Steve Rogers is one of a kind. So is Captain America, at least as a symbol.
But if we’ve learned anything over years of reading Marvel comics, it’s that the man and the costume aren’t necessarily synonymous. During times when Rogers has given up the shield, either voluntarily or because he’s been out of commission, the MU version of the U.S. government has stepped in to ensure that someone is serving as the Sentinel of Liberty.
In the 21st Century, these were planned transitions, like the one writer Ed Brubaker orchestrated with Bucky Barnes temporarily taking over the role during the “Death of Captain America” arc. Others have been retcons necessary to explain real life happenings, like the fact that there were Captain America stories during the 50s and 60s when Rogers was still on ice.
The job has a way of finding its way back to its rightful owner one way or another, and the suspicion is that this will always be the case as long as there’s a Marvel that is publishing comics. In the meantime, the list you’re about to read is likely going to continue to grow. In fact barring a return appearance from someone who has already served in the past, we’re going to be updating it this fall thanks to the current storyline in the Captain America ongoing series.
Before we dive into the list of men who were officially Captain America, it’s only right that we start with a man who chronologically came before almost all of them and deserves a special honorable mention …
(Note: this list doesn’t include self-declared Captain Americas, like the ones who popped up when Steve Rogers first became Nomad, clones, Caps from alternate timelines, etc. That way lies madness.)
Though for decades readers were led to believe that the experiment that created the Super Solider Serum was never able to be duplicated, that turned out not to be the case. A joint effort between American, British and German scientists was able to repeat the process during a secret program called Project: Rebirth, though Bradley was one of only five men to survive the process, and the other four were killed not long after.
Like Rogers, Bradley ended up as a pretty effective Nazi-smasher, and he even kind of, sort of got to be Captain America thanks to a spare costume and shield that were supposed to be used by the real deal. Sadly, he ended up a prisoner of war and even had his own government turn its back on him, as he was court-martialed and sent to prison for more than 15 years.
To top it all off, the Project: Rebirth version of the Super Solider Serum had negative effects on Bradley’s mind, so even though his aging was slowed, he didn’t retain all of his faculties through the decades. Yet his legacy lives on in the form of his grandson Elijah, the young hero known as Patriot whose powers stem from a blood transfusion he received from Bradley. Several Marvel writers have also established Bradley’s story as an inspiration to various African-American super heroes since he predated them all.