For more than 70 years Steve Rogers has been fighting for freedom as Captain America and, while he is certainly the most famous person to bear that title, he is not the only one. Since the character's first appearance in March of 1941, there have been many different characters to take on the role of Captain America, some of whom have taken his place for only an issue or two, and others that have taken up the mantle for years on end.
In honor of the upcoming release Captain America: Civil War, here are 11 people, besides Steve Rogers, who have, in some capacity, filled the role of the Sentinel of Liberty.
11 Bucky Barnes
Let's start with the obvious. Originally the childhood friend and sidekick of Steve Rogers, Barnes was presumed dead, along with Steve, at the end of World War II. However, he was actually captured by the Soviets and turned into the deadly assassin known as the Winter Soldier. He was eventually saved by Steve and was able to rebuild his life.
After the apparent death of Steve at the hands of an assassin, Bucky was chosen to take up the mantel of Captain America. During his time as the good captain, he helped to repel the Skrull’s Secret Invasion and prevented the spread of a virus that could have wiped out half the human race. Eventually, it was discovered that Steve hadn’t actually died, and after his rescue, Steve and Bucky both helped defend Asgard in the Siege storyline. In the end, Bucky was stripped of the title of Captain America due to fears that his past could taint the image.
Civil War will mark the third outing for Sebastian Stan in the role of Bucky Barnes. Though it's unclear (read: unlikely) whether or not any main character will bite the big one in this one, if Chris Evans' Steve Rogers is indeed killed, the smart money's on Barnes to take his place.
10 Danielle Cage
In current cannon, Danielle Cage, the daughter of Luke Cage and Jessica Jones, is only two years old, but in the future, she has inherited the powers of her mother and father and carries the title of Captain America. While the original shield was lost, she carries a replacement that she wields to just as devastating effect as Rogers wielded his.
Originally, she led her team of Avengers against the threat of Ultron who had conspired to enslave the human race. Recently, she and a slightly different team of Avengers has shown up in New Avengers to prevent Billy Kaplan’s possession by the evil spirit Moridun. Together, with the help of the New Avengers, they were able to save both Billy (aka Wiccan) and the future from a terrible fate.
9 William Naslund
William Naslund began his career as the Spirit of 76, where he helped to protect the U.S. from Nazi spies. After the loss of Steve Rogers in 1945, President Truman contacted Naslund and asked him to become the new Captain America in order to keep Rogers’ legacy alive.
His tenure as Captain America saw him lead several successful missions, including a superhero invasion of Berlin that helped topple the Third Reich. Unfortunately, like Rogers before him, Naslund’s career as Captain America came to a tragic end when a team of time travelling robots led by Adam II were sent to assassinate a young JFK. Naslund succeeded in protecting the future president, but was fatally wounded during the battle. With his dying breath he passed the mantle of Captain America onto a new hero to ensure that the the ideals that Rogers fought for would live on...
8 Jeffery Mace
Prior to the United States’ entrance into World War II, Jeffery Mace worked as a reporter for the Daily Bugle. However, once the U.S. entered the war, he became inspired by Captain America’s example and took up the title of Patriot and helped defend the U.S. from Nazi spies.
During Adam II’s attack on Boston, he came across the dying William Nasland, who passed the title of Captain America onto Mace. He engaged in a number of missions over the course of the next four years, but retired from crime fighting in 1950 because he felt that Captain America was no longer needed. His adventures weren’t quite over, however.
Years later, a being known as the Contemplator choose Mace along with others who have borne the title of Captain America to overthrow a version of Adam II that conquered an alternative version of Earth shortly after the end of WWII. Together, with the help of Steve Rogers and others who had been Captain America, they succeeded in overthrowing Adam II. Shortly after this final mission, Mace dies with Rogers at his bedside.
7 Isaiah Bradley
After Dr. Erskin’s death and the loss of the Super Soldier Serum, the U.S. government forcibly recruited a number of African-American soldiers to be part of a new super solider program. Out of the 300 test subjects, only a handful, including Isaiah Bradley, survived.
Bradley and co. were sent on a number of black ops missions during World War II, the last of which saw him sent to stop a German scientist from recreating the Super Solider Serum. His mission was a success, despite Bradley’s brief capture, but upon his return home he was arrested for stealing a Captain America costume and shield, which he used during his final mission. He served nearly two decades in prison — during which time his mind and body began to decay due to the flawed serum in his blood — before being pardoned by JFK. Eventually, his grandson, Elijah Bradley, would take up his legacy, serving as the Young Avenger, Patriot.
6 Clint Barton
Clint Barton has gone by many titles over the years: Hawkeye, Ronin and, very nearly, Captain America.
