The Many Faces of Captain AmericaA column article, Comics Bulletin Soapbox by: Kevin Powers
A new Captain America will be unveiled tomorrow in the pages of Captain America #34. While it is fairly obvious who will be carrying the shield, this isn't the first time that someone has stepped in for Steve Rogers. In fact, numerous men have assumed the role in Steve Rogers' absence. With the help of the Marvel.com Character Database, Kevin Powers brings you a look at those very men who have tossed that mighty shield.
I am a big Captain America fan. Captain America and Moon Knight are my favorite Marvel Comics characters and among my top three favorite characters of all time. I have a great deal of respect for the history of Captain America and have spent a great deal of time studying the character. With that in mind, I want to note that this list only consists of characters that have replaced or stepped in for Steve Rogers. Characters such as Isaiah Bradley and alternate versions of Captain America have been left out for that reason. Enjoy! --Kevin Powers
The Spirit of '76 was asked by President Truman to assume the mantle of Captain America following the "death" of Steve Rogers in 1945. Naslund and a young man named Fred Davis assumed the roles of Cap and Bucky, joining the Invaders at the end of World War II and then the All Winners Squad after the war. Naslund was killed when he was crushed by an android named Adam II during an attempt to rescue a kidnapped John F. Kennedy. Naslund died heroically however, signaling the All Winners Squad to JFK's whereabouts which allowed them to rescue him. Naslund lasted barely a year as Captain America and couldn't even handle the real shield. He had a fake one made out of steel.
Inspired by Nashlund's heroism and brave yet crushing defeat, the Golden Age Patriot found a spare Cap suit in one of Namor's ships. As the new Captain America, Mace succeeded where Nashlund failed and defeated Adam II and saved JFK. Mace assumed the role of Cap only from 1946 to 1949. He left the world of costumed crime-fighting to re-assume his role as a mild-mannered reporter for the Daily Bugle. Mace went on to marry his former sidekick, the Golden Girl. Unfortunately, Mace was not graced with the blessing of "comic book aging"; he died of cancer at an old age with the real, original Captain America at his bedside.
This is where things start to get interesting in the form of Captain America wannabes. While Nashlund and Mace were honorable men who did what they felt was right, The Grand Director was a bit more like one of those stalkerish people who are featured on MTV getting their faces hacked to look like their favorite celebrities. I kid you not. During a time when an idea was the greatest threat to America's national security (can you believe that?), a government program was enacted to resurrect Captain America and Bucky to battle communism. This guy was crazier than a suicidal groupie who wants a lock of your hair for her "special potion." The Grand Director had no name; he was an American history professor who wrote his dissertation on Captain America. Obsession doesn't begin to sum up this guy's feelings for Cap. After discovering the lost Nazi super solider files on a trip to Germany, the director returned to America, legally changing his name to Steve Rogers and using the serum formula to blackmail the U.S. Government into making him the new Captain America.
With Jack Munroe, a.k.a. Nomad, in tow as Bucky, the new Steve Rogers battled the communist successor to the Red Skull. However, the Nazi super soldier formula began to drive "Rogers" and Munroe a little crazy. They became menaces to society and eventually were put into suspended animation. They were first released to kill the original Cap and the Falcon, but later when under the care of Dr. Faustus, "Rogers" is brainwashed and became the Neo-Nazi Grand Director. The Director would eventually kill himself following a battle with Cap and Daredevil. Jack Munroe dipped into depression only to be unceremoniously gunned down by the Winter Soldier.
Steve Rogers became disillusioned by the U.S. Government due to rumors that a high ranking official, hinted to be Richard Nixon, was a member of a terrorist organization. As a result, he hung up the shield to become Nomad. When this happened, a guy named Bob Russo decided he was going to be the new Captain America. Donning the costume and trying to foil a bank robbery, Russo slammed into a brick wall and broke his arm. He retired the next day. Seriously, I'm not kidding. I mean, at least The Grand Director believed he actually was Captain America; Russo just hit the wall before he could get started.
Following the events of Bob Russo's short-lived career as Cap (see above) "Scar" Turpin decided he was fit to be the next Cap. Turpin was a biker and patrolled the streets on his hog. Stopping to help an elderly man from being mugged by two men, Turpin got beaten and left for dead by the two men who were members of a gang known as the Road Runners. Turpin then retired as Captain America and possibly inspired Reb Brown to don the winged motorcycle helmet and wield the plastic shield in a string of 70s TV camp-fests.
