For most, Captain America embodies the core beliefs of American Values. Since he first appeared in March of 1941, star spangled and square-jawed, he became the veritable Nazi-punching poster boy for patriotism. He was wartime propaganda, fighting the Axis of Evil as a super soldier for the Allied Forces, showing America it should stand up in the face of xenophobia and tyranny. His altruism and courage emboldened American troops, whom he represented as wardens of truth, freedom, and justice, protecting the American way of life.
Whether his altruism is seen as campy or kicka**, there’s no question about what he stands for. There is no misunderstanding his message. The first avenger is a straight shooter, true to his word, and always ready to lend a helping hand. In other words, insufferably righteous. He’s almost too perfect. Or is he? Appearances can be deceiving, and sometimes, the best place for evil to hide is in plain sight. For all of his star-spangled swagger and patriotic posturing, Captain America has done some pretty messed up things. Beneath the red, white, and blue boy scout exterior, beats the heart of a true a**hole, which CBR explores in a list that defines why Captain America has always been Marvel’s greatest villain.
15. HE’S KIND OF AN A-HOLE
Captain America has always been known for his squeaky clean image, unflagging moral center, and unflappable integrity. But beneath that boy scout exterior, there lurks the heart of a true jerk. In the Ultimates storyline, Captain America puts the moves on Hank Pym’s lady, as well as gets rather nasty to the people of France with some choice language. But what about the fact that, after a group of teens ransacked his apartment, he didn’t take the high road everyone has come to expect of the protector of the American Way, and chose a more direct approach to conflict resolution; he escalated it. Mainstream Cap would sit down on the stoop and have a heart to heart with these young people, giving them insightful words of advice and warning them not to do drugs. Ultimates Cap beats the crap out of them and moves on, proving that he too can be an a-hole, and a hell of a lot more interesting.
14. HE TRANSFORMS
The world of Marvel comics is a crazy and imaginative place, where anything and everything can happen using temporal anomalies, parallel universes, and alternate realities. In Captain America #404, Captain America goes after Nightshade and ends up fighting a pack of savage werewolves, while Wolverine almost gets injected with a wolf serum Nightshade has developed. His healing abilities prevent it from sticking, so Nightshade recruits Moonhunter to find Cap instead. Wolverine is used to attack Cap and keep him locked in combat long enough for a tranquilizer to be administered, and suddenly Cap is in Nightshade’s lab and getting injected with wolf serum himself. And because he’s Werewolf Captain America, he has all the power and ferocity of a supernatural canine with the added bonus of his superhero abilities. His secret super soldier serum allows him to control some of the more rage-induced aspects of the wolf serum, making him a more intelligent and cunning werewolf.
13. HE STEALS ANT MAN’S WIFE
During the Ultimates #1 through #4, Captain America is living in an alternate reality that closely mirrors the timeline of events from his mainstream storyline. However, in this case, the Ultimates are the task force of superheroes assembled by S.H.I.E.L.D, and Captain America’s secret super soldier serum actually gave him greater abilities, such as extra superhuman strength. This becomes valuable when he goes after Hank Pym, aka Ant Man, who has had a falling out with his wife, and has become irascible and aggressive. He beats the crap out of Ant Man on Janet’s behalf, then promptly brings her flowers and gifts right after. He keeps romancing her even as he takes on Herr Kleiser and other baddies, eventually sharing a dance with her that ultimately wins her over. In Cap’s mind, Ant Man deserved everything he got and Janet deserved a better superhero.
12. HE GOES ON THE LAMB
During the events of Civil War #1 through #7, all superheroes are required to register themselves and their powers as part of the Superhero Registration Act. This means that they will have their abilities regulated, such as how they’re used, when they’re used, and for what purpose. Some of the Avengers, such as Iron Man, were in favor of such an act, but Captain America was very much against it. In his mind, it took away too much liberty and freedom, arguably the fundamental foundation of American Values. Rather than register he goes on the lamb, evading efforts by the other Avengers and agents of S.H.I.E.L.D to track him down. He eventually falls in with a group of somewhat harmless villains (who must also register), and tries to begin a faction that will go against Iron Man and some of the most vocal supporters of the act. He eventually gets tracked down by Frank Castle, who kills everyone present but Cap, and gets his a** kicked because Cap isn’t having it.
