Captain America’s shield is one of the strongest objects in the Marvel Universe. The circular version first appeared in 1941’s Captain America Comics #2 by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, and was originally forged by a scientist named Dr. Myron MacLain, who was trying to create an indestructible metal with steel and vibranium. When he fell asleep, he woke up to find the substance had fused with an unknown chemical to become an entirely new alloy. The new shield was given to Captain America by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and it’s been his main weapon in fighting evil.
The shield has been called unbreakable and stood up to everything from Wolverine’s claws to Thor’s hammer, and continued to stay strong, but that’s not to say it hasn’t been broken. Just like the times when something broke Thor’s hammer or took down Wolverine, whenever a story needs to show that things are about to get real, something breaks Cap’s shield. Whether it’s in alternate realities or in the “real” universe, Captain America’s shield has been chipped, dented and destroyed, but always manages to come back. Just for the record, CBR figured it was time to run down 15 times Cap’s shield has taken damage in comics.
15. HONORABLE MENTION: THOR
We can’t talk about the times the shield was broken without mentioning the time it was dented. In 2003’s Avengers #63 (Geoff Johns, Alan Davis), Thor became enraged when the nation of Slokovia outlawed the Church of Thor and slaughtered its followers. Thor tried to overthrow the foreign country because of its betrayal, and the Avengers went in to try to stop their former teammate.
Iron Man, Captain America and Ant-Man engaged Thor in an epic battle. When Thor used his hammer on Captain America’s shield, it actually managed to dent the indestructible metal. However, that didn’t last long. When Thor calmed down and came to his senses, he used his hammer to bang out the dent, restoring the shield. It was the least he could do.
Our first official moment comes from 2010’s New Ultimates #2, drawn by Frank Cho and written by Jeph Loeb. The Ultimate universe is an alternate universe from the regular Marvel universe where the superheroes and supervillains are close to the originals, but have a more modern spin.
In the first issue, Thor’s brother Loki invaded Earth with an army of creatures from Asgard. One of the new team members of the Ultimates was Valkyrie, who was turned by Amora into a traitor in their midst, and fought the other Ultimates in battle. At one point, Valkyrie clashed with Captain America, and smashed his shield with a mystic sword. In the end, Thor made it up to him by having his dwarf blacksmiths forge Cap’s shield anew.
13. MUTANT WARS
Our next entry comes from the Exiles series about a team of superheroes and supervillains from different realities brought together in a team called Weapon X. Weapon X would travel to alternate universes to right wrongs and restore order. In the series, characters would often be killed, and Captain America lost his shield a lot.
One of the earliest instances was in 2003’s Exiles #23 by Judd Winick and Kev Walker. In this issue, Weapon X traveled to a reality where a war between humans and mutants left Tony Stark the only ruler of the world. At one point, we saw the melted remains of Captain America’s shield. We never learned who destroyed it — or how — but it was a powerful symbol of the fall of the superhero community.
12. GREGORY STARK
We return to the Ultimate Marvel universe with 2011’s Ultimate Avengers vs. New Ultimates #5 (written by Mark Millar with art by Leinil Yu and Stephen Segovia). In previous issues, the Ultimates and the Avengers fought each other, each believing the other team had supplied superhuman soldiers to hostile countries. Tony Stark’s brother Gregory Stark took over S.H.I.E.L.D., but it turned out that he was behind the conflict to pit the teams against each other.
When they fought back, Gregory Stark used an army of tiny robots called nanites that gave him superpowers. When the Avengers tried to fight him, Gregory grabbed Thor’s hammer and smashed Cap’s shield into pieces. Once again, it wasn’t the “real” shield, but it was still devastating.
11. KING HYPERION
Captain America’s shield suffered a blow in 2004’s Exiles #44 by Chuck Austen and Jim Calafiore. In the previous issues, the superhero Hyperion from another Earth had taken over his world, becoming King Hyperion. In a last-ditch effort, the governments launched a nuclear holocaust to try to kill Hyperion, but it backfired, leaving everything dead except Hyperion.
