Captain America: Civil War was a bona fide smash, making the Captain America trilogy one of the most successful action adventure sagas in recent history. Starting with Captain America: The First Avenger, Marvel has crafted three amazing films highlighting the adventures of Marvel’s purest hero, from the tale of Cap’s origins to the coming of the Winter Soldier to a Civil War, fans have been treated to three epics.
Along the way, classic Cap villains like Arnim Zola, Baron Zemo, Batroc the Leaper, Crossbones, and the biggest, baddest Nazi of them all, the Red Skull have tested Captain America’s mettle. It seems like fans have seen it all.
Not so fast, true believer! There is almost a century of great Cap stories that can still be adapted as the legend of Captain America continues to grow…
Captain America #169-175 (1974)
By Steve Englehart, Mike Friedrich, and Sal Buscema
No not that one! The original!
Secret Empire was published right in the middle of the Watergate scandal and was a true test of Captain America’s loyalties and patriotism. In this classic story, Cap must face down the Secret Empire, a cabal like group of masked power brokers who have infiltrated the American government on every level. Let’s face it, the current political situation in the US doesn’t exactly scream of unity, and so many of the themes explored in this tale are as prevalent today as they were back in ’74.
The Falcon and Black Panther both play pivotal roles in this saga and a few cool villains are utilized like the male version of Moonstone and the Tumbler. Okay, one cool villain, the Tumbler kind of stinks. I guess these days he would be some evil dude that posts fitspo memes constantly, but back in the day, he tumbled and was evil. Ass.
In the same way Watergate tested the entire nation, the Secret Empire saga tested Cap’s sense of duty and patriotism. By the way, when the leader of the Secret Empire was unmasked, it was Richard Nixon. Yeah, the story goes there, plus, it has a super cool appearance by the X-Men.
While a film could never include Marvel’s merry mutants, a few choice Avengers could potentially bring this politically charged saga to cinematic life. I think we know what taco bowl loving orange presidential candidate would be under the Secret Empire hood these days, don’t we?
The Roger Stern/John Byrne Era
Captain America #247-255
By Roger Stern and John Byrne (duh)
It might have only lasted nine issues, but the Roger Stern and John Byrne issues of Captain America stand as some of the greatest Cap stories ever published, and packaged together this set of stories would make for one killer film. The opening issues introduce perennial Cap villain Machinesmith and also reunited Cap with his original uniform and shield. Captain America runs for president and after that bit of awesome, fans of the era were treated to the introduction of Baron Blood! Now, I think the world is ready to see Cap take on a murderous Nazi vampire, don’t you?
Let that sink in, not just a vampire, a Nazi vampire.
The same story that debuted Baron Blood also introduced the modern day Union Jack, and I don’t know about you, but I need to see a cinematic Union Jack before I’m six feet under. The Baron Blood tale bounces back and forth between World War II and the modern day and we need more flashbacks to Cap’s WWII adventures with the Howling Commandos…especially if they’re fighting vampires. There’s also one of the best choreographed fight scenes in the history of Captain America as Cap engaged in an epic final battle with the siegheiling bloodsucker. Let’s just say Cap did Peter Cushing proud.
These brief nine issues by Stern and Byrne are a freakin’ smorgasbord of awesome Cap moments just waiting to be exploited in future films. And I know I glossed over the whole Cap as President thing, but in this election year, Cap as President has a greater appeal than ever and I swear that will be my last political dig for this article.
Kevin Feige, if you’re reading this: Nazi vampire! Why aren’t you green lighting this.
“Justice is Served”
Captain America #318-320 (1986)
By Mark Gruenwald and Paul Neary
If you’re a Cap fan of the ’80s, the very name Scourge should send you into a tizzy of nostalgia. For those not in the know, Scourge was a masked vigilante that went around shooting Z-list villains across the Marvel Universe. Thanks to Scourge, Marvel fans no longer had to deal with asshats like Bluestreak, Captain Kraken, and the Rapier.
In fact, in an unforgettable sequence in “Justice is Served,” a metric ton of loser villains got Scourged in in a seedy bar. The whole thing could play out like a killer morality tale as Cap must protect the villains of the MCU from the bloodthirsty Scourge. It’s justice versus vengeance as Cap must protect a cadre of villains from a vigilante that doesn’t believe in the American system of justice.
“Captain America No More”
Captain America #332-350 (1987-1989)
By Mark Gruenwald, Kieron Dwyer, and Tom Morgan
There can be no doubt that the late and greatly missed Mark Gruenwald was one of the greatest Cap scribes in history, and “Captain America No More” was his finest hour. In this tale, Gruenwald introduced John Walker, the Super Patriot, an intensely nationalistic conservative who protected his nation with an intense zeal.
