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How Does 'Captain America: The First Avenger' Differ From The Comics?

Cap's pretty much the same, but the changes to Bucky, the Red Skull, Peggy Carter and the Howling Commandos will make your head spin.

You saw the movie. If you're like me, you loved it. But maybe you left the theater wondering what creative liberties CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER took with the comics it used as source material. How about we all grab a seat and hash out some of the key differences?

Needless to say, this discussion's going to have a lot of SPOILERS for the movie. If you complain about learning more than you wanted to know after reading this warning, then you deserve to be thrown into the stockade of your own misery.

Cap's costume is different from the comics. Duh.
== TEASER ==

THE RED SKULL AND HYDRA

Herr Johann Schmidt and his army of fanatics are the most significantly-changed characters in this picture. In the comics, the Red Skull’s dark reflection of Captain America is more metaphoric than literal. Like Rogers, he’s a dejected orphan who rises in prominence through the circumstances of World War II. He's picked by Adolph Hitler himself in some twisted PYGMALION-style wager to groom the perfect Nazi out of even the lowliest “little man.” Hitler gives Schmidt the Red Skull mask and identity, then puts him in charge of a terrorist division to bedevil soldiers and civilians throughout Europe. It’s the Skull’s success as a propaganda symbol that inspires the US to create Captain America, even though Schmidt possesses no super human abilities himself. In the movie, however, the Skull serves as an actual prototype of Cap (somewhat like Protocide,) with an injection of an earlier, imperfect sample of Erskine’s Super-Soldier Serum granting him superhuman strength as well as his disfigured face.

The Skull gets into some trouble when he wields the Tesserect like this...
...but he wasn't getting beamed up to anywhere when he wielded the Cube like this.

HYDRA forms in the years after the war as a cultish continuation of the Nazis’ fascistic agenda and of the terrorism Schmidt spread during his active years. Though the Skull associates himself with the organization later, it’s actually Baron von Strucker who founds it. Of course, divisions eventually form in HYDRA and one of the splinter groups that breaks off from it is AIM, the Advanced Idea Mechanics who develop deadly, outlandish weapons.

For the movie, the Skull's been combined with von Strucker, HYDRA's been combined with AIM and the timing of the cult's founding's been moved up by decades. Schmidt's allegiances have shifted from a loyal right hand man of Hitler’s to a rebellious upstart who deems Germany as much of an enemy as the rest of the world. While AIM synthesizes an omnipotence-granting Cosmic Cube that the Skull acquires in the comics, in the movie, he uses HYDRA to see out his occult obsessions with an Asgardian Tesserect, a magic object that serves as an infinite power generator instead of a device that actualizes thoughts. Interestingly, it’s the Cube that grants HYDRA its advanced weapons while, in the comics, its von Strucker’s discovery of alien technology.

BUCKY

The best way for a professional partnership to begin in comics...

James Buchanan Barnes’ depiction in the movies lays somewhere between his reinterpretation in the first volume of THE ULTIMATES and in the retcons of the recent WINTER SOLDIER storyline. In his earliest conception, lil’ orphan Bucky was an army camp's teenage ward and “mascot” who accidentally discovered Steve Rogers’ secret identity and then blackmailed his way into being Captain America’s sidekick. After a couple years adventuring together, the two met tragic ends while trying to stop the flight of the supervillainous Nazi Baron Zemo’s automated, airborne drone. Bucky was (seemingly) killed by the plane's explosion while Cap was thrown into icy waters that would freeze him for decades.

The WINTER SOLDIER arc brought Steve and Bucky’s ages closer together, and also re-established him as something of a junior commando who got all the covert wet and dirty work done for Cap.

...and this is how Bucky gets business done in the movie.

The ULTIMATES re-conceived Bucky as a combat photographer who protected his pal, a frail Steve Rogers, from bullies when they were boys in New York City. He later went on to marry Steve’s fiancé, Gail Richards, when everybody thought Captain America had died in combat. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll know that "movie Bucky" is a combination of these two versions, only with the added twist of him being a simple enlisted man instead of a mascot or a cameraman.

STEVE ROGERS

Cap wore these "dressed-down" duds while fighting homefront saboteurs before his official Captain America identity was concocted.

Cap’s origin up until the point he becomes a super soldier doesn’t different much at all from the comics. The movie even gets down to the detail of an elderly woman being the gate keeper of Project: Rebirth. Things differ a little more once Steve gets big, though. The USO bond salesman bit is an invention and the order of inspiration for Cap's identity changes.

