Art by Alex Ross
Forewarning, this guy has 75 years of history, so this is going to be a long entry.
Young Steven Rogers was a small, sickly child born to a family with barely enough money to eat. When World War II broke out, Steve repeatedly tried to enlist in the Army but was turned down due to his poor health. He caught a break when General Chester Phillips overheard his attempts to get into the military and enrolled him in Operation Rebirth. Here, he was administered the Super Soldier Serum along with Vita-Rays by Doctor Abraham Erskine. This gave Steve enhanced strength and agility. This process transformed young Steve Rogers into Captain America, the Sentinel of Liberty!
Erskine was assassinated immediately after Steve’s transformation, and this made Captain America the only person with the Super Soldier Serum in him. No one has been able to perfectly emulate the process since.
Steven was immediately put through rigorous training by Colonel Rex Applegate. Through this training, Captain America became one of the most skilled martial artists and gymnasts in the world.
He was soon deployed to the field along with his highly trained partner, Bucky Barnes. The two squared off against the man who would become Captain America’s most hated enemy: Johann Schmidt, the Red Skull. He would also face off against many other vile foes in his service, such as Baron Heinrich Zemo, Baron Blood (a Nazi vampire), and Baron Wolfgang von Strucker.
Captain America and Bucky were often accompanied by the Invaders, a team consisting of the them, Jim Hammond aka the Human Torch, Toro, and Namor the Sub-Mariner. They were also often aided by Union Jack, Spitfire, and Sleepwalker.
Captain America also led a special ops squad called the Howling Commandos, which included future S.H.I.E.L.D agents, Nick Fury, Dum Dum Dugan, and Gabe Jones. He found love in the form of a British agent named Peggy Carter.
Near the end of the war, Captain America and Bucky were deployed to halt a scheme of Baron Heinrich Zemo. This mission ended with Steve and Bucky trying to disarm an already-launched missile from atop it. Steve was thrown from the missile just before it exploded over the North Atlantic with Bucky still on board, his arm caught. Steve was knocked unconscious believing his best friend and partner was dead. He was soon frozen by the icy waters.
Years later, Captain America was found by Namor (who ages much slower than normal humans or Atlanteans). The ice that contained Steve was being worshipped by a local tribe. Namor was disgusted by this treatment of the body of his former ally and threw the ice into the ocean. Captain America was then found by the Avengers, then consisting of Iron Man, Thor, Giant Man, and the Wasp. They thawed Steve from the ice, and he joined their team. This gave the team a roster boost that they had lost when Hulk recently left the Avengers.
Steve gained an apprentice in Rick Jones, whom was an admirer of the Avengers. He trained Rick Jones, and Rick even convinced him to allow him to wear Bucky’s uniform (which is a little weird honestly). However, Steve, still raw from the loss of Bucky, wouldn’t allow him to become a full-fledged Avenger.
Captain America was a natural fit for the Avengers, and he became their leader. In one of their first missions with Steve, they battled Baron Heinrich Zemo, whom was still alive after the war and had kidnapped Rick Jones (this was published in the 1960’s, so it would have only been 20 years after WWII). He formed a group of rogues called the Masters of Evil, and they fought the Avengers. In the chaos, Heinrich was accidentally killed by a rockslide caused by his own weaponry.
Soon after, Iron Man, Thor, Giant Man, and Wasp left the team. This left Captain America with the charge of leading the new recruits, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, and Quicksilver. They were all former criminals and proved difficult to train, but Captain America turned them into a team. This team was put through a trial by fire when it dealt with the return of Kang the Conqueror.
Captain America soon took a leave of absence from the Avengers, being replaced by Black Panther.
Captain America soon came to blows with his former nemesis, the Red Skull, when he and Hydra stole a Cosmic Cube from A.I.M. Red Skull had been put in suspended animation since the war and was still in top shape. This confrontation reignited the flames of hatred anew.
Steve found Nick Fury to still be active as well, now the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. He also found a new romantic partner in Sharon Carter, Agent 13 of S.H.I.E.L.D and the niece of Peggy Carter (a little weird, but sweet).
Steve Rogers recieved a new partner in Sam Wilson, whom Steve met when Sam was brainwashed by the Red Skull and sent to fight Captain America. He was given a wing harness by Black Panther and became Captain America’s most trusted ally, the Falcon.
Together they battled many foes such as the Flag-Smasher, Batroc the Leaper, Crossbones, the Serpent Society, and Arnim Zola.
During an intermission with Sharon, Captain America saved Diamondback, a member of the Serpent Society, from Crossbones. The two soon started a romantic entanglement.
With the Falcon at his side, Captain America battled his 1950’s impersonator, whom had named himself Steve Rogers as well. He was partnered with Jack Monroe, whom called himself Bucky. This Captain America was a “commie basher” and arrested many innocent people under suspicions of communist connections. Captain America and the Falcon still managed to defeat this duo.
When the Secret Empire emerged and shook Steve’s faith in the government, he put down the shield and took up the identity of Nomad, the Man Without a Country. An admirer of Captain America named Roscoe Simmons attempted to take over for Steve, but was brutally tortured and crucified by none other than the Red Skull. This shocked Steve and pushed him to return to the shield lest any other souls suffer the same fate trying to replace him.
