BDC also writes for Jackeduptales.com
With Captain America: Civil war coming to us May 6th, there is a lot of talk about the possibilities of Steve Rogers dying in this epic story and even more rumblings about who would replace him as the Captain America, the Sentinel of Liberty. Now, new fans to Marvel and, especially, those who only follow the movies would take exception to me talking about replacing him. This is the World War hero we're talking about. He couldn't possibly be replaced.
Now, although I would agree with most that Steve Rogers is the ULTIMATE Captain America and there will NEVER be one like him, to say he can't or, worst yet, shouldn't be replaced shows ones lack of comic knowledge. So, I being the unrepentant old-school fan-boy that I am, I'm here to fill that gap between your ears with a much needed injection of Captain America comic history. So buckle up, sunshine, cause here we go!
YES, Steve Rogers was the original captain America . But, first off, as a bit of retcon, Marvel enlightened us of secret experiments after the supposed death of Rogers. These were inspired by the stories of the experiments on the Tuskegee Airmen and led to the creation of a new Captain America; a black Captain America.
Isaiah Bradley was the only survivor of the above experiments and became an underground legend among the African-American community as the shield totting carrier of the legend of Captain America. Now, for the most part, his existence was kept a secret and buried but Bradley's legacy lives on in the person of his grandson, Eli Bradley aka the PATRIOT of today's Young Avengers!
In the late 40s and into the 50s, there were several attempts to continue the legacy of Captain America. In fact, there were three men who wore the stars and stripes and carried the sheild before Steve Rogers made his return in the Avengers of the 60s.
William Naslund, who had appeared in costume as the Spirit of '76, took on the mantle of the Sentinel of Liberty during the later years of World War II. He received a new Bucky (Fred Davis) and joined up with the Sub-Mariner and the original Red Guardian to try and recreate the Invaders of old. He had no super powers, but was an athlete with amazing hand-to-hand fighting capabilities.
Naslund was succeeded by Jeffrey Mace who formerly went by the name, PATRIOT. Mace was a reporter at the Daily Bugle who had been inspired by the stories of the original Captain America. He helped found the Liberty Legion who fought saboteurs at the end of World War II. At the death of Naslund in 1946, Mace too up the sheild till he retired in 1949. Once again, he had no superpowers, but was an athlete with amazing fighting ability and also a pilot.
William Burnside was a man obsessed with the myth of Captain America. He went as far to alter his appearance surgically to look like Steve Rogers and to take a partial facsimile of the super soldier serum giving super strength to both him and his pupil Jack Monroe. Unfortunately, it also made them tremendously paranoid; going overboard during the Red Scare communist round up. Finally, the government had to put them on ice until a cure for their mental state could be found. Burnside returned as an antagonist many times in the pages of Captain America. Jack Monroe took on the moniker of NOMAD and played both villain and sidekick in future issues.
Steve Rogers returned to be Captain America after being pulled out of the Atlantic and thawed. Joining the Avengers and, later, becoming one of the greatest leaders of this team ever. During the uncertainty of the 70s, Steve Rogers dropped the mantle out of disillusionment because of government scandal. He took on the name NOMAD for four issues before realizing that he was the symbol of what America stood for and not the country.
He runs into trouble with the government again in the later 80s when they try and force him to work directly with them as a soldier of sorts. He refuses and drops the shield to become THE CAPTAIN. John Walker was chose to replace him only to go insane (with the help of some enemies) and be forced to give back the title. Walker would recover and become a West-Coast Avenger by the name of the U.S. Agent.
This brings us to the CIVIL WAR story arch in the comics. Steve Rogers finds himself on the wrong side of the law due to the forced registration of heroes and villains alike. He finally gives himself up only to be shot down and presumed dead. This lead to the passing of the mantle to the returned from the dead Bucky Barnes who took on the original shield and carried a gun and knife also. Even after Roger's return from the dead, he still wished Barnes to continue in the role.
After the Fear Itself story-line, Rogers returned to the persona of Captain America and Bucky took back his visage as the Winter Soldier. He continued until, during a fight with the Iron Nail, the Super-Soldier serum was neutralized and Rogers began to age to that of an elderly man. Sam Wilson, formerly known as Cap's associate, the Falcon, took up the shield and continues as Captain America to this day.
Ok, so there ya have it. There have been many faces to the icon of Captain America. It is a role and not a person. It is a symbol and not a man. There are future and alternate realities that have woman taking on the role of Captain America. He can be anyone who is willing to exemplify what he stands for. So think twice before thinking that Steve Rogers is totally expendable.