He’s one of the oldest superheroes and often looked to as the leader of the Avengers. He fights constantly for what is right, defending the American people from threats both domestic and abroad. He is Captain America. Of course, no image of the famed Super Soldier is complete without his shield. In a universe filled with iconic weapons, there may be no singular item that has more meaning to the Marvel Universe than Captain America’s shield. It is always there on Cap’s arm, showing the undying spirit of America in the fight against evil. Whether on the battlefields of World War II, in the streets of New York City, or in the farthest reaches of space, Captain America’s shield has saved his life too many times to count.
The thing that many people don’t know is that the shield we are all familiar with is only one of several dozen different designs throughout Cap’s history. From new technological developments to alternative realities, we’ve pored through the annals of Marvel history to determine which are the top 20 shields that the Sentinel of Liberty has used in the ongoing fight for truth, justice, and the American way. We'll start with the worst and make our way to the best!
20 TRANSPARENT SHIELD
In the '70s, two made-for-TV Captain America movies were released. To be honest, they were both pretty terrible -- the acting and writing was poor, the story and character barely held any resemblance to the Steve Rogers of the comics, and really, not much happened. The practical motorcycle stunts are perhaps the saving grace of the movie, and only because you know they couldn’t use CGI at the time.
Perhaps worst of all is the costume worn by Cap. Instead of the mask from the comics, Cap wears a motorcycle helmet with the trademark wings painted on the sides. His shield is large and transparent and is shaped like a bowl. It’s very obviously plastic and doesn’t even begin to look threatening. Seriously, just don’t watch these movies.
19 VAMPIRE SHIELD
The hardcore Marvel comic fan knows that the Marvel Universe that most of the adventures we read occur in is designated Earth-616. There are a ton of different universes throughout the Marvel Multiverse, and many of them have different versions of our favorite characters.
One of these alternate earths is Earth-3931. In this universe, explored in Exiles #31, Baron Blood has defeated Captain America and turned him into a vampire. The rest of the Avengers end up also transforming. This vampire version of Captain America holds a disc shield that is similar to what we’ve seen, but with an almost complete absence of blue and a very large star in the center. This all said, for a vampire, Cap could have been carrying around a much more violent and bloody shield.
18 TONY STARK’S STEEL DISC SHIELD REPLICAS
These are somewhat indiscernible from the classic shield design we all know and love, and there’s a reason for that. It turns out that Tony Stark was analyzing the vibranium shield in an attempt to recreate it. In those attempts, a series of steel and vibranium replicas were made, which Captain America regularly took into battle (and which were regularly damaged by opponents).
Truth by told, this is more of a retcon explanation for why so many early storylines showed Cap’s shield getting battered and misshapen. So, if you’re reading an older comic and the shield takes damage, chances are you just saw one of Tony Stark’s weaker replica shields. It’s too bad he couldn’t get the alloy just right, but there’s simply no replacement for the real thing.
17 THE SKRULL GLADIATOR SHIELD
In Exiles #9, which takes place on Earth-5692, Mimic finds himself in a universe in which the Skrulls have conquered the Earth, having arrived during the late 1800s, when humanity was not equipped to deal with such an advanced threat. As such, life on Earth is very different from what one might expect. Much of the technology is influenced by the Skrulls, who are also the ruling class on the planet.
The Skrulls enjoy gladiator matches as a primary form of entertainment, and it is into these gladiator matches that Mimic finds himself entered. Eventually, he finds himself face to face with The Captain, Earth-5692’s version of Captain America. This Cap fights only to survive and to entertain, not for justice. His shield is gray and purple and reflects its Skrull origins.
16 ZARATHOS’S DARK AGE SHIELD
The Marvel Multiverse is so expansive, it’s hard to keep track of it all. Fortunately, the Exiles comic series takes us through many of the alternate universes. Earth-37072, for example, is visited in Exiles #55. The world is run by magic and has an aesthetic that is similar to the middle ages. Zarathos, the demon who exists inside of Ghost Rider, has taken over and possessed several heroes and villains to serve as his guardians.
One of Zarathos’s guardians is none other than Captain America, who bears a somewhat mythological appearance here. His armor and tunic are reminiscent of a Roman gladiator, and his shield takes on similar characteristics. There’s no stars or stripes on this shield -- it appears to be made of wood and gold.
15 THE CAPTAIN’S ADAMANTIUM DISC SHIELD
The late '80s were an interesting time for Captain America. Though he was one of the most well-known superheroes in the Marvel Comics Universe, the government needed someone who was on the government payroll, operating as a government agent and doing the government’s bidding. Steve quit the job, rather than bending his knee to someone else’s will.
However, part of giving up the job was giving up the title, costume, and shield that went with it. After a few issues, Cap was unable to truly stay away from leading a heroic life. He returned as The Captain, wearing a black, red, and white costume. His shield was an all-adamantium disc of solid metal. It was given to him by Tony Stark in Captain America #339. It only last a few issues before being replaced, but its smooth polished look is quite different from the paintjobs we are used to.
