From humble origins in Brooklyn to the battlefields of World War 2, to the modern day and even to the distant Kree and Skrull Empires, Steve Rogers aka Captain America has fought more than his share of enemies. Cap has been a symbol for not just American patriotism, but for all that’s good in the world, too: freedom, democracy, and fighting the good fight. It stands to reason that in all his long years, he’s encountered some of the most terrible evils in the Marvel Universe.
Here’s Captain America’s 17 Greatest Enemies
17 17. Iron Man
In both the comics and the movies Captain America has found himself at odds with his friend, ally, and fellow Avenger. While they have never been the worst of enemies, their belief in their respective causes and their commitment to those beliefs mean that when they butt heads, sparks fly!
The first time the two fought, it was a case of mistaken identity. Iron Man believed Cap to be The Chameleon and given Cap hadn’t been in the modern Era very long, he had yet to acclimatise to the heroes and villains of the time. Fortunately, the issue was resolved quickly and the two managed to remain good friends afterwards.
When Tony Stark set out to reclaim his stolen armour technology during the “Armour Wars,” Cap was forced to protect the government’s interests and fight his friend and ally once more.
It was during the Civil War that their friendship reached its limit. Iron Man fully supported superhuman registration, while Captain America saw the mandatory registration as being fundamentally un-American. While the two men have managed to finally rebuild their friendship, the events of the war have left far-reaching repercussions that are still felt to this day. With a second Civil War on the horizon, it may be a matter of time before the two are locked in mortal combat once more.
16 Winter Soldier
James “Bucky” Barnes was the teenage sidekick of Captain America during World War Two. He was also Cap’s secret weapon. Bucky was trained as an assassin, one who could slip into enemy camps undetected and take out high-value targets, one who could do the dirty jobs that Cap couldn’t be seen to do.
When Baron Zemo seemingly killed Bucky, it left Cap broken for years. The spectre of his lost friend hung over him and affected everything he did. Their eventual reunion should have been a joyous occasion, but it was tragic: Bucky had been recovered and brainwashed by soviet scientists into becoming a near-mythic assassin known as The Winter Soldier. Not only was he now a living weapon, he was a terrorist responsible for hundreds of deaths over the decades. Steve was faced with the most challenging enemy of all: a friend he would be forced to kill.
Steve would eventually restore Bucky’s memories by way of a Cosmic Cube. Barnes even served as Captain America in Steve’s place, when the latter was seemingly killed shortly after Civil War.
15 The Grand Director
The Grand Director (William Burnside), also known as “1950s Captain America”, was an obsessed fan of Captain America and adopted both the costumed identity as well as the civilian identity of Steve Rogers. He uses the Super Soldier Serum and develops powers identical to the original Captain America and fights a communist Red Skull. However, this serum wasn’t stabilised by Vita Rays and he developed psychotic tendencies. The government was forced to put him into suspended animation, where he was largely forgotten about after the original Cap returned.
Burnside would eventually be reawakened and brainwashed by Doctor Faustus and became the leader of a Neo Nazi group called The National Force. When the Grand Director was confronted by the original Cap his brainwashing subsided and he was horrified by his actions, seemingly committing suicide.
He was later seen to have survived, and battled Bucky during the latter's tenure as Captain America.
14 Doctor Faustus
Doctor Faustus (Johann Fennhoff) is an Austrian criminal genius and psychiatrist who uses psychological manipulation to force people to act against their will, or in extreme circumstances force them to commit suicide.
Faustus has confronted Captain America numerous times, often using pawns such as The Grand Director and rarely actually using force himself. His most heinous act was while he was working undercover as a S.H.E.I.L.D psychiatrist seemingly counselling Sharon Carter (Agent 13). During this time, he delved deep into Sharon’s consciousness and made her a pawn of the Red Skull’s revenge against Captain America. He manipulated her into assassinating Cap shortly after the end of the Civil War. While Cap was later seen to have survived, Faustus has come closer to ending Steve Rogers than many others.
Constrictor (Frank Payne) was a S.H.I.E.L.D agent sent undercover in the criminal organisation known as The Corporation. Shortly after infiltrating the Corporation, he suffered a nervous breakdown and adopted his false identity of Frank Schlicting and became a full-time criminal using his S.H.I.E.L.D Constrictor costume. During this time, Frank came into conflict with Captain America. When he was trapped in a cave in during their battle, Cap saved his life.
After the Corporation was disbanded, Frank became a mercenary for hire for many years, teaming up with criminals such as Sabretooth and The Taskmaster several times. Eventually, he fought Hercules and was almost beaten to death, receiving a massive settlement after a lawsuit. The hero Nighthawk convinced Frank that his wealth meant that he no longer needed to be a criminal and that he should use his wealth to become a hero instead.
After the siege of Asgard, Constrictor returned to his villainous ways when he thought his girlfriend, Diamondback, still had feelings for Captain America. Eventually he joined a new incarnation of The Masters of Evil serving as the bodyguard for Baron Helmut Zemo, one of Captain America’s fiercest enemies.