He also rejoined with the Avengers around this time. He led them through the trials and tribulations of the Kree-Skrull War among many other adventures.
He and the Avengers were transported to Beyonder’s Battleworld to fight in a Secret War between heroes and villains. He helped lead the heroes when Doctor Doom seized the Beyonder’s powers and threatened all of creation.
He soon came face-to-face with a new Baron Zemo, this one named Helmut. He was the son of Heinrich, and, though he does not share his father’s Nazi ideology, he still has a lust for power and a hatred of Captain America.
When he was called back into government work by the CSA (Commission on Superhuman Activities), Steve Rogers put down the shield once more in protest. He took a new, though less strong, shield and a black uniform. He called himself, simply, the Captain. He was replaced as Captain America by hard-nosed John Walker.
Steve, as the Captain, led a new Avengers team in an attempt to keep the alliance alive, this one consisting of Thor, Gilgamesh, Mister Fantastic, and Invisible Woman.
When it was revealed that the Red Skull was manipulating the CSA, the Captain took on the organization along with Jack Monroe, who took up with mantle of Nomad. They battled John Walker and his new Bucky. After this battle, Walker resigned, Steve became Captain America once more, and John Walker took the Captain uniform and became the US Agent.
Captain America was among the heroes brought into Onslaught’s realm after a battle with the creature. He later returned along with the others.
When, in Doctor Doom’s absence, Lucia von Bardas began making power plays in Latveria, Nick Fury organized Captain America, Spider-Man, Luke Cage, Wolverine, Daredevil, and Black Widow into a covert strike force to Castle Doom against the wishes of the U.S government. The operation was botched and the castle came down, killing many people. Nick Fury wiped the memory from the heroes’ minds, but Lucia von Bardas survived and openly attacked the United States for the strike against Latveria.
Captain America was leading the team when Scarlet Witch’s powers drove her mad, and she began attacking the Avengers. He was witness to the deaths of Avengers Hawkeye, Vision, Ant-Man (Scott Lang), and Jack of Hearts (of course, three of those four are alive again today). After this, the Avengers Disassembled, and a New Avengers team was formed with Luke Cage, Spider Woman, Spider-Man, and Wolverine. Captain America and Iron Man were in charge of this team as well.
Steve was instrumental in the efforts to bring down Magneto’s regime, the House of M, when Scarlet Witch was used by her brother, Quicksilver, to alter reality so that mutants were in charge.
Steve Rogers always had a decent working relationship with S.H.I.E.L.D, and this was made more true when he and Sharon Carter reignited their romantic flame. When a new threat known only as the Winter Soldier started making plays in the espionage world, Nick Fury contacted Captain America due to the Winter Soldier’s strong resemblance to Steve’s once-partner and best friend, Bucky Barnes. Upon further investigation, it turned out to be Bucky. He had survived the explosion of Zemo’s missile, but he lost an arm. The Soviets found him, gave him a bionic arm, brainwashed him, and turned him into an assassin. He had been active since then, being frozen in cryostasis whenever he was not on a mission. The Winter Soldier killed the Red Skull at the behest of Russian CEO Alexander Lukin. However, the Red Skull survived as a consciousness within another Captain America rogue known as Doctor Faustus. The Winter Soldier also killed Jack Monroe aka Nomad due to his knowledge of Lukin’s activities. Captain America was able to give Bucky his memories back with a Cosmic Cube, and the two began to work together once more after stopping a Sleeper awakened by the Red Skull.
When Nitro detonated in Sanford, killing 616 people including much of the New Warriors, the Superhuman Registration Act was passed. Captain America was the strongest opponent of the bill, and he led a group of underground heroes against Iron Man’s pro-registration forces. The conflict came to an end when Captain America saw the damage and pain the war was causing. After he was arrested, Captain America was shot by Crossbones while protecting a police officer. In the ensuing chaos, Sharon Carter, then brainwashed by the Red Skull through Faustus, put the killing shots into Steve Rogers. Captain America was dead.
Bucky Barnes became Captain America in Steve’s absence. He and Falcon fought Baron Zemo and the returned 1950’s Captain America. Bucky made his first public appearance as Captain America during the battle against the Skrulls in Central Park during the Secret Invasion. He continued Captain America’s anti-registration struggles after this conflict, joining up with Luke Cage’s underground New Avengers.
Red Skull began devising a plot to tarnish Steve Rogers’ legacy. He reanimated Steve Rogers’ body (prepare for a lot of weird) through Steve’s unborn child within the womb of Sharon Carter (this killed the fetus, by the way). The Skull kept Steve’s mind dormant by forcing it to relive various moments in his past. Red Skull put his own mind into Steve’s body. He, along with his daughter Sin, Crossbones, and a number of M.O.D.O.K androids attacked the U.S. Capitol. Bucky, Falcon, and Black Widow came to face them. Steve’s mind reawakened and fought the consciousness of the Red Skull. Here, he finally killed the Red Skull by snuffing out his mind.
