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CSBG Archive

Drawing Crazy Patterns – Captain America’s Unbreakable Shield Breaking

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.

This week, based on a suggestion from reader Stephane S., we take a look at five instances where Captain America’s unbreakable shield was broken…

Enjoy!

First up, in Avengers #215 by Jim Shooter, Alan Weiss and Dan Green, the Avengers fight against the Molecule Man…

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and he just takes away their stuff…

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After he is defeated, he gives their stuff back…

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Next, in Marvel Super-Heroes: Secret Wars #11 (by Shooter, Mike Zeck and John Beatty), Doctor Doom has taken the power of the Beyonder. The superheroes debate whether to attack him…

capshield2-1

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In the next issue, we open with Cap’s broken shield…

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However, in a clever twist, Klaw (who has a piece of the Beyonder in him) tricks Doctor Doom into, in effect, using his near-infinite power to resurrect the heroes (by playing on Dooms’ doubts, he has Doom basically create a scenario that Klaw planted in his mind where the heroes all somehow survive). Here, Cap leads the heroes against Doom….

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After Doom is defeated, there was some, shall we saw “miracle energy” floating around (it was almost like there was literally deus ex machina), and Cap uses said energy…

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Next up is Infinity Gauntlet #4 (by Jim Starlin, Ron Lim and Joe Rubinstein), where Thanos has killed half of the universe after obtaining the aforementioned Infinity Gauntlet. The remaining heroes attack in a valiant plan where they only intend to distract Thanos long enough for the Silver Surfer to steal the Gauntlet. Cap is the last hero left…

capshield3-1

The plan did not work and Thanos then kills Cap. However, in the final issue of the six-part mini-series, the space pirate Nebula gets the Gauntlet and she uses it to reverse the events of the past day…

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which restores half the universe, including Cap (and his shield)…

capshield3-3

In 1998′s Captain America series by Mark Waid, Ron Garney and Bob Wiacek, the second issue ends with Cap losing his shield at the bottom of the ocean. Twelve issues later, Iron Man’s pal James Rhodes (then working as a salvager) finds it, but there’s a catch…

capshield4-1

Later on, we discover that it all comes down to some vibranium inconsistency caused by Cap healing the shield during Secret Wars (basically, Cap couldn’t put it together perfectly). So the plan is for Cap to basically sacrifice his shield to save the day (the sound villain, Klaw, is using the vibranium malfunctions to become even more powerful than normal).

So in Captain America #22 (by Waid, Andy Kubert and Jesse Delperdang), Cap is ready to give up his shield…

capshield4-2

but Klaw destroys the machine that was going to be powered by the shield. So Cap is a sitting duck. Or is he?

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Most recently, in Fear Itself #5 (by Matt Fraction, Stuart Immonen and Wade Von Grawbadger), Odin’s evil brother, The Serpent, arrives on Earth ready to kick some ass…

capshield5-1

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After the battle is won, at the end of #7, Odin fixes Cap’s shield and reinforces it, but it is not completely healed…

capshield5-3

It seems like most artists have glossed over the scar when they draw it nowadays.

That’s it for this edition (and remember, I understand that there are other examples out there. This list just has five of hem)! If YOU have a suggestion for a future installment of Drawing Crazy Patterns, let me know by e-mailing me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com

62 Comments

It amuses me to no end that Marvel does such a poor job of keeping visual continuity even with recent events like the shield’s “scar”. Seriously, I wonder what their editors do for a living these days.

In Age of Ultron, Cap’s Shield is broken again… EVEN if urn-infused…

So it takes a god or a god-like power to destroy the shield.

The Original Jimmy

March 16, 2013 at 6:02 am

Yep, Cap’s broken shield has been used as a visual symbol that ” the situation is really, REALLY dire ” so much that it has lost its impact significantly. I remember as a teenager being blown away by that Secret Wars moment but now it’s old hat. Of course Marvel just assumes that 99% of its readership has only been reading comics for five years and that they can get away with it (I think they’re probably right.)
I really enjoyed this Crazy Patterns – its inspired me to go re-read all those Cap comics featured here.

