Carry the Shield: 7 Characters Besides Steve Rogers Who Have Been Captain America
When heroes are asked to step up and take on a legendary role, there are many challenges- just ask any of these seven heroes (and villains!) who have stepped up to become Captain America in times of need. Stepping into the shadow of a well-loved hero can be intimidating, exhilarating, exciting, or just plain overwhelming. Still, when innocent people needed the hope and justice inspired by the patriotic Avenger, these characters didn’t back down from the task- they stood proud and strong behind the iconic shield, whatever shape it took.
Let’s take a look at some of the red, white, and who’s who behind Captain America’s star-spangled shield.
“Don’t worry, I can handle the shield. My arm makes me one of the few who could, probably.”
Following the assassination of Steve Rogers, a letter was discovered asking Tony Stark to ensure that the mantle of Captain America would be carried on. Iron Man asks James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes, the longtime ally and sidekick of Captain America, to carry on the name and shield in Steve’s absence.
While Bucky accepted, he did so under the condition that telepaths protect him from subliminal commands ingrained in him by his Winter Soldier conditioning, and that he is guaranteed autonomy independent from the Superhero Registration Act which was in place at the time. To help him carry the shield into combat, Bucky’s fan-favorite suit was laced with adamantium and he armed himself with a pistol and combat knife in order to continue fighting foes like Red Skull and Dr. Faustus, among others.
Bucky Barnes eventually gave up the Captain America identity after being convicted of crimes against the Russian state, and then again when he was presumed dead after a fight with Sin in Fear Itself.
“I don’t just throw the shield- I AM the shield!”
While on Earth-616, Danielle Cage is still just a normal toddler, in an alternate timeline she grows up to honor the legacy of not only her superpowered parents, but also Captain America.
Born to Luke Cage and Jessica Jones and named after Daniel Rand AKA Iron Fist, Dani Cage had no shortage of role models growing up on Earth-15061. She inherited her father’s bulletproof skin and her mother’s super strength, but she also inherited the heroic mantle of Captain America when she joined the A.V.E.N.G.E.R.S. Initiative to combat the Golden Skull in the year 20XX. Under the guidance of ‘Madame Natasha‘, Dani Cage continued the fight against villains who mirrored Cap’s own classic foes. Danielle Cage’s own shield was upgraded to be more technologically advanced, partially a voice-commanded drone designed to replicate Steve Rogers’s circle shield.
This version of Captain America teamed up with time-displaced Avengers when Ultron took command of Asgard as the All-Father- fighting alongside the likes of Jane Foster as Thor, Jim Rhodes as Iron Man, an immortal Thor Odinson, and the newly-irradiated Bruce Banner Hulk.
“Funny thing about them urban legends…”
Isaiah Bradley was first introduced to Marvel Comics in Truth: Red, White & Black. As a test subject in Project: Rebirth, Bradley was experimented upon by a questionable doctor seeking to recreate the Super Soldier Serum that transformed Steve Rogers into Captain America. He was one of five soldiers to survive the clandestine and near-universally fatal experiments, and then was the only survivor of his field group on deployment in Europe.
Bradley managed to get his hands on a spare Captain America costume and shield, taking on the Germans singlehandedly until he is captured by the enemy, freed, and then eventually court-martialed by the American military in 1943. President Eisenhower eventually released him. In the modern Marvel universe, he is mostly seen as an underground legend to much of the African-American community. He was a guest of honor at Storm and Black Panther’s wedding, leaving heroes like Luke Cage, Goliath, Falcon, and Monica Rambeau awestruck.
Isaiah’s grandson Elijah Bradley eventually enlisted in the Young Avengers as Patriot, a heater shield-carrying hero who was originally augmented by Mutant Growth Hormone. Elijah eventually received a blood transfusion from his grandfather, turning him into a super soldier as well.
“All I wanted to do was follow in his footsteps. Honor his legacy. And I thought I knew what that meant.”
Formerly the hero known as Falcon, Sam Wilson was selected to step up and become Captain America after the removal of Super Soldier Serum from his body reverted Steve Rogers back to an elderly age. Sam Wilson strove to be a more socially active Captain America than before, but this proved to be a challenge.
