Marvel Studios Countdown: Cap Isn't Cap? What Does That Mean for 'Avengers: Infinity War?'

Marvel Studios Countdown: Cap Isn't Cap? What Does That Mean for 'Avengers: Infinity War?'

Aug 30, 2016

You might be surprised to hear that canonically, there is no “Captain America” currently adventuring in the MCU. Captain America: Civil War directors Joe and Anthony Russo explained to HuffPo that when Cap drops his shield at the end of Civil War, it wasn’t just visually poetic; it was a conscious choice. Joe Russo explained, “I think him dropping that shield is him letting go of that identity; him admitting that certainly the identity of Captain America was in conflict with the very personal choice that he was making.”

This is a bigger deal to movie fans, who have grown accustomed to Steve Rogers as the one and only Captain America. Less so to comic fans, who’ve already seen Steve Rogers step away from the role. In the comics, we’ve seen Bucky Barnes as Cap and now Sam Wilson, while the Steve Rogers’ solo book bears his “real” name in the title.

So, what does Cap do when he’s not being Cap?

The first time he dropped the shield, he became Nomad. For a brief handful of issues, Rogers set aside the symbolic stars and stripes of his uniform but continued the job as a “man without a country.” Nomad was borne from early '70s disillusionment with the Nixon presidency, as Steve Rogers discovered that the President (unnamed in the book) was a mole for Hydra splinter group The Secret Empire. The story played out across four issues in 1974 (Captain America #180-184), but the Nomad identity lived on as Cap passed it along to his off-and-on compatriot Jack Monroe.

A notable second time is when Rogers became “The Captain.” Turns out, he was collecting backpay for the inactive years that he was encased in ice, so the U.S. government decided they had Cap over a barrel and could make him work it off for the next few decades. Rogers didn’t agree to being a contract flunky and, once again, dropped the red, white, and blue. This time he donned red, white, and black, while a quick-tempered right wing hero named John Walker became the servile Cap the U.S. government was looking for.

This lasted longer than Cap’s Nomad identity. After a couple of years, and a foiled plot of the Red Skull’s that ended with our government extending an olive branch to Rogers, Cap became Cap again while John Walker got Cap’s black hand-me-downs and renamed himself U.S.Agent. While Huffington Post speculates that Cap will appear in the next Avengers film as Nomad, it wouldn’t surprise me if the next time we see Chris Evans as Steve Rogers, he’s in a cinematic variation on the red, white, and black color scheme as “Captain” instead of Captain America.

When Bucky Barnes became Captain America following a botched assassination attempt on “Cap Classic,” Rogers donned a slightly different costume (it inspired Evans’ costume in The Winter Soldier) and became simply Steve Rogers: Super Soldier. The Marvel heroes kept calling him “Cap” though, and like all Marvel superheroes, things returned to the status quo soon enough. 

And did that last long?

Not really. He’s Steve/Cap again in the comics, while former Falcon Sam Wilson is Captain America, proper. Will it change back? Of course, and someday he’ll drop the identity again and pick it up again, because comic storylines are cyclical, and the world will keep on turning.

It likely doesn’t mean a lot on the surface for the next Avengers sequel, though we would like to see the second most famous black costume after Spider-Man make it to the big screen. The MCU heroes already call him Cap or Steve, so dropping “America” won’t make a noticeable impact. What it does inform will be the characterization.

How does being a man without a country affect Chris Evans’ and the writers’ approach to the character, especially as the threat of Thanos is an intergalactic and not an American one? Time will tell.

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