The First Avenger. The Star-Spangled Man with a Plan. The Man Out of Time. The Marvel Universe's Big Good.TheCaptain Patriotic Superhero.Captain America first appeared in Captain America Comics #1 (March, 1941), created by Joe Simon and Jack "King" Kirby for Timely Comics. (Timely would later change its name to Marvel Comics). Captain America is one of the many, manypatrioticsuperheroes created during World War II to bolster morale on the home front.As a skinny orphan artist who grew up in The Great Depression, Steve Rogers Jumped at the Call, but the US Army declared him 4-F (unfit for service), and handed him over to Operation: Rebirth, an Allied Powers project headed by Professor Erksine to create a Super Soldier for the war effort. Injected with Super Serum and bombarded with radiation, Rogers' treatment proved a complete success with his scrawny body suddenly enhanced to the maximum human potential. Unfortunately, a Nazi spy immediately assassinated Dr. Erksine at that moment and the formula of the treatment, which was never completely written down, was lost forever.Deciding to make the best of their one successful subject, the US government decided to make Rogers an elite counter-intelligence agent who could also be an ideal propaganda mascot to oppose Nazi Germany's frightening head of Terrorist activities: The diabolical Red Skull. To that end, Rogers was appropriately trained and costumed and given a signature shield. Cap fought the Axis, memorably punching◊ Adolf Hitlerin the face on the cover of his first comic. A key supporting character was Bucky Barnes, Cap's boy sidekick and an answer to Robin. Bucky's death became one of the most major—and longest-lasting—deaths in comics.Captain America Comics ended with issue #75 (February, 1950). The last couple of issues were also titled "Captain America's Weird Tales", an attempt to rework the series into a horror/suspense anthology. The character remained dormant for a few years. There was an attempt to revive him a couple of years later, with "Young Men" #24-28 (December, 1953-June, 1954) and "Captain America Comics" #76-78 (May-September, 1954). The character was next successfully revived in the pages of The Avengers #4 (March, 1964).While Cap's adventures were written and published throughout the 1940s and early 1950s, Stan Lee and a returning Jack Kirby retconned his history in 1964: the post-War Caps who fought Communism were impostors (first other superheroes and then an Ascended Fanboy who went insane with a flawed imitation of the Super Serum), and the "original" Cap was killed in action, but they Never Found the Body. Naturally, he came back from suspended animation to join The Avengers, bringing his old-style patriotism and battle tactics to the table, eventually ascending to leadership. However, Cap also had to deal with being a man out of his time, with everyone he knew being long gone, while also being plagued with his greatest failure — not being able to save his sidekick's life in their final fight against Baron Zemo — until Rick Jones finally told him to quit his whining and move on. Cap took that advice, and while the Red Skull drove Rick away when impersonating Cap, Rogers got a new partner, The Falcon, who was with him for years.Captain America threw his mighty shield for decades, proving remarkably more adaptive for the changing times than his creators could have guessed. For instance, when American ideals were shaken by the Vietnam War and Watergate, Rogers reflected that disillusionment in the 1970s when he abandoned his Cap persona to become Nomad, a man without a country, until he realized he could champion America's higher ideals as Cap instead. In the cynical 1980s, Rogers would be forced out of his Cap persona and replaced by an Anti-Hero Substitute, John Walker, only to serve as The Captain to show his ideals still had power in the The Dark Age of Comic Books, loyal to nothing but The American Dream. Eventually, Cap learned that this was all arranged by the Red Skull to sully his name and took back his old motif with Walker getting Rogers' Captain costume to be Usagent. In 2007, Rogers even took up armed resistance to the American crackdown on the superhero community in the Civil War, until he gave and was assassinated. Even though Word of God stated that he was Killed Off for Real, nobody believed it.Cap's mantle was taken up in 2008 by Bucky Barnes, Steve Rogers' WWII boy sidekick who, rather than dying at the hands of Baron Zemom was brainwashed into the Soviet killing machine Winter Soldier and kept in Suspended Animation much of the time that he wasn't on missions to explain his age. Cap later freed Bucky from his Brainwashing with the help of the Cosmic Cube, allowing him to make a Heel-Face Turn. In addition to having a bio-mechanical left arm and a new armored costume, he also carries a gun. Prior to being the Winter Soldier, Bucky was often cited as one of the three people in comics who would always stay dead.Bucky did a pretty good job filling in for Steve, but, this being superhero comics, Steve eventually came back. However, Steve felt that wielding the shield was good for Bucky and insisted that he continue on as Captain America until his apparent death in the Fear ItselfCrisis Crossover, when Rogers took up the role again. Prior to the upcoming Avengers And X Men Axis storyline, Steve will be forced to hand over the title of Captain America to his old partner Sam Wilson, the Falcon, after the Super Soldier Serum is removed from him, turning him into an old man. Unlike previous attempts to get Steve to hand over the shield, this one's already been confirmed to be temporary.In the Ultimate Marvel universe, Captain America is still skinny Steve Rogers-turned buff superhero-turned poster boy for the war effort, but Darker and Edgier. He gets pulled out of the ocean in 2002 instead of 1963, thinks it's a Nazi trick, and breaks out of SHIELD's secure holding facility despite Bruce Banner's insistence that he shouldn't be able to move. Joining The Ultimates, Captain America proceeds to show everyone how to be a true Badass: dropping a tank on the Incredible Hulk, beating a 60-foot-tall Giant Man barehanded, and kicking seven shades of piss out of a regenerating alien before convincing the Hulk to take over. And while he does cleave to certain less-than-admirable 1940s values, he still stands for the Dream. In volume 2, he and the Ultimates even split off from working for the U.S. government after some questionable assignments in the Middle East almost led to America's downfall.