I like that the Serpent’s runes translate to “Oh, please” when he’s breaking the shield.

The thing I hate about these tropes is that, when they’re used, it’s always done in a sort of “I can’t believe that just happened!” way, ignoring that, yeah, it has happened before. A lot. I wish Marvel would declare a moratorium on certain dramatic events: once they happen, they’re not allowed to happen anymore. These would include Cap’s shield breaking and the Helicarrier crashing. I would include Wolverine losing his adamantium skeleton, but thankfully, that’s only happened once to date.

Wow. I was thinking about this the other day because of Age of Ultron (which was not good). I did not know about the Molecule Man one, remembered the Secret Wars and Mark Wade ones, and forgot the other two.

I agree with Adam, it should not be done again.

While not a breakage, the shield was dented in the story that ran through Iron Man 64 (third series), Thor 58 (second series), and Avengers 63 (third series).

Actually the reading order is Thor, Iron Man, then Avengers.

What about the reverse? Scenes showing a powerful villain trying to break Cap’s shield and failing? Like in AVENGERS 165, when Nefaria (basically operating at something close to Silver Age Superman levels) tries to break Cap’s shield and completely fails. Or in CAPTAIN AMERICA 252, when Mr Hyde gives it a shot and also fails.

I always liked how those moments showed the limits of a bad guy’s power, that some things were still beyond them.

The silliest part I find about this pattern is that the shield just shatters like glass every time.
Except for Secret Wars, where it was more of a ripped up effect like metal would actually do.

Also broken in Ultimate Comics New Ultimates by Valkyrie, only to be repaired by Odin’s dwarves at the end of the arc.

At this point I think that they should just stop claiming that Cap’s shield is unbreakable and show that he has several sturdy but not strictly unbreakable replicas in storage.

Theres an even earlier breaking od caps shield in a very old Avengers annual where thew Mandarin breaks it with a deadly karate chop lol

Thanks Brian, this was perfect! I had forgotten about that Molecule Man story, even though it was one of my favourites. But you covered the major ones I wanted to see. Awesome!

Cap’s shield breaking is definitely one of the best recurring superhero themes!

There’s also the time when the Masters of Evil take over Avengers Mansion and one of them, Mr. Hyde perhaps, crushes CAP’s original, non-round, World War II shield with his bare hands. That was a great visual. I think they were rummaging around CAP’s personal effects and found it in his locker or something. If I remember correctly, they do it in front of CAP, as he and the rest of the Avengers are being held captive at the time, just to torture him psychologically. I know, it’s not the round shield, but it was very cool and devious just the same. I’m not sure if cap ever gets that one restored or not either…

Of course, there was also an Avengers story (which was referenced in the No-Prize book) in which the Melter destroyed Captain America but Cap got a replacement without an explanation.

I do have a theory about this.
Captain America had earlier been seen using a shield which he could control with magnets with a reveal that Tony Stark had hollowed out the Shield and filled it with circuitry. This is, of course, impossible so it must be a fake shield put together by Tony which only had a thin layer of “indestructible” metal (which, as stated in the comic, was melted off by the Melter’s lasers).
This meant it wasn’t the real shield that was destroyed and Cap could regain his real shield by visiting the mansion.

Sooooo …

It is more like Cap’s semi-unbreakable shield.My favorite aspect of this pattern is how it nearly always wraps up with the previously unbreakable shield being reinforced by something EVEN MORE UNBREAKABLE!

The way it seems to me is that after it first broke in Secret Wars the composition of the shield was weaker and therefore easier to brake.

I didn’t actually know about any of these, so to me Cap’s shield had always been unbreakable. Except for that one time kdu mentioned about the Thor/Iron Man/Avengers crossover where Thor (with Odin’s power) just barely dented it.

Personally, I liked it that way since it meant the shield was unbreakable just like Cap’s spirit. But I’m cool with most of these too, since the only time it seems to break is against people with reality-warping powers.

…Y’know, except for this recent Age of Ultron crap. >_<

interesting that caps shield like thor sometimes losing his hammer or all the times banner keeps trying to be free of the hulk. seems to be the one item in the marvel universe that winds up being destroyed more times then anything else only to be put together again. one would think by now cap would create one out of adamantium so it can never be destroyed again.