Roscoe came after Turpin gave up being Cap. Roscoe was a bit obsessed with Cap but not on the level of the Grand Director. Roscoe was a gymnast and thought that Cap would be the perfect guy to train him. So in seeking out Cap, Roscoe found the Falcon and decided, much to the Falcon's behest, that he could be the new Cap. The Falcon tried to convince Roscoe he could never be Captain America, but the man was insistent and basically followed the Falcon around like a four year old asking why everything works the way it does. Falcon finally decided to take Roscoe out on the streets and much like Bob Russo, came across a bank robbery. However, being a gymnast and all, Roscoe didn't slam into a brick wall; instead, he and the Falcon nearly foiled the robbery. That was until one of the bank robbers revealed himself to be the Red Skull. Upon learning that Roscoe was not the real Captain America, the Red Skull killed him, beat the Falcon to within an inch of his life and hung them on a rooftop to taunt Steve Rogers.
Probably the most famous replacement for Captain America is the man more commonly known as U.S.Agent. Originally known as the Super-Patriot, Walker became an outspoken critic of Captain America. He claimed he was outdated, a relic of times past. In the first "Initiative" attempt to register superheroes, Steve Rogers dropped his allegiance to America and became simply known as "The Captain," donning what became the U.S.Agent costume. Walker was approached to become the new Captain America by the Commission on Superhuman Activities and immediately accepted. Walker tried to mirror the values and ideals of Steve Rogers, but he was brutal, much more physical than Rogers ever was, having been trained by the Taskmaster. However, being Captain America wasn't living the dream for Walker. Instead, the dream came with heavy burden. While he was Captain America, Walker's parents were murdered by the terrorist group, the Watchdogs. Two of Walker's best friends became the villains Left-Winger and Right Winger, both of whom were killed by Walker during battle. Walker and Rogers, while often at a disagreement over methods and ideals, worked together and discovered that the Red Skull had been manipulating everything. Following a battle with the Red Skull, Walker discovered the true meaning of the "idea" of Captain America and returned the identity to Steve Rogers.
Walker became the U.S.Agent and over the years joined the ranks of the West Coast Avengers, Iron Man's Force Works and the New Invaders. Walker then joined the Canadian based group Omega Flight and can be currently seen in Marvel Comics Presents.
Every now and then Hawkeye would don the costume whenever Steve Rogers went into retirement or was presumed dead. While he never appeared in action as Cap, Hawkeye often served as a much need moral boost to other heroes. He was most recently seen impersonating Cap in the Fallen Son series.
The Falcon was a fan favorite to wield the shield following Steve Roger's death. A long time friend, partner and former sidekick of Steve Rogers, the Falcon has been a mainstay when it comes to Cap's supporting cast. However, during the earlier days of his career Sam Wilson actually donned the costume and briefly became Captain America.
Following Cap's death, Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada revealed that Captain America left his shield to the only man with "the red, white and blue balls big enough" to carry the shield, Stephen Colbert. A proponent of the Superhuman Registration Act, Colbert promised to fight for justice and impress the ladies.
The true and original sidekick of Steve Rogers, Bucky Barnes was presumed dead when he and Rogers stopped a plane launched by Baron Zemo. One of the "undoable deaths" in comics alongside Uncle Ben and Jason Todd (who now lives), Bucky's death had always haunted Steve Rogers. However, Ed Brubaker creatively brought Bucky back from the dead by explaining he was never dead to begin with. Rather, his unconscious and left-armless body was discovered by the Soviet Union. The Soviets brainwashed Bucky and transformed him into a killer who was constantly in and out of suspended animation to slow his aging. Upon confronting Steve Rogers, Bucky remembered who he was and changed his life. Following the death of Steve Rogers, Bucky set out to kill the Red Skull and Tony Stark, the men he felt responsible for Rogers' death. However, after being brainwashed by Dr. Faustus and confronting Stark, Stark revealed Steve Rogers last wish: to save Bucky. With this in mind, Bucky decided to take on the mantle of Captain America. Check out Captain America #34 on shelves tomorrow!
Nothing beats the original Star-Spangled Avenger, the once scrawny weakling who only wanted to serve his country. After being turned away from the Army through normal enlistment, he was recruited as a test subject for "Project: Rebirth." Injected with a super-serum, Steve Rogers became Captain America, and the rest is history. There have been many imitators and many imposters, but there is nothing like genuine article. Steve Rogers represents a bygone area, ideals and morals not only representing America, but also the basic "Good vs. Evil" that existed during World War II. He's even been dead a few times before, but each time he returns, the true ideas and meaning behind Captain America comes to life because while the idea of Captain America is symbolic, the man behind the mask, Steve Rogers, represents an inherent good in the world. While he is currently on the shelf, having been gunned down on his way to trial, it can only be a matter of time before he returns. Now more than ever in both the real world and the Marvel Universe, the world doesn't just need Captain America, the world needs Steve Rogers, the embodiment of what Tom Brokaw calls "the greatest generation."