Captains America: The Many Who Carried the Shield

It's official, Sam Wilson will be the next Captain America - but he's already been Captain America, and so have a bunch of other people! Steve Rogers has long said that the tradition of Captain America should continue without him, and a lot of brave Americans (and others!) have taken up the shield!

Captains America: The Many Who Carried the Shield

While Thor is both the name of a specific character and (in some respects) a position among the Asgardian gods (which is why both Eric Masterson and Red Norvell were called "Thor"), Captain America has always been a title, and although it is indelibly linked to Steve Rogers, he wasn't the first and he won't be the last to carry the name.

This is a rundown of several (but not all) official and unofficial people that have been called Captain America – most of whom Steve recognizes as a valid part of the tradition.

Alternate reality Captain Americas won't be included, and neither will the vast majority of Cap's imitators and impersonators.

Now, let's see if we can keep this in more-or-less chronological order.

Captains America: The Many Who Carried the Shield

Hercules of Egypt

Okay, this is a weird story, but in 1944, Cap fought an evil psychologist named Dr. Emil Natas (think about it), who revealed that over the centuries, various men have been Captain America – in spirit, if not in name – fighting the forces of evil. One such hero was Hercules, not the Greek demigod, but a human hero who fought in ancient Egypt against the sadistic Phao Na Tash alongside his teenage partner Buckalaag.

First Appearance as Cap: Captain America Comics #38 (1944)

Recognized by the government: No

Recognized by Steve Rogers: Kinda

Captains America: The Many Who Carried the Shield

Sir Amerigo

Another such Captain American-in-spirit-but-not-in-name was the brave knight, Sir Amerigo, who alongside his squire Bucky fought against the evil sorcerer Diablo Natas in 1313.

Yes, Emil Natas claimed both Herc and Amerigo were past lives of Steve Rogers, and that they would be destined to fight against reincarnations of "Natas" (seriously, think about it) over and over. Amazingly, this guy hasn't shown up in a modern-day incarnation yet

First Appearance as Cap: Captain America Comics #38 (1944)

Recognized by the government: No

Recognized by Steve Rogers: Kinda

Captains America: The Many Who Carried the Shield

Captain America of 1776

That's right, the first guy to dress as Captain America wasn't even a citizen of the United States of America (because they didn't exist yet) and technically he wasn't actually called "Captain America" most of the time: his first moniker was "Captain Yankee Doodle Dandy." Supposedly, this guy named Steven Rogers is an ancestor of "our" Steve Rogers, but modern Steve is usually said to be the child of immigrants – there's an untold story here somewhere. Vaguely aware of this guy's adventures, modern Steve designed his first costume with the 1776 version in mind!

First Appearance as Cap: Marvel Treasury Special Edition Captain America's Bicentennial Battles (1978)

Recognized by the government: No

Recognized by Steve Rogers: Kinda

Captains America: The Many Who Carried the Shield

The Captain from Texas

Did you know there was also a Captain America of the Old West? His story has only been revealed in pieces, but this guy was apparently a Union Soldier named "Roger Stephenson" who became a Texas Ranger, then donned an identity-concealing costume during a vital mission. Other Old West heroes have heard of him, but modern day Steve Rogers hasn't mentioned him yet.

First Appearance as Cap: Marvel Treasury Special Edition Captain America's Bicentennial Battles (1978)

Recognized by the government: No

Recognized by Steve Rogers: No

Captains America: The Many Who Carried the Shield

Steve Rogers

The classic Cap, and the first one recognized as such by the government. You know the story: In 1940, a poor weakling was given special drugs and radiation treatments by the government, and he became the world's most famous Super Soldier!

By the way, he was not the first to take the Super Soldier Serum (SSS). Before scrawny Steve buffed up, military officials chose Clinton McIntyre for the role, but improper administration of the drug drove him insane. He later returned to menace Cap as Protocide.

First Appearance as Cap: Captain America Comics #1 (1941)

Recognized by the government: Yes

Recognized by Steve Rogers: Dur

Captains America: The Many Who Carried the Shield

Isaiah Bradley

Although publicized in the real world as "the first Captain America," he actually joined the Super Soldier program after Pearl Harbor, so after Steve had officially been Cap for several months. Although the original creator of the SSS, Abraham Erskin, died and took his secrets with him, the government tried experimenting on minority soldiers to recreate the process. Most of the test subjects died, and the sole success, Isaiah, escaped. Donning a spare Captain America costume, Isaiah fought the good fight, but eventually his mind failed him, as the SSS procedure was not complete. He remains alive to this day, still physically in his prime thanks to the serum, but with the innocent and peaceful mind of a small child.