Travis Stephens

March 16, 2013 at 4:23 pm

Didn’t the Beyonder break the shield in Secret Wars II? Or did SWII not really happen? BTW Secret Wars #10 was -from cover to back page- a classic. It rocked!

Travis Stephens

March 16, 2013 at 4:38 pm

Or like Professor X walking or not walking, or the Thing becoming Ben Grimm back and forth. While Marvel may have had a Tradition of such things in the Lee- Kirby days, it comes off as hackneyed in the Internet Age. It’s not like no one can go and look up the last time a similar event happened. Personally it’s comic book cannibalism.

The Ad for Acts of Vengence freaked me when I first saw it. The Shield, The Hammer, Hawkeyes Bow, Quasars Quantum Bands n Shellheads helmet all broken.
Then not one of them damaged in the arc.? (been a while like so I may be wrong).

That said, Quasar did seem to get his bands taken from him quite a bit…
Guess he’s a bit too obscure to qualify for his own Pattern..? ;-)

That issue of the Avengers with the Molecule Man is also when Thor, Cap, Tigra and the Surfer all found out Iron Man is Tony Stark. That’s kind of a big deal, right?

Seeing all these moments together remind me how awesome a character Cap can be under a good writer. I’ve only read the first three examples, but the ending to Secret Wars #11 is still mind blowing after all these years. Waid did a splendid job during his runs as well.

Chad I am surprised that you did not know that Cap’s shield is made out of adamantium.

I think the second Marvel Universe Handbook stated it was a adamantium/titanium alloy. Recently I think it has been stated that the shield is a adamantium/vibranium alloy (now with uru, as mentioned in the article).

I’ll let someone else correct that popular misconception, because I’m sure they’ll be itching to.

IF Wakanda’s vibranium mound was about to explode, wouldn’t the Black panther have noticed and done something about it, rather than waiting around for Tony Stark to figure out a solution?

Bleh…

After the first two times, shield destruction just loses its meaning!

I know a lot of people here praise Mark Waid’s Cap runs but he honestly lost me on his second run because of the stupid shield subplot. Cap’s obsession with the damn thing gets worse than Captain Kirk’s “love affair” with the Starship Enterprise!

It’s a damn disc for cryin’ out loud! It’s not as if his billionaire friends Tony and T’Challa can’t make him a new one… They did this TWICE during the Super-Patriot/Cap Replaced and Armor Wars storylines!

This is just one minor example of how insanely stupid some subplots are and where logic just falls off the wagon. It’s sad when people give inanimate objects a bit more relevance than they deserve…

Lovely as that shield is, it’s not irreplaceable. The man wielding it… that’s a different story.

P.S. — Not surprised the damn thing’s been busted at least twice in the past decade. Marvel seems to lose track of how many times plot devices get reused. The manic care that used to exist for some important details and coherent continuity went out the window once Marvel became trade on the NYSE. Though controversial and lacking in basic social skills at times, Shooter did a much better job keeping the house in order and the books shipping on time than any chief editor/operations office since at either Marvel or DC.

As far as visual continuity goes, both DC and Marvel are horrible at it in the current day and age. Have to think that those godawfully over-complicated Jim Lee/Wildstorm character 52 redesigns have only made every artists’ jobs for DC 4-7 times harder with all those unnecessary details, buckles, V-necks, and crap the guy and his art crew like to put on their characters. Such unnecessary bling…

I’m trying to remember if I read the Cap/Black Panther mini, because you’d think that they’d bring up the whole “vibranium alloy” bit to the shield in there.

But this is a cool looking pattern.

It seems like a lot of it is “some godlike being busts it up good” and it resolves by…magic, apparently. Turning back time, miracle energy, blah blah.

Neat that Waid followed up on the bit from Secret Wars.

correction to my earlier post
It wasn’t the melter but the Living Laser who destroyed Cap’s shield in Avengers 35
Apparently, on the letters page it was explained as being a replica and not the proper shield

I love Molecule Man’s “fill in the blank” meta-monologue.

