superhuman embodiment of American strength and valor who carried the banner of American patriotism in World War II. Indeed, though he has enjoyed a long career in the comics, the character remains most important as a propagandistic vehicle of patriotism in the 1940s. Captain America featured Cap punching out Hitler, and Barnes beating on Nazis, Japanese soldiers and spies, or common criminals. However, Captain America continued to appear long after the war, eventually becoming one of the longest lasting and most prominent characters in the stable of Marvel Comics.
The story of Captain America is one of the success of science. Steve Rogers begins as a sickly orphan who, after seeing a newsreel of the horrors committed by the Nazis in Europe, wanted to join the U.S. army. After he is rejected at an induction center for health reasons, he is approached by an Army offi cer who asks if Steve still wants to serve his country. He agrees and the next day is brought to a secret lab, where Dr. Reinstein (later changed to Dr. Erskine) injects him with a super soldier serum. This serum causess body to become the epitome of physical strength and agility. Before the serum can be used on other subjects, the Nazis succeed in killing Dr. Erskine. Thus Rogers, who becomes Captain America, is the only product of the super-soldier project. One night following his patrols, Cap/Steve is discovered by Bucky Barnes, the camp mascot, and the two enter to an agreement to fight all who oppose democracy. While Simon and Kirby were the creators of Captain America, their direct role in the comic was limited. Th ey only executed the fi rst 10 issues and then were replaceds foes were often genetically enhanced or manipulated. Perhaps the most fearsome (and popular) foe was the Red Skull. Originally the Red Skull was an industrialist named Maxon, but later the story was changed so that the Skull was a Nazi who rose like Hitler. Cap did not use firearms, nor would he necessarily kill an opponent. This was not the case with Bucky, who at one point shoots a fleeing Japanese soldier in the back with a rifle. The idea of fighting with honor was one that Captain America would push. It was an unstated idea that he wouldlike the enemies of America. The Captain America concept was an instant success,and inspired numerous imitations. However, Captain America was not the first patriotically themed superhero. For example, The Shield, from Pep Comics, preceded Cap by almost a year. In fact, a law suit was barely avoided when Kirbys original diamondshaped shield to an oval one in issue in order to avoid comparisons to The Shield character.
Following World War II, the popularity of Cap (and many other superheroes) faltered, though his close connection to World War IIwas a special factor in his postwar decline. Captain America was thusbut was later brought out to fight communists during the peak years of the Cold War. The fortuitously-tinted Red Skull was changed to be a communist enemy, and Bucky was killed off .–scale return until 1964. A storyline was introduced in which Captain America had attempted to destroy a Nazi rocket at the end of the war. Bucky was killed in the blast, and Cap fell into the Arctic waters where he was entombed in ice. Discovered by the Submariner, he is revived from suspended animation and returns to crime fi ghting. His attitude towards the world around him was somewhat simplistic when compared to others, both on his own and as a member (and leader) of The Avengers. His tendency to see the world in stark terms of good vs. evil was seen by some as a weakness, and other characters sometimes referred to Cap as an overgrown Boy Scout.
Since the late 1960s, Cap has undertaken several diff erent life changes. He became a graphic artist (in the 1950s he was a teacher), tried to live a life of normalcy, and was romantically involved with Bernice “Bernie” Rosenthal. He was touted as a possible presidential candidate in the 1970s. He also worked with several diff erent partners including the Falcon, Hawkeye, and a new Bucky. In the 1990s, Cap took on a diff erent attitude and physical appearance. He became almost grotesque in stature, as muscles seemed to abound from every surface. He also went through a spiritual crisis of sorts as he dealt with corruption in government, as well as his role as a positive symbol of democracy as opposed to negative role models like the CIA. Steve Rogers even gave up the role of Captain America, as he sought out a greater meaning as the Nomad. During that time, John Walker briefl y took up the mantle of Captain America, and later changed to become another superhero, U.S. Agent. Cap’s status as a symbol of America has always been at the core of his existence, though Captain America has been used as a pop culture icon for both patriotic and derisive purposes. In Marvel’s Civil War series of 2006, Captain America actually goes against the government of the United States, as he feels that the Superhero Registration Act would hinder those trying to help society. After leading an underground resistance group, which leads to further fi ghting (and to his arrest), he realizes that average people are paying the price for the bickering among superheroes. As he is being arraigned in court, he is assassinated. His “death”—and subsequent replacement by the more violent Bucky—provoked considerable commentary by political pundits, pop culturists, and the public in general. Even Joe Simon, one of the creators, noted that Captain America was and is an icon, and argued that his death was a blow to American society.