The Avengers: Captain America – the history of history’s hero

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The Avengers #4

1941! The world at war! And in a secret laboratory, frail Steve Rogers became the American super-soldier! For four thrilling years, he fought the Axis powers — until a freak stroke of fate threw him into suspended animation. He awoke in the mid-1960s, a man twenty years out of his time. Since that fateful day, Steve Rogers has sought his destiny in this brave new world! Captain America – Marvel Comics circa 1970s

Captain America Comics #1

America’s “first Avenger,” Captain America (Steve Rogers), was created by writer Joe Simon and artist Jack “King” Kirby in 1940 (with a first issue cover date of March 1941), a year before the United States entered World War II. The star-spangled soldier was the creative team’s response to the atrocities being committed by Adolf Hitler’s Germany and the first issue of the comic book had the hero punching-out the tyrant right on the front cover.

Captain America was one of the first intentionally political comics and even though his popularity faded after the end of WWII, the character would forever be one of Marvel Comics’ (called Timely Comics until 1961) greatest creations. After helping the U.S. win the war, Cap had a brief stint as a member if the All-Winners Squad, one of the first “super-teams,” together with the original Human Torch, the Sub-Mariner and the Whizzer (yes, there is a superhero called the “Whizzer”) in All Winners Comics #19 (1946).

By the early 1950’s, Cap fell victim to the adage, “old soldiers never die; they just fade away,” and he wasn’t heard from again until Stan Lee revived the hero in The Avengers #4 (1964). In the updated story-line, at the end of WWII Rogers and his kid-sidekick, “Bucky,” diverted an incoming missile from hitting the U.S. homeland, Bucky is killed (or was he?), but Cap fell into the freezing waters of the North Atlantic where he stayed until, with the help of the Sub-Mariner, the Avengers found the soldier frozen in ice and revived him into a world where time had passed him by.

Avengers #4

The Captain joined the Avengers and he became famous for their battle cry of, “Avengers Assemble,” which played much better than the previously tried calls, “Avengers away” and “Avengers attack.” Cap has played the role of the Avengers’ leader off & on for most of the super-team’s existence. In addition to the Avengers, he also co-starred with Iron Man in the double-bill comic book series called Tales of Suspense (starting with issue #58 – 1964) until he earned his own solo title when Tales of Suspense became just Captain America with issue #100 (1968).

Cap eventually teamed-up with one of comics’ first African-American heroes when his title book changed names to “Captain America and the Falcon” from issues #134-222 (1971 – 1978 ) and during this period the hero would become disillusioned by the Watergate scandal (Captain America #176 – 1974 ) and change his identity to the Nomad, a man without a country.

Rogers eventually returned to the Captain America role and even considered a run for President in Captain America #250 (1980). He led the Marvel heroes during the off-planet Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars twelve-issue comic mini-series (1984 – 1985) and in 1988, due to some twisted government Red Skull shenanigans, Steve Rogers was forced to give up his shield due to the Commission on Superhuman Activities (CSA). A character named John Walker was ordered by the government to take Cap’s place and Rogers then took on the guise of “The Captain,” a hero very similar to Captain America (Captain America #337 – 1988). During this era, Rogers proved himself one of the few people worthy of holding Thor’s famous hammer, Mjolnir in (Thor #390 – 1988, and he does it again in Fear Itself #7 – 2010.)

Captain America and the Falcon #176

Rogers eventually recovered his red, white and blue uniform, but in the mid-1990’s the super-soldier serum in the Captain’s body started losing its effect on him and his body started to deteriorate, causing him to have to wear a super-powered exoskeleton in order to perform his super duties. He was eventually put back into suspended animation until a cure could be found in the form of a blood transfusion from his old archenemy, the Red Skull (Captain America #425-454 from 1994 – 1996.)

As the new century dawned, Cap found himself once again siding on the opposite side of his government in Marvel’s Civil War event (2006 – 2007), a political allegory for the real-life Patriot Act. The story-line pitted heroes against each other when the government enacted legislation that forced all heroes to register and show their secret identities.

After leading the anti-registration rebellion, Rogers eventually surrenders and was subsequently assassinated in The Death of Captain America storyline (Captain America vol. 5, #25 – 2007.) But you can’t keep a good superhero down and the first Avenger returned from what was really just a crazy hypnosis episode (vice actual death) in the Captain America: Reborn series (2009). He received a pardon for his anti-registration activities and once again carries the star-spangled shield.

Daredevil #233

Captain America has always embodied the best traits of the country he represents and is known for his unwavering courage and loyalty to the American ideals. The red, white and blue Avenger is the epitome of a hero and although he can come across as corny at times, that’s what makes him cool!

Get ready for The Avengers movie by visiting Marvel Comics online, where you’ll find a wonderful array of archived comics and wiki reference material. Most of the digital comics allow a sneak peak for at least the first few pages before you have to pay to see the whole thing, but some of the older issues are completely FREE to read.

Don’t miss Free Comic Book Day coming up this Saturday, May 5. It’s an excellent time to go to your local comic shop and get caught-up on the new story-lines involving Captain America and to locate some of the books mentioned here. LOCAL COMIC SHOP INFO HERE!

Also, don’t miss the Ultimate Avengers Movie Marathon this Thursday, May 3. It includes back-to-back screenings of Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor in 3D, Captain America in 3D and then the premiere of The Avengers in 3D! It’s all starts at 11:30 a.m. at the AMC Westgate 20 in Glendale. [Get Tickets HERE]

You can also see an Avengers screening to help out Phoenix Youth Basketball, MORE INFORMATION HERE!


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About the author

Bob Leeper

Bob Leeper is the co-owner and manager of "Arizona’s Pop Culture and Alternative Art Network," Evermore Nevermore. He is the co-creator of the pop culture events Steampunk Street and ENCREDICON, and is a member of the Phoenix Film Critics Society. He also curates the Facebook fan site The Arizona Cave – AZ Fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and is one of the few brave and bold fans of Jar Jar Binks.