Steve Rogers has long held the mantle of Captain America, technically serving as the hero from the 1940s until now. However, during that time, for all sorts of different reasons, many other people have stepped into the role as well.
For a time, Rogers even retired as Captain America, putting away the mask and shield to take on a new identity as Nomad.
Considering that he appeared to retire on screen at the end of Captain America: Civil War, it appears as though Avengers: Infinity War will take things in a very similar direction.
Many different characters have taken over as Captain America during the franchise’s long history, at least for a little while.
The mantle was always meant to be an ideal more than an individual person. Some of these characters are well known to fans. Many fans have gone into the recent MCU movies knowing that at some point, both Bucky and Falcon become Cap in the comics.
However, there are many other characters who just aren’t as well known and that might be surprising even to those with a strong knowledge of Captain America’s comic book history.
Taking the entire comics canon into account, from the mainstream universe to alternate universes as well, these are the characters you completely forgot had been Captain America.
Long considered the stalwart hero and quintessential boy scout of the team, Cyclops has always been the Captain America of the X-Men in many ways.
From the very beginning, he has been a natural leader. He was leading the team all the way back in X-Men #1. When the entire roster shook up in Giant-Size X-Men #1, Cyclops still stayed on to lead the new group even after all of his other teammates left.
In recent years, he has attempted to become the leader of his own people and a mutant revolutionary.
Even though he has taken a more extreme turn in recent years, that stiff upper lip and bent toward leadership have always remained. Because of this, it should not come as a huge surprise that Scott Summers actually wound up leading the team for a short time.
In a future version of the Ultimate universe, it is revealed that Captain America's life has been eded. Cyclops has taken over, and while this character differentiates from his mainstream universe counterpart in some ways, he remains basically the same person in most respects.
After Cap perishes in this timeline, Scott Summers takes up the Captain America mantle and uses it as he recruits a new team of X-Men.
He does this in order to continue pursuing Professor X’s dream of mutant prosperity.
14 The Patriot
Jeffrey Mace, also known by his alias The Patriot, is best known to fans for his role on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
The live-action debut for the character saw him take over as director of S.H.I.E.L.D. after the organization’s PR nightmare following the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and the rise of Inhumans in the MCU.
In the comics, similarly to his role on the show, Mace has used the Patriot persona to fight crime and injustice. However, there was also a time in the comics in which he took over the mantle of Captain America.
Created in 1941, just after the creation of Cap himself, Mace was inspired to become a hero after seeing Captain America in action and later served as the third Captain America in the main timeline.
He retired as Captain America in 1949 and lived out the rest of his life peacefully, succumbing to cancer at an old age.
Unlike his Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. incarnation, Mace never made it into the modern era to serve alongside any of the modern day Marvel heroes. He is a relic of the Timely Comics era, even having made his debut in the pages of The Human Torch.
However, someone would take up the mantle of the Patriot in the present day to attempt to keep the name alive.
13 Kiyoshi Morales
The limited comic series Captain America Corps sets up a nearly infinite potential for different Captain Americas across different timelines.
One of them, Kiyoshi Morales, hails from a distant future and goes by the name Commander A. He is mixed race, with Japanese, African-America, Latino, and Native American heritage.
Instead of the vibranium shield that has become most associated with Captain America over time, Morales wields two shields made of energized force fields.
A version of the force field shield actually has been used by Steve Rogers in the past, after losing his classic vibranium one.
In this miniseries, it is also implied that Morales is a descendant of Power Man himself, Luke Cage. This is worth noting because it would make Morales the second person of the Cage lineage to take up the mantle of Captain America in the Marvel multiverse.
One of the more interesting things about Kiyoshi Morales as a character is his mixed-race origin. He’s a melting pot of many different origins and cultures and therefore represents a more authentic image of America as a whole, as a wildly diverse nation and is a celebration of that diversity.
However, as a hero, as Commander A, he is still one of the most powerful and memorable standouts of the Captain America Corps series.
12 Shannon Carter
Shannon Carter hails from an alternate future of the Marvel Universe, one that was branded in the 1990s as Marvel 2.
