Back Issues: Many have wielded Captain America’s shield through the years

The Marvel Cinematic Universe introduced a new Captain America for the first time in “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” on Disney+, but there have been plenty of interruptions in Steve Rogers’ service as the star-spangled hero in comics.

Although the official story is that Cap was thought dead in the waning days of World War II and was revived in 1964’s “Avengers” #4, his comic adventures originally continued beyond 1945. Rather than retroactively nixing those stories, “Captain America” #215 revealed others had taken his place.

First was William Nasland, who battled Nazi spies on the homefront during World War II as the Spirit of ’76. Nasland traded in his bulletproof and flame-retardant cape for Cap’s red-white-and-blue costume and shield when President Truman asked him to take over for the lost hero.

The first replacement Cap was killed by an android that was attempting to replace congressional candidate John F. Kennedy with a robotic duplicate.

Nasland was followed by another non-powered, costumed adventurer, the Patriot (Jeffrey Mace, a version of whom appeared in season 4 of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”). He wielded the shield until the early 1950s, when, at odds with his government handlers, he went back to being a newspaper reporter.

Next up was William Burnside, whose studies of Captain America unearthed a formula aimed at recreating the super-soldier serum that gave the original his powers. He legally changed his name to Steve Rogers and had plastic surgery to look him, eventually becoming the new Cap without the blessing of the government. The experimental serum made him unstable, and he became a pawn of multiple villains over the year.

In the ’70s, Steve Rogers 1.0 hung up the costume after learning the insidious Secret Empire was led by a high-ranking U.S. government official. While Steve adopted the costumed identity Nomad, pro baseball player Bob Russo and biker Scar Turpin made unsuccessful attempts to replace him. Rogers bestowed the shield on a young man named Roscoe Simons but took it up again after Simons was killed by the Red Skull.

Rather than work directly for the government, Rogers once again stepped down in an ’80s storyline. He was replaced by John Walker, a brash superhuman code-named Super Patriot. This is the version that appeared at the end of episode 1 of “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.”

Rogers took on the identity of the Captain, wearing a red, white and black suit so awesome Marvel gave it to Walker after Steve resumed his original role. Walker has been a more-or-less good guy, even serving with the Avengers as USAgent, a code name almost as cool as the costume.

Initially resurfacing as the mind-controlled, villainous Winter Soldier, Cap’s long-thought-dead sidekick Bucky stepped into Cap’s boots when Steve was seemingly assassinated. Actually lost in time, Rogers returned (again) right after Bucky died (again) and almost immediately came back (again).

Falcon (Sam Wilson) got his shot when Rogers was drained of the super-soldier serum and started to look and feel his advanced age. More outspoken than Steve on social issues, Wilson rubbed some people the wrong way and was the target of a #TakeBackTheShield social media campaign, as well as an attack by USAgent.

After Rogers’ youth was restored, he let Wilson keep the round shield. But that Steve Rogers had been manipulated by a cosmic being to become the leader of the fascist group Hydra. Wilson lived up to the name Captain America in fighting back against this villainous version of his friend but returned the shield to the real Rogers.


Recommended Reading

* “Captain America: The Legacy of Captain America” — Collects stories including Steve Rogers’ first appearance and other men taking up the mantle of Captain America.

* “Captain America: The Captain” — Rogers steps down and takes up the identity, the Captain, while John Walker becomes the government-sanctioned Captain America.

* “Captain America: Sam Wilson Vol. 3: Civil War II” — Against the backdrop of a big Marvel crossover, Saw Wilson struggles to find his place as Captain America amid political pressure and the return of Steve Rogers.


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