If his origin sounds harsh, keep in mind that it was inspired by real world events, like the Tuskegee experiments.

Isaiah's son Josiah X, a Muslim minister and community activist, became a superhero in his own right, and his grandson Elijah Bradley became the modern Patriot.

First Appearance as Cap: Truth: Red, White & Black #4 (2003)

Recognized by the government: No

Recognized by Steve Rogers: Yes

Captains America: The Many Who Carried the Shield

William "Spirit of 76" Nasland

William Nasland thought he was doing the right thing when he agreed to become the superhero Spirit of '76 at the request of a secret agent – how was he to know the secret agent was a Nazi spy trying to mess with allied superheroes? Despite this mix-up, he went on to fight by the allies side during WWII, and when Cap disappeared into the icy waters of the North Atlantic, he accepted the government position of Captain America. He served proudly for about a year, but died saving the life of a young man named John Kennedy.

First Appearance as Cap: Captain America Comics #49 (1945)

Recognized by the government: Yes

Recognized by Steve Rogers: Yes

Captains America: The Many Who Carried the Shield

Jeff "The Patriot" Mace

Jeff Mace served proudly as the WWII hero Patriot, but after Steve Rogers disappeared and William Nasland died, the government asked him to take up the shield. Saddened to learn his hero was missing and presumed dead, Jeff accepted the position with a heavy heart. He served throughout the 40s, even marrying Steve's old military handler Betsy Ross. He retired around 1950 and lived a good long life before dying of cancer.

First Appearance as Cap: Captain America Comics #59 (1946)

Recognized by the government: Yes

Recognized by Steve Rogers: Yes

Captains America: The Many Who Carried the Shield

William "Grand Director"Burnside

This is a weird one. It seems Cap had a crazy stalker who came of age in the 1950s, got plastic surgery to look more like Steve Rogers, discovered and reproduced the SSS formula (albeit incompletely), legally changed his name to Steve Rogers and convinced the government to make him the official Captain America! Why the government would hire such an obviously crazy person is anyone's guess. He worked as a teacher in his secret identity, and after he went predictably AWOL, the government put him (and his "Bucky," Jack Monroe) on ice. When he revived in the modern era, he fought Cap as the Neo Nazi leader Grand Director.

First Appearance as Cap: Young Men #24 (1953)

Recognized by the government: Yes

Recognized by Steve Rogers: Yes

Captains America: The Many Who Carried the Shield

Captain America of the Vietnam War

Not much has been revealed about this guy, but he was apparently used to encourage soldiers in Vietnam, and he tried to start a fight with pre-Punisher Frank Castle. The man was lucky Frank wouldn't hit a guy wearing the flag.

First Appearance as Cap: Punisher War Journal #3 (2007)

Recognized by the government: Apparently, yes

Recognized by Steve Rogers: No

Captains America: The Many Who Carried the Shield

Carl "The Acrobat" Zarte

While most impersonators are forgettable, the Acrobat deserves special notice because he's partially responsible for Marvel reviving Steve Rogers! Before the Avengers found the Capsicle in the Atlantic Ocean, Johnny Storm, the Human Torch of the Fantastic Four, battled this faux Captain America. Zarte used millions of dollars in technology and his ruse as Cap in an effort to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars (no one ever said he was the brightest bulb in the bunch). Stan Lee has said he was testing the waters to see if fans really wanted Captain America to return to comics – apparently they did!

First Appearance as Cap: Strange Tales #114 (1963)

Recognized by the government: No

Recognized by Steve Rogers: No

Captains America: The Many Who Carried the Shield

Sam "Falcon" Wilson

Early during his time as Steve's partner (before he even got his wings) Sam Wilson was forced to step up and take the role of Captain America. Steve was taken out by a group of white supremacists, so Sam donned the costume to keep the tradition of Captain America alive. He eventually fought Steve, who was under mind-control by the terrorists. Sam nearly died saving Steve's life, but he did save it, and Steve said he was a true Cap.

First Appearance as Cap: Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty #8 (1999)

Recognized by the government: No

Recognized by Steve Rogers: Yes

Captains America: The Many Who Carried the Shield

Bob Russo

When Steve Rogers quit being Captain America (he was depressed because Richard Nixon was revealed to be a supervillain before committing suicide in the Oval Office – don't ask), other patriotic Americans felt there needed to be a Captain America. Professional athlete Bob Russo thought he was the main for the job until he broke his arm before he even fought his first criminal. He quit immediately afterwards.

