Steve Rogers. Captain America. The Sentinel of Liberty is the quintessential hero. Seen as the physical embodiment of freedom and everything that makes the United States of America a noble and honorable country, there is no other hero like him. The leader of the Avengers and the hero other superheroes looks up to, Steve Rogers has inspired entire generations of young men and women into not just becoming Captain America, but to do the right thing. One of the great things about Captain America is that you, us, or anyone can be Captain America. All that’s truly required for someone to take up the shield is the willingness to stand up for truth and justice; putting a stop to evil should one witness it.
While many have stepped up to take on the mantle, not every Captain America is created equal -- some excel at the position while others flounder or are less successful. Serving as the good Captain requires a perfect union of body, mind, personality, and a sense of honor. Here at CBR we’re going to not only look at 15 people who took up the shield and see who wasn't as good as Steve Rogers himself, and who he stood leagues above.
15 BETTER: ISAIAH BRADLEY
Canonically the first black Captain America, when the US Army tested the Super Solider serum on 300 black soldiers during Project: Rebirth, seven men survived the procedure. One of those men was Isaiah Bradley. Despite possessing all the power and many of the traits Steve Rogers did, the '40s was a hostile time to Bradley. He faced challenges Steve never did, like racism in the army, but soared above it all. Sent on numerous suicide missions, Bradley survived every single one.
During the war he stole one of Captain America’s spare uniforms and donned it for battle; he was arrested for the act and sentenced to life behind bars. After 17 years he was released and while his tenure as a hero was relatively short-lived, his legend had only grown. Bradley then inspired his grandson Eli Bradley to become Patriot of the Young Avengers.
14 WORSE: U.S. AGENT
John Walker, or U.S. Agent, is what happens when you pump Captain America with far too many steroids. Starting things off as the Super-Patriot, and going to great lengths to publicly discredit Captain America, the brutish thug’s career didn’t end there. In fact, after Cap gave up his identity in the '90s, Walker swooped in and took the role of Captain America, much to everyone’s chagrin.
He later lost the title but would become the U.S. Agent, placed as a watchdog of the Avengers West Coast team. He then joined Tony Stark’s Force Works, followed by a litany of teams. Later, becoming nearly obsessed with Steve Rogers, Walker went so far as to try and physically beat Sam Wilson into giving up the shield. To this day, few in the superhero community like U.S. Agent -- he’s seen as little more than a bully with an inferiority complex.
13 BETTER: AMERICAN DREAM
In the relatively near future, Shannon Carter is the cousin to S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Sharon Carter. Idolizing Captain America throughout her adolescence, Shannon got a job as a tour guide for the Avengers Mansion. When a new Avengers team was being formed, she was asked to join. Undergoing rigorous self-imposed training, and armed with a miniature shield akin to Captain America’s, American Dream pushed herself to the limits of peak human physicality.
When the original Avengers were trapped in a dark parallel reality, American Dream proved herself worthy of the name by saving the older heroes. A testament to a job well done, Captain America gave her the alternate Captain’s shield. Equal in skill and leadership abilities to Steve Rogers, she took on foes like Doctor Doom and Loki, defeating them all, and was still a teenager while she did it.
12 WORSE: SAM WILSON
After Steve Rogers was drained of the Super Solider serum, he was turned into an old man. With Steve out of the picture, there was a vacancy for the position of Captain America. Happily, Steve handed the shield over to his dear friend Sam Wilson. To the delight of many, the Falcon became Captain America. Yet Sam Wilson’s troubles were just beginning.
Immediately the press hated him, Steve disagreed with nearly every decision he made, and Sam constantly second-guessed himself, worrying too much about whether he was worthy of the mantle. It didn’t help that he was turned into a werewolf. Despite serving his country well, Sam’s self-doubt got in the way of him stepping up and fully embracing the title. Yet with Steve Rogers now evil in Secret Empire, Sam’s finally accepted the weight of the role and is ready to lead his friends against Hydra’s regime.
11 BETTER: DANIELLE CAGE
The daughter of Luke Cage and Jessica Jones from an alternate future, the year 20XX to be exact, she inherited the powers of both her parents. A member of the A.V.E.N.G.E.R.S. Initiative, this Captain America is rather unique in that she frequently time travels, and on her own accord no less. Stronger, faster, and more durable than the original Captain America, Danielle Cage also possesses her parents’ general attitude, refusing to take things as they come and instead take a proactive approach.
