Captain America. He’s been an icon for decades. The star spangled man with a plan has been an inspiration for heroes and readers alike. The Super Soldier Serum that gave him his powers makes him not far from invulnerable. But with his long comic book history and endless list of villains, when has Steve Rogers been defeated? Given that in the 76 years that he’s been around, he’s been killed, taken to other dimensions and even turned into an old man, Steve Rogers isn’t invincible. But isn’t that what makes a hero great, a bit of relatability?
We’ve gone back all the way through his long comic history to bring you some of the moments where he wasn’t the one to come out on top. He’s faced friends, enemies and several unrelenting robots in his career as Captain America. We’ve included the times where Cap’s defeat was especially poignant because he’s fought a friend, or he was left in such a beaten state. We haven’t included anything from Secret Empire, because that’s not the true Steven Rogers that we all know and love. There’ll be some entries you’ll expect, and some you won’t. Let’s take a look at 15 times Captain America was completely destroyed.
During “The Erskine Legacy”, Cap investigates the death of Abraham Erskine’s grandson, who’s researching a cure for cancer. During his search for the killer, he unknowingly falls into a trap set by the Machinesmith. Using vita-rays similar to those that gave Cap his powers, the robotic villain drains Steve of his powers by deactivating the super soldier serum in his body.
This strips him of all that makes him a superhero. He loses the super strength, speedy healing and being quick on his feet. It’s a defeat that only hits Steve physically, but emotionally too. Luckily, he still has his courageous nature — so Cap has to find other ways to escape from Machinesmith. He relied on the other skills he’s learnt as a hero over the years.
Cap is undoubtedly one of the most famous heroes around, whether it’s as a patriotic symbol or as an inspirational hero. Not that any of that bothers Thanos. During The Infinity Gauntlet miniseries, Thanos easily takes on earth’s mightiest heroes individually, and Captain America fights to prove his worth and defend millions. He gives a rousing speech, determined to fight the Mad Titan.
“As long as one man stands against you Thanos, you’ll never be able to claim victory”. Thanos responds with a swift back-hand that sends the super-soldier to the floor. He doesn’t care about your morals, Cap. Thanos only cares if something is in his way, and he bats Steve away like a fly. It’d be funny if the villain hadn’t just wiped out half the life in the universe all to make an impression on Death.
During Time Runs Out, Steve had uncovered secrets that the Illuminati (a secret group formed by Iron Man, Mr. Fantastic, Doctor Strange and Black Panther) had been involved with destroying alternate worlds. It’s a grand and destructive tale that pits Tony and Steve against each other as their universe is invaded by S.H.I.E.L.D. forces of Earth-1610.
Tony is forced to admit that he’s known about universes colliding for some time and clearly hadn’t done enough to prevent their Earth from destruction. As the two former friends fight over the nature of right and wrong (not for the first time) they’re crushed by a helicarrier — killing the pair of them. Thanks a lot, alternate S.H.I.E.L.D. The entire Earth is destroyed afterwards, so who’s the real winner here? No one. Everyone dies. The End.
Age of Ultron recieved a big-screen adaptation three years ago, but it missed a few key things from the original story in the comics. For one, Ultron hadn’t taken over the world. But it also dismissed a scene that saw Cap truly broken. He wasn’t physically beaten, but his spirit was shattered alongside his shield.
We don’t actually see the moment where Ultron breaks him, but it hits the reader harder seeing Steve with his head bowed and costume ripped to shreds. Lying next to him is the broken remains of his iconic shield. And if Ultron can break someone who endured World War II, hundreds of villains and countless other fights across comic book history, it proves that the robotic AI is not to be taken lightly.
11. IRON NAIL
Ran Shen A.K.A. Iron Nail isn’t as well-known as some of Cap’s other adversaries, but he’s partially responsible for Sam Wilson taking over the Captain America mantle. When Iron Nail launches an attack on S.H.I.E.L.D. he plans to unlock the giant robot Gungnir in 2013’s Captain America #21, so that he can engulf the Earth in another World War. When Cap and Falcon attempt to stop him, Iron Nail uses the darts he shoots from his tentacles to neutralize the Super Soldier Serum completely.
This sees Steve revert from a young looking, athletic superhero — to a frail old man. Even though Cap manages to throw his shield and destroy the weapon, he’s still left in his older state. And after Sam foils an attack by Arnim Zola, Steve passes the Captain America name to him since he can no longer carry it.
10. ARNIM ZOLA
Speaking of Arnim Zola. The former Nazi scientist managed to kidnap Captain America and Sharon Carter into “Dimension Z”, a world where Zola and his forces were in total control. They entered a hidden lift that took them to a secret subway car. When they entered they were both sucked into Zola’s world, and Cap awoke strapped to a table since he’d been dosed with anesthetic.
During his adventures in the alternate dimension, Sharon Carter falls to her death. So even though Cap succeeds in making it out alive, Zola has still managed to rob him of one of people closest to him. For a plot about robot holding a digital version of a Nazi brain inside its body, there’s a surprising amount of depth in the Dimension Z saga. It’s an emotional defeat, rather than a physical one.
The Avengers and the X-Men have come to blows on more than one occasion. But during Avengers: X-Sanction, the time traveler Cable managed to beat Cap into submission. After Cable had shot Falcon out of the sky, Cap managed to follow Redwing to his location. Unfortunately, Cable was waiting for him and rained down upon Steve. He even used Cap’s own shield against him at one point.