The US government wanted to gain control of Captain America because, after all, Steve Rogers was created by an experiment paid for and designed by Washington. Like he does in Civil War, Rogers refused government control and gave up his red white and blue uniform and shield. Instead, Rogers donned the black uniform of The Captain and continued his mission. Meanwhile, the government gave the Cap suit to Walker and a tale of two heroes played out.
This story of a fractured American point of view is more poignant today than it was first told and Gruenwald’s conflict of idealism could be a perfect thematic sequel to Civil War. Of course, when this tale played out, Walker became the US Agent and who wouldn’t want to see that badass fighting American come to life on film?
Truth: Red, White and Black (2003)
By Robert Morales and Kyle Baker
In 2003, Marvel embarked on one of its most ambitious projects to date, the introduction of the first Captain America, an African American Tuskegee airman named Isaiah Bradley. Bradley’s tale would be a great addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as he essentially could be portrayed as the super hero version of Jackie Robinson. The US government used Bradley as a guinea pig and injected him with an experimental dose of the super soldier serum.
Imagine a film where Rogers has to unravel the mystery of Bradley in the modern day as the film flashes back to the airman’s WWII tale. Bradley’s story is an important one as it sets a foundation of diversity in the Marvel Universe. It is also incredibly open and honest about the treatment of the black soldiers of the greatest generation, men who were willing to sacrifice everything for the country that treated them with inequality or downright hatred.
It’s also about time the genius design work of Kyle Baker gets some film love!
Captain America (Vol. 5) #15-17 (2006)
By Ed Brubaker and Mike Perkins
Yeah, Marvel indeed rules the world but it does have a miserable villain problem. Too many of Marvel’s film baddies arrive a bit stillborn. Red Menace was all about the villains as Ed Brubaker (yeah, Ed Brubaker, half of the Winter Soldier creative team) and Mike Perkins put the spotlight on the daughter of the Red Skull, the vile Sin.
“Red Menace” was Natural Born Killers by way of Jack Kirby and Jim Steranko as Sin teamed up with perennial Cap baddy Crossbones. This tale told the origin of Sin and had juicy parts for Sharon Carter and the Falcon as Cap and his crew must put a stop to Sin and ‘bones’ spree of mayhem. There is still so much to explore in future Cap films as far as the legacy of the Red Skull is concerned, and this arc is a great way to push the evil of Johann Schmidt into the modern age and finally introduce a deadly female adversary into an Earth based Marvel cinematic adventure.
By Matt Fraction and Stuart Immonen
It seems like any future Cap film will feature both Captain America and Bucky Barnes. Fear Itself was an intense Marvel crossover where both Steve and Bucky play central roles.
In Fear Itself, Bucky wore the mantle of Captain America while Steve Rogers took on the position of the director of SHIELD. While a potential film could play fast and loss with this paradigm, Fear Itself is a sweeping epic steeped in Captain America lore. Sin, the aforementioned daughter of the Red Skull, is the central antagonist as she uses Asgardian magic to empower a number of Marvel villains. During the course of the tale, thanks to Sin’s machinations, the Hulk becomes Nul, an evil anti-Hulk that just looks awesome. Seriously, putting Nul in a film would be like a license to print merchandising money. All the major Marvel movie players play key roles in this story from Hulk to Natasha Romanov to Hawkeye to Falcon and so many more.
Fear Itself is a story of American unity and perseverance that combines real world politics with Asgardian myths. Most importantly, it is an intense story that united Steve and Bucky to do what they do best: kick goose-stepping asses.
Sam Wilson: Captain America
By Rick Remender, Stuart Immonen, Nick Spencer, and Daniel Acuna
Marvel’s cinematic future is always based on the actors and whether they will return or not. And while we’re not in any hurry to see Chris Evans hand over the shield, there’s a long history of other brave soldiers who have donned the red, white, and blue raiment of Captain America.
For example, currently, Cap readers have enjoyed a year and half of Sam Wilson as Cap, and it has been great! Wilson has always been a fascinating character, but now that the social justice Avenger has stepped out of the Falcon gear and into one of the most iconic uniforms in comics, it’s a whole new day for Sam Wilson. And it’s a day that could conceivably arrive in cinemas.
The films have been building Sam Wilson up as an A list hero since he raced Steve Rogers at the beginning of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and the high flying Wilson could totally carry his own film. For the past year and a half or so, Marvel has been building the legacy of Sam Wilson, bringing in classic Cap villains to test the mettle of the new Star Spangled Avenger and as Marvel continues to build Wilson’s comic book cred, the way becomes clearer for Wilson making his film debut in the Cap threads.