12 Essential Captain America Stories

As one of the comic book world’s first and most influential superheroes, Captain America is a pop culture icon. He is the central figure of two recent solo films and was a critical part of 2012’s The Avengers, one of the highest grossing movies of all time. But despite Cap’s popularity and name recognition, many casual fans do not have a full understanding and appreciation for the character’s depth and complexities. Just because he dresses up in red, white and blue, and has stars and stripes on his shield, people shouldn’t assume that Captain America is just a naïve, pro-American “yes” man  the comic book equivalent of Uncle Sam. These 12 essential Captain America stories (listed chronologically) should hopefully paint a broader picture of the man dubbed the Star-Spangled Avenger. While not necessarily a definitive representation of the best Captain America stories (though many arcs on this list are quite great), these are the ones you should read if you’ve just seen the movies and want to understand exactly how this guy became such an icon, or if you’re a general comic book enthusiast who happens to have a huge blind spot to the world of Cap. Click “next” below to get started…

12. Captain America Comics #1

Captain America’s very first appearance and a cornerstone of the Golden Age era of comics, Captain America Comics #1 was actually published by Marvel’s earliest predecessor, Timely Comics in 1941. Created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby (the latter would go on to resurrect the character alongside Stan Lee in 1964), Captain America Comics was a prime example of World War II-era American propaganda, thematically mirroring other superhero books and comic strips being published in the early 1940s. Despite its blatant politicking, this comic introduces many themes and ideas that would go on to play a pivotal role in Captain America’s mythology: Cap’s injection with an experimental serum that transformed him from a runty wannabe G.I. into a full-fledged superhero; his loyal friendship with his young sidekick Bucky Barnes; and his first of many battles with the Nazi villain, the Red Skull.

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