She is the niece of Sharon Carter, longtime love interest of Captain America in the comics as well as a fellow S.H.I.E.L.D. agent often operating under the moniker of Agent 13.
In the Marvel 2 timeline, Shannon is a tour guide and die-hard fan of the original Captain America.
She eventually takes up the iconic Captain America costume and rebrands herself as the super-heroine American Dream.
Initially, she fires mini-shields via her wrist gauntlets, but she eventually picks up the classic shield later on.
She is also a member of her future’s incarnation of the Avengers, A-Next. With the heroes Bluestreak, Crimson Curse and Freebooter, she also founds a group that she dubs “The Dream Team.”
Shannon Carter made a return appearance in Captain America Corps and was successful enough to make her way into the online role playing game, Marvel Heroes and has even had her own action figure in the past.
Of all of the alternate universe versions of Captain America, she was among the most popular at the time of her debut, but that was long enough ago now that many people might not remember.
11 Bob Russo
Most of the people on this list have taken on the mantle of Captain America for at least a decent chunk of time. Many of them simply are the Cap of their respective timeline. That is sadly not the case for poor Bob Russo, who wore the uniform on one and only one outing back in Captain America #178.
At this time, Rogers had just learned of corruption within the White House and, feeling disillusioned, abandoned the Captain America persona.
After this, Bob Russo announced that he would be taking over the mantle of Captain America, obtaining the costume even if he could not obtain the shield.
On his very first mission, Bob attempted to stop an armed robbery. Seeing the robbery in progress at a store below him, Bob swung from a building and slammed into a brick wall, breaking his arm in the process. He announced his retirement as Captain America the next day.
Bob Russo’s one-day debut and retirement as Captain America might feel comical, but it represents a real-world view of how superheroes could be perceived and how they might inspire others.
Because Captain America made it look so easy, Russo assumed he had what it took.
10 U.S. Agent
The U.S. Agent was created in the 1980s to essentially be an edgier version of Captain America. Instead of the red, whit,e and blue, he wore his stars and stripes on a mostly black outfit.
He was criticized for being a little more rough around the edges than the stalwart Steve Rogers, which was definitely the intent. In the ‘90s, he joined Iron Man’s more extreme offshoot of the Avengers, Force Works.
When Captain America quit on the grounds of not wanting to be tied to a specific political agenda after being designated a Commission on Superhuman Activities branch to report to, U.S. Agent— formerly known as the Super-Patriot— took over the mantle of Captain America in Rogers’ place.
Eventually, after nearly suffering a mental breakdown, U.S. Agent returned the costume to Steve Rogers and handed him back the mantle of Captain America.
Even when he was not serving as Captain America, U.S. Agent was always inspired by the hero’s appearance, with at least some design elements of it working their way into every costume he ever wore.
This is interesting, as U.S. Agent was a very different character from Steve Rogers, often with more extreme and aggressive views. Those views fit the more extreme tone of ‘90s comics, the era of X-Force and Force Works in which the character was most popular.
9 Dave Rickford
As one of the most recent characters to wear the Captain America costume, Dave Rickford was given his abilities by the Power Broker. This was decided by Nick Fury, who hoped that it could convince Steve Rogers to take over the title again.
While Bucky Barnes was currently serving as Captain America at the time, he was out of commission after being sent to a Russian gulag. Rickford was handed the Captain America costume just after getting his powers.
Even though he was a rookie, he had extensive military training and his heart appeared to be in the right place. He proved to be an effective, if inexperienced Cap, busting arms dealers and local thugs.
However, when he infiltrated an AIM facility, he was quickly overpowered and nearly destroyed by MODOK. He was only saved by Steve Rogers himself, who it turned out had been watching Rickford the whole time.
While Rickford very nearly lost his life on the job and got in over his head as soon as he encountered a typical Captain America mission, he showed a lot of potential and his heart was definitely in the right place. Rogers even noted this after coming in to save his life.
8 Samantha Wilson
Samantha Wilson hails from Earth-65, which is better known as the Spider-Gwen universe, in which Gwen Stacy got bitten by a radioactive spider instead of Peter Parker, leading to the Green Goblin killing Parker instead of her.
