Captain America made his first appearance in Captain America Comics #1 (March 1941). On the cover, he decks Hitler with a punch to the chin. What better way to introduce a hero clad in the American flag during World War II?
Created by Joe Simon (author) and Jack Kirby (artist), Captain America was the most popular of a series of patriotic superheroes introduced by American comic book companies during World War II to capitalize on patriotic sentiments. A "Super Soldier," Captain America battled Nazis and Japanese troops just like his real life counterparts in the U.S. Armed Forces. His popularity soared during the war, but after hostilities ended he slowly faded from the spotlight until the 1960s when he was be revived and revamped.
Before he became Captain America, Steve Rogers was an art student who attempted to join the U.S. Army during World War II but was rejected because of poor health. Because of his burning desire to defend his country, however, Rogers was chosen as the subject of a secret military experiment. He was administered a Super Solder Serum and bombarded with "vita-rays" that transformed him into a super-powered Nazi-fighting machine. Originally, the government planned to create a whole army of super soldiers, but a Nazi spy thwarted that efford by murdering the scientist who had created the Super Soldier Serum, leaving Steve Rogers as the only successful product of the Super Soldier program. Determined not only to protect his country, but to become an enduring symbol of freedom, Rogers took the name "Captain America."
During World War II, Captain America's sidekick was Bucky (a.k.a. James Buchanan Barnes), an orphan who had lost his father at the outset of the war. Although he had no super powers, Bucky bravely fought alongside Captain America throughout most of the war. In 1945, however, as hostilities drew to a close, Captain America and Bucky were in hot pursuit of the evil villain Baron Zemo who was intent on destroying mankind with an explosive device attached to an experimental drone plane. Bucky managed to board the plane and attempted to defuse the bomb, but it exploded in mid-air, killing him instantly.
During the final days of World War II, Captain America and his sidekick Bucky attempted to end the murderous rampage of the evil villain Baron Zemo who had attached an explosive device to an experimental drone plane. The two heroes managed to board the plane, but the bomb exploded in mid air, killing Bucky and throwing Captain America into the frigid waters of the North Atlantic where he was frozen in a block of ice until 1964 when The Avengers discovered him and managed to successfully revive him after years of being trapped in a state of suspended animation. Captain America would go on to join The Avengers and become one of the teams most active members.
During the 1970s, Steve Rogers became disillusioned by U.S. politics and, feeling he could no longer represent the U.S. government, abandoned the costume and identity of Captain America, choosing to take on a new name -- the Nomad, Man Without a Country. During this period, several other men attempted unsuccessfully to fill the role of Captain America. However, when the Red Skull once again reared his head to wage a campaign of violence, Rogers felt compelled to once again wear the costume of Captain America, this time vowing to serve as a symbol of America's ideals, rather than its government. Almost a decade later, he would find himself face to face with a U.S. Army general who attempted to manipulate the hero using his patriotism and loyalty against him. Captain America simply responded, "I'm loyal to nothing, General ... except the Dream." (Daredevil #233, August 1986).
In the very first issue of Captain America Comics (March 1941), Captain America battled The Red Skull, a super villain that had been recruited by Adolf Hitler himself. A former bellhop in a hotel frequented by the Third Reich, Johann Schmidt happened to be present when Hitler was berating one of his officers. Hitler turned to Schmidt and, on a whim, suggested that he could train this simple bellhop to be a better Nazi than the officer. Hitler then took a good look at Schmidt and, recognizing his dark inner nature, decided to actually take up the challenge of transforming the young bellhop into a special operative for the Third Reich. Schmidt eventually emerged from his training as the Red Skull -- a deadly villain who wore a grotesque red skull mask to intimidate his enemies. He would go on to become Captain America's arch-enemy. Near the end of World War II, the Red Skull was trapped under the rubble of a bombed building, but the experimental gas he was exposed to there somehow put him in a state of suspended animation. During modern times, he was revived by Hydra, a terrorist organization.
Reb Brown played the title role in the 1979 movie Captain America. Suffering from a tiny budget and a sub-par script, this made-for-television movie was not well received. Reportedly, the costume designers even changed Captain America's costume and had to be begged by Marvel Comics to change it back. A 1944 Captain America movie featured Dick Purcell in the title role, Matt Salinger played Captain America in a 1991 movie, and Chris Evans played the role in multiple films starting with Captain America: The First Avenger in 2011.