March 1st will mark the 75th anniversary of Captain America Comics #1, the debut of the Star-Spangled Avenger. Even though he has been around for almost eight decades, his popularity rose to its all-time high with his introduction into the MCU, and his portrayal by Chris Evans.
From 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger, through this May’s Captain America: Civil War, Steve Rogers’ uniform/costume has gone through multiple changes. Similarly, the comic book Rogers has undergone several wardrobe changes. Let’s take a gander at the different looks of Captain America over the years.
This is the costume fans are the most familiar with. When it first appeared, the mask wasn’t connected to the rest of the suit and he had a more angular shield. By issue 2 of Captain America Comics, the suit that would define the hero would be finalized. To this day, I still never understood how “swashbuckler” boots helps fight crime.
Captain America was the first Marvel hero to hit the silver screen in 1944. However, the name and costume were the only things reminiscent of the Star-Spangled Avenger. This picture is not of soldier Steve Rogers, but of district attorney Grant Gardner. There was really no point to change his identity at all. That also makes choosing a gun over a shield a weird choice. Captain America is a soldier, so having a gun would make sense for that character. As a lawyer, it just makes him a vigilante willing to kill without specific cause. If they were going to go with an all cloth costume, Chris Evans proved that the wings on the mask DO make a nice touch.
After the Watergate scandal, Cap felt confused about his place in the world and abandoned his identity for that of Nomad, the “Man Without a Country.” While I see hints of Superman and Robin, nothing says “I was made in the 1970s” like a v-neck that runs the entire length of the shirt. Thankfully for Cap, he was able to “find himself” and abandon his most disco-ready costume.
Reb Brown (1979)
The late-’70s saw Lou Ferrigno rise to success as the Incredible Hulk while Reb Brown was not as incredible playing Steve Rogers in two Made-for-TV movies, whose costumes were just as bad as the stories they were part of. As the SON of the original Captain America, this Steve Rogers decided in his first adventure that a skin-tight Evel Knievel outfit was the best way to fight for America. By the time the second movie came about, he embraced more elements of the Captain America costume we know and love, but he just couldn’t let go of that motorcycle helmet. I suppose the glued-on wings were an upgrade, but it’s still hokey. Pair that with a see-through shield that looked like it could have shattered if hit by paintballs, and you have a costume a Halloween pop-up store wouldn’t sell.
The Captain (1988)
After being told that he must work exclusively for the government, Steve sheds the Captain America identity for the second time. Instead of taking on a whole new persona as he did in the 70s, this time, he fashioned a black version of his suit to become the Captain. As per usual, he eventually returned to his role as Captain America, once again on his own terms. While I’m a fan of Cap’s more classic uniform, I have to say this suit is pretty awesome. I suppose Marvel thought the same thing I did: if Spider-Man looked sweet in a black suit everyone else would. Even though Cap went back to the red, white, and blue, Marvel must have liked this costume as much as I do because they gave to John Walker, who became US Agent.
1990 Film (well, 1990)
Matt Salinger, the son of author JD Salinger, took on the role in a 1990 movie that went direct-to-video. I saw the teaser for this movie in the theater and got SO excited, and was confused when it didn’t come out. Years later I finally saw it on VHS. I was no longer confused. The fact that they gave Cap another chance at all is amazing. Costume wise, it was pretty spot on. Except for one thing. See the ears poking out of his mask? FAKE. Yes, they made the mask so tight that the only way to match the comic was to put fake ears on it. Look, I love a comic-accurate costume as much as the next person, but this was ridiculous. HOWEVER, if you look past the ears, and the story, this does look like Steve Rogers jumped out of the comic page. Definite kudos for accuracy.
After a change in his body chemistry caused the super-solider serum to deteriorate his body rather than enhance it, Cap wore an exoskeleton created by Tony Stark so he could continue to fight crime. I was NOT a fan of this suit at all. The the armor is ugly. Having that metal bar across the middle of his face added nothing of value. He already had the swashbuckler boots. Now he has this medieval looking helmet, that’s supposed to be technologically advanced. I understand he gets a pass with being frozen and everything, but pick a time period, and stick with it please! Just show your face or have a full on “Iron Helmet.” Rhodey never minded, neither should he.
How did this get here? Moving on.
Bucky Barnes (2008)
When Steve was “killed” following the conclusion of the COMIC version of Civil War, Bucky Barnes, the Winter Soldier, took up the mantle. It pays homage to the original while making it his own at the same time. Instead of the chainmail armor Steve wore, he wears adamantium armor and also sports his knife and pistol. You can take the man out of the Winter Soldier costume, but you can’t take the Winter Soldier out of the man. Bucky lived up to Cap’s legacy while at the same time establishing his own. Sadly, he kept the swashbuckler boots. *sigh*
Steve Rogers: Super Soldier (2010)
When Steve returned from the great beyond, it was some time before he retook the mantle of Captain America back from Bucky. In the meantime, he oversaw all the different Avengers teams sporting a new “S.H.I.E.L.D.-eque” outfit. Add a helmet to it, and you have Cap’s outfit from Captain America: Winter Soldier.
Chris Evans (2011, 2012, 2014, 2015)
Thanks to the MCU, whenever people think of Captain America, they will think of Chris Evans. His outfit has definitely evolved over the years. His goofy USO tour outfit eventually led to his combat uniform. He got an “updated” version of it in Avengers. I put “updated” in quotes because while the uniform itself looks more superheroic, the full helmet covering the ears just seemed a little off. It reminded me more of a Halloween mask. He went back to basics with his stealth uniform in Winter Soldier and the amalgamation of all the outfits in Age of Ultron has created my favorite Cap costume of all.
Sam Wilson (2014)
When Steve had the super soldier serum removed from his body, his body aged to that of an old man. Since there has to be a Captain America, and with Bucky Barnes believed to be dead by the public, Sam Wilson stepped in to become the new bearer of the shield. Combining the classic red, white, and, blue with his classic Falcon shades, Sam, like Bucky, is stepping out of the shadow of Steve Rogers while establishing his own history as a Star-Spangled Avenger.
All-New All-Different (2016)
Not much is known about how Steve will return to the role of Captain America. What we DO know is that there will be two Caps as Sam will still be the bearer of the original shield. Steve will have a costume that looks to be derivative of his MCU look while going back to an angular shield. I like the costume, but I don’t know about the shield. I’m more of a #teamround.
75 years is a lot of time and a lot of clothes to go through. What do you think? Which version of Cap is your favorite? Is there a version I missed? Let me know on Twitter or watch your language in the comments below.
FEATURE IMAGE: Zatransis/DeviantArt
IMAGES: Marvel Comics, Republic Pictures, CBS, 21st Century Film Corporation, 20th Century Fox, Marvel/Disney