Adaptations to other media
Captain America (1944): a movie serial which incorporated practically nothing of the character except the basic costume.
The Marvel Super Heroes (1966): An animated anthology series which adapted several Marvel Comics for television. This also introduced an often-repeated theme song for Cap: "When Captain America throws his mighty shield, all those who chose to oppose his shield must yield..."
Captain America (1990): This movie was originally going to play in theaters, but it went direct to video instead.
Cap made various guest appearances and cameos in the 90's Marvel cartoons, like X-Men (appearing as an alternate version in another, Professor X-less future, and in one of the last episodes, teaming up with Wolverine in World War II), major roles in Spider-Man: TAS, and a couple of cameos as part of The Avengers in Fantastic Four, and a guest role in the horrible late 90's Avengers cartoon. He was planned to get his own series at that point (stories, character models, and a one-minute pitchfilm were all made), but was canned because of Marvel's bankruptcy; its slot in the Fox Kids lineup was filled by The Secret Filesof The Spy Dogs.
Cap was mandated to appear in an episode of X-Men: Evolution, where he and Wolverine teamed-up during the war. In a twist from his usual narrative, this Captain America isn't frozen in the ocean during a mission gone wrong. Instead, S.H.I.E.L.D. cryogenically froze him, placing him in suspended animation because the super soldier treatment was flawed and slowly killing him. The episode ends with Wolverine visiting him in his berth, promising that they'll find the cure one day.
A clearly Ultimate-inspired Cap appeared in the Ultimate Avengers animated films (2006) note Well, sort of. While Cap does wear costumes that are directly lifted from The Ultimates, his personality seems to be more in line with his Earth 616 counterpart, so he's a Composite Character, if anything..
There have also been a couple of Captain America novels.
The animated series The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes (2010-2012) includes Captain America as one of the major characters. In a manner paralleling the Silver AgeAvengers comics, he became the sixth superhero to join the team. Chronologically speaking, four episodes pass in between the event that led to the founding of the Avengers, and the events that led to Cap joining their team, just as his comic incarnation joined in issue four of the first Avengers volume.
Captain America: The First Avenger, which was released in July 2011. It's a period piece set almost entirely during World War II, and ends with the Captain being frozen and waking up in modern times, while segueing directly into Cap's involvement in The Avengers.
A sequel to The First Avenger, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, was released in 2014, now set in modern times with Rogers being forced into the wrenching task of tracking down his best friend Bucky, now the brainwashed killing-machine The Winter Soldier, along with Alexander Pierce and the rest of SHEILD/HYDRA, accompanied by The Falcon, Black Widow, and Sharon Carter.
10-Minute Retirement: Cap famously abandoned his identity in the 1970s after finding out the identity of the Secret Empire's leadernote Which was heavily implied to be the President of the United States. and continued to operate as the Nomad. He also gave up the identity in the 80s when the U.S. Government tried to force Cap to work as a government-sanctioned operative, soon resolving to continue superheroics as "The Captain".
Action Girl: Two of Cap's three major love interests: Sharon Carter and Diamondback. Not to mention Black Widow (who is Bucky's main love interest).
Sharon's great aunt Peggy was also one, being a member of the French resistance.
Also Rikki Barnes, formerly the Bucky from Heroes Reborn, who crossed over into the 616 reality and now goes by Nomad.
And in the film version, Peggy Carter, who, instead of being a member of the French Resistance, actually works for the U.S. government agency responsible for turning Steve into a super-soldier. Depending on her relation to Sharon Carter and how closely they follow the comics, this could make things awkward for Steve.
A Father to His Men: Any team he gets put in charge he treats like his family, possibly because of his late Sidekick Bucky.
All-Loving Hero: He's the Marvel counterpart of Superman, after all. At one point, Magneto tried to erase his mind of all prejudice towards mutants. Problem for Magneto: Captain America has no prejudice towards anybody.
All Your Powers Combined: A Badass Normal version of this. Anyone who knows about athletes can tell you that not every physique is suited to every type of athletic performance. Marathon runners are not sprinters, sprinters are not weightlifters, weightlifters are not pole vaulters, and so on. However, Cap can do it all thanks to his Super Soldier Serum that gives him the peak of human ability in all of these things at once.
The Fighting American, ironically, was originally created by Kirby and Simon for Harvey Comics, as a parody of Captain America type characters. Leifeld either missed the irony or didn't care and quite literally continued telling his Captain America story with the character.
Alternate Continuity: Combined in the Ultimate Universe. While the "regular" Cap is unusually sensitive and intelligent for any time period, the Ultimate version is a '40s Average Joe thrown into the modern day, leading to a mixture of confusion and outright macho and jingoistic behavior. To be fair, he was advanced for his time in some respects, as evidenced by his treasured photo of him standing with the famed African-American fighter pilots, The Tuskegee Airmen. Depending on the Writer though, these hints can vary or even disappear entirely. (For instance, in a Warren Ellis-written appearance, Ultimate Cap once bragged about how much he hates educated people.)
Animal-Themed Superbeing: Cap obviously isn't, but he has had several villains who were: Cobra, the Serpent Society, Porcupine, Armadillo, Man-Ape, Rhino, Scorpion, etc.
