Captain America’s shield is like the TARDIS: used by many, yet fully appreciated by only a few. While several extra-terrestrial gods may have cracked it, the red, white and blue shield remains virtually indestructible by human standards. Made with care and built from a vibranium-steel alloy, the shield has deadly strength. When used in concert with Captain America’s Super Soldier Serum, it offers perfect aim and the promise of an automatic return. What’s not to like?
Steve Rogers may have originated the role, but history doesn’t lie: Captain America’s shield has made the rounds across multiple realities and worlds. With Captain America: Civil War now upon us, let’s take a look at the superheroes and supervillains who got their hands on the most responsive shield of all time.
Here are the 12 Characters Who have Wielded Captain America’s Shield:
Like a power line, Cable has connected countless storylines and universes in the comic book world. Despite all his achievements, however, few proved more significant than the episodes in which he brandished Captain America’s shield. In one instance, Cable demonstrates the lore surrounding the vibranium shield by telling Cap it exists in the future. What a compliment! No amount of warfare or lapsed time can erode what is truly immortal.
How does Cable get his hands on the shield? Well, because he’s a time-traveling cyborg, he can essentially act with utter autonomy. In Avengers X-Sanction, Cable and Captain America duke it out, switching weapons at a key moment. Though Cap loses his shield to Cable, Captain America gets the cyborg’s sidearm and fires away. Things don’t end so well in this issue for Cap, however, who loses his shield for good and gets a gun pointed at his temple by the cyborg.
11. Hate Monger
The presence of Hate-Monger, a posthumous clone of Adolf Hitler, drives home the relevance of Captain America throughout the 1940s. Bent on destruction, continued genocide and mass extermination via anthrax, Hate-Monger nearly fulfills his goals.
With Captain America and Falcon in chains, he strips the superheroes of their powers and takes Cap’s precious shield as prisoner. Disfiguring its all-American star, Hate-Monger replaces the shield’s insignia with a Swastika and makes a mockery of its representation of freedom. Thrown into a pit flooding with water, Captain America struggles to survive while Falcon is strapped to a launch-position missile armed with deadly chemical warheads. When he can finally escape, Captain America takes back his shield, throws it at Falcon and frees him from the chains, then proceeds to pursue the Hate-Monger with fury.
10. Jeffery Mace (Patriot)
Jeffrey Mace wanted to be somebody, but he didn’t need Captain America’s shield to do it. Already engaged in World War II as the Patriot, and an erstwhile member of the Invaders and the All-Winners Squad, Mace used his cunning mind and strategy in lieu of his human strength and resources.
When William Nasland (the second iteration of Captain America) died, Mace was promoted from his duties as Patriot and given the gift of the shield. While Mace made a mark on the Captain America comics, the 1950s saw him questioning the importance of sustaining his defensive responsibilities. He also got sick from cancer and was sidelined by his illness. Before he passed away, Mace entered into an alternate reality that demanded his fullest attention. To defeat the menacing Adam II, he and all the other Captain Americas united, including Steve Rogers.
9. Isaiah Bradley
Isaiah Bradley is the product of a deeply flawed and morally questionable military operation. Following the collapse of the Super Soldier Serum and the death of Dr. Erskin, Steve Rogers represented the ivory tower of their ambitious scientific project. Of course, the government wanted more. This sent the United States military into chaos, driving them to experiment upon hundreds of African American soldiers in an attempt to revive their beloved Super Soldier program.
Becoming like Nazi doctor Josef Mengele, the scientists not only failed miserably but accidentally killed the vast majority of their patients. Isaiah Bradley was a lone survivor, forced into battle and secret missions on behalf of his government. Pronounced a hero for his services, Isaiah was ultimately court-martialed for taking a Captain America costume and shield into battle (though President Eisenhower eventually released him).
8. Vance Astro (Major Victory)
Who is Vance Astro? At once a key player for the Avengers, the famed Justice of the New Warriors, and a founding member of the original Guardians of the Galaxy, Vance Astro is whoever he’s supposed to be in the comic you’re reading. For the purposes of his relationship with Captain America’s shield, however, he gets his hands on it in the future, when he fights alongside the Avengers.
His journey to attain the shield required countless battles, however. After fighting Taserface and the Stark, Vance finally found the shield but was nearly killed by a gang of ruthless Punisher copycats. After healing from his wounds, Vance donned a newfangled Captain America costume, used the shield he had thankfully discovered and renamed himself “Major Victory.”
7. John Walker
The costume does not make the man. Jaded by an unscrupulous government, Steve Rogers abandoned his identity as Captain America and returned to civilian life. Enter John Walker, who, as soon as he inherited Steve’s shield and costume, also forgot what values and ideals the superhero represented.