In THE ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN AMERICA, Cap’s deemed too valuable for field duty and he gets some serious ants in his pants while on the lamb. Instead of hawking war bonds, though, he’s kept undercover as a Gomer Pyle-like doofus at a domestic base. He takes matter into his own hands as a vigilante then by going out on late nite runs to smash domestic saboteurs. After he’s found out by his superiors, they grab his sketchpad (he was an art student) and then the PR people get the inspiration to create the Cap identity from his doodles of superheroes.

THE HOWLING COMMANDOS/THE INVADERS

Well, for one, they’re never actually referred to by any kind of group name in the movie. Joe Johnston might've accidentally mislead a lot of fans when he said that the Invaders would show up for a big portion when he actually meant these joes. Perhaps it was considered for a while to use that name for the Howling Commandos, as they’ve been somewhat combined with the group of proto-Avengers. British officer Montgomery Falsworth is in their ranks, after all, and he’s also known as the costumed super-agent Union Jack (a key member of the Invaders) in the comics.

Only two of these G.I.'s actually make the cut for the movie.

Whatever they’re called, this group of roughnecks is a more quickly-assembled task force than the tight unit of Army Rangers from the comics. Nick Fury made his debut as their leader but, since he's been greatly re-imagined for the movies, his role has effectively been filled by Cap. Also, for the comprehensive trivia hounds: while Dum Dum Dugan and Gabe Jones have always been members, Jacques Denier and Jim Morita were only ever associates of the Commandos.

PEGGY CARTER

She looks a lot like Hayley Atwell, too.

In the comics, Carter was an American intelligence officer who assisted the French resistance behind enemy lines under the code name “Agent 13.” Her romance with Cap was limited to their team-ups on the battlefield and he never actually knew her real name before he got frozen at the end of the war. In the movie, Carter's effectively been combined with Cindy Glass, a German double-agent from THE ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN AMERICA who served as Steve’s minder during Project: Rebirth and eventually became his tragic “first love.” Following all of that, the two notable changes to Carter for the movie are that she’s British now (obviously) and that she’s an active field officer in Col. Phillips’ special unit, which serves as a nascent SHIELD in the same capacity that the "Invaders" are a loose proto-type for the Avengers.

Tom Pinchuk’s the writer of HYBRID BASTARDS! & UNIMAGINABLE. Order them on Amazon here & here. Follow him on Twitter: @tompinchuk

31 Comments
Posted by Hakujin

So basically this is the closest movie to comic movie we have today

Posted by Sammo21

I loved the Cap movie so hard lol. Such an awesome movie. MARVEL has done a great job with retaining the characters AND updating the stories for their movies (MARVEL produced movies, not the other stuff from FOX, Sony, etc).

Edited by Coldcrush

One, if not the best superhero movie to date and I'm not a huge fan of cap
Posted by They Killed Cap!

Cant wait to see it.
Edited by Jordanstine

Remember just 3 years ago, yes, 3 years ago... how people were saying that a Captain America movie would be impossibly ridiculous to make in this day and age due to his colorful comic book-ish concept?
 
Ha! 
 
Now it's actually well on pace to becoming one of the biggest box office comic book movie hit!
 
P.S. Showing off my comic book pride at my local theater after purchasing my tickets for AMERICA!
 

"I just purchased my tickets for AMERICA!" - yay!
Posted by justin_blank

The differences are a lot more subtle than most comic book movies differences. It's still pretty faithful, and a lot of the changes were just to make it more pratical/real (i.e. Bucky's not a little kid and nick fury wasn't alive during WWII).

Posted by Red Rum

Maybe they will bring back Hayley Atwell as Peggy's grand-niece Sharon Carter!

Posted by Golden Cod

I find all these changes to be quite acceptable.   I was always worried about how the movie was going to explain the Cosmic Cube to audiences without pushing their suspension of disbelief to the limits.   The Asgardian Tesseract seems more appropriate and seems to be a pre-planned segue for new fans jumping into Marvel's current crossover.

Posted by FearTheLiving

I didn't mind the changes especially Bucky I liked him more as a soldier who was on Cap's team.

Posted by zombietag

i thought it was neat how they mixed in the 40s cheesyness of cap and the old shield into the movie without it being dumb. well played. 
 
im also not a cap fan but i liked this movie a lot

Posted by Kid_Zombie

LOVED THIS MOVIE!!!! Best Marvel movie to date. 
 
