Since the beginning, Captain America has been about transformation. Growing up as a sickly young boy with Polio, young Steve Rogers was desperate to do his part to make the world a better place. When he witnessed the rise of fascism in Europe he begged to join the Army and fight alongside the brave men who opposed Hitler. Hearing his pleas, Doctor Abraham Erskine offered Steve a chance to become a super-solder, a living weapon against evil.
The rest, of course, is comic book history. But with such a major transformation taking place as a part of his origin it’s no surprise that writers have used the theme of transformation again and again - sometimes with some disturbing results. Here are Captain America's 15 Weirdest Transformations!
15 Red Skull Cap: Body Swap Shenanigans
Captain America #115
There’s nothing worse than waking up in the morning and seeing your worst enemy looking back at you in the mirror. That’s exactly what happened to Captain America back in Captain America #115. The Red Skull, using the Cosmic Cube, had swapped bodies with Cap and made the Avengers and Sharon Carter fall for the ruse.
On the run, and trying to evade his comrades as well as the authorities, Cap was helpless as The Red Skull set about dismantling his life while wearing his face. The Red Skull began to tarnish Steve’s reputation as well as severing his partnership with Rick Jones, who had been using the Bucky identity as Cap’s sidekick.
The Red Skull sent Cap to Exile Island. The Red Skull had betrayed the inhabitants of the island some time before, and decided that if they were to murder Cap while wearing the body of The Skull, it would rid him of his enemy and tie up a loose end at the same time. Cap was able to disguise himself using mud as a crude form of clay face-mask using his skills as an artist and allied himself with another castaway on the island, Sam Wilson a.k.a Falcon. Falcon became Cap’s new partner, beginning a life-long friendship. Cap was then able to claim his body back with Falcon’s help.
14 Weakling Cap: Losing the Super-Soldier Serum
Captain America #225
This storyline is notorious for retconning Captain America’s origins, only to be undone and re-retconned one issue later. The in-story explanation for this was that Nick Fury gave Cap an intensive form of therapy to recall his true origins. Cap learned that he had an older brother who died at Pearl Harbour, and this prompted Steve to join the Army.
The trauma of this revelation caused the super-soldier serum to fail, and Steve briefly reverted to his weakling form. This was later revealed to be a false set of memories, mainly because Captain America predated Pearl Harbour anyway, and “Nick Fury” was revealed to be an imposter in the employ of The Red Skull. The real Nick had been transformed into a facsimile of The Red Skull as Skull had hoped Steve would kill Nick by mistake.
The real-world explanation for this particular story is simple. Writer Steve Gerber left the book with issue #225. Incoming writer Roger McKenzie had other plans for Cap so quickly undid his predecessor’s work in order to begin his own stories free of Cap’s new origin.
13 Old Man Cap: Aging to His True Age
Captain America #300
Another story that didn’t end as intended came at the end of J.M DeMattis’ classic run with Captain America facing off against The Red Skull once more. Originally, Cap was going to have a change of heart about his role and become a pacifist. In DeMattis’ original idea, Steve was going to make a speech about putting down arms and be assassinated for his new views, with new character Black Crow taking the role of Captain America.
The storyline was re-written as the editorial staff didn’t like the new direction and the run ended with Red Skull poisoning Cap, causing Cap to age rapidly to reflect the age he would be had he not been frozen in ice for decades. Red Skull was also aging due to a flaw in the suspended animation process which had kept him alive after the end of WW2. Skull killed one of Cap’s friends, hoping Cap would then kill him, as he wished to die by the hands of his greatest enemy in a fair fight as opposed to a slow death in a decaying body.
Skull did seemingly die, but Cap refused to kill him. As Cap himself seemed poised to die from a combination of age and the physical trauma he had just endured, Black Widow turned up in the nick of time with a cure which restored Cap to his prime once more.
12 Barbarian Cap
Uncanny X-Men #190-191
During Chris Claremont’s now-legendary run on Uncanny X-Men during the ‘80s, there was a short companywide crossover involving the Conan villain, Kulan Gath. Years previously, Kulan Gath had transformed Mary Jane Watson into Red Sonja, and this time he had transformed the whole city of New York to resemble the time of Conan.
All the heroes in New York, including Cap, Spider-Man, The Avengers, and the X-Men, were transformed into barbarian-like figures with no memory of their pasts. However, they retained their basic personalities, so Cap remained heroic, despite now looking like a barbarian. It’s interesting to note that despite his barbarian appearance, and having no memory of his life, Cap still fought with his unbreakable shield.
Cap and the Avengers fought alongside the X-Men and defeated Kulan Gath, restoring New York to normal. Cap seemingly hung up the loincloth for good, but time will tell if we ever get to see him in this guise again.