In keeping with the darkly progressive and boundary-pushing comics of the 1990s, Walker takes Captain America to new heights (and depths), drawing blood and taking lives without hesitation. In perverting the integrity of Captain America, Walker fails to shake off his violent past as a vigilante, transferring his ruthless trade to his borrowed costume and metallic shield. Previously known as the Super Patriot, John Walker didn’t last long in the role, ultimately deposed by Steve Rogers who had been appalled by what Captain America had become.
6. William Naslund
When Steve Rogers was presumed dead in 1945, President Harry Truman immediately passed on the vibranium shield to William Naslund. Ignoring the warrior’s rather avant-garde choice of hats, Truman sought to preserve Captain America’s identity for the greater good. Naslund first earned his stripes as a crimefighter called the “Spirit of ’76,” battling baddies in England alongside The Crusaders.
In service of the United States, Naslund helped deal a death blow to Nazi Germany, fulfilling his ultimate duties as the Sentinel of Liberty. How appropriate, then, that Naslund’s reign as the revised Captain America would end in saving the life of a young John F. Kennedy. Though killed at the hand of futuristic, wannabe Lee Harvey Oswald robots, Naslund saved JFK and continued the heroic tradition of Captain America.
As with Xbox vs. Playstation, Batman vs. Superman and Marvel vs. D.C., people love a good matchup. What happens when you combine forces of the two biggest comic book franchises? You get Superman wielding both Thor’s hammer of the gods and Captain America’s indestructible shield. How does it feel? According to Superman, the sensation is so overwhelming that he can’t even finish his sentence.
This is also how comic book fans felt when the Justice League fought alongside the Avengers, spearheaded by Superman’s double-fisting of some of the most famous weapons in the history of war. This particular iteration of the comic book world was definitely short lived, but it begs the question: in ten years time, will Marvel and D.C. team up for an earth shatteringly large movie? Only time will tell.
4. James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes
Despite his distractingly dated nickname, James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes has managed to play a variety of roles throughout his lifetime. Having once been best buds with Steve Rogers, Bucky later played the part of the villain to Captain America, wielding his bionic arm and super strength to try and put Steve in an early grave.
After shedding the Soviet skin of his Winter Soldier identity, things got even weirder. When Rogers had allegedly been murdered, Bucky donned the red, white and blue to become the newest Captain America. Bucky did his job well, using his super strength and shield to ward of Skrull and save countless lives. Unfortunately, his old ties to the Kremlin ultimately rendered him a political liability to the United States. Cap wasn’t out of the game for long, however, as Steve Rogers was later found to be alive.
3. Sam Wilson (Falcon)
When Steve Rogers withers from a depleted Super Soldier Serum, he gives his shield to one of his most trusted allies, Sam Wilson. Indeed, in the fall 2014 issue of All-New Captain America, authors Rick Remender and Stuart Immonen turn the series on its head and put Falcon in the driver’s seat of the Captain America saga. Sam’s shield will be used for more socially engaged storylines, leaving behind Steve Rogers’ hesitating political involvement for a more outspoken voice.
Indeed, as editor Tom Brevoort states, “So he’s got perhaps a greater focus on the plight of the common man, and perhaps a greater empathy for the underprivileged than maybe even Steve himself.” Far from a pacifist, the new Captain America may still be less responsive to the siren call of war, raising questions first before picking up arms.
2. Steve Rogers
Born out of necessity, Steve Rogers is the rightful owner of the Captain America’s name and shield. First appearing in Joe Simon and Jack Kirby’s 1941 inaugural comic, the weakling Steve Rogers became the warrior Captain America after sustaining the invasive treatment of Super Soldier Serum. Born to kill Nazis, Simon and Kirby’s Captain America was created in direct retaliation to the Third Reich, featuring Rogers punching Hitler on the cover of the first issue.
Though dissidents to the war were vocal in the early 1940’s, Simon and Kirby “wanted to have their own say, too.” Shortly after Steve Rogers landed in comic book pages, the United States waged war against Germany, relying on Captain America’s morale more than ever. Throughout the 1940s, Captain America proved vital to warding off comic book villains and sustaining the war weary spirit of the United States.
According to the newest Captain America: Civil War trailer, Spider-Man will be the most recent superhero to clutch the rebounding shield of doom. Spider-Man may initially join Tony Stark’s side in the battle of the Avengers, but to steal from Natasha Bedingfield, “the rest is still unwritten.”
While we’ll soon be able to watch how Spider-Man uses Captain America’s trusted weapon in the movie, the comics may help provide some more background. Fans of Spider-Man’s inclusion in the Avengers team have author Brian Michael Bendis to thank. Cutting Spider-Man free from his natural webbing, Bendis gave Spider-Man total freedom and let him galavant with Cap’s shield for more than a few comic panels. One frame in particular has Spider-Man monologuing towards his fellow superheroes and defending his antics, saying, “Because I am an Avenger. And that…that is what we are.”
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