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CSBG Archive

Drawing Crazy Patterns – Steve Rogers Is Captain America No More!

In this feature, I spotlight five scenes/moments from within comic book stories that fit under a specific theme (basically, stuff that happens frequently in comics). Here is an archive of all the patterns we’ve spotlighted so far.

Today, based on a suggestion by reader Paul C., I will spotlight five examples of Steve Rogers quitting/being replaced as Captain America.


Our first instance happened before Captain America even got his own title! In Tales of Suspense #95, Steve decides that he wants to settle down with Agent 13 (he doesn’t even know her name yet)…

And after a battle, that’s just that he declares…

The world is shocked, to say the least…

Oddly enough, the story wraps up the very next issue. First, Lee establishes that there are a bunch of other guys trying to pick up Steve’s slack…

Steve saves one of their lives, and then Nick Fury gets Steve to return to being Cap in one of the simplest arguments in comic book history…

The next time Steve quit was following the Secret Empire storyline, where not only did the Secret Empire succeed in turning many Americans against Cap through a smear campaign, but Cap learned that the head of the Secret Empire was actually the President of the United States, who kills himself in front of Cap. The next issue, Captain America #176, we see how much this freaked Cap out…

A couple of issues later, Steve decides to adopt a NEW identity instead of Captain America…

However, roughly six issues later, the fellow who took over as Captain America after Steve is brutally murdered by the Red Skull. Steve is moved to action…

The next time Steve quit being Cap came in Captain America #332, where a group called the Commission gives Steve an ultimatum…

Steve basically tells them to take their shield and shove it.

A few issues after following the adventures of the NEW Captain America (the hero now known as USAgent), Steve’s friends catch up with him and he decides to get back into being a hero…

He’s now just the Captain…

The Commission turns out to have been manipulated by the Red Skull. Steve and the new Captain America stop him (mostly Steve) and the Commission offers him the job back without having to work for them directly. He turns them down, choosing to be his own man instead. The new Captain America, though, changes his mind…

When Mark Waid took over Captain America with #444, Cap was seemingly dead, a victim of his own Super Soldier Serum. However, Waid reveals that the Red Skull revived him so that Cap could aid the Skull in stopping Adolf Hitler, who had taken control of a Cosmic Cube. Cap agrees to go along with the Skull because of the greater danger of Hitler and the Cube, but in the process, Cap has to go up against the U.S. military…

A few issues later, Cap’s actions come back to haunt him as his seemingly treasonous actions are examined by President Bill Clinton. Making matters worse is that some privileged info that only Clinton and Cap knew was leaked. Clinton and the U.S. Government have to think that perhaps Cap traded that info in exchange for the Skull saving his life. This leads to Clinton stripping Steve of his U.S. citizenship…

Cap works with Sharon Carter to clear his name, but he can’t be Captain America, so instead…

Cap ultimately saves the day (as is his wont) and even ends up dressing as Captain America (using a knockoff version of his original costume after his new costume is ruined) and proves that Machinesmith stole the info from Cap’s head while Cap was being cured by the Skull…

Finally, Cap was thought dead after being seemingly shot in 2007’s Captain America #25. However, he was actually lost in time. When he returns, he decides in the 2009 one-shot Who Will Wield the Shield? that his replacement (his old partner James “Bucky” Barnes) should remain in the role…

I don’t know if they ever make it clear what Steve saw exactly.

Anyhow, later in the issue, Steve meets with President Obama (Steve needed to get pardoned for going against the U.S. Government during the Civil War storyline)

Steve then becomes Commander Rogers, head of all superheroes in the United States. Here is his costume…

During Fear Itself, though, BuckyCap is seemingly killed, and in Fear Itself #4, Steve has to return to his old job…

(Luckily, Bucky managed to survive though Nick Fury’s Infinity Formula and a lot of surgery).

And that’s where we currently stand. Until the next time Cap quits, of course.


It’s impressive how Steve managed to change costumes from Nomad to Cap in midair.

I question whether the President has the legal authority to strip someone of their citizenship.