11. HE BEAT DOWN IRON MAN
In Captain America: Civil War, Captain America and the Avengers have reached a new level of stressed out. His old friend Bucky, who he comes to find out has been injected with secret super soldier serum as well, but indoctrinated with Hydra brain washing, has been causing havoc and mayhem all over New York, with a rising body count. Now, the Avengers don’t have the connection to Bucky that Steve does, and Nick Fury wants him taken out without question. That doesn’t sit right with Cap, not only because Bucky is his oldest friend and only person who might also feel like a “man out of time,” but because Cap believes there’s still good in him, and that if he can get to him before the Avengers or S.H.I.E.L.D do, then he can be saved. Iron Man is the most vocal objector to Cap’s plans (as usual) and takes him on personally while Cap is in the midst of already brawling with Bucky. This leads to them both beating the crap out of Iron Man who, even though he doesn’t always see eye to eye with Cap, is arguably more of a friend to him than the Winter Soldier.
10. HE BEAT UP HIS REPLACEMENT
There have only been a handful of people that have picked up the shield and assumed the identity of Captain America, mostly because he’s practically immortal and doesn’t need to worry about pesky setbacks like aging, or losing his stamina. But sometimes, the mantle of responsibility wears heavily upon a superhero’s broad shoulders and they have to reconnect to what got them into the superhero business in the first place. So Steve Rogers briefly vacated the position of Captain America, leaving it open for a replacement. Enter John Walker, who didn’t have nearly the experience for the job but had the qualifications thanks to some syringes filled with secret super soldier serum. Like William Burnside, his body couldn’t really handle them, and he was a pretty lame Captain America stand-in. When Cap came back from his walk about, he promptly fired John Walker with his fists before donning the cowl again, picking up his shield, and clocking in to take care of business.
9. HE’S A RACIST
Throughout the 1940s, Captain America was protecting the innocent and punching Nazis, right up until he was frozen in a block of ice. But then America was scared of Communists, and the need for Captain America returned in the 1950s, which saw William Burnside, fanboy extraordinaire -who even changed his facial structure to look more like Steve Rogers- taking up the shield. His body, however, was not exactly a great match for the super serum, however, and had some unfortunate side effects, like making him highly unstable and more than a little ragey. Cut to Burnside, in all his red, white, and blue glory cruising around places like Harlem and putting the beatdown on minorities because to him, they were just as bad as the pinko commies. It’s a startling image; Captain America, representing a country known for its ethnic diversity, beating up minorities for now other reason than that they exist.
8. HE’S A DRUGGIE
While it’s true that Captain America has been hitting the hard stuff for 75 years in the form of his super special soldier serum, giving him all kinds of added benefits like being ridiculously young (and good looking) forever and having super strength, he has been known to take drugs of a different kind. In Captain America #375, he gets high and feels the most alive he has in years. When a regular person takes something like PCP, they may FEEL like they’re Cap, but don’t actually have the stats to back it up. When someone like Captain America takes drugs, they actually can punch through a wall or a face with no consequences…and no control. At this point he beats the crap out of Daredevil and doesn’t even care. When an ordinarily goodie two shoes like Cap gets his hands on an illegal substance, he abuses it in the most spectacular of ways because he has no point of reference on how to behave.
7. HE HUNTS MUTANTS
Separate from the events of Secret Empire #0, where Hydra leader Captain America declares that all inhumans must register or be killed, Age of X: Alpha #1 chronicles an alternate reality where all mutants are systematically hunted down. Because of an accidental explosion caused by Jean Grey and her abilities, Albany, New York is levelled, leaving several hundred thousand dead in the aftermath. It is at this time that anti-mutant hysteria has reached its peak, and superheroes are called upon to seek out mutant pockets amidst the human population and arrest them (after which they’re promptly executed). Frank Castle is a general, and works with the entire Avengers team to find mutants and destroy them, taking on the X-Men and all those that stand in their way. Captain America even goes so far as to kill Mystique, who was defending a group of mutant children from attack, making him an ultimate savage.