All in all, she’s aided in defeating Ultron far off in the future, after he’d taken over Asgard, she’s time traveled to join the U.S. Avengers in taking down the Golden Skull, and prevented the evil wizard Moridun from destroying the entire universe, resulting in another jump through time. All in a day’s work for Danielle Cage.
10 WORSE: WILLIAM NASLAND
Also known as the Spirit of ’76, William Nasland was the first man to replace Steve Rogers. Serving alongside the Crusaders, a British superhero team who battled the Nazis, the Spirit of ’76 was the only American on the team. After the team disbanded and Captain America was thought dead, President Truman asked him to don the stars and stripes and Nasland agree, becoming the new Captain America.
Fighting with the team the All-Winners Squad for two years, Nasland and his unit experienced equally bizarre adventures just as Steve Rogers had. Unlike Rogers, Nasland wasn’t especially adept at being Captain America and Adam II, an evil android bent on capturing and replacing John F. Kennedy, had one of his robot henchmen kill the hero when he interfered with his plans.
9 BETTER: JEFFREY MACE
Jeffrey Mace wasn’t actually Captain America for the longesttime until that little fact was retconned back in the 2010 mini-series Captain America: Patriot. The story almost serves as a what if, examining how after the death of William Nasland, Mace took up the mantle. One of Steve Rogers’s oldest friends, Mace thought the best way to honor his friend’s memory was in becoming the new Captain America.
Unlike nearly everyone else to become Captain America, Mace had no powers to speak of, only an indomitable will and desire to do what was right; he fought the good fight like few others have. Mace was such an honorable person, that when he was dying of cancer, the Elder of the Universe called the Contemplator granted Mace’s deepest wish to battle Adam II as Captain America once more. Later, his wish fulfilled, Mace died with Steve Rogers at his bedside.
8 WORSE: BUCKY BARNES
Following Civil War, the unthinkable happened: Captain America died. Courtesy of the Red Skull, his death left a void in the Marvel Universe. Iron Man tried recruiting multiple S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to try out for the part and even Hawkeye, but it was eventually Bucky Barnes, Cap’s old war partner who filled the role.
Recovered from his time as the Winter Soldier, Bucky could think of no better way to honor Steve, but almost immediately regretted the decision. The weight of Captain America was great. Bucky constantly felt out of sorts -- being Captain America did not complete him in the way he thought it would. While he fought many of Cap’s foes, few took him seriously, thinking he was Captain America only in name alone. Even Spider-Man called him “Bucky-Cap”, demonstrating his fellow superheroes only saw Bucky as a fill-in until Steve came back, a sentiment he shared.
7 BETTER: ROBERTA MENDEZ
Roberta Mendez is the Captain America in the year 2099. Weirdly, Roberta and Captain America were two different personas of the same woman and Roberta had no knowledge of her superhero counterpart. In the future, Roberta comes from the world run by corporations. Despite the Super Soldier serum forcefully injected into her against her will, Roberta would rise to the occasion and become the leader of Alchemax’s Avengers.
Later, she would defy her corporate masters, believing other heroes ought to be treated with dignity and respect and shouldn’t be arrested on account of not working for corporations. More powerful than Steve Rogers, she doesn’t let her multiple personality issues get in the way of fighting crime. Rather, it only makes her more determined. These days, she’s hanging out with Miguel O’Hara, Spider-Man 2099, and the two heroes are working together to solve time displacement issues.
6 WORSE: COLONEL AMERICA
When a streak of purple lightning crashed down in the heart of New York City, the Avengers, lead by Colonel America, are the first to investigate. When they arrive, it’s to a crater with a zombified version of the Sentry sitting idly. Attacking the startled team, Zombie Sentry bites and infects all the heroes present. From there, things go from bad to worse.
Now overcome with an insatiable desire for living flesh, the undead Colonel America leads his team of superpowered cannibals to wipe out the rest of the Earth’s population. All things considered, the Colonel is pretty effective in eating millions of people, but he, and several others only get that much stronger when they kill the Silver Surfer and Galactus, devouring them and gaining the Power Cosmic. Imbued with incredible power, Colonel America and his fellow zombies devour nearly the rest of the universe.