Anti-Hero Substitute: USAgent's brief stint as Captain America. Only this version, temporary insanity aside with the Red Skull's manipulations, soon made an honest effort to emulate Rogers' ethics and was the one to truly convince his predecessor to become the Sentinel of Liberty again.
Arc Welding: Mark Gruenwald revealed, when he resurrected the Red Skull in Captain America #350, that every bad guy or bad guy group that had appeared in roughly the last four years (save for the Serpent Society) worked for Red Skull as part of his newly formed cabal of evil groups under his control. Mind you, the groups themselves didn't know this; the Red Skull infiltrated them with a few sleeper agents to secretly bend the groups' activities to work toward his goals. When Flag-Smasher, the leader of one of the groups, found this out, he fled the group and warned Captain America.
The Artifact: Steve's secret identity rarely ever served much purpose, as he had no consistent civilian supporting cast; he had one pretty much because it was assumed all superheroes should have one. Done away with in 2002, and it hasn't really impacted the comics much at all.
Also, the presence of Bucky, a Kid Sidekick in World War II, is becoming more and more awkward to explain why the US Military would tolerate a child going into combat with Cap. Currently, they have had to shoehorn his presence as a kind of youngish agent who is actually of borderline legal age.
Ed Brubaker retconned this. Bucky was trained to do covert operations that Captain America couldn't be seen doing.
Artistic License - Biology: Baron Zemo I had a mask permanently stuck to his head due to Adhesive X. According to the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, the mask has two eyeholes that allow him to see and is thin enough to allow him to hear perfectly. It's also porous enough to allow him to breathe, but he can't eat or drink and has to take nourishment intravenously. However, somehow he's able to talk without difficulty, meaning that the mask isn't stuck tightly to his entire face. Even if nobody actually thought of cutting the mask off (or at least a hole for the mouth), normal epidermal shedding and oil secretions would have loosened the mask eventually. Just ask anyone who has accidentally superglued fingers together.
During the first Secret War, when the Beyonder had sent a large group of heroes and villains to Battleworld so that they could fight each other, the heroes were all gathered together and Cap was focusing the discussion on who should be in charge. He worked his way through almost all the other team leaders present (Reed Richards, the Wasp, Professor X, even the Hulk, who at the time had Banner's personality in control), trying to get one of them to step up, but all of them had some reason why they could not lead such a large team (in fairness to the Hulk, he just shrugged and said to let Cap give the orders). The way the scene is set up, it's perfectly obvious to almost everyone that Cap should be in charge. Professor X even cuts the knot and suggests it. Wolverine, who at the time was still in his jerkass personality, immediately objected and said Cap was the least of them and he wouldn't follow him (remember, at this time, Wolverine had almost no dealings with Cap and lacked the enormous respect he has for Cap now). Cue Thor, who up to this point had stayed in the background and out of the discussion, to immediately step up and make it very clear that not only was he perfectly willing to follow orders from Cap, but to also get the message across that there wasn't anyone else there that he was going to let take command over Captain America. That ended the entire discussion. Even Wolverine shut up and went along after that.
Bad Present: Every incarnation of Cap uses this trope to some capacity, as the whole point to the character post-Golden Age is that he's a Fish Out of Temporal Water. Depending on the Writer, the modern day can be anywhere between a pure nightmare or a place he no longer belongs to, but fights to defend anyway. That said, he's also the first person to admit that his era was far from perfect.
In one story, a reporter is doing a story about the changes Captain America faced when he was revived, and asks Cap "Would you have gone back to the 40s if you could have?" Captain America's answer is to point to a group shot of the Howling Commandos, pointing to the two men to Cap's immediate right and left in the picture. Cap then explains that in all those group shots, Cap would intentionally position Gabriel Jones and Jim Morita right next to him because that way, they'd never be cropped out of the picture. Why would they be cropped? Because Jones was an African-American and Morita was a Japanese-American. Cap then points out that in today's world, it would never occur to anyone to ask why a black man and an Asian man were standing next to Captain America, and that this was one way in which the modern world was better than the 40s.
Badass Normal: Borderline example — there's a reason his Super Serum was so sought after. Technically it doesn't push any of his abilities to a "superhuman" level, but few if any humans have every single athletic ability at peak potential all at once (speed plus stamina plus strength, etc). Thus, he is quite capable of holding his own with people who have more impressive superpowers. In real life, athletes have to make tradeoffs between strength, endurance, agility etc, so decathletes who have to train for ten different events are not as good at them as those athletes who specialise. Cap doesn't have these limitations; he can sprint 100m in 9.75 seconds, run a marathon in two hours, bench press 500kg, and perform Olympic-level feats of gymnastic ability.
Some of his villains fall under this as well. Like Batroc the Leaper.
His non-superhero allies like Sharon Carter or Dum Dum Dugan definitely count too.
Intercompany crossovers with DC have established that, physically, he and Batman are very nearly equal. Bats's evaluation is that, in a fair fight, Cap could probably beat him, but it would be a very long fight — which means Batman would never intend on fighting him fairly.
Battle Couple: Steve and Sharon, Steve and Rachel/Diamondback, Bucky and Natasha/Black Widow.
Berserk Button: The Nazis are still a sore point for him decades after World War II. Justified in that, unlike the real world, Nazism in the present-day Marvel Universe isn't just underground political movements and street gangs.
Becoming the Mask: Meta level. In part because he has no real secret identity, Cap and Steve are pretty much synonymous (and everyone knows it). Any other Captain in Marvel tends to get called by something else.
