Recently as part of the press tour for the upcoming Blu-Ray/DVD release of Captain America: Civil War, the Russo Brothers spoke with the Huffington Post about the status of everyone's favorite poster boy for patriotism.
**Before I continue, please be aware that there are going to be spoilers for both Captain America: Civil War and theories for the upcoming slew of films for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.**
Captain America's future in the MCU has been in question for a while, really ever since Chris Evans' contract was revealed to only include appearances through Avengers: Infinity War even though he's repeatedly stated that as long as Marvel wants him, he'll be with the studio. In general, there are a lot of questions with the future of the MCU, and ultimately the Captain America character in general.
**SPOILERS BEGIN NOW - BE WARNED**
The final conflict between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark in Captain America: Civil War causes Cap to drop his shield to the ground, leaving it and his position within The Avengers in the dust of the war that these two had just waged. We're still reeling from this final interaction and are waiting to see what's next for Marvel but more-so what's next for Captain America.
Joe Russo had this to say about that scene:
"I think him dropping that shield is him letting go of that identity. [It's] him admitting that certainly the identity of Captain America was in conflict with the very personal choice that he was making."
Towards the end of the film, we saw Steve break out other former Avengers, and he was not in his typical Captain America gear as he was earlier in the film, so his transition had already begun and it finished with the shield lying on the ground.
We know that Chris Evans has a role to play in Avengers: Infinity War, but the current guess is that he'll take a costumed role that matches more closely his appearance in Captain America: Winter Soldier. This gear was more inline with the Heroic Age persona, Commander Rogers and likely will draw inspiration from the recent iteration in Captain America: Steve Rogers.
Historically, The Cap has fought crime and injustice under the guise of other personas such as US Agent and The Nomad - always in an attempt to separate himself from government oversight, but that's an unlikely direction for Marvel to take Cap. Captain America has been and is a pivotal cog in the machine that is Marvel but he likely will not return at Captain America but will stick to Steve Rogers until contractually Marvel moves on with a new Captain America. Steve Roger's departure from the MCU will leave a rather large shield to carry, but there have been other men to take up the mantle. I think there are a few possibilities and here are my favorite 5 possible successors.
Many fans are placing their bets on Sebastian Stan's Bucky Barnes as the next Captain America. And they are right to do so, considering that in the comics Bucky took over as the next Captain America after the events of Civil War. Bucky served as Captain America for several years and became an integral part of the New Avengers and faced off against countless classic villains (ahem - hoping for a Red Skull return). Barnes continued even after Steve returned before finally relinquishing the title after Sin, Red Skull's daughter, beat him nearly to death in Fear Itself.
No, that's not a typo. Elijah (Eli) is the grandson of Isaiah Bradley. Shortly after Steve Roger's initial success with the Super Soldier serum and the death of Dr. Erskin - the US Government was desperate to create another Captain America, so they did wnat any level-headed thinking military power would do - they started experimental testing on African America soldiers. Isaiah Bradley was the eventual success, but on a mission during WWII he was captured and when he escaped the Army court-martialed him and sentenced him to a lifetime in prison. Steve Rogers learned of Isaiah and befriended him, but his mental state had severely deteriorated due to the imperfect SS serum. His grandson, inherited the abilities of Isaiah after a blood transfusion. Eli became known as Patriot as part of the Young Avengers, but I could totally see Marvel introducing Eli as a storyline and potential successor to the mantle of Captain America.
Introducing Walker as Captain America would really bring a stark turn-around for the character. Walker was brutally violent while he held the mantle of Captain America in the comics, and he believed that he represented the ideals of America better than the outdated Steve Rogers. It could be an interesting story to introduce, considering that his life has been marred with tragedy and government collusion. Walker and Rogers eventually met and reconciled and the violent tendencies for Walker were limited when he became US Agent and Rogers retook the mantle of Cap. Still, John could be a unique twist to introduce because of the direction that the MCU seems to be going.
Last year there were headlines declaring that Sam Wilson was to be the new Captain America. Marvel's newly launched All New, All Different line has Sam as the centerpiece to the Captain America story, and rightfully so. Sam has stood by Captain America through the event thus far in the MCU as well as through the comics. Sam Wilson has been a longtime supporter of the idealogy that Captain America stands for so it would be easy to see the Marvel Cinematic Universe incorporate the same sentiment and have Sam pick up the shield sooner rather than later.
I know, I know - the Russo brothers claimed that he would no longer hold the shield, but we've known 2 things to be true in the history of Marvel. First, characters never stay dead or retire permanently. Second, directors and studio execs will redirect attention whenever they can. To the first point, Steve Rogers has left and returned to his role more times than I can remember, leaving after Civil War has the potential to be a sort of soul-searching time for Steve only to return refreshed and re-imagined somewhere in Phase 4 of the MCU.