On this Earth, Samantha Wilson became the Captain America of the 1940s after Nazis sabotaged the Project Rebirth operation and wounded its three candidates: Steve Rogers, Bucky Barnes and Isaiah Bradley.
After this, Samantha stepped up and volunteered.
Much like the main universe’s Cap, she was believed to have passed away in the ‘40s, sacrificing her life to stop Arnim Zola.
However, it only turned out that she had become trapped in an alternate reality where time moved differently, so that when she broke out and returned home, 75 years had passed.
Samantha Wilson’s Captain America has not made too many return appearances, but with the popularity of Spider-Gwen it’s always possible that Marvel readers could be treated to more of her in the future.
It would be particularly interesting to see her interact with another alternate universe incarnation, Danielle Cage.
Given her connection to the Spider-Verse there is chance, albeit an incredibly slim one, that Cage could appear in this year’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse movie thanks to Sony’s relationship with Marvel.
7 Roscoe Simons
Roscoe Simons took over the mantle of Captain America when Steve Rogers quit to become the hero Nomad.
No longer wanting to serve a government he couldn’t trust or that he was not sure he continued to believe in, Rogers took up the Nomad persona so that he could truly become his own agent.
Roscoe was a newby when he took over the costume, but he was handed the shield by Rogers himself.
In his new super-identity, Roscoe was mentored by Captain America’s partner, the Falcon. This shifted the dynamic between the two, with Falcon calling the shots while the inexperienced new Captain America simply followed his lead.
Tragically, Roscoe’s time as Captain America was short-lived as he was destroyed by the Red Skull before being able to fulfill his time before Rogers took back the costume.
That might be the most tragic element of his character. Everyone knew that Steve Rogers would take the Captain America name back eventually, which meant that Simons only had to fill the spot until then.
The fact that he was unable to do that was hardly perceived as his own failure. Instead, it fell on Rogers’ conscience as his decision to abandon the uniform had wound up ending someone's life.
6 Danielle Cage
Danielle Cage is the daughter of Luke Cage and Jessica Jones, both of whom have served as Avengers at various times.
A baby in the present day Marvel Universe, there is at least one future in which Cage takes over as Captain America. Depicted in the future timeline of Ultron Forever, Cage is seen operating in a flooded New York City and battling against her nemesis, the Golden Skull.
Danielle Cage’s Captain America is also noteworthy for her magnetic shield.
This was utilized briefly in the comics by Steve Rogers, who thought it would help him better control it. Cage was also mentored by a future version of the Black Widow, called Madame Natasha in that time.
At some point, Cage was brought into the main timeline to serve as a member of the U.S. Avengers. This Avengers team was put together by Sunspot, acting under the alias Citizen V, to halt a plot set in motion by AIM.
In the current, time-displaced incarnation, Danielle Cage made the decision not to take a new name and instead continue serving as Captain America despite hardly being the only hero in the main Marvel Universe to use that title.
During a mission in Miami, Cage encountered the Golden Skull once again and this time elected to take him back to her Earth as prisoner.
5 William Nasland
After Captain America went missing in the 1940s and was assumed deceased, only to show up decades later, the U.S. government was left with many questions about what to do with the hero’s name.
Should it be retired? If Steve Rogers was deceased, should there even be a Captain America? Eventually, it was decided that Captain America as an idea was bigger than any one person. So President Harry S. Truman appointed William Nasland to take over as the new Captain America.
After Steve Rogers, Nasland was long considered the first person to take over as the star-spangled hero. In actuality, Nasland was created just to fix continuity errors, as the comics had seen reports of Captain America in the ‘50s even though Rogers was frozen in ice during that time.
Up until Stan Lee firmly reintroduced Captain America in the iconic Avengers #4, no one had really known what to do with the hero.
Because of this, every once in a while, he popped up as a cameo in those early ‘60s Marvel stories. There would be reports of him having been seen leaping over a building and even a few stories that attempted to reintroduce the character for a one-off appearance.
After the decision was made to bring Steve Rogers back, those major continuity errors needed to be addressed.
