A while back, I made the outrageous claim that Deadpool was actually a traditional Marvel anti-hero; a modern embodiment of an archetype whose pedigree could be traced all the way back to Namor, the Sub-Mariner. While thinking about this guide, I realized that Captain America might be part of another such lineage; one in which Spider-Man is successor. Sure, Cap’s wit isn’t a defining characteristic, nor is he scorned as a menace by the public. But think about the basic conceit. Steve Rogers is a middle-to-lower class orphan kid from a New York borough (Brooklyn or Queens) who hustles a meager living from an artistic job (cartooning or photography) when he isn’t getting picked on for his pitiful scrawniness. After some fantastical scientific process that involves radiation (irradiated spider-venom or vita-ray strengthened serum,) he instantaneously receives an impressive physique that allows him to take a much larger role in the fate of his world.
Do the similarities seem a little less tenuous, now?== TEASER ==
Due in large part to the criminally-underrated mini-series THE ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN AMERICA: SENTINEL OF LIBERTY (of which I crow so often about,) I’ve always felt that Cap had the strongest origin out of any Marvel super-hero because he goes forth into a milieu that’s just as larger-than-life as his persona is. A proper hero needs a suitable context just as much as he needs a formidable adversary and, to that end, World War II defines Cap even more than the Red Skull. In his time, his shield makes him look like the policeman of the world that the US more-or-less became during the war. Out of his time, he represents how the stated values of his era don’t always gel with the great ambiguities of contemporary America.
But enough highfaluting analysis, you came here to get the basics.
The son of lowly Irish immigrants, Steve Rogers was a 4F - - a 98 lbs weakling deemed physically unfit for service in the Army. Young men took such rejection with much greater shame in those days - - some even committed suicide for being deemed unworthy. Steve took his disqualification with great frustration, too, and repeated his application several times in different cities with the hope that he’d be accepted. Much like Peter Parker, Steve believed he had a great responsibility, even if he hadn’t anything close to great power.
Rogers’ fortunes changed when he caught the eye of Chester Phillips, a general who was looking for candidates for the top-secret defense program, Project: Rebirth. After outlasting other candidates in a rigorous selection process, he was administered the Super-Soldier Serum in a chemical and radioactive operation that instantaneously granted him an optimum human physique. He was intended to be the first in an entire army of super-soldiers that would fight against the Axis powers, but the sabotage of an undercover German assassin destroyed both the serum and the one man who knew its formula.
Being one-of-a-kind, Steve was deemed too costly a specimen to be sent out into battle and was given a cover identity as a lowly, buffoonish private at a Virginia base while the government figured out what to do with him. Still compelled to contribute to the war effort, Rogers would sneak off base to perform vigilante attacks against domestic saboteurs. It wasn’t long before his minders found about what he was doing and then decided to give him the identity of Captain America, a superhero who’d fight Axis threats both abroad and on the home front.
Considering how Steve was an artist, it was to be expected that he asked to design his own costume.
Cap had many adventures during the war with his sidekick Bucky Barnes and the proto-Avengers super team, the Invaders, before a fateful battle with the Nazi supervillain Baron Zemo would leave him frozen in the artic. Cryogenically preserved for decades before the Avengers discovered him, Cap would emerge into the modern world without having aged a single day. Quickly becoming the leader of the Avengers, he would sporadically clash with the contemporary government and even relinquish his identity several times in ideological defiance. Currently, he’s given up the identity again to serve in another role of leadership - - this time as the director of Homeland Defense.
Aside from some cosmetic differences with his costume, I haven’t seen in anything in the trailers for CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER that make it seem like Cap’s been changed in any substantial way for the movie. So this guide will be a good primer for any newbies. If any of your friends are commenting on how this is the latest of so many Marvel movies, you can impress with the following tidbit: Cap was actually the first ever Marvel superhero to make it to a movie screen in the 40s. And, thus, the Marvel cinematic tradition comes swinging back to the source like Cap's shield.