Many citizens of the Marvel Universe thought he wasn’t a legitimate Captain America, and his reputation had also been damaged by the inversion spell of the AXIS storyline, which made him an angrier, more violent hero. Still, Sam overcame these odds and continued to fight for justice, protecting people from the robotic Americops, U.S. Agent, and other dangerous forces. Disheartened by the events of Secret Empire, Sam stepped down from the Captain America role until he was drawn back for one more stand behind the shield in order to defeat the HYDRA Empire.
As Captain America, Sam Wilson led the All New, All Different Avengers, a team composed almost entirely of legacy heroes apart from Tony Stark and Vision. The roster also included Jane Foster as Thor, Kamala Khan as Ms. Marvel, Sam Alexander as Nova, and Miles Morales as Spider-Man.
John Walker, USAgent
“We’re the Dark Avengers.”
Originally introduced as the villain, John Walker had always idolized his older brother, a war veteran. In order to become stronger himself, Walker underwent the Power Broker procedure in order develop enhanced strength. From then on, he called himself Super-Patriot.
Super-Patriot publicly went on to challenge and discredit Captain America’s brand of heroism, and he staged attacks and tried to invoke fear in the masses. Steve Rogers abandoned his costume after being ordered to report to the Commission on Superhuman Activities, and Super-Patriot was somewhat reluctantly given the title of Captain America. A little too proud to serve with this new mantle, he was rigorously trained by Taskmaster to use the shield just as Steve Rogers used it.
While under the guise of Captain America, John Walker employed dangerously brutal tactics, exhibited a lack of emotional control, and was not hesitant to kill his enemies in fits of rage. He has been affiliated with the Mighty Avengers, the West Coast Avengers, and the Dark Avengers, as well as the Secret Defenders teams.
“You’re about to get the real thing.”
Mercedes “Misty” Knight is a former cop-turned-superhero with a bionic prosthetic arm. While often paired with her Daughters of the Dragon partner Colleen Wing, detective Misty is seen as a frequent ally to the Heroes for Hire and the Valkyrior.
When Sam Wilson took on the shield, Misty utilized her smarts and skills to support the new Captain America emotionally and tactically. Her relationship to Danny Rand, the Iron Fist, came to an end and Knight became romantically involved with Wilson as well as becoming a sparring partner and additional street-level resource for the flying Captain America. When Sam went on a brief sabbatical, Misty stepped up with the shield to solve a case.
In order to stop a criminal racket led by The Slug, Misty Knight suited up and borrowed Cap’s shield to help put the finishing hits on the vile and disgusting villain. She returned the shield to Sam Wilson after she closed the case, not taking on the official Captain America moniker, but proving herself worthy of wielding the shield all the same.
“Those are some uniforms you people have, but I suppose I’m one to talk… a Brit who’s wrapped herself in the stars and stripes!”
Peggy Carter as Captain America was first introduced in the Marvel Puzzle Quest mobile game celebration of Captain America’s 75th anniversary. All across the Marvel mobile games various alternate universe versions of Cap were introduced, but this particular Peggy design skyrocketed in popularity, making the leap to comics in Exiles #3 by Saladin Ahmed and Javier Rodriguez in 2018.
As a part of this alternate universe-hopping series, Peggy Carter led the Allied front with her trusty shield and her sidekick Becky Barnes after the tragic demise of Steve Rogers and Professor Erskine. She encountered the ragtag Exiles team led by Blink, which featured ‘Lil Wolverine, a Tessa Thompson-esque Valkyrie from Thor: Ragnarok, a time-displaced Iron Lad, and Khan, a grizzled old version of Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan. Even as a Brit, Peggy realized that Captain America and the shield are symbols of hope and freedom, and so she continued that legacy in her reality.
Peggy Carter as Captain America is not the last instance of a character introduced in a Marvel video game making the jump to comics- in 2018, after the success of Insomniac’s Spider-Man for the PlayStation 4, that particular universe’s Spider-Man appeared in the Spider-Geddon comics event, and will have his own series in March 2019.
While there have been a number of others who also took on the Captain America title, these seven individuals exemplify the strengths and even the setbacks of taking on an incredible legacy. Each one takes the core values of that heroic mantle and looks to honor- or challenge- them in their own ways.
Who is your favorite character who has wielded Captain America’s shield? Were they not included on this list? Let Your Geek Sideshow and tell us your thoughts in the comments below!