12 The Serpent Society
There have been several iterations of the Serpent Society, the first one being founded by the villain Sidewinder who organized a loose collection of Snake-themed villains such as the original Viper, Diamondback, and Cobra.
The group functioned not as a team focussed on world domination, nor the destruction of a particular enemy, but as a supervillain labor union. Each member of the group provided support and protection to the others, sharing profits from their endeavours. The group took jobs from anyone that would pay, including HYDRA and The Kingpin.
When the second Viper (Madam Hydra) took control of the group, they began to think bigger and plotted to take control of The United States. This brought them into conflict with Captain America, D-Man, Nomad, and the Falcon.
Sin (Sinthea Schmidt) is the daughter of the Red Skull and shares his Nazi views. When the Red Skull was seeking an heir, he fathered a child with a poor washerwoman. When the woman died during childbirth, the Skull was horrified to discover that his prized heir was a girl and he planned to throw the baby into the sea. He was convinced by his follower Susan Scarbo to allow her to raise the child and indoctrinate her from birth.
The Skull, impatient to wait for the child to reach adulthood, placed her in a machine to grow her into a superhuman adult. As “Mother Superior” she gained vast psionic powers and formed the “sisters of Sin," a group of young orphan girls who were also force-grown into adulthood. The Sisters of Sin would be defeated by Captain America and Sin would be returned to her normal age.
Eventually, Sin would be captured by S.H.I.E.L.D and be reprogrammed to be a “normal” girl, hoping to give her a shot at a normal life away from the Skull’s influence. After the Skull was assassinated by the Winter Soldier, Crossbones captured Sin and brutalised her until her villainous personality was restored.
After a killing spree with Crossbones, she wound up being hideously scarred and her face resembled that of her father’s. She would then become The Red Skull in his absence and attacked Washington, DC using a cache of advanced Nazi superweapons.
10 Arnim Zola
Arnim Zola was a Nazi biochemist specializing in genetic engineering during World War 2. The Red Skull had him create super soldiers, and one of his experiments ended up becoming the Hate Monger, an artificial person with the mind of Adolf Hitler.
He survived into the modern era by transferring his mind into a robot body which has escaped destruction numerous times as Zola is able to upload his consciousness into the internet and rebuild himself.
Zola would discover the “Z Dimension,” where he lived for decades while almost no time passed on Earth. During this time, he created a son and daughter; the former eventually became Ian Rogers, son of Captain America.
Georges Batroc is a French mercenary and expert on the French martial art of Savate, a form of kickboxing.
In his first appearance, he fought Captain America after being hired by “Them” to steal the mysterious Inferno-42. When Batroc discovered that Captain America had heard of him, he was visibly delighted. Later he would be hired by HYDRA to abduct Sharon Carter. When Cap confronted him, he refused to let Hydra help, insisting to take on the captain by himself. When Cap defeated him the HYDRA agents prepared to kill them both. Incensed by HYDRA’s lack of honour he switched sides and helped Cap defeat them.
While usually only a henchman of another villain, Batroc is regarded as a lethal combatant whose skills are respected by enemies and allies alike.
The Taskmaster has the ability to mimic the fighting style of any combatant merely by observing them. This “photographic reflex” allowed his to watch various heroes such as Captain America, Black Panther, The Swordsman, and Hawkeye and master all their skills.
He initially used this skill set to commit various crimes, usually simple larceny. He had not anticipated how dangerous being a criminal was, and after a few close calls, decided to use his skill set to train other aspiring criminals into professionals, aiming to become a supplier of top-tier henchmen to criminals around the world.
In his first public outing as The Taskmaster, he held his own against both Captain America and Iron Man, but was forced to retreat when the robotic Jocasta joined the battle.
Brock Rumlow, better known as Crossbones, is one of Captain America’s most dangerous foes. A criminal since his early teens, he was forced to run away from home when he killed the brother of a girl he assaulted. He joined Taskmaster’s school for criminals and displayed an incredible aptitude for hand to hand combat and spy craft. Within three years, he became the Taskmaster’s best student, and later an instructor.
As a mercenary, he worked for the communist Red Skull under the codename Frag. He later met the original Red Skull, Johann Schmitt, and became loyal to him. It was the Red Skull that re-christened him “Crossbones." Infamously, he assassinated an unarmed Captain America who had surrendered himself to Iron Man’s forces.
After a stint in the Thunderbolts, he would eventually re-join HYDRA with Sin and the Red Skull as they began to rebuild the criminal empire.
6 The Secret Empire
The Secret Empire is a subversive criminal organisation with changeable goals depending on who is leading them at any given time. As a subsidiary of HYDRA, the Secret Empire initially served to distract S.H.I.E.L.D from HYDRA’s wider activities while they operated under the radar.
The second iteration of The Secret Empire, under new leadership, tried to ruin Captain America’s reputation during a scheme that involved siphoning the powers of various mutants and using that energy to power a flying saucer capable of destroying the White House. Captain America defeated them along with Falcon, Cyclops, and Marvel Girl. While the leader of The Secret Empire was never revealed, it was strongly implied to be the then President of the United States, Richard Nixon. These events led to Steve Rogers giving up the identity of Captain America and becoming Nomad for a time.