Beware the Nice Ones: He may well be the friendliest guy in the Marvel Universe, but God help you if he discovers you're harming or oppressing innocents.
Black Best Friend: Sam Wilson, aka The Falcon, Cap's most consistent partner, actually also the first African-American superhero. (Black Panther, who preceded him, is African, not African-American. He'd probably take offense to being called that, in fact.)
The Falcon is also the first black superhero ever to not have the word "Black" in his hero name.
Lamar "Battlestar" Hoskins was also this to John Walker's Cap, until Walker's untimely public assassination when the latter was handing the role back to Rogers.
Happened to Cap himself on one unfortunate instance, courtesy of Dr. Faustus and the Grand Director. He even wielded a swastika-adorned version of his shield.note Luckily, Daredevil saved the day and helped Cap return back to his star-spangled self.
Canon Discontinuity: A story by Chuck Austen revealed that Cap's suspended animation was actually at the hands of the US Government, who feared he'd have interfered with the Hiroshima and Nagasaki strikes. All of Cap's memories of the Baron Zemo incident were memory implants. This has never been acknowledged again.
Whether Cap has killed enemy forces has wavered back and forth. In the Golden Age, he and Bucky were blow-torching Nazis. After his resurrection, Marvel invoked the classic Thou Shalt Not Kill law on Cap and he claimed he'd never killed anyone "even during the war." Ed Brubaker has since reversed that: Cap did in fact kill during the war and still will when there's no other alternative.
Actually, it was revealed that Bucky himself had always had a more sinister purpose: handling the covert killings that Captain America himself couldn't do from the front lines. Why else would Cap bring around a little kid on the battlegrounds?
Break the Cutie: John "USAgent" Walker's entire tenure as Captain America was one of these.
The Cape: He's like Superman without the ability to fly. How balls-out crazy-brave is that?
The Captain: He actually used it for his codename after he refused to become an operative of the U.S. government, and he's actually earned the rank of "Captain" in terms of military ranks.
Coattail-Riding Relative: How the first, male Viper tried to get into the supervillain business. His brother was the original Eel.
Comic Book Time: Cap retains an "anchor" in the 1940s, but the amount of time he spent frozen in ice just grows and grows as time goes on. When he was first revived in 1964 he'd spent 20 years on ice, which was lengthy, but wouldn't have been a wholly unfamiliar world — in the current comics he woke up at some point in the early 21st century.
The DVD Commentary for Captain America: The Winter Soldier touches on this briefly: a major component of Cap's classic storylines is his perspective on modern-day issues— but the "modern day" keeps sliding forward. In the comics, Steve often reflects the national mood over things like Watergate, but in the film and current 616 continuity, he slept through it all.
This also affects Sharon Carter. In the 1960s, Sharon was the much-younger sister of Peggy Carter, Cap's 1940s lover. She was later retconned into Peggy's niece, to match the fact that Peggy had to keep aging to keep the 1940s/modern day split accurate.
Cool People Rebel Against Authority: This is the essential modernization of Cap in the 1970s. Rogers became so disillusioned by the American establishment and the abuse of the US Government that he eventually gave up being Cap for a while in favor of Nomad, the man without a country. Eventually, he realized that he could champion America's ideals as Cap, giving him the liberty to butt heads with the US Government when necessary.
Costume Copycat: U.S. Agent (who was actually given the name and costume of Captain America by the government during one of the latter's ethically-motivated retirements. Though The Cap Came Back, U.S. Agent has never stopped trying to relive those brief glory days.)
Cultured Warrior: Rogers is a talented visual artist who drew for his own comic book about himself once.
Dead Man's Trigger Finger: A Captain America/The Punisher teamup comic has Frank cause this with a precise knife-throw into a guard with a machine gun, which takes out the other guards for them.
Dead Sidekick: Bucky was a textbook example of this (emphasis on "was"). He would've fit this trope again, if it weren't for Nick Fury using the last vial of Infinity Formula to save him.
Death Is Cheap: Sure, Captain America was shot by a sniper. But the gun didn't shoot ordinary bullets, it just... shifted Steve through space and time?
Depending on the Artist: The trend in recent years of depicting Cap (Steve Rogers' suit, anyway) with scale armor (see the current page pic), a look that debuted in the 1990s Sentinel of Liberty miniseries that retold his origin. Historically, Cap's shirt was said to have been made of "synthetic chainmail", which wouldn't have such an obviously scaly look (and was usually drawn as though he was wearing normal superhero tights).
Depending on the Writer: Exactly how strong and tough Steve is compared to regular guys depends on the writing. He's never depicted as being strong enough to throw cars around or anything like that (even agility-based Spider-Man is stronger than him), but if the writer is generous, with great effort he can bend weak steel, heal from injuries in days that would have most guys laid up for months (and heal in months what would take most guys years, or never) and run at the speed of a sprinter for the duration of a marathon runner...but again, the extent of this depends on the writer. Many claim "it's not superpowers, really", but isn't having the body of an omni-athlete without needing to train excessively a power of its own?
Determinator: Of all the heroes of the Marvel U minus Spidey, none have the willpower and "never say die" attitude that Cap has.
The Dragon: The Skull has had several, including the aforementioned Sin, Crossbones, and Mother Night. Note that the Skull himself began his career as a Dragon, in this case to Hitler himself. Post-World War II, though, he's working for himself (and, in fact, disposed of at least one cloned version of Hitler specifically because he wanted to stay that way).