6. HE DROPS HIS FRIENDS
If anyone had to sit around listening to Tony Stark wax sarcastic about every topic under the sun, they would probably find themselves a new group of friends. However, Captain America quits the Avengers for slightly more mature reasons; they don’t agree with him. And he’s not wrong to leave, considering his position on the state of the federal government at the time. He sees it as a corrupt entity that the Avengers shouldn’t be a part of and believes that if he stays within their ranks as Captain America, he will symbolize what he has come to despise. In fact, he abandons the cowl and shield altogether, as the America of the times doesn’t reflect what Captain America stands for, and rather than try to keep forcing it to, he decides the United States is unworthy of his defense of it. In other words, Steve Rogers takes his star-spangled ball and goes home.
5. HIS OWN MOTHER RECRUITED HIM FOR HYDRA
While sending your son to a school for fascism sounds pretty terrible at face value, the reasons Sarah Rogers had little Stevie indoctrinated into Hydra were not wholly bad. She was in an abusive marriage to his father, a drunken dead beat with no job and no ambition, who used any excuse to verbally abuse her and hit her. There were many times when Steve was present for one of his father’s raging episodes. Desiring more structure and guidance in her young son’s life, she falls prey to the supportive and kind words of Hydra Agent Sinclair who, in reassuring tones, informs her that it’s a party for “concerned citizens” that just want to look out for one another. It was at this school that Steve Rogers learned to live the Hydra way and agreed, when he was of age, to be recruited into the American military as a spy for Hydra.
4. HE’S A NAZI SPY
Secret Empire #0 lays the groundwork for a reality in which Captain America is a wartime spy, but not for the Allied Forces. All the way back in 1945, he was working for Hydra. What better way to infiltrate the American military than allow yourself to be subjected to its experiments, choose to dedicate yourself to fighting the Axis of Evil, and be a part of a whirlwind of glitzy propaganda posters, videos, and live demonstrations? No one expected their beloved Steve Rogers to be a Nazi spy, because his morals were beyond reproach. This made the perfect cover, and also granted Cap all the intelligence he needed from the highest ranking officers in the American military which he could then pass on to the highest ranking members of Hydra. But Hydra couldn’t always show their hand and didn’t act on every piece of intel or the Allies might get wise to the mole in their midst.
3. HE KILLED RED SKULL TO TAKE CONTROL OF HYDRA
Red Skull has arguably been the greatest threat to Captain America (and American Values) since the beginning, and Captain America has thwarted him at every turn to ensure that America doesn’t fall under the iron fist of a fascist rule. By the time of Secret Empire #1 and #2, Captain America has done away with Red Skull not to protect against fascism but to enforce it! He believes Red Skull corrupted the true essence of Hydra and vows to lead it in a way that makes it as powerful as it once was. This leads him to even take a strike force stolen from S.H.I.E.L.D. to Washington D.C. and to Vegas with the intent to level them. With his intimate knowledge of the inner workings of both S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers, something that not even Red Skull had, they have to scramble to keep up with his attacks.
2. HE ACTUALLY MAKES A HYDRA MORE EVIL THAN HYDRA
By the time Captain America: Steve Rogers #2 and #3 are released, the sprawling organization of Hydra had no real leader, Baron von Strucker had died (again), and smaller factions of Hydra began springing up in various parts of the world with no formal direction. It was at this time that Red Skull decided that Hydra in its current state no longer represented his core beliefs, so he wanted to rebuild it from the ashes of his xenophobic and Nazi beliefs. This leaves Baron Zemo in control of the old Hydra, and Captain America at a loss of who to follow. But, because the Hydra Red Skull was rebuilding was different than the Hydra of the memories Kobik implanted in Captain America, he’s not down with either group and instead breaks away from both supervillains to form what he calls the “true Hydra,” a less radicalized and purer entity than what he felt Hydra had, or would, become.
1. LITERALLY EVERYTHING HE DOES IS EVIL
At the harrowing conclusion of Captain America: Steve Rogers #1, Cap boots Jack Flag from a plane transporting known Hydra agent Dr. Erik Selvig and utters a phrase that no one ever expected to come from his lips: “Hail Hydra.” And just like that, the poster boy for patriotism and all things good is revealed to be an agent of evil, a part of the very entity he had spent his entire life fighting against. With the use of Kobik, a human girl comprised of pieces of a cosmic cube, Red Skull was able to remake reality into one where Steve Rogers was made into a Hydra agent. This insane revelation means that every seemingly heroic deed that Captain America ever did was for Hydra’s glory and gain. It also means that he’s been a super villain for over 60s years, hiding in plain sight, right under the noses of S.H.I.E.L.D and every other superhero.
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