There has to be an “Untold Tales of Captain America” chronicling what Clinton did with the shield while Cap left the country.

This isn’t meant as some kind of political snark, but isn’t Obama left-handed?

USAgent… such an interesting concept, such weird handling.

Oh wow that Fear Itself issue is TERRIBLE. “Space Viking”? wow….

There is a reason this has been done so many times, it’s almost always some of the best Cap stories ever done. I don’t think there was a real clunker in there. Maybe the reason for losing his costume was weak(as in the Clinton story) but it setup a great storyline.

@cool arrow
“This isn’t meant as some kind of political snark, but isn’t Obama left-handed?”

Ahh! He’s a Skrull!

Just a question, but, since Steve had quit being Captain America, how could it be a “crime” to “impersonate” him? Even if Steve hadn’t quit being Cap, how does mere impersonation rank as a crime? I mean, in the 1960s, it wasn’t a crime to impersonate someone UNLESS it was being done to commit some OTHER crime (such as bank robbery). None of the guys in the “line-up” seemed to have been doing anything other than wearing a Captain America costume (and considering how well-done these were, they didn’t seem to be some cheap, home-made costume). Okay, the first guy–the one trying to get a job at a carnival–may be on shaky ground if he’d planned on applying as Steve Rogers but the other guys didn’t seem to have done anything that warranted their being in a police line-up.

of all these stories, it’s unfortunate that the most recent offers the silliest justification for Steve giving up the Captain America identity. Probably because even if he wasn’t Cap, he still wore a flag-colored costume and still did every Cap thing he previously did. The Who Will Wield The Shield special even brought up the notion that there could be two Captain Americas, so why weren’t there?

Only one of these I missed entirely was the fourth one, just because the ’90s pretty much turned me off Marvel entirely. I do like a lot of Waid’s stuff, though, so now I’m curious. His costume is stupid, of course, but it wouldn’t be the ’90s without some cringeworthy visuals.

You guys totally missed Ultimate Cap. He gave up being Captain America during Hickman’s run, only to (predictably) come back during the Divided We Fall arc and assume the American presidency.

Yeah, that bit about a president unilaterally revoking his citizenship really bugs me, too. That’s clearly in violation of the 144th Amendment.

Not only is Obama left-handed, but he never pardons anybody. He’s got to be a Skrull.

I suspect the point of the article is that Steve Rogers really, really doesn’t want to be Captain America.

So did they ever deal with how Cap got his secret identity back, as in that first story Nick Fury clearly states that everyone who can read a newspaper now knows that Steve Rogers and Captain America are one and the same? I distinctly remember stories set after this where Steve Rogers was a secret ID (in fact, the Commission storyline starts with a civil servant uncovering the Cap/Rogers connection). Did Steve make a deal with Mephisto to have everyone forget he was Captain America?

Steve has had a lot of identity crisis issues, as well as lot of issues questioning ‘the flag’ and what it stands for…so many arguments with the commission…so many kerfuffles with the Government. Seriously, the Gov’t has had a hard time filling that role. I mean, Steve has had plenty of issues (despite being the best), Walker/USAgent was a mess for years….and need I mention Nuke??

With most of these Crazy Patterns, there are going to be other examples, and it’s fun to talk about them. But Brian always helpfully says up front that he’s picked five examples, so telling him he “forgot” the other ones is pretty weird. It’s hard to fit six or ten or twenty into five.

@Eric Henry:


Jim Steranko dealt with it during his short run on Captain America by having Steve convince the masses that Steve Rogers was a cover identity, and Steve Englehart revealed a few years later that the Space Phantom erased the memory of the revelation from everyone on Earth during the time when Rick was Cap’s partner (during a story involving an attempt at having the Vision occupy Cap’s body).

I really like the guy who thinks that it’s a misprint, especially when contrasted with the incredibly lengthy headline “Captain America Retires — Nation Stunned as America’s Greatest Crime Fighter Vows to Give Up (Life…?)” next to a picture of Captain America.

@Luis Dantas:

Thanks. I guess a lame handwaving is better than no solution at all.