Love Cap and Love this movie, YAY!!! ha ha
The Easter eggs in this movie were amazing, was nervous about the director and he nailed it out of the park, was more then impressed by this flick. Absolutely amazing.

Edited by FalcomAdol

At least Red Skull

. Probably my least favorite Ultimate Marvel twist to date.
 
As far as the cosmic cube, just because the Red Skull is using it as a power source does not mean that it doesn't have the capability to do other things. Reminded of Bruce Sterling's "Storming the Cosmos."
Posted by Nova`Prime`
@Jordanstine said:

"I just purchased my tickets for AMERICA!" - yay!
You know what would complete that... a Hulk fist.
Posted by GT-Man

The MOVIE WAS EPIC! ONE OF MY FAVORITE HERO MOVIES OF ALL TIME! GO CAP!
Posted by Tainted-Cell

I think I'm the only one in the theater who instantly picked up an easter egg at the very end.
After Steve busts out of his room at the end, the Peggy look-alike (who is credited as a SHIELD agent), is radioning repeatedly: "Code 13! Code 13!" 

Posted by AlKusanagi

The Original Human Torch was an Invader too, right? He had a cameo during the Expo scene at the beginning.

I also liked that the outfit Bucky was wearing in his last scene was very reminiscent of the Winter Soldier uniform.

Posted by Jordanstine
@Nova`Prime` said:
@Jordanstine said:

"I just purchased my tickets for AMERICA!" - yay!
You know what would complete that... a Hulk fist.
I was looking for some HULK feet actually... couldn't find one :(
Edited by War Killer

Personally I liked Bucky's movie origin more than his mainstream comic version. I like the fact that he was Steve Rogers' best friend when they were younger and how he became Steve partner/sidekick was much more believable than any of his comic origins Plus, and maybe new Captain America & Bucky series will prove me wrong, but I still find his current origin confusing and hard to believe. The whole "kid commando" concept is a hard thing to grasp in my opinion and I like the way they explained their friendship/brotherhood in the movie much more than anything I've read in recent comics.

Posted by Bestostero

Awesome movie!!!
 
I'm very interested in seeing a sequel to this, especially if we see Bucky again...very much looking forward to the Avengers as well, this was my favorite Super Hero movie this year that I've seen

Posted by MTHarman

As a Red Skull fan, I really admired this film as to how they properly handled the Red Skull as a villain within a family film. Something I noticed was how Marvel tends to limit the Red Skull franchise because of his Nazi background and having him being leader of a fictional organization within this film was a very smart move.  
 
I still can't believe Rotten Tomatoes were harsh on this film when it was released.
Posted by RedheadedAtrocitus

Yes the similarities between movie and comic are quite striking. For all the differences though I still say the movie was great!

Posted by haydenclaireheroes

nice article

Posted by _Zombie_

Honestly, this is the first time I can say that I loved changes to continuity in a movie.  They made the movie so much better.  And they made Bucky so much  more awesome.  

Posted by Primmaster64

Yeah, Bucky was a combination between Ultimate and 616, its starts as Ultimate Bucky, but it'll end up like 616 Bucky with Winter Soldier coming.

Posted by Decept-O

I had no problems with the differences between the comic book background stories and the movie version, and I have to say, perhaps it was for the best.

Posted by Nova`Prime`
@Jordanstine said:
@Nova`Prime` said:
@Jordanstine said:

"I just purchased my tickets for AMERICA!" - yay!
You know what would complete that... a Hulk fist.
I was looking for some HULK feet actually... couldn't find one :(
Never saw Hulk feet, but I have seen Thing feet... If you had the Hulk fist, a pair of "Wasp" wings, and attach some antenna to the Iron Man mask you could have been an amalgam of all the Avengers.
Posted by Dark Cell
@MTHarman said:
   I still can't believe Rotten Tomatoes were harsh on this film when it was released.
its currently got a 77 ranking of fresh on the site, so thats all good :)
Posted by jorgeareizaga

I really hated CA movie, it is boring and full of cliches, a total waste of money =(

Posted by Migz13

Loved the movie. Nuff said. On to the Avengers!!

Posted by RainEffect

The train sequence with Bucky falling into the ice below was a blatant opportunity to set up a Winter Soldier story arc. I might go an see the movie again to view where the train sequence actually occurred (if it was in Soviet territory) and connect the dots. Either way, Bucky was awesome in the movie. Thank freaking goodness they didn't try and replicate his ridiculous blue and red comic outfit.

Posted by jonasLighter

This movie was a mix of 616 and Ultimate universe.