captain america

Captain America. The man. The myth. The legend.

Everyone has some idea of who they think Captain America is, whether he’s the guy who punched Hitler in the face or the guy who was secretly working for Hydra. For me, as long as I can remember, Captain America has been one of my favorite superheroes. I’ve read his comics cover to cover too many times to count and still get something new out of the story. He’s always been an inspiration for me and continues to be to this day.

Now, the Captain America namesake has been undertaken by a few different people over the years. Steve Rogers, Bucky Barnes, Isaiah Bradley, and Sam Wilson have all responded to the Captain America call, worn the stars and stripes, and carried the iconic shield. Each one has had their struggles, but even more than that, they have all been inspirational as Captain America.

So whether it’s Steve Rogers, Bucky Barnes, Isaiah Bradley, or Sam Wilson as Captain America, here are ten of their most inspiring moments to lift you up.

Successful Symbols: Captain America

1. Captain America vs Hydra Cap

captain america
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

In the recent SECRET EMPIRE event by Nick Spencer, it was revealed that the Steve Rogers everyone knew and trusted had actually been brainwashed by Kobik, the sentient cosmic cube, into being part of Hydra. It all came to a head at the end when Kobik brought back the real Steve Rogers, who then proceeded to fight Hydra Cap. Now, the fact that the real Steve chose to fight Hydra Cap isn’t necessarily the inspirational part. After all, this is the man who has fought for what he believes to be right ever since his incarnation.

No, the inspirational part comes from the fact that Steve Rogers is fighting himself. He’s equally matched with Hydra Cap, yet never even thinks about giving up. He’s determined to beat this evil, one way or another. Plus Hydra Cap wiped out so much of the opposition by this point that everyone was ready to give up. Then the real Steve Rogers shows up to end this fight against evil. He inspired everyone else to keep fighting, and really, that’s what being Captain America is all about: bringing hope in the darkest times.

Why did I choose this moment to start off the list? Because this moment embodies everything we expect from Captain America. Steve Rogers here is kicking butt, taking names, and proving to the world there’s always hope, no matter how everything looks. He’s giving us a perfect example of what Captain America does best, so this moment has to start us off.

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2. “Avengers Assemble!”

captain america
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

After Steve Rogers gets the Super Soldier serum drained from his body and becomes an old man, he obviously can’t be Captain America anymore. So, in an unsurprising twist, he chooses Sam Wilson to be his successor. While that is inspiring in and of itself, the moment that I want to focus on comes just after Steve has announced Sam’s succession. The gathered superheroes definitely weren’t surprised when Sam stepped out in his own Captain America costume. So instead of complaining about the decision or trying to find a better replacement for Steve, they all just stood there, waiting for that iconic line, even prodding Sam to go ahead and say it.

“Avengers Assemble!” declares Sam, making it known that he’s now their leader, their Captain America. The inspiration from this moment comes partly from the fact that all of the gathered heroes are so ready and willing for Sam to step into this new role and partly because Sam is so bold and ready to do so. He’s ushering in a new era of Captain America.

I love how brave and ready Sam is to take on the Captain America title. It’s easy to draw inspiration from this guy who isn’t afraid to take over the signature Captain America symbols. He’s even already comfortable with the shield! He already understands that to be Captain America is to take on more than just the title. It’s taking on the leadership and scrutiny of the public. Yet, he doesn’t back away from that. Sam Wilson is every person out there who steps into a new job, relationship, or circumstance confidently and boldly looking towards the future and all there is to accomplish.

3. The Under-the-Radar Captain America

captain america
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

Isaiah Bradley isn’t brought up often in the Captain America discourse but has one of the most inspirational stories around. While I think his entire story is amazing (seriously, go read TRUTH: RED, WHITE & BLACK by Robert Morales if you haven’t already), one of my favorite moments from his run is shown above. After being subject to an earlier version of the Super Soldier serum, Isaiah and his friends become a team of Super Soldiers. However, all of them except Isaiah die in one way or another, leaving Isaiah to carry out team missions on his own. After reading a comic book detailing what happened to Steve Rogers, Isaiah ends up stealing one of Steve Rogers’ Captain America uniforms. He then parachutes into a dangerous location to carry out his mission.

I absolutely love how daring Isaiah is, especially in this moment. He’s showing the world that this uniform represents Captain America, protector of and fighter for all things good and right, regardless of who’s wearing it. He’s giving us a good example of what standing up for your beliefs looks like no matter what the consequences might be. Plus he put his own spin on the costume, choosing to carry his own shield instead of the round one we all know and love. Now, that might not be the most important part of this, but for me, I get inspired seeing that he’s still keeping his individuality and not caving into the Steve Rogers version of Cap that he read about.