He’s then was forced into an inhibitor chair by Cable and then knocked unconscious. He mentally tells Cap that he’s going to beat down his friends one by one until he finds what he’s looking for. It’s a surprising defeat, since throughout the fight, Cap had begun to dish out a beating of his own on Cable. But since Cable is fighting for his adopted daughter Hope Summers, he’s near unstoppable.
Logan and Steve have had their share of fights across the years. Regenerative healing versus a Super Soldier Serum, they can really dish out a beating. During one occasion in Captain America #404, Wolverine is brainwashed into attacking Cap. Cap visits a town where it seems like he might even have the upper hand over Wolverine until Logan manages to overpower him.
Luckily, one of the villains interrupts the fight before the mutant can stab the star-spangled hero. Unfortunately for Cap, it also means being knocked out and losing the fight against the X-Man. Guess that shield isn’t so useful after all..although Steve repays the favor across the years, like the time he caved Wolverine’s face in with the shield during Avengers vs. X-Men.
7. THE JACKAL
“Spider-Island” saw millions of New Yorkers gain Spider-powers and eventually transform into giant spiders. A.K.A. an arachnophobic’s worst nightmare. But sometime before the giant event, the Jackal and Spider-Queen kidnapped Steve Rogers so they could transform him into the Spider-King. He’s a hideous spider-monster.
The Jackal also takes the time to impregnate Cap with thousands of spider-eggs. To make it worse for the Super Soldier, he vomits the spiders up when they’re all hatched. Luckily, once a cure is found, Cap is reverted back to his normal self. He then teams up with Flash Thompson, who has a heroic control over the Venom symbiote. They take on the Spider-Queen together. And even though Steve recovers, the whole ordeal is a little horrifying to say the least.
No, we didn’t get our lists mixed up. Batman really did beat Captain America in a fight during DC vs. Marvel. In fact, Cap nearly died, it’s just lucky that Batman has a conscience. Sort of. With the Marvel and DC universes pitted against each other, Cap and Batman have to face off so that neither universe is destroyed.
It’s an interesting fight, since neither of them actually want to fight the other. The fight itself seems more like vicious sparring. And they even briefly mention that they’d be on the same side if it weren’t for this cosmic complication. But when the sewer the pair are fighting in is flushed out, Cap is lost underwater. It’s only because Bruce dives down to find him that Cap even makes it out alive.
5. BARON ZEMO
A famous Cap villain, who most recently got a big screen adaptation in Captain America: Civil War, has caused plenty of trouble for Steve Rogers over the years. But in the “Under Seige” story, the Masters of Evil, a group of supervillains, stormed Avengers Mansion. Zemo uses the mansion’s defenses to knock Cap unconscious. He cuts all the Avengers off from one another, and completely takes over the mansion.
When he comes to, Baron Zemo takes great pleasure in capturing the Super Soldier and starts destroying all his belongings in front of him. He even rips up the more sentimental items, like the photos of Cap with Bucky and even the last photo of his mother. Mr. Hyde then starts to beat the ageing butler, Jarvis, and makes Steve watch whilst the elderly man screams in pain.
The villain who also made it to the big screen had a hand in killing Captain America after his arrest at the end of the catastrophic Civil War. As Steve is marched down the steps of the courthouse, the crowd throw things at the ‘traitor’ and protest his role as a hero. But that’s when Cap spots a sniper. He even manages to warn those around him before the shot rings out.
It’s then we realize the attack has been ordered by the Red Skull and Doctor Faustus. The pair even debate calling the assassination off when he spots their hired gun, Crossbones. And it’s at that moment that he’s shot through the shoulder and tumbles down the stairs. But, that’s not the killing shot…
3. SHARON CARTER
Sharon is right in front of Steve in Captain America Vol.5 #25 when the bullet fired by Crossbones hits him. She even stays with him in the ambulance until they get to the hospital, pleading for him to stay alive. Unfortunately, she’s already dealt the final blow to the Super Soldier without even realizing it. Steve is dead before he even reaches the hospital.
When she’s grieving in the bathroom, she’s confronted by a woman who tells her that Doctor Faustus wants her to remember. The scene at the courthouse comes flooding back, and it’s revealed that Sharon had been brainwashed into shooting Cap several times in the stomach with her pistol. Steve would probably have survived Crossbones’ shot, but not multiple shots at close range. Sharon Carter killed Captain America.
2. ULTIMATE RED SKULL
The Ultimate version of Red Skull has a pretty violent history. He earned his name by cutting his own face off. If that doesn’t earn him a level of notoriety, nothing will. In Ultimate Avengers #1, two A.I.M. helicopters are attempting to raid the Baxter Building — and as Cap tries to stop them, the Red Skull beats him down.
He’s as fast as Steve, and has a similar strength. Red Skull gets the upper hand in the fight and whispers something in Steve’s ear before hurling him out of the helicopter. It’s only when Hawkeye catches him and they land on the ground that we find out what he said. The Red Skull is Steve Rogers’ son. Well that’s one way of ending a fight.
1. TONY STARK
Let’s take it back to Civil War. Steve and Tony were on opposite sides of the Superhuman Registration Act. Steve believed that heroes shouldn’t have to reveal their secret identities to the government and become costumed police, told where and when to fight. But Tony sternly fought for the act to be pushed through, so they could be responsible heroes. Their final fight took them to the streets of New York.
The two heroes exchanged blows before Cap beats Tony half to death before being taken down by civilians. Only then does Steve realize what he’s done, and actually hands himself in to the police. Could it be described as a stalemate? Possibly. But Tony’s side of the argument won, and the registration act went through. Did Steve lose his sense of right and wrong for the sake of a fight with Stark? Clearly.
Did we miss any times Cap got battered and beaten? Hit up the comments section and let us know!
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