5 Madam Hydra
Madam Hydra was an orphan child taken in by Hydra and raised by Kraken. She trained under Kraken and became his greatest protégé. She would regularly clash with Captain America and S.H.I.E.L.D as she rose through the ranks of Hydra.
While Madam Hydra would sever ties with Hydra from time to time, she remained a villain. Teaming up with Viper (Jordan Stryke) she decided to usurp his codename, becoming the second Viper.
When Viper took control of the Serpent Society she attempted to poison Washington DC’s water supply with a snake mutagen. She also tried to kill the President, but was arrested by Captain America, becoming mortal enemies with him.
4 Baron Wolfgang von Strucker
Another Nazi, Baron Strucker is one of the leaders of Hydra and has, through bio-manipulation, become near ageless.
Baron Strucker first encountered Captain America in 1941 shortly after Steve Rogers took the role. They were both in Madripoor at the time, with Strucker assisting the ninja assassins, The Hand, as they attempted to transform Natasha Romanova (who would become The Black Widow) into their master assassin.
When Strucker was able to evade war crimes after World War 2, he instructed his remaining Nazi scientists to create an age suppression formula similar to the Infinity Formula used by Nick Fury to extend his lifespan. When Captain America reappeared in modern times, the two men found themselves at odds once more.
3 Baron Zemo
There are actually two Baron Zemo’s in the Marvel Universe. The first, Heinrich Zemo is the father of the second, Helmut.
Heinrich Zemo was a Nazi during World War 2 and was noted for his sadism and genius intellect. While he was developing weapons for the Nazis, he created a chemical known as Adhesive X. In order to ensure that Zemo couldn’t use Adhesive X, Captain America tried to destroy the entire supply. Zemo was doused with the chemical, which permanently bonded his trademark purple hood to his face.
Zemo’s reputation grew, earning him a rivalry with the Red Skull. The Skull sent him to England to steal an experimental aircraft and leaked the information to Captain America, hoping that his two greatest enemies would destroy each other. By the time Cap caught up with him, he had already made it to England and stolen the aircraft. Zemo tied both Captain America and Bucky to the aircraft and booby trapped it to explode. Cap survived, but Bucky was presumed to have died. It was only many years later that Bucky was revealed to have survived.
Heinrich lived into the modern age and was enraged to discover that Captain America had returned. The two battled many times, either one on one or when Zemo formed The Masters of Evil (a counter to The Avengers). Eventually, Heinrich lured Captain America to a jungle in order to kill him, but died in a rockslide he inadvertently caused.
The second Baron Zemo, Helmut, took on the mantle of his father in order to take revenge against Captain America. It was this Zemo that would battle Cap numerous times before taking the mantle of Citizen V, leader of the Thunderbolts.
2 Red Skull
The Red Skull isn’t simply Captain America’s arch enemy, he’s one of the greatest evils in the Marvel Universe.
The young Johann Schmitt was working as a bellhop in a hotel when he first met Adolf Hitler. Hitler was scolding a subordinate and happened to gaze upon the young Schmitt, he exclaimed that he could make a better national socialist out of the young man. Sensing something inherently evil in the young boy, Hitler took him as a protégé.
Excelling in his new position, he was given a uniform with a terrifying red mask and was named The Red Skull for the first time. Hitler would appoint the Skull as the head of Nazi terrorist and espionage activities. His efforts were so effective that the U.S government would counter this with a figurehead of their own and began Project Rebirth which would create Captain America. The two clashed during the war many times and Cap seemingly defeated him for good shortly before setting off for the fateful confrontation with Zemo that would see him frozen in ice for decades. The Red Skull would be found and revived by A.I.M which he quickly subverts to his will. He gains possession of the Cosmic Cube and confronts Captain America for the first time in modern times.
Eventually, The Red Skull’s elderly body failed him and he died, only to find himself alive once again in a cloned body of Captain America. Finally a physical match for his nemesis, he also chooses to abandon Nazi ideology choosing to infiltrate the U.S government instead. Eventually, he was assassinated by a brainwashed Winter Soldier but due to his possession of a Cosmic Cube, his consciousness survived in the body of his rival Alexander Lukin. In time, Lukin’s body was killed and Schmitt survived by putting his mind in the body of a robot similar to Arnim Zola. This robotic form would eventually be destroyed by Sharon Carter.
1 Adolf Hitler
The only person in the Marvel Universe equal to the Red Skull's evil is none other than Adolf Hitler. Like his real-life counterpart, he was the leader of Nazi Germany and a key figure in World War Two.
In no way trivializing the real-life events of the holocaust, Adolf Hilter’s legacy in the Marvel Universe qualifies him as a villain of the highest order. He is the inspiration to many of Captain America’s foes, and the real-life inspiration for the creation of Captain America in the first place. The cover to Captain America Comics #1 even has Cap socking Hitler on the chin.
Got any great foes we may have missed? Tell us about them in the comments!