Rescued from the planet ruined by war by the Timebreakers, Hyperion was sent to join the team, but refused to follow the mission given to them. Instead, Hyperion used his power to kill the other superheroes on the next world, and seize control of the planet. One of the heroes he murdered was Captain America, leaving Cap’s shattered shield lying at his feet among the corpses.
The fact that Exiles took place in alternate realities gave them the chance to break the shield many times, which made for a great visual. In 2004’s Exiles #47 by Tony Bedard and Mizuki Sakakibara, it happened again, this time when the team went to Earth-616 (also known as the mainstream Marvel universe). The Fantastic Four captured Namora, the cousin of Namor, who described her story.
In flashbacks, we saw Namora becoming the queen of her world as her mutation allowed her to dominate Atlantis. As its new ruler, Namora tried to make peace with the surface, but when the government sent the Avengers to hunt down mutants, Namora slaughtered them. In one scene, we saw Captain America lying dead with a chipped shield. We don’t know how she did it, but she did it.
In 2013, Age of Ultron #1 (written by Brian Michael Bendis with pencils by Bryan Hitch) introduced an alternate reality controlled by the artificial intelligence Ultron. The robot had taken over the world and left it in a post-apocalyptic state of ruin. The world’s superheroes (including the Avengers) huddled in underground bunkers, hiding from Ultron’s robot army.
In the opening, Hawkeye went to a building controlled by Hammerhead and the Owl to rescue Spider-Man. When he attacked, they ended up cornered until Ultron’s soldiers attacked and leveled the building. Hawkeye and Spider-Man returned to the Avengers hideout, where they talked about how they had no plan. Cut to Captain America, sitting in misery next to the broken remains of his shield. Once again, we were left to wonder how his shield was broken, but it must have taken a lot.
2004’s Exiles #39 introduced a terrible new reality by Chuck Austen and Jim Calafiore where the long feared war between humans and mutants had become reality. The U.S. government built an army of Sentinels, and launched them to attack and kill all the mutants on Earth, except for a handful on Magneto’s Asteroid M. When the Weapon X team was sent to the new world, they found a destroyed Xavier Mansion and a planet in ruins.
They also found the Avengers had been killed off as well. Apparently, the president considered them “race traitors” and the Sentinels had enough firepower to wipe them out, including Captain America. The Captain and his shield lay in pieces on a lawn in Washington D.C. Hyperion chose that moment to incinerate them all with his heat vision, which was sort of justice for the devastation.
7. THE LIVING LASER
Now we move into the real Marvel universe where Captain America’s shield was broken, but it’s still not quite the same situation. In 1966’s Avengers #35 (Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Don Heck), the team faced the Living Laser, who had created a powerful laser trap. Captain America tried to use his shield to block the lasers, but the shield quickly disintegrated.
This was actually one of many times Captain America’s shield was destroyed in earlier adventures, but the shield would always come back to normal in the next issue. At this point, Marvel hadn’t established the shield was made of an indestructible alloy. In fact, in Avengers #8, it was said to be made of steel with a protective coating by Iron Man. When asked about it later in a letter column, Marvel’s editors established the retcon by saying Captain America had been using a steel replica in earlier issues, not his indestructible version.
6. THE SERPENT
Now that we’ve gotten most of the alternate realities and fake shields out of the way, we can get to the times the shield was broken in the mainstream reality without retcons. In the 2011’s Fear Itself crossover miniseries, the Asgardian god of fear known as the Serpent was freed from an underwater prison. He believed he was the true ruler of Asgard, and tried to spread fear across the world to overthrow Odin.
In Fear Itself #5 (Matt Fraction, Stuart Immonen), Captain America tried to fight the Serpent and threw his shield at him. The god caught the shield and shattered it with his bare hands. After the Serpent was beaten, Thor ordered the dwarves to fix the shield with uru, supposedly making it stronger than ever.