11 Teen Cap: Reverted to Teenage Self by Sersi
Captain America #355
Steve Rogers had only just taken back the role of Captain America when he was contacted by a former girlfriend, Bernie Rosenthal. Bernie was looking for her missing sister and begged Steve to help her. Cap learned that there had been numerous teens disappearing and asked his ally Sersi (who would go on to become an Avenger shortly after this) to use her transmutation power to make Steve a teenager once more planning to go undercover. Sersi obliged, but her power had an unforeseen side-effect. Steve did indeed become a teenager once more, but his body went back to how it had when he was a weak teenager before the super-serum cured him of Polio.
After spending time pretending to be a runaway, teen-Cap came across the culprits. One of the agents who had been kidnapping teens and brainwashing them to become killers was the Red Skull’s insane daughter. Fortunately, the spell Sersi had cast was temporary and he reverted to normal while taking a beating. He then freed the youths and ended the crisis.
10 Lady Cap: Cross-Dressing Fun
Captain America #387-392
In possibly the funniest of Cap’s many transformations, Cap goes undercover on a cruise ship for women and blends in despite his impressive, and very manly, physique.
In a plot by the villain Superia, Cap’s girlfriend, Diamondback as well as Black Mamba and Asp, were taken aboard a ship full of female super-villains. Superia’s plan was to cause every woman on earth to become infertile, except those on the ship. Superia believed that all women born thereafter would be super-powered due to selective breeding from this “prime” stock. It’s worth pointing out that Superia is bat-crap crazy.
Captain America and Paladin attempt to end the plot, but are captured and put in a device intended to turn them into women. They escape, thanks to Black Mamba and Asp, but are forced to go undercover as women until they can defeat Superia.
Despite Cap’s complaining about having to dress as a woman, it wasn’t the first time he’d done it. But we’ll get to that.
During the “Fighting Chance” storyline, Cap discovers that the super-soldier serum was breaking down as it was never intended to last forever. Cap was not only getting progressively weaker, but the loss of the serum was also killing him. With months to live, Cap decided to use what time he had left to train a new generation of patriotic heroes to stand in for him after he died. He selected Jack Flagg and Free Spirit to carry on his legacy.
As Cap’s body became progressively weaker, he asked Tony Stark to build him an armor system similar to Iron Man’s in order to keep fighting for as long as possible. This robo-cap suit kept Steve in the fight long enough for Superia to find a cure for Steve’s degeneration. However, as the Red Skull was in a body cloned from Steve’s at the time, he was also suffering the same problem and stole the formula for himself. Luckily, the Red Skull decided to share the cure as he needed Cap alive, but he would attempt to kill him many times in the following years.
8 Heroes Reborn Cap
Captain America #1: Heroes Reborn Era
In the epic final battle against the monstrous psychic entity, Onslaught, Captain America alongside the other Avengers, Fantastic Four, and even Doctor Doom, were apparently sacrificed to defeat the villain. Unknown to all present at the time, Franklin Richards, the son of Reed and Sue from the Fantastic Four, used his reality-warping powers to create a universe inside our own where he re-created the fallen heroes.
For a year, the heroes underwent their origin stories once more, albeit with many changes, and became heroes, saving the world from Galactus among others. Eventually, the heroes were saved when Franklin and a Celestial journeyed into Franklin’s universe and returned the heroes to their universe of origin.
When Cap returned, the United States leapt into a fervour and for a time, Cap-merchandise was sold throughout the Marvel Universe.
7 House Of M Cap
After the events of Avengers Disassembled, The Scarlet Witch once again messed with reality, this time at the urging of her brother, Quicksilver. In the world Scarlet Witch creates, most of her friends and family appear to get their heart’s desires. Cap, never having been frozen at the end of WW2, gets to live his life as he had been supposed to, becoming an astronaut in America’s space program. He also stood up to, and became a victim of, senator Joseph McCarthy’s anti-mutant witch-hunt.
In this reality, Cap spoke out against Magneto’s ruling class of mutants but didn’t have the power to challenge the status quo of the world. By the beginning of the story, Steve is an old man, living in retirement reflecting on when he stood up against another tyrant many years previously. When Wolverine, Luke Cage, and Cyclops begin recruiting heroes to stand against Magneto, they leave Steve out of it as he cannot help them in the form of the 90-year-old man.
When the House of M fell, and reality was restored, Steve was once more a man in his prime.
6 Medieval Cap: Heroes Return
After returning to earth following the Heroes Reborn universe, Cap joined with several other Avengers to discuss re-forming the team. Before they could, several mystical attacks occurred across the world, with many Avengers intervening. Cap, alongside the other heroes at the mansion, called in every Avenger (apart from Hulk who refused to answer the call) to face this new threat.
