Perhaps more so than any other comic book publisher, Marvel Comics has kept a number of high profile, star-spangled heroes in action for nearly the entirety of their 75-year publishing history. Since the debut of Captain America and Bucky all the way back in 1941’s “Captain America Comics” #1, dozens of do-gooders in the Marvel Universe have draped themselves in the American flag and fought the forces of evil. And when you step back and take a look at the big picture, you’ll notice that Marvel’s American heroes are probably the least selfish group of supers in any universe; they swap and share codenames at a rate so fast, it’d make Quicksilver do a double take!
Before we get into the big list of the twenty heroes that share just five super hero code names, we have to give a special shout out to the Marvel heroes that kept it original when picking their alter ego. There’s American Dream, the niece of S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Sharon Carter who protects an alternate future version of the Marvel Universe in between shifts as a tour guide at the historic Avengers Mansion; American Eagle, a member of the Navajo Nation who has used his super strength to fight everyone from Klaw to Norman Osborn; the incredibly ’90s Free Spirit, who trained under Steve Rogers himself; and Free Spirit’s partner Jack Flag who later became an intergalactic patriot as a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy. With those free thinkers out of the way, here are the super heroes that chose to share a codename.
Fans have definitely taken to the latest person to adopt the Miss America moniker — America Chavez took on the name and became the muscle for the Young Avengers team during Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s influential run on the series. The new Miss America, a Latina lesbian who punches holes through spacetime, represents the modern face of young America.
Chavez’s predecessor, Madeline Joyce, debuted way back in 1943 and fought alongside Captain America as a member of the All-Winners Squad. She was also mistakenly identified as the mother of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch before their true parentage was exposed.
With both Captain America and Iron Man ousted from the public eye by Norman Osborn’s machinations, the ex-Green Goblin created a new identity for himself that mixed aspects of the two. While Osborn was never really a super hero, he was appointed America’s top cop and leader of the “peacekeeping” force called H.A.M.M.E.R. during Marvel’s “Dark Reign” storyline.
The eye-catching armor hasn’t gone to waste following Osborn’s fall from power; it now belongs to longtime best bud of Tony Stark’s and former War Machine James Rhodes. Rhodey’s done a lot of good as both a member of the Secret Avengers and a solo hero while sporting the Iron Patriot armor.
The first Patriot, Jeffrey Mace, debuted around the same time as Captain America in the spring of 1941. The character enjoyed moderate popularity, but failed to make the transition alongside Cap from the Golden Age of comics to the Silver Age. Don’t feel bad for Mace; as you’ll learn in just a bit, he was retroactively made a much more important part of the Marvel Universe.
The second and current Patriot, Eli Bradley, is founding member of the Young Avengers and the grandson of the legendary Isaiah Bradley, the first man to receive the government’s Super Soldier Serum.
Yeah, there have been quite a few Buckys since the character first appeared back in 1941. The original, James “Buchanan” Barnes, remains the most popular and persistent — despite him being canonically deceased for almost 65 years. Once Barnes was established as having died 1945 in 1964’s “Avengers” #4, Fred Davis was retroactively created to explain away Bucky’s appearances in comics published in the late ’40s and early ’50s. The rest of the ’50s Bucky appearances retroactively belong to Jack Monroe, a character that would go on to have a super hero career in the ’80s and ’90s as the motorcycle-riding Nomad.
Professional teenage sidekick Rick Jones temporarily assumed the Bucky identity at the request of a newly unthawed and grief stricken Captain America.
Lemar Hoskins became the government-selected Bucky to join John Walker when he replaced a disenfranchised Steve Rogers as Cap; Hoskins continues to fight crime today as the America-themed Battlestar.
Recently, a Bucky from another reality — Rikki Barnes–arrived in the main Marvel Universe, but she now goes by another familiar codename: Nomad.
As the originator of Marvel’s tradition of America-themed heroes, it’s kinda fitting that the most people have donned Captain America’s specific shade of red, white, and blue over the past 73 years. The first, canonically, is the aforementioned Isaiah Bradley, revealed in the 2003 limited series “Red, White & Black” as the first participant — guinea pig, really — in the Super Soldier Program. While mainstream history may have forgotten his name, the black super hero community kept his spirit and memory alive with their every heroic deed.
Steve Rogers became the face of the Super Soldier Program and, well, he’s Steve Rogers.
Following Rogers’ apparent death in 1945, the government turned to William Nasland, a hero previously known by the clunky Spirit of ’76 handle. Our old pal Jeffrey Mace was retroactively transformed from Patriot into the next Captain America following Naslund’s death.
William Burnside became the definitely crazy Captain America of the 1950s and later became a villain called the Grand Director. When Steve Rogers ditched the title in 1974, a trio of men took over the role — Bob Russo, “Scar” Turpin, and Roscoe Simmons.
Of all of these men, only three Captain Americas are still alive and active today. John Walker, who debuted as the hotheaded and cantankerous Super-Patriot, became Captain America in the late ’80s. He took on the name U.S. Agent, when Steve Rogers returned and still uses it to this day.
Lastly, James Barnes took over as Captain America for an extended period of time following Steve Rogers’ assassination following the superhero civil war. He now operates as the Winter Soldier now that Rogers is carrying the shield again — for now!