14 SMITHSONIAN TRIANGULAR SHIELD REPLICA
In Captain America #3, Captain America has been using a replacement prototype shield after having lost his own shield in the Atlantic Ocean. Unfortunately, this shield’s design is far from perfect, and Cap has trouble getting it to fly just right. During a battle at the Smithsonian Institute, Steve ends up losing it. He reappears with the Smithsonian Institute’s replica of his original triangular shield. After winning the day, the museum gives him the replica shield to thank him for his actions.
This shield is also short-lived, lasting only another few issues before being destroyed in Captain America #8. Similarly to the destruction of Steve’s first shield in Captain America: First Avenger, the shield is punched until it has been misshapen beyond usability. It is replaced with one of Cap’s several energy shields.
13 ORIGINAL TRIANGULAR SHIELD
The first shield Captain America ever carried, this is the shield that is featured on the cover of Captain America Comics #1. It has a triangular design, intended to resemble the shield that is in the Seal of the United States. As with most first attempts at design, this shield looks odd in comparison to the circular design we are used to.
The alternating red, white, and blue vertical stripes are a little bit too much to look at, as well. It’s also made of steel, which doesn’t allow for the aerodynamic or defensive capabilities of later designs. In one comic story (that has since been retconned), this shield was given to the King of Wakanda during World War II as an offering of goodwill.
12 TRIANGULAR MCU SHIELD
This is a direct adaptation of the first shield that Cap had in the comics, but with one very crucial difference that makes it look so much better: the blue has been removed from the vertical stripes; the remaining red and white looks cleaner. Additionally, the shade of blue used at the top of the shield is darker for the movies than the lighter shade used in the comics.
This shield is used primarily for performance purposes in the movie as part of Cap’s costume for the war bonds stage show that recruits him. Steve even writes his lines on the back of the shield so he won’t forget them onstage. He takes it to rescue Bucky and the other captured soldiers, but as the shield is not intended to be used in actual battle, it is rendered useless the first time that Red Skull punches it.
11 TASKMASTER’S OSMIUM SHIELD
This one isn’t technically Captain America’s shield, but it functions exactly the same way, so it makes the list. This one is actually wielded by Taskmaster, who has replicas of a number of superheroes’ trademark weapons, including Spider-Man’s webshooters and Daredevil’s billy clubs. Since Taskmaster has a photokinetic memory that allows him to recreate any movement he’s seen someone else make, he is as skilled with these weapons as the superheroes that originated them -- Taskmaster even trained Cap’s replacement in how to use the shield correctly.
The disadvantage for Taskmaster is that his recreated versions are not as powerful as the originals. Thus, his replica of the Captain America shield is made of an osmium-steel alloy. It may not be as strong as Cap’s, but it definitely serves the purpose, as anyone who has gone up against Taskmaster will tell you.
10 DORMAMMU’S CORRUPTED SHIELD
One common theme among alternate realities in the Marvel multiverse is that an enemy has taken over that world. In Earth-5113, Dormammu is the supreme ruler of the world, and he has used his limitless magical powers to corrupt the superheroes and turn them into his servants. This Earth is seen in Defenders Vol 3, in which Doctor Strange, Namor, Bruce Banner, and Silver Surfer team up for some extreme missions.
The shield wielded by Cap in this reality has one of the more aggressive designs that we’ve seen so far. The serrated edges give this shield a buzzsaw appearance. This is the kind of weapon that would definitely do damage. The question that we have is, how the heck does Cap catch this shield when it comes back to him?
9 YEOMAN AMERICA’S SHIELD
In yet another alternate reality known as Earth-398, Morgan le Fay, the witch from Arthurian legend, has warped reality. The world has a Middle Ages feel to it, with everyone speaking, dressing, and acting appropriate to that time period. There are a ton of heroes that appear in the issues that take place in Earth-398, but one of the most fun is Captain America, who goes by the name of Yeoman America in this reality.
His costume is surprisingly recognizable. You’d think that the style of a knight from the middle ages wouldn’t easily reflect the later outfits worn by Cap, but the design works well. The shield is the only thing that doesn’t look like it exactly fits with the aesthetic, but the stripes going through the shield and the eagle on the star adds some cool flair to the design.
8 BLACK PANTHER’S INFINITY WAR SHIELD GAUNTLETS
It’s pretty tough to say much about these, as we haven’t seen them in action just yet. The little that we have seen is enough to tell us that these new weapons are unlike anything we’ve seen Cap use before. They are worn on both arms, and have armor and claws for both defense and offense. The gauntlets are also supposed to be capable of joining together into a larger shield.
The design is very Wakandan, but appears to be pretty simple and straightforward. Knowing Shuri’s intelligence, we can be certain that the shield will have a few surprises for us. Will this have any aspects of the energy shields we’ve seen in the comics, or perhaps the kinetic energy blasts that are in Black Panther’s armor? We’ll have to wait patiently until the release of Avengers: Infinity War to find out.