It became apparent that the Avengers were being used as pawns by the sorceress Morgan LeFay, who used a combination of the Norn Stones, the Twilight Sword, and Scarlet Witch’s reality-warping to re-make the world into a twisted version of the time of Camelot.
Cap, along with the other Avengers, was transformed into a servant of Morgan LeFay, with no memory of his previous life. Eventually, Cap’s will was strong enough to shake off the spell and he managed to free several other Avengers, forming a resistance and freeing the world.
Captain America #402-407
In one of Captain America’s most famous transformations, Cap enlists Avengers team-mate Doctor Druid to investigate a town seemingly full of werewolves, while also searching for his friend and team-mate John Jameson. Feral characters from across the world, including X-Force’s Feral and the X-Men’s Wolverine were drawn there too, seemingly by mystical means.
It turned out that the villain Nightshade had set up events to draw out John Jameson, who was in possession of the Moonstone. Nightshade, along with Desmond the Druid, planned to use the Moonstone to become the ultimate werewolf, known as Star-Wolf.
Nightshade used a mind-controlled Wolverine to infect Cap with a serum which turned Cap into a werewolf too. However, Cap soon took control of the “pack” of werewolves and fought back. With the timely assistance of Cable, there to locate Feral, the heroes were able to defeat the villains, and Cap was restored to humanity.
Amazing Spider-Man #666
The Queen, a mutant experimented on by the government and driven insane, had a long history with both Spider-Man and Captain America. In Cap’s case, she had befriended him during the war but went into hiding after Cap was presumed dead. In Spider-Man’s case, she had further mutated him before as her power enabled her to alter the form of anyone with the so-called “Spider-Gene”.
Having been defeated by Spider-Man and Captain America some time before, The Queen teamed up with The Jackal to alter the genetics of the entire population of New York via a virus transmitted by bedbugs.
The citizens of New York initially gained Spider-Powers, but soon transformed into giant, unthinking, spider monsters who served The Queen. Due to their shared history, The Queen singled out Captain America and turned him into a giant spider-king figure similar to the form she had mutated Kaine into. When Horizon Labs found a cure, Cap was once more restored to human form and alongside Venom, Kaine, and Spider-Man took down the Queen.
This particular transformation actually happened to James “Bucky” Barnes who was the then-current Captain America. When Bruce Banner stormed the hellicarrier in an effort to thwart the Intelligencia, the bad guys siphoned off gamma energy from Red Hulk to create the “Hulked-Out Heroes” including Deadpool, Thor, Spider-Man, and Bucky-Cap.
Captain America and Wolverine were both affected by the gamma radiation and recalled a time during the war when they were allies, and then a time after when Bucky was brainwashed and acting as the Winter Soldier. Wolverine recalled as Bucky stood by and watched as Wolverine was experimented on and tortured. Wolverine, in his hulked-out form, proved to be too much for even a hulked-out Cap and beat him into submission before leaving him tied up in the streets, broken and humiliated.
As with the other hulked-out heroes, Cap was returned to normal when Banner took back the errant gamma-radiation.
2 Hydra Cap
During a battle against the forces of The Red Skull, Steve was restored to his powered form after once again being transformed into an older, powerless, form. Back to full strength, Steve once again adopted the title of Captain America, but insisted that Sam Wilson also remain in the red white and blue, reasoning that there was room for two Captain Americas. He even insisted that Sam keep the shield as he was doing good work with it.
However, the now-sentient Cosmic Cube was now bonded to the Red Skull and used its reality-altering powers to please him. When the Cube restored Cap to his true form, she altered Cap’s history by making him a believer in the Red Skull’s philosophy and a sleeper-agent serving Hydra. As of yet, this storyline has yet to be resolved, with Cap still serving Hydra and further infiltrating the Avengers. What damage he can and will do remain a mystery.
1 Old Lady Cap
Captain America #3
In a Joe Simon and Jack Kirby classic, Captain America and Bucky dress up as an old woman and her grandson in order to sneak behind enemy lines in Nazi-occupied Europe. Their mission was to rescue a rich and powerful American businessman who was about to pledge a fortune to the British war effort before his capture.
Cap walked around Paris, dressed as a woman, and commented that he would like to come back and help fight the Nazis once his mission was complete. For some reason, even when alone, Cap maintained his guise as a woman, implying that he may not have objected to the disguise all that much.
Eventually, it was discovered that the businessman had been replaced with a doppelganger, who was going to pledge his fortune to the Nazis instead. Cap and Bucky uncovered this plot, and traveled to Berlin and rescued the original. The mission was a success, and Cap returned to his regular guise, not before Bucky got to punch out Hitler though.
What was your favourite Captain America transformation? Let us know in the comments!