The history of Captain America is far from pretty with the mantle being passed from different shield bearers over many different eras in time. Some with good aspirations and hearts, others with their own personal agendas.
Let’s dive into the characters who have left their star-spangled mark as Captain America ranging from the Marvel comics.
The legacy of that shield is… complicated.Sam Wilson
The star-spangled man with a plan, some call him the quintessential Captain America; and for a good reason. He’s one of the most selfless heroes in all of Marvel. After failing to enlist in the war, Steve volunteered to take the super-soldier serum which enhanced everything, including the hero in him.
After fighting in the war, Rogers was presumed dead until being found years later frozen in ice, deep in the ocean. He then continued his life and joined the fight with The Avengers, selfless in an understatement.
Steve has inspired generations and his story as Captain America teaches us that there’s good in all of us. Sometimes, we just have to do the right thing and stand up for what we believe in, no matter what the cause. He believes in freedom but in the right way, something we all as humans can learn about.
Steve Rogers represents what America tries to be, Sam Wilson represents what America actually is. The story of Sam is a little different when you compare his comics to the Marvel Cinematic Universe but one thing remains the same, his heart.
In ‘The Falcon and The Winter Soldier’, he’s hesitant to pick up the shield after Steve because of many things, but one of the main subjects of the series explains what exactly it means for a black man to become Captain America. We’ll get into that a little later with another character.
In the comics, he’s less hesitant. After saving New York from a bomb attack and almost sacrificing his life, the mantle is rightfully passed as Steve gives him the shield. But what exactly does Sam Wilson as Cap represent? A better, more evolved world.
Sam knows what his country has done in the past, especially to African Americans. He believes in a better, more just future where everyone is accepted and treated equally.
But what would be the point of all the pain and sacrifice if I wasn’t willing to stand up and keep fighting.Sam Wilson
Although MCU fans never got a glimpse of Bucky taking on the role, comic fans are very familiar with “The Death Of Captain America” story. After the death of Steve Rogers, Bucky Barnes aka The Winter Soldier eventually honors his best friend by taking on the stars and stripes.
He would go on to team up with the Avengers and fight for a better life. Here’s why this story is important and how his MCU arc is similar to the comics. Bucky as Cap represents redemption and hope, they say “it’s never too late” to do anything.
From a soldier to a brainwashed assassin, to a hero, Bucky is an inspiration to many people in the world and portrays that the good always wins. In ‘The Falcon and The Winter Soldier’, his arc is very similar as he’s trying to make amends and redeem himself from his days as the tortured assassin.
Remember when I said the history of the shield wasn’t pretty? The tragic story of Isaiah Bradley supports a darker, older version of America. After enlisting in 1942, Bradley was forced to take part in experimentations for the super-soldier serum, along with many other black soldiers.
The serum was nowhere near completion and caused many fatalities. Isaiah survived, eventually getting the promotion of Captain America, but without the recognition the state gave to Steve Rogers. After completing a suicide mission, Bradley was dropped from the program and put in prison with all of his history erased.
I highly recommend you read “TRUTH: RED, WHITE AND BLACK” (2003), to learn about his full story. The stars and stripes aren’t all as they seem, sometimes more bad than good comes from them.
Speaking of more bad than good, we have John Walker aka US Agent. For a brief point in Marvel history and before he got that name he was Captain America. When Steve Rogers had to step down from his identity, the U.S. government appointed Walker.
He served with his friend Lemar Hoskins (Battlestar) and two other operatives Left Winger and Right Winger, those two would later reveal Walker’s identity causing his parents to pay the price.
As revenge, John murdered the killers of his parents along with burning Left and Right Winger alive. Not exactly the Captain America way of handling things. He was later deemed unworthy of the mantle due to his actions.
Perfect timing considering we see Captain Carter in the first episode of the MCU’s latest series: “What If?…”. In an alternate universe, Steve Rogers was assassinated before he could take the serum. Howard Stark however convinced Peggy to be a part of the program, thus becoming Captain Carter.
She would go on to represent the same ideals a good Captain America should have.
Honorable Mentions: The Red Guardian
Although not American, Alexei Shostakov (and a few other people) have had their opportunity as the Russian Captain America aka The Red Guardian. Developed by the Soviet Union as an exact counterpart to Cap. Alexei in the comics has extreme skills similar to Steve Rogers, he also is a super soldier in the MCU.
Taking place in a more futuristic setting, we have Shannon Carter. Sound a little familiar? That’s because she’s the cousin of Sharon Carter.
Being a Captain America fan from a young age, Shannon pushed herself to become the best she could possibly be, ultimately receiving an invite to be a part of Earth’s mightiest heroes and being given the shield from Steve himself.
Zombie Captain America
Yes, you read that right, a zombie plague hits Earth and affects even the Avengers. Having the same abilities as human Steve, this variant Cap is not to be underestimated. The character is also rumored to make an appearance in an upcoming episode of “What If?…” featuring more heroes like Bucky Barnes.
There have been a few others throughout different universes, all different shield bearers sharing their own unique twist on the mantle. Some bad, some really good, it takes more than just abilities to be able to call yourself Captain America. Thank you for reading.
Not a perfect soldier, but a good man.Abraham Erskine