@Nitz: Well, really, the problem is that writers want smashing the shield to make their stories seem important. It’ sort of like writers showing the Juggernaut being stopped by something t drive home how important the big new somethign is. If we make the shield “nothing special, got a million of ‘em,” or we just declare the Juggernaut stoppable, two thing shappen: first, Juggy’s now just one of several dozen Really Strong Guys and Cap’s shield is one of several dozen generic weapons; and second, witers who don’t know how else to pump up their stories will just find and de-specialize the next “special thing” on the list.

The real problem is that “break the unbreakable thing” is hack writing, and hack writing gets through increasingly often. Mark Millar’s Fantastic Four and Matt Fraction’s Fear Itself are standouts from recent years, where not-terribly-interesting stories were artificially inflated by showing us Terrible Things Happening To Sacred Cows. My take is that a writer shouldn’t be writing a story if the only way they can make something seem important is to break Cap’s shield or have it stop the Juggernaut, or overpower the Hulk, or lift Thor’s hammer, r whatever.

If that’s what you need to convince us that your New Thingus is an Important New Thingus…then it’s not actually Important and will be remembered mostly as clumsy gimmickry. Certainly few to none of the most recent things above that broke Cap’s shield have had much staying power; the shield has. The Infinity Gauntlet mattered for quite a while, granted…and now it’s become the latest Special Thing a writer breaks or undermines to prop up his newest Important New Thingus. (It’ll certainly be back long before said Thingus is revisited.)

When you look at the example above, you see a lot of individual writers’ pet characters and short-lived crossover villains pulling off the impossible…and quickly being forgotten or spending decades unused right afterwards. Captain America, meanwhile, appears every month, as do folks like Thor and sometimes even the Juggernaut. Why protect big nothings like Beyonder or the Serpent at the expense of something that gets a lot more use and has a lot more story potential?

@GC: They did make him another one in Waid’s run, but it isn’t “balanced right” or somesuch and so it goes wild whenver he throws it. It’s basically a two-page gag so Waid can clear away your objectiion and then bring in the morphing energy shield, which I suspect was the main reason he smashed up the old one.

Are you referring to my post Buttler? Captain America Annual 8 (the Wolverine one) has the phrase “Adamantium claws strike adamantium-plus shield…”

Given how often Cap’s shield breaks, I think we should be surprised that Wolverine does not get more broken bones from the “New Thingus.”

[...] Check out how many times Captain America’s unbreakable shield has broken. [...]

kdu2814: They’ve been inconsistent in describing the shield over the years but eventually settled on it being a mixture of vibranium and an “experimental iron alloy,” with some unknown catalyst that slipped in while the scientist was asleep to make them actually meld. That’s why they can’t just make another one like it–even the original creator has no idea how. The reason I suggested someone else clear it up is because I remember some of the same adamantium references you do and have had to be corrected about that not being canon anymore. So “popular misconception” isn’t quite right–it’s just that the adamantium has been retconned out of the shield entirely.

That said, he has had some adamantium replacement shields at a couple of points in the past, when John Walker had the real shield and when it was lost in the ocean.

(In fact, at least one of those pages above actually includes the “adamantium/vibranium alloy” description, so if it were up to me they may as well have stuck with that. Oddly, it wasn’t left up to me.)

I really hope we see the iron Man leisure suit in Iron Man 3.

“I really hope we see the iron Man leisure suit in Iron Man 3.”

I bet if Robert Downey Jr saw this he’d wear one at the premiere!

buttlet; I must have missed or forgotten the adamantium being retconned out. I just checked Marvel.wiki and it has the shield being adamantium/vibranium with an unknown catalyst, so it might be back.

As for the replacement shields, the (unpainted) shield that Iron Man made Rogers when he was just the Captain was titanium (I think), then Black Panther gave him a vibranium shield when Iron Man ‘went bad’ in the Armor Wars.

When Waid lost then broke the shield Cap used the original triangle shield (apparently repaired after Hyde smashed it) and then Iron Man made him the photonic shield (last seen in Captain America and Iron Man I think).

But if I remember correctly, it wasn’t until way into the Silver Age that anybody decided that Cap’s shield was unbreakable in the first place? It was even a while until it would ricochet around when he threw it, that’s why Tony Stark stuck magnets in it.