Early-Installment Weirdness: Cap's cowl was originally a separate piece of material like a hat, which was soon changed to a full connected cowl. John Byrne later explained that Cap had it knocked off in a fight and his secret identity was almost exposed as a result. To fight that, Cap modified with connecting material to the rest of his costume, which had the added benefit of covering his neck with his costume's armor.
Steve, himself, when you consider that although none of his physical abilities reach superhuman levels (depending on the continuity), no unenhanced human can be as fast AND as strong AND as agile, etc. as Steve Rogers, at the same time.
Steve Rogers does have at least one 'power', though it's not good in a fight. Even the flawed super-soldier variants like Nick Fury's greatly increases their life span. Years after his deep freeze, Cap's really not getting much older than his WWII days.
Enemy Mine: Frequently with Batroc, once with the Flag-Smasher, once with the Red Skull of all people to try and stop Hitler again.
Even Evil Has Standards: Flag-Smasher once abandoned one of his plans to unify the world when he learned it was financed by the Red Skull. As he explained to Cap during an Enemy Mine scenario, no matter how much it might benefit him, it would benefit the Red Skull more, and he couldn't stomach that.
Batroc the Leaper may be a mercenary, but Mister Hyde's plan to kill everyone in New York City just to get revenge on Cobra is enough to make him help Cap take him down.
Expansion Pack Past: He's probably had more adventures in World War II than there were days in the war; there's a tendency for stories involving him to feature a one or two-page flashback to some World War II event to contrast with whatever's happening in the present. Famous World War II events (D-Day, for example), have been retold frequently with conflicting information about what he was doing then.
Cap's new Marvel NOW! ongoing series appears to do this for his past prior to becoming the Super-Soldier, showing the hardships Steve and his family had to go through in 1930s America.
Face-Heel Turn: Captain America was accused of doing one during Operation Rebirth (teaming up with the Red Skull, though the two were teaming up to stop Hitler), leading to him being briefly exiled from the US.
The Fixer did one during "No Exit", but managed to avoid getting caught.
Faking the Dead: John Walker, when turning the title of Captain America back to Steve Rogers in a public press conference, is assassinated by a member of the Watchdogs, presumably in retribution for Walker's violent campaign against them. The Watchdog was a fake, however, and the assassination staged so as to rehabilitate Walker's image, and allow the government to resurrect him as USAgent.
The Fettered: Captain America is the embodiment of America's ideals and virtues, and has throughout his run has avoided killing whenever possible (well, there was a vampire that one time, but he doesn't count). He's killed several times, but it's always been only when he has no choice, and causes much angst. During World War II, he did kill people, but he was a soldier, and it's not something he boasts about. He also frets about damage to churches, and is very accommodating to accountants trying to total up superfight destruction.
Fictional Political Party: Once featured a Presidential Candidate who started the Third Wing Party. It turned out to all be part of Red Skull's latest evil scheme.
This got worse in the Dimension Z arc. Although Steve was missing from his home dimension for only 30 minutes, he lived there for 12 years — Word of God states that he spent longer in Dimension Z than he has spent in the present day since thawing out.
Friendly Enemy: Steve Rogers and Batroc the Leaper. They are usually really friendly with each other and culminated in Steve Rogers spending the last couple of hours he thought he had left alive with Batroc.
Subverted when Batroc squares off against Bucky Cap in the "Captain America and Batroc" special. He looks at their confrontation as an opportunity to improve himself in combat, as he does in his Friendly Rivalry with Steve, but all Bucky is concerned with is dealing with him in short order.
From Nobody to Nightmare: The Red Skull is one of the best examples in comics: Johann Schmidt was an ordinary teenage petty thief growing up in Germany during the rise of the Third Reich. He eventually managed to land a job as a bellhop at a luxury hotel frequented by Hitler himself. By pure chance, he happened to be in Hitler's room while the latter was berating an officer, prompting Hitler to claim he could turn the bellhop into a better Nazi. He did. And it went From Bad to Worse. He went from a petty hooligan to being listed by S.H.I.E.L.D. as one of the greatest existing threats to humanity, despite being a Badass Normal most of the time in a setting that includes things like a planet-eating Eldritch Abomination. If that isn't a perfect example of this trope, then nothing is.
Sin is a more recent example; a completely forgotten character who under Brubaker, became Red Skull's chief underling and ultimately scoring an act of evil even the Red Skull found horrific: killing Captain America's unborn child when Sin shot Sharon Carter in the stomach. And now she has recently become the New Red Skull and is trying to outdo her father.
And now she just killed Bucky Cap after ripping his bionic arm and beating him to death with it (mild exaggeration, she just sent him flying several feet off the air with it). I'd say she's succeeded in outdoing her father. Unless somehow she's shifted Bucky out of time space to take over his body.
She did indeed kill a Bucky, just not the Bucky, as it turns out, courtesy of the Infinity Formula, and a well-placed Life-Model Decoy.
The Heart: Of The Marvel Universe. Also, Captain America is not only The Leader of The Avengers, he's also The Heart seeing as the Mighty Avengers without him seemed more like a millitary institute (which is somewhat Fridge Logic, considering Captain America is a Military Superhero) and he's the one that most people rally behind when someone cries Avengers Assemble!
Heroic BSOD: A rare sight, but at the end of the first issue of the Age of Ultron storyline, we see Cap slumped against the wall, looking utterly hopeless and emotionally defeated for the first time, since ever.
He's Back: The appropriately-titled Captain America: Reborn, dealing with Steve's return to the land of the living.
Honor Before Reason: Even as the world becomes more hateful, dark, and cynical, Steve Rogers refuses to lower himself to the standards of "normality."