4 Sensational Hydra
After Heroes Reborn, the Captain America comic series relaunched with a new #1. It wound up serving as something of a precursor to the Ultimate universe that would come a few years later.
The main difference here is that the new Heroes Reborn titles kept much of the look of the early ‘60s heroes and that flavor alive.
In Captain America’s new series, it’s revealed that a skrull had been serving as the star-spangled Avenger in order to begin a takeover of Earth.
The problem is that this skrull had so much personality and was flamboyant in a way that his race tends to look down on. He wound up being abandoned by the skrulls and joining Hydra instead, owning his differences by taking the new name Sensational Hydra.
Although Sensational Hydra did not stick around long and hails from a timeline that (while hugely advertised at the time) is barely remembered today, his impact was powerful as was his ability to tarnish Captain America’s name after using his appearance to infiltrate the USA and prepare what would have been a large-scale invasion had he been successful.
However, that luck of success led him to his new home within Hydra in the first place.
3 Isaiah Bradley
Isaiah Bradley appeared in the 2003 miniseries Truth: Red, White & Black. In that comic, it was revealed that the Super Soldier program continued into 1942.
They had begun using African-American test subjects to attempt to re-create the formula that had turned Steve Rogers into Captain America. Bradley became known as the Black Captain America and became an underground legend in the African-American community.
Bradley also became the grandfather of the modern-day incarnation of the Patriot. In the Marvel Universe, Bradley continues to be a legend in the African-American community.
Sadly, the character’s heroic run was cut short as he suffered brain damage during a fight, an explicit reference to the career of Muhammad Ali.
While Isaiah Bradley’s initial appearance in the Marvel Universe was brief, it left a lasting impact.
Truth: Red, White & Black is especially noteworthy for how the story tied in with events of the time.
Initially, Bradley was meant to be a doctor who experimented on himself, but Marvel wanted more explicit references to the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, in which members of the U.S. Public Health Service observed the untreated effects of syphilis on African-Americans under the guise of giving them free health care.
2 William Burnside
Burnside was not the first or last Captain America, but he’s notable in how much further he went than most.
After the retirement of Jeffrey Mace, Burnside took on the identity of Steve Rogers to make it seem as though Rogers was alive in a time when even his closest allies thought for sure he was dead.
It was only after the Red Skull re-emerged that Burnside also made the decision to become the new Captain America as well.
Unfortunately, the serum Burnside used to turn himself into Captain America was not yet perfected.
Missing the Vita-Ray component, it made Burnside develop severe paranoia and violent tendencies. He started lashing out at everyone, unaware of his own strength, and that led to his arrest and eventually saw him get put into suspended animation.
After being awakened from suspended animation, nothing ever really got better for Burnside. He was placed in the custody of Doctor Faustus, who conducted experiments on him and brainwashed him, eventually setting him up to be the leader of a Neo-Nazi organization called the National Force.
In this position, he took the new title of The Grand Director. Once he was reminded of his past as Captain America, a horrified Burnside set off a button on his own utility belt, effectively burning himself alive.
It was later revealed that he survived this and was once again placed into suspended animation.
1 The Punisher
After Captain America’s apparent passing at the end of the Civil War event, The Punisher realized that the world needed Captain America and saw himself as the perfect fit for the job.
While Punisher always tended to turn down his nose at do-gooder hero types, he always had the upmost respect for Captain America, who he thought of as a soldier just like himself.
Unfortunately, The Punisher’s ideals and philosophies are about as far from those of Steve Rogers as possible.
Still, Punisher considered he and Captain America to be of a like mind. He considered Captain America to, like himself, be taking care of the scum and often mistook Rogers’ moral code for red tape or lines that he simply could not cross while wearing the Captain America costume.
Even when Rogers was horrified of Frank’s behavior and ridiculed him, Castle would often sit there and listen to him out of respect.
In his brief stint in the costume, he wound up doing way more harm than good. He was never officially handed the mantle anyway, but simply wound up taking it for himself.
Eventually, Bucky Barnes was handed the Captain America costume, as dictated by a note left by Rogers himself.
Can you think of any other characters who have taken on the mantle of Captain America? Sound off in the comments!