Is there a ‘When We First Met’ on this?

Ah yes, When We First Met #22 there was some discussion of it.

Thanks for keeping stuff so well organized, Brian.

Travis Stephens

March 17, 2013 at 4:52 pm

Adamantium did not pop up until the classic Avengers # 69 when Ultron 6 got hold of it. Obviously, Cap’s shield could not be made from it. The scientific theory is that the carbon in the titanium steel was converted into something analagous to a diamond lattice when the unknown catalyst was introduced. This extremely stable matrix was mirrored and absorbed Vibranium’s unique characteristics as well. Dr. McClain trying to duplicate the process created something so chemically similar that it (the shield) could be referred to as adamantium as well, I guess.

Travis Stephens

March 17, 2013 at 5:08 pm

The original triangular shield that Mr. Hyde broke in the classic Under Siege storyline was later replaced with on that was “plucked from time”. Plucking things from time is what you when it’s late and you ate running out of ideals.

BTW how did the Avengers defeat the Molecule Man? He has an awfully satiated look on his face.

For the scar, I always knew artists would forget to draw it in. It is so small a detail.
As for Age of Ultron, I feel like the story operates on a pre fear itself storyline.,

@kdu2814: A couple of clarifications on your shield timeline:

If memory serves the triangular shield Cap used in the second Waid run wasn’t the original. it was a copy that was part of a museum exhibit. Hydra was attacking the museum (for some reason), Cap showed up to stop them and grabbed the knockoff tricorner for protection. Also, in the beginning of the same issue Stark gave Cap the replacement round, painted metallic shield that Omar referenced, but he couldn’t control it when it was thrown and never took it out into the field (which is why he didn’t have any shield during the Hydra fight later on).

And Tony Stark didn’t give Cap the energy shield. It was originally given to Steve by Sharon Carter, after the President stripped Steve of his costume and shield in the “Man Without a Country” arc during the first Waid/Garney Cap run (I think she bought it off a black market arms dealer). After Waid sunk the round one during the second run, Sharon gave him a newer, modified version of it.

Thing is, I thought the special thing about Cap was that he’s the first, last, and only successful Super-Soldier specimen. That’s the story of his origin; his shield was something given to him afterwards along with the costume, while the US government was figuring out what to do with their first, last, and only Super-Soldier.

(Meanwhile, it stretches disbelief too far that the one-in-a-million un-replicable super-soldier is the one who gets a custom-made, one-in-a-million un-replicable weapon. Especially when said weapon is a slab of metal intended to be thrown, in a way where it can easily be lost).

It’s just become too easy to bust up Cap’s shield. It’s the “Superman Syndrome”–if a lazy writer wants to show how much of a bada– his character is, then he or she:

a. Easily defeats Superman (or Thor or The Hulk etc)

b. rips Spidey’s super tough webbing “like paper”

c. has power that “rivals Galactus”.

I have a question: Just WHAT are editors doing these days?

Cap doesn’t make much logical sense, but as with Superman, the myriad improbabilities have endured because they make archetypal sense. Cap’s shield is indestructible and always comes back because archetypal symbolism, and it’s his shield because archetypal symbolism.

@kalorama
It was a museum display of the Invaders, right? That is what I get for not checking sources.

I took a break from Cap between 375 and Waid’s second run and did not know the photonic shield had kind of made an earlier appearance (or forgot, since I forgot who gave it to Cap). Thanks for the corrections.

So Cap healed his sheild in Secret Wars with…wishful thinking? Wha?! For everyone complaining about lazy writing these days…

Some contrived coincidences need to stay, true. I already accept that Steve was the only person to drink the Super-Soldier Serum as intended and end up a pinnacle of human perfection. I accept that it helped keep him alive as he was frozen in a block of ice until he got found by the Avengers in modern times. I accept that he has a super-strong shield that he can throw like a boomerang. Accepting that it’s an unbreakable one-of-a-kind miracle object created in a metallurgic accident that can’t be duplicated is a bit too far.