Yeah, Steranko did a noble attempt at making Cap’s identity a secret during his classic mini-run on Cap, but the end result was that while no one knew who Cap was precisely, they still knew that he was going by Steve Rogers for awhile, which basically made that identity unusable, leading to Englehart’s explanation (which is similar to how Busiek later put Tony Stark’s identity back into the bag…only for Mike Grell to reveal it again, like, two years later).

It’s similar to Daredevil’s current situation. Matt Murdock officially denies being Daredevil and no one can really prove it in court, but everybody “knows” that it’s him. In the current extremely awesome run, this really backfires on Matt, as he can’t practice law in court without the prosecution moving for a mistrial because he’s Daredevil and has (or could) tamper with the case.

Yeah, I’d say that Bendis/Brubaker/Waid are the first people to take this particular angle on an exposed identity for a superhero. “You can’t prove that it is me!”

The best version of this story I think is still the 1980s Gruenwald version with Super-Patriot taking over as Captain America. It also introduced the only alternate Cap costume I ever liked — the predominantly black Captain/USAgent outfit.

(I, for one, hate the helmets and all the toolbelt accessory crap that’s been added to Cap’s traditional uniform. It messes up the clean lines of the original outfit. “Costume-mangling” with all this unnecessary “real-life” gear has been one of the unfortunate legacies of the post-Image era… If you don’t believe me, look at all the Ultimate Marvel designs that have crept into the mainstream Marvel books and the New 52 designs of classic DC characters. They call those redesigns improvements??????!!!????)

The storyline took its time — thank goodness it wasn’t over a year-and-a-half long(!) — but did a better job of explaining WHY Steve Rogers was the best embodiment of Captain America. Funny thing is that it was still at least a half-decade from the Image times when a bonehead or pugilist like John F. Walker would have been the norm for that comics group.

Me? I prefer the old-fashioned characters that were meant to stand for a standard better than the mediocrity that’s accepted today…

@George C: It helps that the Captain costume is one of the best costume designs of all time. It evokes Cap’s original uniform but changes just enough to be its own thing. Later costume designers missed the point with different shields, a Judge Dredd helmet, and whatever the hell he was wearing in “Force Works”.

The huge “The Captain” trade was one of my best purchases of the year.

Does anyone think that the real Bill Clinton when holding Cap’s shield would have said “It’s like holding Marilyn’s boob” or am I just being a funsnark?

I always have loved the Gruenwald “The Captain” story… Having Captain America quit is one of the best ways to show why he’s still relevant (which could be why so many writers have done it).

@GeorgeC It’s funny because they add all these accessories like belt pouches to make it more “real”, but no one ever actually uses anything in the compartments. They’re just there.

@GeorgeC: I totally agree. And the thing is, I was fine with the ‘realistic’ costumes in the Ultimate Universe, because that was part of that imprint’s whole point. Why does it seem like they are trying to Ultimate-ize the regular MU? Then what’s the point of having two imprints?

@M-Wolverine: That’s a good point. If I was a Marvel writer, I would have every character with pouches constantly pulling things like gum and cigarettes out of them, just to be a smartass.

Looking forward to the inevitable “America Incorporated”.

LOL, when I saw those three guys in Cap togs I figured it must be pretty easy to find red pirate boots in New York. As Steve exits a boots store, I decided I was correct. Although evidently it’s not so easy that it’s more convenient than stripping the costume off a corpse, as Nomad apparently does. Well, he didn’t need it anymore.

Hmm, blind guy designs a replacement costume and it turns out to be ludicrous, but considering what Daredevil’s own costume looked like at the time, I’d say Steve got off lucky. “My costumer”, jeez. I think D-bag would be a better nickname than D-man…which is already all kinds of wrong. Has Steve or anyone else ever called Daredevil that before or since?

I can’t tell you how often I’ve blurted out, “I wish I’d thought to bring a thesaurus!” Blurted. Blurt. Bluuuuuurt. Damn, that’s a strange word.

I guess Steve Rogers will be back on costume before adding what Remender did, eh?

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