4. The Winter Soldier Captain America

captain america
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

Bucky Barnes. The Winter Soldier, now Captain America?

If you don’t know who Bucky Barnes is by now, all I can say is “have you been living under a rock?” Bucky has become a big deal recently because of his appearances in the CAPTAIN AMERICA movies, so awareness of him has become fairly standard. However, the knowledge that Bucky was once Captain America wasn’t really a big deal until CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, since in this comic run Steve Rogers dies. I personally like the CAPTAIN AMERICA comics with Bucky as Cap. I find it to be an extremely redemptive arc for Bucky, even if the stories at times can seem standard. One of my favorite inspirational moments from Bucky’s time with the shield comes right at the beginning of his Cap storyline.

Okay, so I know that Bucky technically wasn’t Captain America yet at this point. However, he agreed to take over the iconic role of Cap because he loved his friend. There was no way Bucky was going to let his friend die in vain. If that isn’t uplifting, then I don’t know what is. If you’re still not convinced, here’s another reason for you. Bucky agreed to take on the Captain America role despite all the bad things he did as the Winter Soldier. He never would be the gold-star, all-American hero that Steve Rogers was. Yet, Bucky was still willing to take up the shield because he knew the world needed Captain America.

The People v. Bucky Barnes

5. “No, You Move.”

captain america
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

This one had to have a spot somewhere on the list! This iconic speech of Cap’s has become more iconic ever since Sharon Carter said it at Peggy Carter’s funeral in CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR. However, the context of this speech in the CIVIL WAR comics is slightly different than what happened in the movie.

In the comic, this speech comes just after Spider-Man has switched sides in the fight. To recap, Spidey was originally on Tony Stark’s side, believing that it’s best for superheroes to be registered and even going so far as revealing his secret identity. Yet, after doing this, Spider-Man has many regrets and ends up realizing that he agrees more with Cap. So he switches to Cap’s side of the fight. Yet, this switch comes with its share of backlash and hatred from the public, the government, even some of his friends. Spider-Man is having a hard time dealing with it all and asks Cap how he handles all the hate and disgust.

Cap’s entire speech is very motivating, and just when you think he has nowhere else to go, he ends with those three words. There are so many reasons to find this speech inspirational, but for me, I love it because it has real-world applications. There are many things that we as people don’t all agree on, and that’s okay. What Cap is saying here is that you should stand up for your beliefs, regardless of what the people around you are doing. He knows it’s a hard thing to do, and he accepts that fact. Yet he never lets it get him down, and neither should we!

CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR Review (Spoiler-Free!)

6. Cap vs Thanos

captain america
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

THE INFINITY GAUNTLET is a story filled with harrowing twists and turns and many moments of darkness and doubt. Thanos got all of the infinity stones and was now more powerful than anyone or anything in the universe. It was hard to see our favorite heroes standing up to him, only to be shut down in extremely heartbreaking ways. It seemed like there would be no end to this despair. Then Cap steps up. He knows that he isn’t powerful enough to defeat Thanos, yet never for a second does Cap blink or waver. He walks straight up to the man who could kill him with a single thought, determined to let Thanos know once and for all that evil has no place.

In this moment, Cap is all of us standing up to the evils we see around us. Maybe it’s something small, like a cheater, or something larger, like an abuser. He’s giving us the courage to stand up and say “hey, this evil isn’t welcome here and I will fight against it.” Cap knows what it’s like to stare death in the face and not flinch. That’s what I admire about him most here. I may not have to stare an all-powerful being in the face and try to fight my way out, but I do and will have to stand up to people who don’t have my best interests at heart. When I do, I’ll be drawing inspiration and strength from Cap’s actions against Thanos.

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7. Cap and Cap

captain america
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

As mentioned earlier, Bucky became Captain America for a while. He even happened to be Captain America when Steve Rogers came back to life. Two Caps definitely didn’t make things confusing. At all.

Regardless of any confusion, the two did well existing side by side. When a new evil brings all of the Avengers together once again, both Steve and Bucky suited up as Cap. Then Bucky hands Steve the shield, no questions asked, no argument started, and tells Steve that the world needs him as Captain America.

Even though Bucky has been Captain America for a while, he recognizes that everyone needs to look up and see Steve Rogers as Captain America, not Bucky Barnes. He willingly steps to the side to allow Steve back into the iconic role. Bucky doesn’t have any grudges and is more than happy to see his best friend back out there.