Especially since adaptations don’t make a big deal about the shield’s “unbreakable” structure; the Ultimates just had the Pyms make Cap the new shield along with his new uniform and his other equipment (another reason why I don’t like Cap being completely monogamous as far as his one true shield is concerned), the Captain America movie had it as the extant metal of vibranium (super-tough but not cost-effective for anyone but Cap), and the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes cartoon did the same thing (which was used as a plot point, with T’Challa using his country’s vibranium to mend the shield being a symbolic gesture of atonement for cutting and running during the Skrull Invasion)

LEADER DESSLOK

March 18, 2013 at 9:00 pm

I was against that “wishful thinking” business even back then! I just had a lot of problems with Secret Wars even though the overall concept was a lot of fun!

I just thought the secret of Cap’s shield and its invulnerability should have remained a mystery. Let readers do the speculating and theorizing–that used to be part of the fun! Like trying to figure out “where” Billy Batson goes when he’s Captain Marvel (the real one) or vice versa. DC has tried many times to make “Marvel-Billy” work and they always fail! It seems that Jeff Smith, in sticking with The Original Vision of the character got raves from Cap fans–I guess we’re not so cynical after all.

Too many writers act as if we’re afraid to Dream and seem bound and determined to explain everything to death. Now that Cap’s shield is a Vibranium variant it’s fair game to smash it to pieces. “We now know it’s a little stronger than adamantium so we can limit it to….yadda, yadda, yadda!

It’s also like when Marvel “defined” the strength levels of their characters. Stan Lee used to say that anyone can beat anyone on any given occasion. That’s how Sub-Mariner can beat the Hulk in one story but the Hulk could win in another. But after it was “defined” it limited the writers imagination so now Hulk ALWAYS wins or Thor ALWAYS beats Namor–it’s just gotten boring.

The more they limit the imagination, the greater the temptation to “spice” things up with excessive sex, violence or the sleaziness of great heroes stabbing each other in the back.To hell with “imagination”–who needs it?

Over the years, many people have tried to replicate the shield’s composition. There was one plot where Batroc stole the shield for, AIM, I think, so they could study and reverse-engineer it, to no avail.

I’m surprised no one’s ever used time travel to go back to that night when it all began, to see what unknown element might have been introduced…or perhaps to introduce the element in question. Surely, with the amount of time travel done in the Marvel Universe… Send someone like the Ghost, who can be invisible and intangible and thus the perfect spy. (It’s not like the time and place of the shield’s creation is that much of a secret, I’m sure…

Heck, in a twist, it could be the good guys who undertake the mission, to learn the truth once and for all.

I’d say the shield needs to stay special for a few reasons. First, Marvel gets a lot of mileage out of it being the modern American equivalent of Excalibur. When someone picks up That Shield, it’s a big deal. They didn’t title that special Who Will Wear the Stripey Chainmail, after all, and we’ve see loads of future stories where Cap’s shield is picked up down the line by some other hero who thereby comes to symbolically represent the same things Cap does. Cap is in the ice just as Arthur sleeps in Avalon; and just as Arthur returns with his signature weapon, Cap returns with his. The “needful contrivances” Neil mentions set up the parallel, and within that parallel the idea of the shield being special becomes an almost inevitable development.

Second, the Super-Soldier Serum has become a lot less special when you have the Luke Cage process, ionic energy, the Weapon Plus program, and the Power Broker all capable of mass-manufacturing guys much tougher physically than anything porduced by the Serum. Plus we’ve got a fair few people with the Serum now: Mockingbird has a variation, as does Bucky (following Fear Itself), Machinesmith figured out how to duplicate it (and turn it off at will) in Ed Brubaker’s run, and Avengers: The Intiiative gave us the idea that a special diet and exercise program could duplicate its effects. And I’m nto vcounting in two utterly obscure and forgotten characters — Victorious from the 1970s Ka-Zar series in Astonishing Tales and Protocide from the Dan Jurgens Cap run in the late 1990s/early 2000s — who got the full Serum with none of the side effects. It’s been a long time since Cap was the best or even the only Super-Soldier example around.