Horror Host: Cap can actually be considered one, albeit only on a technicality. The last two issues of his Golden Age title were retitledCaptain America's Weird Tales, because horror was selling and superheroes weren't. Cap didn't actually introduce any stories "on panel," though. In issue #74, he appeared in a regular Captain America story (albeit one with horror aspects, as he fought the Red Skull in, literally, Hell.) He didn't appear in #75 at all, except in the title.
Humble Hero: Part of the point of him. He wasn't anything too special before he got the Super Soldier Serum, and he's pointed out he wasn't supposed to be unique, just the first of many. His humility is one of the reasons he's the embodiment of the American Dream: he's a nobody who became a somebody, and he's eternally thankful for it. Perhaps best summed up by the following exchange from Captain America: The First Avenger:
Inspector Javert: Steve turns into this in X-23: Target X. He feels personally responsible for all the killings X-23 has carried out because she slipped his grasp after her field test by masquerading as a wounded survivor. He reveals he's been tracking her down ever since (approximately six years) and is obsessed with bringing her to justice. He's driven to the point where he completely ignores Matt Murdock's attempts to warn him that S.H.I.E.L.D. won't care really about justice, but instead will use her as a weapon the same way she was used by the Facility. Before he can actually turn her over, however, he recognizes the truth of this and that Laura was as much a victim as the people she killed, and lets her go.
Steve's Captain America mantle has inspired both several direct successors (Isaiah Bradley, William Naslund, Jeffrey Mace, John Walker, Bucky Barnes) and other flag-themed heroes.
He's also got a few Legacy Villains, such as the 12th and 13th Barons Zemo. Sin has also taken her father's mantle.
Le Parkour: Pretty much Batroc the Leaper's shtick. It's really played up in the "Captain America and Batroc" one-shot. This is a bit of a Retcon since Batroc originally practised Savate, a different French martial art. He uses both these days.
Made of Indestructium: Captain America's shield, made out of a unique Vibranium-steel alloy melded together by a unknown catalyst and the only non-magical thing more durable than true adamantium. Only the power of a skyfather or a cosmic entity can destroy the shield.
Mad Love: Red Skull and Mother Night, one-sided at least. God only knows what she saw in him.
Matzo Fever: In the 1980s, Steve Rogers was engaged to Bernie Rosenthal (whose parents would have preferred her looking for a Nice Jewish Boy, like her ex-husband).
Military Superhero: Emphasis on both words. Cap started out as a Super Soldier (and actually ranked officer, the Captain is both his moniker and actual army rank) for the United States Army. He actually did the jump in D-Day with the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, and fought the frontlines against the Nazis. Yet back then, he was already a paragon of virtue and heroism. Being unfrozen in the present only confirmed that honest and selfless asskicking is NEVER out of style.
Miraculous Malfunction: The material that became his shield was created accidentally during an experiment to merge vibranium and an iron alloy. An unknown catalyst entered the mixture while the scientist overseeing it was asleep.
Multiple Choice Past: Roger Stern gave this to Captain America, in order to handwave various conflicting backstories for Captain America, past and future, in terms of having Cap's memory damaged due to him being frozen alive.
Very much averted with the character's transition to The Bronze Age of Comic Books, where Cap came to accept that while his country did not always live up to its ideals, those ideals themselves are worth fighting for, especially when his own government violated them.
Also averted in the Ultimate Marvel Universe, where Captain America and the Ultimates break off from the USA after it sends them on shady missions.
Well before that, there was his failure to save Bucky from dying in WWII. Well, until it was revealed that Bucky didn't exactly bite the bullet that time...
In the Ultimate Universe, his guilt over being partially responsible for Peter Parker's senseless death during the Death of Spider-Man storyline led Cap to quit from being a hero. However, the Nimrod Sentinels' attack on the U.S. and subsequent dividing of the nation has led to Cap returning to the Ultimates to defend the fragmented America from collapsing even further.
Nazi Hunter: Cap hunted them during the war and has had to sniff them out after being unfrozen, since many of his enemies are Nazis. This includes the Red Skull.
The 1950's version of Captain America also hunted former Nazis.
New Season, New Name: Cap's Golden Age book became Captain America's Weird Tales in its last two issues.
Once Cap became the main focus of Tales of Suspense, the comic changed its title to his name starting with issue 100.
Nice Guy: Steve Rogers, under the uniform, is still a kind and polite gentleman and the picture of the wholesome 1930's boy next door.
Nineties Anti-Hero: When he was resurrected, Bucky's new look embodied this, right down to his Cable-esque cyborg arm. Bucky actually averts it, however, since he actively tries to be a better hero, especially since he became Captain America.
Nobody over 50 Is Gay: Subverted! His childhood friend, Arnie Roth, is living with another man when he and Cap meet again in 1982.
Not-So-Harmless Villain: People have a bad habit of underestimating Batroc the Leaper because of his usually friendly nature. Forgetting that he can fight toe to toe with Captain America. He was once even able to hold his own against Cap and Hawkeye at the same time!
Older than They Look: Cap looks to be in his physical prime despite being over 80 years old. Same goes for Bucky when he was brought back.
One-Man Army: OK, sometimes Cap brings along a partner or a friend. But it's not like he needs to....
Paper-Thin Disguise: For a while, Cap disguised himself as a hero known as The Captain. The costume looked identical to his normal Captain America costume except for darker colors and a slightly different chest-insignia. He even threw a shield around that also had a slight color-change. Here is a cover depicting both costumes.◊ This costume somehow fooled everyone, including his allies on The Avengers. The costume would later be worn by the USAgent.