5. KING THOR
When Odin’s father was apparently killed, Thor became the new ruler of Asgard and gained infinite strength through the Odin Force. With his new role as King of Asgard, Thor decided to actually move Asgard into the realm of Earth over New York, where he began trying to solve Earth’s problems directly. The Norse gods became worshipped again, but Thor became more distant from mankind.
In 2020, Wolverine, Dr. Strange, Captain America and the Hulk tried a last effort to stop the out-of-control Thor. In a fight of rage in 2004’s Thor #73 (Dan Jurgens, Scot Eaton), King Thor used his new power to burn Captain America and shatter his shield. King Thor later saw the error of his ways and went back in time to stop his rule from ever happening, putting the shield back to normal.
4. DOCTOR DOOM
In 1984’s Secret Wars miniseries, a cosmic being who called itself the Beyonder decided to stage a fight between good and evil, bringing Earth’s superheroes and supervillains into another world to fight for their ultimate dream come true. While the two sides fought, Doctor Doom used his incredible mind to find a way to steal the Beyonder’s power. In issue #11 (Jim Shooter, Mike Zeck, Bob Layton), Doom destroyed all of them with a huge blast, and we saw Captain America’s broken shield lying in the rubble.
Of course, the real problem was all the dead superheroes, but when the Beyonder got his power back, the heroes were brought back to life and discovered the Beyonder’s residual energy could bring their wishes to life. Captain America wished for his shield to be restored, his only heart’s desire, but there was a problem that came up over a decade later…
3. VIBRANIUM CANCER
This was one of the strangest ways the shield ever broke, and it needs some explanation. In earlier issues, Captain America lost his shield in the ocean, and had to replace it with a sort of virtual shield called an “electroshield.” When Captain America recovered the original shield, it was in pieces.
In 1998’s Captain America #21 (Mark Waid and Andy Kubert), Captain America discovered his shield had a molecular flaw when he fixed it that caused it to shatter, and the flaw would spread to other vibranium and cause it to explode as well, what Stark called “vibranium cancer.” He literally had to patch his shield together with wire and duct tape and carry it back to Wakanda to try to stop the cancer. Fortunately, Klaw accidentally fixed the shield with a sonic wave, making it good as new. Welcome to the 1990s, folks.
In the 1991 miniseries The Infinity Gauntlet, Thanos assembled the six Infinity Gems on his glove to gain control over Time, Space, Mind, Soul, Reality and Power. With the gauntlet giving him near-infinite power, Thanos started out by killing half the sentient life in the universe with a snap of his fingers. In Infinity Gauntlet #4 (by Jim Starlin and George Perez), Earth’s most powerful superheroes and a few supervillains flew off to face Thanos, but it was a bloodbath.
Thanos smashed his way through the heroes, knocking even mighty Thor aside with ease. One of the crowning moments came when Thanos smashed Captain America’s shield with a swing of his fist, and killed Captain America with a backslap. It would have been the end of everything if Thanos’ granddaughter Nebula hadn’t managed to get the Gauntlet for herself and used its power to put everything back to normal, including Cap’s shield.
1. MOLECULE MAN
Molecule Man is one of the most powerful supervillains in the Marvel Universe, because he can control all molecules. At first, he had to use a wand, but was imprisoned in the wand so he had to possess anyone who touched it. When the Silver Surfer touched the wand, he couldn’t be possessed, so the wand made Molecule Man a new body.
In 1982’s Avengers #215 (Alan Weiss, Bob Hall), the Avengers tried to stop him, but Molecule Man easily stopped them by destroying Captain America’s shield, Thor’s hammer, Iron Man’s armor and the Silver Surfer’s board in one go. Fortunately, Molecule Man was beaten and restored everything he’d ruined back to normal, including the shield. Captain America’s shield always comes back, in more ways than one!
Do you know of any other times Captain America’s shield was broken? Let us know in the comments!