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Captain America’s First Appearance: The Origin Story of Steve Rogers

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Captain America is one of the most popular characters in the Marvel Universe. Since his beginnings as a superhero, Cap — as he is sometimes affectionately called — made a name for himself as a brave and righteous man. He is known as the champion of the ideals of truth, justice, and the American way, fighting for the protection of those who can’t fight for themselves.

Working with or without the Avengers, Captain America fought against many threats to those ideals. Throughout the years, he stopped enemies such as Red Skull and HYDRA, Baron Zemo, and Doctor Doom to achieve world domination, abuse power, and destroying innocent lives. For the man named Steve Rogers, everything began in 1940-41…

The Story behind Captain America’s First Appearance

Captain America was hardly the first costumed hero to dress up with an American flag motif. Fourteen months before Cap made his first appearance, Joe Higgins became the crime-fighter The Shield and put on a skin-tight outfit based on the American flag. He started a trend that was followed by Captain Freedom, Minute-Man, Star-Spangled Kid, and even Uncle Sam himself. Before the end of 1941, some forty patriotic superheroes had appeared, but none of them will have the success and impact of Captain America.

In those early days of World War II, the industry was simply embracing patriotic themes when the country was still neutral. The war was coming, and Captain America was fighting alongside the Allies at the newsstands months before Pearl Harbor.

Behind the iconic character were Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. If the former had reportedly designed the character before coming to Timely (the company that would become Marvel Comics), the collaboration between the two men made it difficult to know who did what, as they “both did everything“, according to Kirby himself.

Simon recalled in his autobiography that in order to respect the deadline, he was putting on a crew on the first issue. But as Jack Kirby became upset at the thought and assured he could make the deadline, Simon acceded to Kirby’s wishes and was glad he did. Al Lieberman inked the first issue, which was lettered by Howard Ferguson.

What differentiated Cap from the other characters of the time was Joe Simon and Jack Kirby’s execution. Though the story itself was nothing new, it was the way it was told that left its mark. The pacing was frantic and the fight scenes were dynamic. The action had never been represented in that way before. And of course, the characters were simply iconic.

Captain America Comics #1 was dated March 1941 but was put on sale on December 20th, 1940. It was a smashing success with nearly a million copies sold and made stars out of the two creators.

Smashing thru Captain America came face to face with Hitler on the cover of Captain America Comics #1

The Origin Story of Steve Rogers in comics

Before even looking at what was inside the comic, the cover of Captain America Comics #1 made a powerful non-subtle statement. Still one of the most recognizable Captain America covers, the image shows Cap delivering a punch to Adolf Hitler. The scene is not in the comic book, but the message conveyed is clear.

The comic book introduced us to Steve Rogers, a young man who was rejected by the army for his unfit condition. He was then selected to be the first test subject for a secret government experience to create super-agents.  Steve was inoculated with a strange seething liquid and developed superhuman strength and increased intelligence. His life was changed forever at that moment.

Unfortunately, the enemy has infiltrated the army and the higher ranks of official America. One of the men witnessing the transformation was also a Nazi spy. He shot the doctor and destroy the rest of the serum, killing the project at the same time. Steve’s first action as a super-soldier was to stop this Gestapo spy.

Named Captain America by the doctor, Steve Rogers fought for his country and became a source of hope for the people. The young James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes, an army camp mascot, was one of his admirers and discovered Captain America’s true identity when he came down to visit Steve at his tent. Without even having to prove his worth or do anything else really, Steve enlisted Bucky as his partner. The duo suits up to go fight the enemy.

Captain America was Timely Comics’ most popular character during the wartime period and the Captain America comic book run for 75 issues before being discontinued in 1950, followed by a short revival in 1954. The character was officially reintroduced in 1964 when he stepped out of the ice and into the Modern Era to join the Avengers. He remained in publication since then.


For more Captain America stories, Check out our Captain America by Ed Brubaker reading order and our Avengers reading order.

Last Updated on November 22, 2022.

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