5 BETTER: PATRIOT
The grandson to the incredible Isaiah Bradley, Eli Bradley decided to honor his grandfather and uncle by becoming the teenage hero Patriot of the Young Avengers. When Eli received a blood transfusion from his grandfather after a mishap with some MGH, the Super Soldier blood turned Eli into a powerful force for good. Soon after the Avengers disbanded, a young Kang the Conqueror from the future arrived in the present to stop his older self.
Long story short, Eli joined up with the rag-tag team of new Young Avengers, despite the protests of Captain American and Iron Man, and stopped Kang, saved the older heroes, and then saved the world. From there, Eli and his team have proved more capable than anyone’s expected, even saving reality several times. He’s earned Captain America’s respect and shown he can lead just as well, if not better.
4 WORSE: WILLIAM BURNSIDE
William Burnside, or as he would later be known, Steve Rogers: Grand Director, became unhealthily obsessed with Steve. He wrote his thesis about him, found the Super Solider serum and gave himself Captain America’s powers, and then legally changed his name to Steve Rogers and underwent plastic surgery to look like Steve Rogers. Needless to say, he went many different kinds of crazy.
While called the Captain America of the '50s on account of swindling the government and making them believe he was the real deal, Burnside tried his hand at fighting crime. Turns out, he wasn’t half bad at it, but after a series of events involving killing himself, coming back, getting brainwashed and general tomfoolery, his madness lead him to believe he really was Steve Rogers, despite all evidence to the contrary.
3 BETTER: JAMES ROGERS
The future son of Black Widow and Captain America, from an alternate timeline, James Rogers would lead a new team of young Avengers. James, and the rest of his colleagues and future heroes, were secretly hidden and raised by an aging Tony Stark. Training virtually every day of his life, James excelled at everything. Eventually, he grew tired of training, having already mastered everything asked of him.
Yet when Ultron appeared, James and his band of friends put a stop to the evil android’s machinations. Later, when James had grown to become a teenager, he and his friends’ power was so great they easily killed Kang the Conqueror and took down Wolverine, Iron Man, and Captain America (Bucky) with no problem. Superior to his father in every way, the only thing James doesn’t have is his father’s inspirational qualities, though that's probably a byproduct of his still being a teenager.
2 WORSE: AGE OF X CAPTAIN AMERICA
In the timeline known as "Age of X", the world has gone to shambles. After a small mutant girl set off fiery explosion that looked like a Phoenix, 600,000 people were killed as Albany, New York was destroyed. In response, the U.S. government passes anti-mutant legislation and starts hunting and rounding up mutants. Magneto, a known “terrorist”, liberates scores of mutants and turns downtown New York into his Fortress X. Unwilling to stand for it, the government sends in Captain America and other heroes to kill the mutants.
Unlike many other counterparts, this Captain America is absolutely ruthless, unforgiving, and doesn’t believe mutants have rights. Yet when he kills Mystique as she’s trying to save children, he has a change of heart and switches sides. Despite his original evil nature, he dies to save Fortress X and inspires other mutants to band together and rise up… so that’s something.
1 BETTER: ULTIMATE CAPTAIN AMERICA
Nearly the spitting image of Steve Rogers from the mainstream Marvel 616-Universe, the Ultimate Comics version of Steve Rogers outshone his universal doppelganger in multiple ways. While Steve Rogers himself never shirked from giving orders and rushing into battle, Ultimate Steve Rogers didn’t have mainstream Steve’s restraint. Rather, Ultimate Steve took a more sincere evaluation of the world and realized some fights couldn’t be resolved with just an ideal or a noble speech.
Ultimate Steve was willing to make the hard choices, believing that the inherent goodness in man did not always prevail and sometimes certain people needed killing. No-nonsense, stoic, and just physically superior in every way, Ultimate Captain America was the hero his world, and a more grounded and realistic world, needed. Always willing to fight for the flag, Ultimate Steve also fought to make sure the world as a whole was safer.
Agree or disagree with our list? Let us know in the comments!