Steve joined up with the New Avengers, Young Avengers, and Nick Fury’s Secret Warriors to help defend Asgard when Norman Osborn, his Dark Avengers, and H.A.M.M.E.R attacked. After this, Steve opted to allow Bucky to continue being Captain America while Steve became the new Director of S.H.I.E.L.D.
In a new Heroic Age, Steve organized a Secret Avengers team consisting of himself, Black Widow, Valkyrie, Beast, War Machine, Nova, Shang-Chi, and Moon Knight. They worked to recover the Serpent Crown from a shadow organization lead by a clone of Nick Fury called Max Fury.
He also uncovered a clandestine group called the Illuminati when the Hood began collecting Infinity Gems, which the Illuminati had hidden away. The group consisted of Iron Man, Mister Fantastic, Namor, Doctor Strange, Professor Xavier, and Black Bolt. Their intent was to make unilateral decisions with world-shaping consequences, believing they were the ones best fit to make such decisions. Steve was infuriated by this discovery and joined as a means of keeping surveillance on the group.
When Bucky Barnes was outed as the Winter Soldier by Baron Zemo and the Russian government, he was arrested. He broke out to join the fight against the Asgardian God of Fear and his “Worthy” wielders of the his own hammers. He appeared to be killed by Sin wielding her own hammer. This gave Steve an opportunity to allow Bucky to go underground to avoid arrest. From here, Steve Rogers became Captain America once more.
He led the Avengers against Cyclops and his X-Men when the Phoenix Force returned to Earth. Cyclops wanted to use the entity to help the now-dying out mutants, but Captain America feared the destructive power of the Phoenix.
After this conflict, Captain America established two new Avengers teams. One had a massive roster that could cover more global threats, and the other was a joint effort with X-Men to try to better human/mutant relations with Havoc as the leader.
The first of those two Avengers teams would later fight off a universe-threatening force called the Builders as well as an invasion of Earth by Thanos. The second would battle a clone of the Red Skull possessing the telepathic powers of the now-dead Charles Xavier.
Around this time, Captain America was also pulled into the Z-Dimension by Arnim Zola for what, to him, felt like 10 years. He adopted a young boy named Ian. He and Ian managed to escape after defeating Zola, but Sharon Carter was lost in the dimension. She would later escape, but she had aged a great deal. Ian would go onto become the new Nomad.
When the Super Soldier Serum in his veins suddenly aged Steve Rogers, he knew he could no longer continue his role as Captain America. He gave the shield to Sam Wilson, and he became the new Captain America.
Steve Rogers was approached by Tony Stark and Reed Richards to join a new iteration of the Illuminati. When he refused, he was mind-wiped by Doctor Strange to forget its existence. However, his memories later returned after the Axis event, where the Red Skull clone made himself into an Onslaught-like creature. During this event, Tony Stark was altered to become high-functioning sociopath, a “Superior” Tony Stark.
Steve made it his personal duty to stop the Illuminati, and he recruited S.H.I.E.L.D, his own contingent of Avengers, and Luke Cage’s Mighty Avengers for the task. They battled the Illuminati, even as it became apparent that the universe was coming to an end due to universal “Incursions,” which were discovered by the Illuminati.
Even as the rest of the Avengers went to war with the Ultimates universe when it came into a collision course with theirs, even as a life raft was sent out to save some intellectuals who may yet be able to save everyone, Steve Rogers and Tony Stark spent their final moments fighting it out one last time.
When Reed Richards was able to restore the Earth, Steve Rogers was still in his weakened state. He continued the Avengers/X-Men collaboration with the Avengers Unity Squad. He also had a falling out with Sam Wilson over a secret hacktivist called the Whisperer.
When the Whisperer, revealed to be Rick Jones, uncovered a secret S.H.I.E.L.D prison called Pleasant Hill, Steve Rogers was brought to investigate it. Baron Zemo orchestrated a prison break that resulted in the Avengers being called to the scene. Kobik, a sentient Cosmic Cube in the form of a little girl, restored Steve Rogers’ powers and youth. However, on the Red Skull’s instruction, she also altered Steve Rogers’ mind to be the Skull’s sleeper agent.
He returned to the role of Captain America after this, but he still left the official shield with Sam Wilson, instructing Sam to continue his role as Captain America.
In Steve Rogers’ current adventures, he is still being controlled by the Red Skull, and how the Sentinel of Liberty will free himself from the Skull’s control is yet to be revealed.
Captain America is an icon. He is the archetype of the selfless hero. He’s also been cleverly humanized over the years by his status as a man-out-of-time as well as a person who has had to balance his nigh-innocent sense of altruism with the complexities of the real world. He’s a man of convictions though, and, if he sees something is wrong, he will fight against it no matter what opposition he faces. He genuinely cares for other people, no matter the race, religion, nationality, or sexuality. He loves his country, but that doesn’t mean he loves what it has been or has become. He won’t blindly parrot government mandates or political rhetoric. He may be Captain America, but that’s an ideal and a dream, not necessarily a country or political regime. He’s one of Earth’s bravest and dedicated heroes, and this is why he is my 6th Favorite Marvel Hero.