Bucky’s selflessness in this moment makes him not only an inspiration but also another Cap to look up to. Sure, he recognizes that the people need to see Steve Rogers, but that doesn’t mean I need to! Like I said above, I honestly love Bucky as Cap and everything it did for his character. Here it becomes increasingly obvious that Tony Stark made the right decision choosing Bucky to take over the Cap mantle. Bucky may have done some horrible things for HYDRA but, in the end, he’s still got a loving heart under all of that tough guy exterior. Honestly, that’s the type of person I aspire to be: kick-ass on the outside and loving on the inside. Shout-out to Bucky for being that type of Cap.

8. Steve Rogers Surrenders

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Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

We’re back in the CIVIL WAR storyline, except this time we’re at the end. All the fighting is coming to a head in one big cumulative battle. Except then it doesn’t. Captain America stops fighting back. He realizes that somewhere along the way this fight has changed from one about what’s actually right, to one about the heroes fighting amongst themselves. So, he surrenders. Now, sure, this is somewhat inspiring, Captain America realizing that he’s fighting for the wrong thing.

But what’s truly inspiring comes during his surrender speech. Instead of Captain America surrendering, it’s Steve Rogers who actually surrenders and gets arrested. I know, it seems like a small difference, but it’s actually a HUGE one. Instead of Captain America, the American symbol, the one who everyone looks up to, being taken away, it’s Steve Rogers, the man, a man who makes mistakes and isn’t perfect.

Seems like a small moment to be so high on the list, right? But that’s just it. Small moments like these are what make Captain America so great. Regardless of who’s in the suit, it has come to be expected of them to keep fighting for the little guy and rarely make mistakes. Yet, coming forth and admitting that he’s still a man underneath that suit? That’s a powerfully bold move. Admitting that you’re wrong is hard enough, so admitting that you’re wrong and you’re Captain America? Steve Rogers is taking the step forward to admit that he’s like everyone else, which makes him that much more relatable.

9. “It’s Time to Assemble”

captain america
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

I love Sam Wilson as Captain America. He brings out a completely different side of the persona and what it truly means to be Cap. I especially love him in the SECRET EMPIRE event. Although he’s reluctant at first to become Cap again, when he realizes how badly the world needs a true Captain America, he responds.

This sentiment is especially brought out in the above speech. Sam recognizes that everyone has gone through so much pain, loss, and misery that they don’t want to go on. Captain America has become an agent of Hydra. There’s no one to look up to. All the heroes keep dying. Then Sam steps up. He becomes Captain America, the true Captain America, because the people need a reason to keep fighting. Even more than that, they need someone to inspire them and give them someone to look to. Sam Wilson as Captain America is that person.

I put a lot of thought into which Cap moment I wanted to be my penultimate moment. This one for some reason kept coming to mind. At first I thought it was sticking with me because I had read it so recently. Yet after re-reading it, I realized that’s not the main reason I kept coming back around to it. The true reason was because Sam Wilson, for all of his faults, is a man of the people. He knows how to connect to the fighters inside of all of us. When things got tough, the tough got going.

Obviously I’m not a comic book character, but if I was, I would definitely fight for and with this man to set things straight. Sam Wilson is willing to put in all of the hard work to reunite people, and I believe that is another main component of what it means to be Captain America.

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10. Cap, Cap, and Cap

captain america
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

Three Caps, it’s this girl’s dream! It’s also the last moment on my list, as well as the final sum of all of the Captain Americas. While I hate that Isaiah Bradley isn’t also shown here, I appreciate that the other three Caps all came together. Although they might not all be wearing the costume or carrying the shield, each one of them has been Captain America and knows what it’s like to carry that weight. Regardless of how they feel about each other, as Sam says “We’re brothers,” you believe that they always will be.

For me, this moment embodies everything I love about Captain America. Sure, it’s inspiring because all three of these men are banding together to fight one common enemy and ignoring everything else that’s gone down between them. But even more than that, everything going on in this moment is the perfect sum of Captain America. They’re instantly ready to take on whatever is being thrown at them. Plus they’re boldly going forth to kick some butt and take some risks.

Yet, at the same time, each one of them has gone through some pretty crazy events and are still willing to come out on the other side fighting for everything that’s good and right. Each one even manages to keep his individuality while coming together as a powerful force. They know that the things they’ve done don’t always have the greatest results, but they refuse to give up. They never surrender and keep encouraging everyone else to do the same.

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It’s also inspiring because it shows that, at the end of the day, your friends will be there to back you up and help you stand up for what’s right. They may not always agree with you or even like you. Yet they will always love you and come to your aid when you need them to.

Truly this is my favorite thing about Captain America. Regardless of who’s wearing the costume or carrying the shield, whether it’s Steve, Sam, Bucky, or Isaiah, you always have a friend in Captain America.

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