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Scales of Justice: The History of Captain America's Scale Mail Costume

A leaked image of Chris Evan's Captain America costume in Avengers 4 reveals that Cap will debut his famous scale mail costume for the first time in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the film. For years, there has been debate over whether such a look would ever translate into a live action design and now it appears as though it finally will be happening.

While the history of the scale male design in the MCU has been non-existent, its presence in the comics has also been sporadic, despite it being present in his design right from the beginning of Captain America's creation. However, like other famous design elements of other superheroes (like Superman's S-shield and Batman's fins on his gloves), it has slowly but surely seen an evolution in its depiction over the years.

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We must first look to history to see where Joe Simon was coming from when he came up with the original design of Captain America's costume back in 1940.

According to a history of armor in England:

The metal armour of the Normans and Anglo-Saxons consisted of a tunic of what is commonly called "mail," composed in the earlier instances of iron rings firmly sewn flat upon a strong foundation of cloth or leather, and subsequently interlinked one with the other, so as to form a garment of themselves, known by the name of "chain mail." Coexistent with these were several sorts of mail to which Sr. R. Meydrick gave the names of "tegulated," trelised," "mascled," "banded," with scale mail already recognized by antiquaries in the "lorica squamata" of the Romans.

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You can see the lorica squamata here...

And, on a British tapestry from the Middle Ages, you can see what the scale mail of the English knights looked like...

Therefore, clearly Joe Simon was looking towards a knight-like design for his new patriotic hero, Captain America, when he sat down to design him over a year before the United States entered World War II. Note Simon even specifically writes "mailed armor" in the design...

That original sketch was translated into the first page of Captain America Comics #1...

Jack Kirby used the design for the cover of the first issue of the series, featuring Captain America famously punching out Adolf Hitler (again, this is over a year before the United States actually entered World War II, so this was a dramatic political statement at the time)...

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Note that using knight-like scale mail costume designs was not an unusual approach for the time period. Less than a year later, Paul Norris came up with a similar design for Aquaman's shirt (although, there, the scale mail design also worked to evoke fish scales, due to Aquaman's aquatic background)...

This design remained consistent throughout the Golden Age, even when Joe Simon and Jack Kirby left the series fairly early on in a dispute with Timely Comics' publisher Martin Goodman over royalties they were promised but were never given.

Even when Captain America made a brief comeback in the 1950s to fight against Communists (drawn by a very young John Romita Sr.), the chain mail look remained...

The Silver Age, though, began to show a change.

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