The first time we meet Captain America, he’s punching Adolf Hitler in the kisser. Talk about making an entrance! Created by writer Joe Simon and artist Jack Kirby, and debuting March 1, 1941, Captain America #1 features one of the most famous comic book covers of all time.
Eighty years later, Captain America remains one of the most iconic and celebrated superheroes, moving seamlessly from comic books to the silver screen as one of the key players in the blockbuster Marvel Cinematic Universe.
But about that debut . . .
When Captain America was serving Hitler a knuckle sandwich, it was still nine months before Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, catapulting the U.S. into World War II. Until then, many Americans wanted nothing to do with another world war.
As for Captain America, Simon and Kirby were simply looking to create a “character to win and triumph over evil,” Kirby said. “It is a simple formula, but very effective and powerful.”
“Basically,” Simon said, “we were looking for a villain first, and Hitler was the villain.”
And Captain America was the hero.
Timely Comics, the publisher that would evolve into Marvel Comics, published the Captain America debut. Robert M. Overstreet, who launched The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide in 1970, called Captain America’s debut a “classic creation” and “a patriotic paragon that set the comics market reeling. A trend setter.”
To celebrate our favorite red-white-and-blue superhero’s 80th anniversary, we offer ten things you didn’t know about Captain America:
1. Before Steve Rogers became Captain America, he was born into a poor New York family in the midst of the Depression. His father died when he was a child and his mother passed when he was in his late teens. Rogers, frail and sickly, tried to join the Army but was rejected. There would be no Hitler throw down in his future. Or so it would seem …
2. Because of his earnest love of country, Rogers was taken to a secret laboratory in Washington, D.C., where he met Dr. Abraham Erskine, an elderly German scientist and creator of the Super-Soldier Serum. The serum transforms the spindly Rogers into a 6-foot 2-inch, 240-pound, blue-eyed, blond-haired Nazi menace.
3. Why aren’t there more Super Soldiers? Because a Nazi spy, who observed the experiment, murdered Dr. Erskine and the Super-Soldier serum formula was lost forever. Drats!
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4. Unlike Superman, Captain America is still human and is subject to all human vulnerabilities, although his immune system is extraordinary. He has also mastered the martial art of American-style boxing and judo, combining these disciplines with his own unique hand-to-hand style of combat. Legend also has him able to lift 800 pounds, which comes in handing when bench pressing Nazis.
5. And unlike Batman, Captain America’s only weapon is his shield. The original heater-shaped shield appearing in Captain America #1 was based on a form of European medieval shield, developing from the early medieval kite shield in the late 12th century. Under threat of lawsuit from comic book competitor MLJ – now known as Archie Comics and creator of its own patriotic hero, the Shield – for copyright infringement, Captain America ditched the original shield for the now familiar circular version.
6. The circular shield debuted in Captain America #2. It’s a concave disc 2-1/2 feet in diameter, weighing 12 pounds. Marvel history has it that American metallurgist Dr. Myron MacLain, who was contracted by the U.S. government to create an impenetrable substance to use for tanks during World War II, cast the shield.
7. Captain America’s sidekick Bucky Barnes was named after Joe Simon’s childhood friend, Bucky Pierson, a star on the high school basketball team. Bucky Barnes debuts in Captain America #1.
8. A copy of Captain America #1 sold at Heritage Auctions for $915,000 in 2019 becoming one of the world’s most valuable comic books. The most valuable comic book in the world? That would be Action Comics #1 released in 1938 and featuring the debut of Superman. The Superman comic book sold for $3.2 million in 2014.
9. Actor Chris Evans has played Captain America in eleven Marvel films, including Captain America: The First Avenger (2011). Although now synonymous with Captain America, Evans made his superhero debut playing Johnny Storm (The Human Torch) in the film Fantastic Four.
10. Marvel Cinematic Universe began with Iron Man in 2008. Twelve years and 23 movies later, the MCU’s revenue stands at $8.545 billion domestically and a staggering $22.588 billion worldwide, making MCU by far the most lucrative movie franchise of all time. The next-best competitor? Star Wars, which has earned $10.324 billion since the series debuted in 1977.