It might seem hard to believe now that the character has become the star of several billion dollar-grossing blockbusters, but Captain America started life as essentially wartime propaganda.
The first issue of his comic book series hit store shelves in March 1941 and featured the star-spangled superhero punching Adolf Hitler in the face – an iconic scene playfully referenced in 2011’s MCU adaptation, Captain America: The First Avenger.
In 2021, Marvel celebrates the character’s 80th anniversary with the launch of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier on Disney Plus, which follows his two closest allies and seems to be a spiritual successor to Cap’s own acclaimed trilogy of films.
If you’re one of the many people who has been enraptured by Captain America’s adventures on the big screen, it might be time to take your first steps into the comics on which they are based.
Doing so can initially seem intimidating due to the sheer number of stories that have been published over the years, each one adding to Marvel’s far-reaching continuity in their own specific way.
But never fear, for RadioTimes.com has picked out a selection of titles that will be easy to enjoy whether you’re a comic book expert or a casual fan – read on, true believers!
Captain America by Ed Brubaker
Ed Brubaker’s run on the Captain America comic book series is nothing short of seminal and served as the main inspiration for the character’s hugely popular film trilogy. The esteemed writer dropped Steve Rogers into a murky world of espionage, conspiracy and deadly enemies, setting up a thrilling saga that also acts as a simple jumping-on point for new readers.
If you want to get an insight into where the story of Captain America and his allies could go next in the MCU, Brubaker’s run is the perfect place to start as his stories have provided the foundation for what we’ve seen so far. The series kicks off with a brilliant arc that reintroduces kid sidekick Bucky Barnes as a ruthless assassin known as The Winter Soldier (don’t skip over it if you’ve seen the movie as things play out very differently on the page).
Brubaker’s epic tale runs through Marvel’s Civil War and includes the acclaimed Death of Captain America storyline, making it arguably the most influential title on this list. Pick up the first volume in paperback if you just want a taste, or consider the weighty oversized hardcover if you’re ready to make a bigger commitment.
Marvel’s Civil War is often touted as a great starting point for anyone looking to get into comics and for good reason. The series features guest appearances from virtually every superhero in the Marvel Universe and that may seem a tad overwhelming at first, but don’t worry, you’re not expected to know them all (I’d wager some are a mystery to even longtime readers).
The premise will be familiar to those who have seen the film adaptation, but much like The Winter Soldier, the comic book goes in a very different direction with the overall story. Expect blockbuster action sequences as the feud between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark spirals dramatically out of control, in a story that had lasting ramifications across the next decade of Marvel Comics.
Captain America: White
Return to the setting of Captain America: The First Avenger in this period piece from prolific comic book writer Jeph Loeb. The self-contained miniseries sees Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes deployed around the world to fight against the Nazi forces, with a helping hand from some familiar faces including Nick Fury and the Howling Commandos.
Captain America: White is a somewhat smaller scale story that takes a closer look at a defining era in the character’s life and the losses he suffered along the way. It doesn’t have any major impact or connection to the wider continuity of the Marvel Universe, which could be a selling point or a drawback depending on what you’re looking for.
Captain America: Sam Wilson
Although Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) appears hesitant about taking on the mantle of Captain America in the MCU, he actually already did so in the comic books. Ditching his avian alter-ego, he inherited the iconic shield in a story by dynamite duo Rick Remender and Stuart Immonen, who kicked off his time in the role with flair.
The graphic novel linked below starts from there and goes on to feature an interesting take on the character from writer Nick Spencer, which saw Wilson split from Steve Rogers to help protect smaller communities from evildoers. The politically charged story tackles the divisions separating modern Americans head-on and feels very relevant to this day.
Winter Soldier: The Bitter March
If you’re keen to see more of The Winter Soldier in the years before he became a hero, look no further than this pulpy story that sees the ruthless assassin fighting SHIELD on the orders of the Soviet Union. Both sides are attempting to secure two Nazi scientists carrying secret knowledge that could turn the tide of the Cold War. The action unfolds from the perspective of SHIELD agent Ran Shen, who is the only person that can stop Bucky from accomplishing his mission. A strong spy thriller set in the 1960s with the Marvel Universe as its backdrop.
Winter Soldier: Second Chances
On the other hand, if you prefer the Winter Soldier as a reformed hero type, check out this more recent series from writer Kyle Higgins which picks up with Bucky in the modern day as he attempts to help others move on from a life of crime. But he faces his toughest challenge yet when he’s targeted by a teen assassin trained to be just as merciless as he once was. Is this one foe who’s beyond saving? Find out in this compelling miniseries with a striking art style courtesy of Rod Reis.