The Paragon: Well, duh. It's pretty much a given that in all of comic books, regardless of companies, the only characters who are bigger paragons than Captain America are Superman and DC's Captain Marvel. See the page quotes. They're his promise to himself that he'll use his abilities only in pursuit of a future better than the present.
The Red Skull tried to break that image in-universe by using the Commission to force Rogers to quit as Captain America and give the title to the Super-Patriot, John Walker. It wasn't until the Watchdogs murdered Walker's parents that he truly became unhinged and threatened the image of Captain America as The Paragon. Once the Skull was exposed and forced out of power, the remaining members of the Commission decided that the only way to rehabilitate Walker's image was to stage his assassination and give him the new identity of USAgent, going so far as to change his civilian identity as well.
Politically Correct History: The regular continuity Cap is usually depicted in his World War II days in the modern stories as a man without any prejudices in his personality that were considered perfectly reasonable assumptions by many mainstream Americans in the 1940s, like homophobia or the like. Sometimes justified in those period stories by him discovering the horrors of bigotry at its absolute worst, such as the Nazi concentration/death camps, which obliterated any racial/religious/sexual orientation prejudices he had left. In an 80's Avengers/X-Men crossover, he and Magneto were half-fighting, half-debating. Magneto doubted Cap's claims that he had no prejudice against mutants, and blasted him with a device that could remove prejudice from someone's mind. Magneto then questioned Cap again, and got the same answer; the device hadn't affected Cap because there was no prejudice to remove. Magneto, whose entire worldview centered around the belief that humans could never accept mutants, was profoundly shaken and immediately surrendered.
Power Trio: The Invaders core group: Namor the Sub-Mariner (Id), Human Torch (Ego), Captain America (Superego).
Powered Armor: While Cap's faced off against many armored villains, he himself had to don an armored version of his costume in the 90s due to the Super-Soldier Serum breaking down in his body and causing Cap to be paralyzed.
Powers Do The Fighting: MODOK doesn't put in much effort in a fight except for pressing buttons on his chair or using Psychic Powers. That's good for him, because he's a huge head in a chair with stubby limbs.
Psycho Serum: Cap has discovered there have been multiple attempts to recreate his Project Rebirth enhancements and the results have typically produced murderous psychotics, with the most infamous of these being William Burnside, the man better known as the 1950s Commie Smasher Cap.
Remember When You Blew Up a Sun?: in-story, Captain America is technically a religious icon for this one tribe of Inuit. Granted, since the story got mainstream coverage in the Marvel U, said tribe have distanced themselves from it, but the story is there...
Retcon: Old saying...Nobody stays dead in comics except Bucky and Uncle Ben. New saying: Nobody stays dead. Nobody.
Running Gag: US Agent's names. His real name is John Walker, but after the government fakes his death, they give him a new identity... as Jack Daniels.
Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: Cap has given up his identity numerous times whenever a government's ruling clashed with his own ideals, as well as the American ideal. The incidents involving the Secret Empire and the Commission on Superhuman Activities are two notable examples of this. This trope is also the driving force for Cap rejecting the Superhuman Registration Act, as he leads a contingent of heroes who don't approve of the Act.
Second Super-Identity: Captain America went undercover as The Captain on two different occasions. This was because the Government demanded that he work exclusively for them, and when he refused, they forbid him from using the Captain America identity, which they legally owned. They gave the identity to another hero, Super Patriot, who later ended up trading costumes with The Captain and being renamed US Agent.
His Ultimate Marvel counterpart spent some time as that universe's Black Panther.
Cap's "Stars and Stripes" attack in the Marvel vs. Capcom series is a good old fashioned Shoryuken-style attack, and the Hyper variant tips its hat to Ken's Shoryu Reppa super. His Charging Star special also draws comparisons with M. Bison's Psycho Crusher, especially Hyper Charging Star (ironic considering how Bison's the Big Bad of SF).
Skull for a Head: The Red Skull, of course. His daughter too, now that she has become the new Red Skull.
Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: The strongest appeal of the Captain America franchise is its stalwart refusal to stop believing in love, kindness, faith, and fundamental human decency. Which in turn is why so many Captain America fans hate Ultimate Captain America, as Mark Millar designed that alternate version of the character as a parody of jingoistic Bush-era conservatism.
Sliding Timescale: All superheroes do this, but Cap is one of the few whose origin uses this trope perfectly - he always started out in World War 2, and the only thing that changes is how long he was in the ice.
Small Steps Hero: Despite being a soldier, Cap will not sacrifice lives. Anyone who dies on his watch does so despite his best efforts.
Sterility Plague: Superia attempts to release a plague that would sterilise the world's female population except for her and her cadre of supervillainesses. As the only fertile women in the world, they would essentially be able to hold the world to ransom.
The Strategist: There's a reason why any hero worth their weight will defer authority to Cap when the world's about to break.
Strapped to a Bomb: Captain America and Bucky Barnes were strapped to an experimental plane laden with explosives by Baron Zemo. They managed to untie themselves, but while trying to defuse it Cap fell off and landed in the Arctic Ocean where he was frozen solid. Bucky was presumed blown up for many many years.
Strawman Political: As might be expected of a character intended to embody what is best about a nation. Writers either tend to use him as a mouthpiece for what they personally think America should be (616 Captain America is usually used for this), or as a voodoo doll for everything they see wrong with America (Ultimate universe Captain America is usually used for this). Needless to say that character consistencyusually isn't a priorityfor these writers.
