with it.
Captain America then found himself embroiled in what became known as the Kree-Skrull War beginning in AVENGERS #93, a cosmic event that threatened not only other planets but the Earth, too, as seen in AVENGERS #94.
After he returned from the War, he discovered his old enemy the Red Skull in disguise as a rabble-rousing hate-monger in CAPTAIN AMERICA #143. Falcon found a rival for the attentions of his lady-love Leila in the form of Rafe, a militant activist in Harlem and leader of the Silver Skull’s gang.
Cap rounded out his year in CAPTAIN AMERICA #144 with the sad news of Falcon’s breaking of their partnership, something that came to a boil after a slow burn. With a new costume, Falcon soared on his own, trying to become the hero he believed his fellow Harlemites wanted and needed, leaving Captain America once more a solitary sentinel.