First Appearance as Cap: Captain America #178 (1974)

Recognized by the government: No

Recognized by Steve Rogers: No

Captains America: The Many Who Carried the Shield

"Scar" Turpin

The next to try his hand was a motorcycle gang leader called "Scar." He tried fighting a bunch of punks, but they beat the snot out of him and he gave up.

First Appearance as Cap: Captain America #179 (1974)

Recognized by the government: No

Recognized by Steve Rogers: No

Captains America: The Many Who Carried the Shield

Roscoe Simons

Gym owner Roscoe Simons was determined to help make sure there was a Captain America, even if he had to do it himself. He was moderately successful, even convincing the Falcon to fight by his side, but soon the Red Skull found and killed him, convincing Steve Rogers to take up the role again.

First Appearance as Cap: Captain America #181 (1975)

Recognized by the government: No

Recognized by Steve Rogers: Yes

Captains America: The Many Who Carried the Shield

Ameridroid

Nazi scientist Lyle Dekker figured the best way he could attain immortality and take over the world was to create a giant robot Captain America, give the 12-foot-tall machine "Captain America's powers"(?!), then put his own mind in it. His plan would've worked to if not for the fact that it was so stupid.

First Appearance as Cap: Captain America #220 (1978)

Recognized by the government: No

Recognized by Steve Rogers: No

Captains America: The Many Who Carried the Shield

John "USAgent" Walker

John Walker actually began his superpowered career as the jingoistic anti-hero Super-Patriot, but when Steve stepped down as Captain America (something that's happened more than once), the government asked Walker to step in. Walker, an easily angered publicity hound, was predictably out of his depth in the role, but eventually he earned Cap's respect as the hero USAgent. Years later the feds, fed up with Cap, asked Walker to again serve as Cap – which led to confusion as two Captain Americas were active at the same time. Following severe injuries, Walker retired from heroics, but recently his body was restored to full strength, and he obtained a pocket-reality duplicate of Cap's indestructible shield (this was the same pocket of 616 that Ragnarok got his copy of Mjolnir from).

First Appearance as Cap: Captain America #333 (1987)

Recognized by the government: Yes

Recognized by Steve Rogers: Yes

Captains America: The Many Who Carried the Shield

Anti-Cap

Although Steve Rogers has always been an army man, the Office of Naval Intelligence once hired this superstrong operative to serve as the official Captain America for a few deadly missions. After confronting Cap and Falcon a few times, the "Anti-Cap" threw himself in front of a train rather than get bested by the real Sentinel of Liberty again.

First Appearance as Cap: Captain America and the Falcon #1 (2004)

Recognized by the government: Yes

Recognized by Steve Rogers: No

Captains America: The Many Who Carried the Shield

James "Bucky" Barnes

James Barnes was only a teen when he first met Steve Rogers in WWII, but the government needed him to do the dirty work Cap was often unwilling to do, making the young "camp mascot" a teenaged government assassin. He died in the same incident that left Steve a Capsicle, but the Russians found his body and rebuilt him as the Winter Soldier. Decades later, Steve found Bucky and restored his mind, and when Cap was shot with a time bullet (long story) Bucky reluctantly accepted the role of Captain America. When Steve returned, Bucky wanted to give up the shield, but Steve told him to continue. Finally Bucky had to fake his own death just to get Steve to resume the role of Cap.

First Appearance as Cap: Captain America #34 (2008)

Recognized by the government: Yes

Recognized by Steve Rogers: Yes

Captains America: The Many Who Carried the Shield

David Rickford

Before Steve finally accepted the role, however, he needed one more push. To that end, Nick Fury manipulated events to have a man named David Rickford take the role of Captain America, even though he wasn't ready. Rather than have another dead Cap, like Roscoe or (at least he thought) Bucky, Steve finally accepted the role of Cap again.

First Appearance as Cap: Captain America #615.1 (2011)

Recognized by the government: Kinda

Recognized by Steve Rogers: No

Captains America: The Many Who Carried the Shield

The Captain America Corps

Yes, this is a thing that existed/exists/will exist. The Corps was formed outside of time and involves different Captain Americas and others who will carry the shield in Steve's honor.

So there ya go, 20 Captain Americas, almost half of which were actually official Caps according to the US government!