Strong Family Resemblance: Steve's World War II girlfriend Peggy Carter and his modern girlfriend Sharon Carter; originally (in the 1960s) they were sisters, now they're aunt and niece (expect grandniece in a few years).
Superhero Packing Heat: Cap's original incarnation used guns in addition to his nigh-invulnerable shield, in keeping with his status as a Super Soldier fighting Nazis in World War II. It wasn't until The Silver Age of Comic Books that Cap ditched the guns and just stuck to just using his shield. The 2011 movie based on him is set During the War, and looks to be a return to his Golden Age roots (makes sense since it's during the war). Fan reactions are... somewhat mixed. Recently he once again carries a piece (but prefers not to use it). Bucky plays this straight.
Take That: In the Ultimates — "Surrender? Surrender??!! You think this letter on my head stands for France?" Lampshaded later on by Nick Fury pointing out how hilarious it was, while Hawkeye bemoaned that it was illustrative of how unprofessional the team had become since going public. Cap himself says he isn't entirely sure why he blurted that out.
And again in Nextwave by Elsa Bloodstone, who is English; for one issue, she wore a European Union t-shirt with the € symbol encircled by stars, and at one point, when described as "my victim" by a villain, (a villain wearing a costume that was apparently stolen from Cap's wardrobe, no less) shouted "Victim? Victim?! Do you think this letter on my chest stands for America?!" (Cue title box: "You have been getting insulted by NEXTWAVE.")
The regular Marvel Universe Cap even got in on it: while talking about fighting alongside the Maquis Rebellion in WWII, Steve explains how disgusted he is with the way modern Americans belittle the French with claims of cowardice. It's been suggested this was in response to the Ultimate version's statement.
Take Up My Sword: After Steve's seeming death in 1945, William Naslund and then Jeffrey Mace took his place in order to keep up troop morale; when he seemingly died again in the 21st century, his former sidekick Bucky took up the shield.
Technical Pacifist: Some writers have gone out of their way to say that Captain America has never taken a life, even during World War II. This would ultimately be debunked by Mark Gruenwald, who had Captain America kill an agent of ULTIMATIUM in order to stop the goon from killing innocent hostages. It has also been stated that he had killed during WW2. That said, Steve prefers not to and would like to avoid it if possible.
Handled beautifully in the movie: when asked by Dr. Erskine if he wants to enlist to kill Nazis, Steve Rogers answers that he doesn't want to kill anybody... but that he dislikes bullies of all stripes and wants to stand up for the little guy. He's subsequently shown to go in guns blazing in many missions, but hey, he's doing it to save the world, a valid reason if there ever was one.
Also, one of the things that differentiated Bucky from Steve when Bucky first took up the mantle of Captain America was that he wasn't afraid to cheat or just shoot a guy (albeit nonlethally) in a fight to make up for his lack of enhanced physical abilities.
Unobtainium: Cap's shield is a unique alloy of steel and vibranium, rendering it not only invulnerable to anything less than the Beyonder or the Infinity Gauntlet, but also capable of absorbing impacts up to "pissed-off Hulk" levels and beyond. It's also impossible to reproduce. During his stint as "The Captain", Steve had two replacement shields; a mirror-finish adamantium shield from Tony Stark (which he returned after their falling-out over the Armor Wars), and a black-red-white pure vibranium shield from T'Challa, which went to USAgent after Steve got his job (and old shield) back. Neither had quite the same action as Cap's regular shield. In the late 2010's, his shield gets broken but repaired and upgraded by Odin. So yeah, it currently stands among the pinnacle of technological and magical advances. And it says something that compared to things like the Cosmic Cube, it's a 'simple' shield - something explicitly designed to protect.
Upbringing Makes the Hero: It's heavily implied that Steve's moral fiber was very much inspired by that of his mother, Sarah, whom Steve holds in such a high regard due to her love and care for her son.
Well-Intentioned Extremist: Flag-Smasher. He loathes, almost beyond words, the very idea of national sovereignty, thinking they get in the way of helping people, and thinks the globe should be united in a One World Order. Unfortunately, he uses terror tactics to advance this goal and innocent people often get killed. During their first fight, before he'd done anything too violent, Cap tried to talk him out of this, saying the best way to persuade people to his way of thinking would be to act not as a supervillain, but as a superhero; let people see how his world government ideology inspired him to acts of heroism, just as Cap's own beliefs inspired him. Flag-Smasher didn't listen.
Also, Brother Nature, who had been a park ranger until his forest was opened up to lumber companies. He tried to fight in court but lost. Then he gained nature-based superpowers, possibly empowered by Gaia's Vengeance, and committed acts of sabotage against the company. Cap was able to talk him out of it, though.
Wife-Basher Basher: Being a wholesome 1930's boy next door, Steve Rogers HATES any "man" who dares to strike women with a righteous fury. Its established in Remender's run that Steve's mom was abused by his dad, so its possible that this might motivate that.
That said, if he's in a fight with a female villain, he knows better than to hold back. He knows a woman can be as deadly as any man, so its more about hitting a woman who isn't capable of fighting back that his problem is.
In the Ultimates, he wrestles the 10 stories tallHank Pym into the ground and pounds him into helpless submission for beating his wife The Wasp.
World's Best Warrior: Has the distinct honor of being considered The Best Warrior in the Omniverse! Captain America is the superhero that all other heroes respect in combat ability, tactics, and leadership.