Captain America: The First Avenger recently opened to the biggest box office numbers a superhero film has received all summer. Perhaps even more impressively, the film managed to dethrone the juggernaut that is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 in only its second weekend.
The First Avenger is, for the most part, a fairly faithful adaptation of the classic Captain America mythos – distilled, of course, and with bits and pieces from other versions thrown in for good measure (The Ultimates, the 1970s Captain America TV show, and so forth), but faithful nonetheless.
The following feature article is a comprehensive guide that examines the major – and sometimes not so major – differences between Captain America: The First Avenger and the comic books that it was derived from - including the classic Marvel universe (616 universe) and the more modern "Ultimate" universe. Before you read on, be sure to check out our Captain America: The First Avenger review to know where we stand in regards to the movie.
NOTE: We did a similar comic book/movie comparison for Green Lantern about a month ago. Because the more sarcastic aspects of that piece overshadowed the "guide" side of things, we’ve decided to be more objective (read: less sarcastic) for the Captain America edition.
MAJOR SPOILERS FROM CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER AHEAD!
DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVEN'T YET SEEN THE FILM!
Captain America (Comic Books/Film)
Of all the elements in Captain America: The First Avenger, Captain America himself (portrayed by Chris Evans) is probably most like his original comic book counterpart.
Both versions of Steve Rogers begin as small, skinny, weak, and sickly; both versions are artists; both versions are determined to join the war, and, after numerous attempts, accomplish this goal by way of Project Rebirth (created by Dr. Abraham Erskine). Both, despite initially being propagandist tools in the form of Captain America, are incredibly wholesome, compassionate, and concerned with doing the right thing, no matter what. And of course, both utilize a massive circular shield made of Vibranium, an extremely rare element typically found in the highly advanced African kingdom of Wakanda.
Both Super Soldier transformation processes involve an injection of the Super Soldier Serum before being doused by “Vita-Rays.” Both processes are totally unique and never perfectly replicated after Rogers, as the creator, Erskine, is killed by a Nazi saboteur.
However, one major difference from comic to film is that, in the film, Captain America was a performer in a USO show for nearly a year before he saw any actual combat.
Captain America's Costumes (Comic Books/Film)
The above costume and shield were the very first to be used by Captain America. By issue #2, Jack Kirby had designed the legendary circular shield for him to use instead. The film pays homage to the original costume/shield by having Steve Rogers use them during his USO days.
Captain America's second costume -- and his first in action costume -- appears to be heavily inspired by the costume worn by Ultimate Cap during World War II (as seen in The Ultimates).
And last, but not least, Captain America's final costume seems to be an amalgamation of the Ultimate Cap's World War II costume as well as his Ultimates costume -- more the latter than the former.
Margaret “Peggy” Carter (Comic Books)
Peggy Carter from the comics was an American intelligence agent – more specifically, a liaison to the French Resistance – and sort of Captain America’s girlfriend during the war, though sexy occurrences between the two were few and far in between. Remember, people, comics were for children back then!
After being unfrozen, Cap would go on to date Peggy’s little sister, Sharon Carter, as Peggy had aged far beyond him in the years between WWII and his discovery. Then, due to Marvel’s shifting timeline, Sharon was retconned to be Peggy’s niece instead. Either way, it's kind of creepy.
Peggy Carter (Film)
The Peggy Carter of the film (played by Hayley Atwell) is pretty much identical to her comic book counterpart, except for a few caveats. First of all, she’s British instead of American. Secondly, unlike comic book Peggy, film Peggy meets Steve Rogers – and perhaps even grows fond of him – prior to his participation in Project Rebirth, and acts as Steve’s chaperone during the experiment. In this way only, she’s more like Cynthia Glass from the comics, a Nazi double agent (A.K.A. Agent X) who fell for Steve despite her allegiances, and sacrificed her life to save his.