Third, the shield works as a symbol of Cap’s nature — its induplicable, unbreakable nature and Cap’s equally induplicable, indomitavbe will. No matter how many Super-Soldiers equal or surpass him in physical terms, Steve Rogers always has that something extra. The shield makes tangible that special quality. Others have noted that the “specialness” of the shield came in late. No one has thought about *why*. The reason seems obvious in retrospect; once far more impressive superpeople proliferated, and once mass-production super-powers were repeatedly established, something needed to come in to represent in gross metaphorical terms why Cap was still, despite all, special. Thus the shield becoming indestructible int he Bronze Age, giving us great bits like the 50s Cap’s cheap, but durable replica breaking against Cap’s shield, friving home Steve Engelhart’s point about the divide between Steve’s enduring, sturdy values and 50s Cap’s flimsy, nationalist zealotry.

It’s a damned useful metaphor; discard it at your peril. And that’s the thing about superheroes in the “classic” mold, as opposed to the more deconstructive one: the metaphors are a lot more important than the fanwank plotting that attempts to explain those metaphors as if they were mere plot points.

LEADER DESSLOK

March 19, 2013 at 7:59 pm

Your third point sums up Cap and the Shield as his eternal symbol very nicely. Now if only you could send a copy of this by E-Mail to the Marvel Editorial offices so they can stop this idea of the shield being as durable as a Dixie cup!

The early instances of the shield being destroyed in the Stan Lee/Roy Thomas’s early days in the AVENGERS were retconned/explained as Cap not using his official shield in those adventures. If I remember right, they said Tony Stark built other shields with special gizmos for Cap, while the original remained in the lab. Those replicas were the ones so easily destroyed by the Melter, the Mandarin, and others. Eventually Cap returned to using the unbreakable one.

I didn’t have any problems with it to the late 90′s, but maybe that’s just my “time” seeming more favorable. Molecule Man didn’t really destroy those things as much as disassemble them. He wasn’t breaking it as much as taking it apart, and as Secret Wars later showed, he was really powerful.

Secret Wars and the Infinity Gauntlet were (at least at the time) things that were literally more powerful than the Universe itself (they could bitch slap Eternity). So while the shield is unbreakable by any normal means, it’s not bigger than the omniverse itself.

Then….Waid’s was just a silly story, and Fear Itself makes no sense, and is the most blatant propping up of a character in a long time. There’s no reason an uber-Norse God can’t be a serious threat as is, and I just don’t buy that any Norse God could break it. Sorry.

Omar, I think you missed a Super-Soldier … haven’t they retconned The Black Widow as being one of the subjects of a Russian attempt to duplicate the effects that worked on Steve? I could be wrong about this, I don’t follow Marvel as closely as I used to.

As noted above, the shield got busted or trashed a couple of times in the Silver Age and at least in-story it was never presented as anything problematic or startling. It wasn’t until the first Modok story that the shield was presented as anything special in more than a symbolic way.
That said, Omar, you nailed the reasons why it deserves to be special.

I also grew up thinking Cap’s shield had adamantium in it. Recently, Tom Brevoort answered my question on his Tumblr about the adamantium/vibranium alloy thing. The Official Handbook entry on Cap in the 80′s stated that his shield was composed of a “rare adamantium/vibranium alloy.” According to Brevoort, this was an error. However, because it was in the Official Handbook, it spread to things like TSR’s Marvel RPG sourcebooks, trading cards, and into a few comic stories as well. But apparently, it never should have.

Marvel’s official stance on this now is that it’s a one-of-a-kind vibranium/steel alloy.

I’m still not clear on why an American hero wears medieval chainmail and pirate boots, carries a hoplite’s shield, and has…WTF are those feathery things on his head, anyway? He may have a long and colorful history but Cap is just a pair of rainbow suspenders from being Last-Minute Thrift-Store Halloween Man.

Butanyway. Clearly Marvel forsook any right to call the shield “unbreakable” the first time they let it be broken. Now they need to fake up a word that means “cannot remain broken for long”. How about stealing a page from Thor and saying “cannot be broken unless one is truly worthy”.

And now, if trailers are to be believed, it’s going to get broken in the movie-verse in Avengers: Age of Ultron…

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