Admittedly, this one is kind of cheating, since Barton never officially took the title, but the concept is so cool that we had to include it on this list. After the apparent assassination of Rogers, Tony Stark approached the master marksmen to convince him to take up the mantel of Captain America. Barton proved himself to be one of the few people who could throw the shield accurately and considered taking on the role. However, Barton eventually declined because he felt it would be disrespectful to the memory of his longtime friend, later expressing his disagreement with Stark for passing the shield onto Roger’s former sidekick, Bucky Barnes.
5 William Burnside
William Burnside is the very definition of an obsessed fan taking things too far. Growing up during World War II, he idolized Captain America, devoting his life and career to studying his exploits. In the early 1950s, while conducting research in Germany, Burnside came across records that revealed Captain America's identity along with the formula for Super Soldier Serum. Burnside refused to release the formula to the government unless they allowed him to become the new Captain America, but after the Korean War they decided that Captain America was no longer needed. Burnside refused to stand down and not only injected himself with the Super Soldier Serum, but changed his name to Steven Rogers and underwent plastic surgery to make himself look exactly like his childhood hero.
Editorially speaking, this was a retcon by Marvel to make their old Captain America stories make sense in light of the fact that they decided to freeze Steve Rogers during WWII. The previous Cap stories had simply starred an imposter, you see.
As Captain America, he successfully stopped several terrorist attacks that were being carried out by Soviet agents, but the Super Solider Serum in his blood eventually began to decay, driving the already unstable Burnside to madness. He was eventually arrested after attacking innocent civilians that he believed to be communist spies, and later comes to be known as the villainous Grand Director.
4 Roscoe Simons
During the 1970s, Steve Rogers stumbled upon evidence that a highly placed government official, heavily implied to be President Richard Nixon, was the leader of a secretive terrorist organization known as the Secret Empire. Disillusioned with his country and government, Rogers abandoned the title of Captain America and took up the name Nomad.
With Rogers’ blessing (and shield), Roscoe Simons, a former mechanic, took up the title of Captain America. During this time, he was trained by Falcon who, fearing for Simons’ safety, tried to convince him to give up the shield. Simons refused and, sadly, Falcon’s fears were soon realized as Simons’ career as Captain America came to a violent end at the hands of Red Skull, who, enraged to discover someone besides Rogers acting as Captain America, beat Simons to death to serve as a warning to Rogers. Simon’s death inspired Rogers to reclaim his position as Captain America despite his misgivings over the government.
3 John Walker
During the '80s and '90s both Marvel and DC had a tendency to create darker and ‘more extreme’ versions of their characters. Sometimes, as was the case with a lot of Frank Miller’s work, this produced some really good stories. Other times, it just seemed like they were trying too hard. Sadly, John Walker is an example of the latter.
After Steve Rogers resigns due to disgust with a corrupt U.S. government, Walker is chosen to replace him. Formerly known as Super Patriot, Walker was a far more violent Captain America who had no qualms about killing or maiming his enemies. He was eventually confronted by Rogers, who convinced him of the error of his ways. Walker then returned the costume and title of Captain America to Rogers. Walker’s career as a crime fighter was far from over though, and he went on to redeem himself by fighting for various superhero teams before becoming the warden of the superhuman prison known as the Raft.
2 Scott Summers
Scott Summers, better known as Cyclops, is the leader of the X-Men and has been fighting for mutant rights for decades. A frequent ally (and occasional foe) of the Avengers, Scott can be a bit of a jerk, but always tries to do right by his team.
In the alternative universe of Earth 81122, an accident robbed Steve Rogers, Jean Grey and Scott of their powers, leaving Rogers dead from rapid aging. In honor of his fallen friend, Scott took up Steve’s shield and led the remaining X-Men as Captain America. His time as Captain America saw him and his X-Men clashing with a maddened Sue Storm and her Fantastic Four.
1 Sam Wilson
The most recent person to bear the title of Captain America is Steve Rogers' longtime friend and ally Sam Wilson, better known as the superhero Falcon. As the Super Soldier Serum in his blood began to decay, Steve found himself rapidly aging and unable to carry on as Captain America. So he decided to pass the shield onto his pal Sam Wilson.
Wilson’s tenure as Captain America saw him battling the evil Red Skull, thwarting Hydra’s attempts to release a dirty bomb, and even leading the Avengers. One key difference between Sam and Steve’s tenure as Captain America is that Steve tried to stay above the political fray, but Sam believed that Captain America needed to be more than just a symbol, and felt that he couldn’t ignore his deeply held beliefs, even if it made his life as Captain America more difficult.
If Evans' Cap does indeed end up six feet under in Civil War, the battle to take up the mantle would appear to be between Barnes and Wilson.
Who's your favorite person to serve as Captain America in Roger's stead? Did we miss them? Let us know in the comments below.