It’s not easy being the Sentinel of Liberty. It's hard enough balancing the difference between serving your country as your conscience demands and following the orders of one’s commanding officers. But there’s also the matter of going into battle against beings of cosmic import with little more than some chainmail and a shield on your arm — even if it's indestructible.
There’s no wonder Captain America hasn’t exactly done the best job of...staying alive. This list is devoted to some of the worst ways Captain America has died, which is surprisingly more often than some of his superhero peers.
10 FROZEN AT THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA
This was the first time Captain America “died”, supposedly. Though originally Cap and Bucky both made it through the second World War and continued to fight in the service of America for years afterward, when Cap was brought back to work with the Avengers, he got a new origin. On another secret mission just a bit before the end of the war, Cap and Bucky both found themselves trying to stop an explosive-filled drone plane from flying off. Of course, while Bucky was believed to have been blown up in the accident, Steve instead plunged into the ocean, where people believed him dead for the next two decades. Only the Super Soldier Serum kept him alive when he froze solid.
9 THE SUPER SOLDIER SERUM BROKE DOWN
This is from the mid '90s, an era where nearly every superhero was wearing armor for some reason. It allowed Cap some ridiculous abilities like flight and extra weaponry, but what it didn’t stop was the Super Soldier Serum from breaking down in his body. So in Captain America Vol. 1 #443, he realizes he only has one day left to live, and the entire issue is devoted to him trying to spend his last 24 hours the best way he knows how. It’s a pretty grim issue, with most of his villains on the loose and many of the people he’s closest to turning their backs on him. By the end of the issue he’s supposed to be “dead”, but we never actually see it; he just vanishes, leaving the armor behind.
8 RIDDLED WITH BULLETS
“Tomorrow You Live, Tonight I Die” sees Jim Steranko spin the tale of Steve Rogers’ “last” battle against the forces of HYDRA. Amidst Rick Jones weirdly asking to be trained to become the next Bucky, Cap spends most of the issue trying to survive against the forces of HYDRA now that they’ve learned his identity.
Several attempts are made on Cap’s life during the issue and by the end, in an attempt to rescue Bucky, he allows himself to be shot full of holes. Of course, when they go to find his body they find only a costume...and a mask that looks like Steve Rogers, making people believe Rogers was merely a false identity.
7 BLASTED BY A COSMIC BEING
The Avengers have dealt with cosmic threats, but they weren’t always as adept with dealing with them as they are now. Avengers #177 sees them in the finale of the Korvac Saga as they go up against the godlike Michael Korvac. The team does everything they can to bring Korvac down, but it’s only when his love begins to doubt him that he gives up and takes himself out. But not before killing a number of Avengers, Captain America included. This occurred so early in Avengers history that Cap doesn’t even get a big death scene — he goes down from a single energy blast and the story continues on like he’s just one more number. Having said that, in his dying moments Korvac returns Steve and the other Avengers back to life...barely.
6 JOINING WITH A PSIONIC BEING
In the late '90s, Marvel was in a bit of a creative rut. But then they had one of their biggest stories of the decade, as the X-Men, Avengers, and Fantastic Four teamed up to battle against Onslaught, a villain who had the evil psyche of Professor Xavier combined with the powers of Magneto. With his ability, he was nearly unstoppable, and it took every heavy hitter to take him out. Eventually they cracked open his shell, but residing within was only more psychic energy that took the combined sacrifices of the Avengers and the Fantastic Four to finally put him down. In this instance, Steve Rogers and the rest of the “core” Marvel heroes were dead to the rest of the world, though it would be revealed later they survived by being placed in a pocket universe.
5 BLOWN UP BY A NUCLEAR BOMB
The anniversary issue of Captain America sees him frozen in ice and snow forward in time once again, this time just a few short years to the year 2025. In this era, the world is a terrible place that’s been ravaged by war thanks to the machinations of yet another shadow group everyone ignored for a little too long.
Cap manages to free this terrible future from the grip of its new “king”, but it isn’t enough to truly fix America. He’s given the opportunity to go back in time, and winds up stopping the initial atomic bomb which ruined America in the first place...though not without it costing him his life.
4 CRUSHED BY A ROBOT
After all, the list is about Captain America, not merely Steve Rogers. In any case, after it was revealed in Avengers that Captain America and Bucky didn’t survive World War II, it became necessary to explain all those adventures they had in the late '40s and early '50s. Marvel did so by using some other characters to take Cap and Bucky’s place. One of those characters was William Naslund, the former Spirit of ‘76. In a later canonical issue of What If?, the Invaders found themselves on a mission to protect Jack Kennedy from some robots, and Naslund was crushed to death by a robot. This was a particularly unfortunate end, as Naslund basically died on one page and was replaced by a different person on the next.
3 SHOT BY HIS GIRLFRIEND
During Civil War, Captain America stood as the primary leader of the Anti-Registration side of superheroes. It fit, as Cap was never a big fan of people being given too much power they could potentially abuse. But after the fighting got too out of hand, he eventually surrendered himself into the hands of S.H.I.E.L.D.. At his “lowest” point, the Red Skull takes his opportunity to get Captain America out of the game for good. While he’s headed into trial, first Crossbones takes a few potshots at him, but in the end what finally kills Cap is a shot from Sharon Carter, his girlfriend who’d been brainwashed. Ouch.
2 BACKHANDED BY THANOS
Thanos gained ultimate power by attaining the Infinity Gems, but of course the valiant heroes of Earth wouldn’t let things end there. Although he had already gained omniscience, Thanos weakened himself briefly in order to battle against all the heroes remaining to impress Death herself. During that time, everyone was easily defeated, but nonetheless Captain America remained standing when almost everyone else was down. Not that this winds up meaning much, as Thanos gives him the meanest backhand this side of a '70s action film. No one says he's dead, but...come on. Thanos is the same guy who took out half of existence with a finger snap; that backhand probably did the trick.
1 DESTROYED BY DR. DOOM
At the finale of the original Secret Wars, we saw the Beyonder’s power being swallowed by Dr. Doom himself. Though these days Doom is well-known for trying to drain power for his own use, at the time he was far less used to it. Just having the Beyonder’s incredible abilities made it impossible for him to let his guard down. Out of fear that leaving the heroes around would leave him too vulnerable, Doom tries to kill them several times. In particular, Cap —the only hero to reach him — is killed multiple times while trying to wrest the power from Doom. Though each time, Cap gets closer, and plays a crucial role in causing Doom to up give his power.