7 ENERGY SHIELD
Captain America has used several energy shields throughout his publication history (although, one has yet to make an appearance in the films). In Captain America #451, Sharon Carter gives Steve an energy shield that is comprised of a flexible plasma matrix that can change shape. It doesn’t look much like Cap’s shield, though -- it’s just a bright orange disc of energy.
Something similar happens in Captain America #9. Once again, Sharon Carter gives Captain America an energy shield. The appearance is a bit different -- this time around, the energy shield looks like a translucent version of the classic shield we’re used to. The down side to the energy shield? It can’t be thrown, only used defensively, so it limits Steve’s long-range capabilities, but offers much greater protection against higher-powered attacks.
6 BLACK PANTHER’S WAKANDA DISC SHIELD
The pure adamantium shield, while strong, was not quite as comfortable in Steve’s arms as his old vibranium shield. Fortunately, help would come from an old ally in Captain America #342. Black Panther donated a brand new shield built of Wakandan vibranium. This shield worked very well- though not a perfect replica of the original shield, this is as close as anyone would be able to get.
The shield bears a somewhat simple design of concentric circles, but it matches Steve’s “The Captain” costume very well. In fact, once Steve returned to his role as Captain America, both the outfit and shield were given to USAgent, who made them his own. USAgent eventually held the government agent role that they’d wanted Captain America to have, giving the shield its own hero and reputation.
5 HYDRA SHIELD
Recently, Steve Rogers had his personal history completely rewritten by a sentient cosmic cube named Kobik who had been befriended by the Red Skull. During this time, Steve’s original Captain America disc shield was held by Sam Wilson, formerly known as the Falcon, who had taken up the Captain America mantle. For a time, there were two Captain Americas: Sam Wilson, and Steve Rogers. Unbeknownst to many, Steve was now fighting on the side of Hydra (or, rather, he always had been).
This Hydra version of Steve Rogers carried around a triangular shield that was similar to his earliest shield, but with a bit of a twist -- the edges were adorned with that same energy that makes up his energy shield. This story has since wrapped up and the shield is no longer in use, but it was a pretty neat design.
4 REVENGERS SHIELD
Earth-10011 is quite a doozy, so buckle your seatbelts. This universe is known as the Cancerverse. In this universe, death has been destroyed by Captain Marvel in a ritual that was inspired by a group of ancient Lovecraftian gods called the Many-Angled ones. Once death is destroyed, the Many-Angled ones take over the universe, corrupting it and its inhabitants.
The Revengers (the Cancerverse’s version of the Avengers, not Thor’s team from Thor: Ragnarok) are led by the corrupted version of Captain America. Instead of an “A” on his head, he has a pentagram; the pentagram has also replaced the star on his old triangular shield design. This team of heroes is a much rougher version of our favorites, though -- they rip out Bruce Banner’s heart to prevent him from ever becoming the Hulk!
3 MUTANT-HUNTER SHIELD
In the Age of X storyline, mutants are labeled as terrorists and aggressively hunted down by the government. This is due to an incident at Albany that resulted in the deaths of over 600,000 people. It is suggested that Jean Grey was the cause of this incident, as Xavier’s institute didn’t exist, and so she’d never learned how to handle the Phoenix Force.
This is Earth-11326, where the Avengers are assembled specifically to take down any mutants in the world. Captain America leads the team with one of the most interesting shield designs we’ve seen. This is a metallic shield with a star and some black accents on it, but the best part is the layer of blue energy on the outer edges of the disc, giving this all the power of an energy shield while still capable of being thrown.
2 CLASSIC DISC SHIELD
This is the shield we all know and love. It’s the circular vibranium shield that can fly, absorb all kinds of impacts and energies, and always manages to return to Cap. There was really no need to redesign the classic shield. It is so definitively Captain America that to do anything else would have looked weird.
It was given to Captain America by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1941, and has been associated with the Captain ever since. This shield has been broken, repainted, lost, and scarred several times in the comics, but somehow it always manages to return to its original glory to once again fight for justice. From the '40s until today (and, in certain comic timelines, well into the future), this is the shield that has inspired millions.
1 MCU DISC SHIELD
Once again, there wasn’t a whole lot that needed to change from the page to the screen. In the case of the classic shield design, the white was switched for a more metallic silver, but otherwise, the color layout and pattern is the same.
The shield has been repainted before, as in Captain America: Winter Soldier, when it was given a dark blue color scheme for stealthier missions. It has also seen its share of battle -- most recently, it was scratched by Black Panther’s vibranium claws and surrendered to Tony Stark. Tony had a vision of a broken shield in Avengers: Age of Ultron; if we are to see that vision come true in Avengers: Infinity War or the upcoming Avengers 4, then the shield will have to be fixed and returned to Steve.