Captain America: Where Do I Start?

In a medium dominated by super heroes, there's one that embodies the root of the profession — heroic — more than anyone: Captain America.

Created in 1940 in the build-up to the United States' entry into World War 2, this patriotic powerhouse came out of creators Joe Simon and Jack Kirby's own feelings on the actions of Nazi Germany. His first issue, which showed Captain America cold-cocking Adolf Hitler, sold over a million copies — outselling even Time magazine for several issues. After the end of the war, the character dropped off the seen to return years later with the launching of Marvel's flagship team book The Avengers. Since then, Captain America has been the point-man for Marvel's heroes despite the larger mainstream popularity of Spider-Man and the X-Men. But with the new movie Captain America: The FIrst Avenger set for release in July, there's alot of people looking to know more about the Super Soldier.

And that's where iFanboy comes in.

As part of our regular feature series dubbed "Where Do I Start", we're taking on the character of Captain America and digging through the longboxes and bookshelves to find five must-have books for anyone wanting the quintessential look at the the Star-Spangled soldier. While simply picking up one of the several ongoing Captain America series on shelves might work for some, we've made a list of several key story-arcs and seminal moments for the character that's the ideal starting point for anyone interested in the character.

Captain America Omnibus Vol. 1: Writer Ed Brubaker and artist Steve Epting have redefined Captain America for the modern age. Bringing in Brubaker's crime writing background with Epting's classic linework, the relaunched Captain America series became the new highwater mark for the Super Soldier. In addition to crafting a classic story with Steve Rogers, it also re-introduced the long-thought-dead sidekick Bucky Barnes in an arresting new role as a brainwashed super spy working for the wrong side. This tome collects the first twenty-five issue of Brubaker & Epting's run on the title, as well as several extras. 

Captain America: The Bloodstone Hunt: In comic history books, there's a short list of writers who have done the most for Captain America. And outside of his original creators and current scribe Ed Brubaker, there stands Mark Gruenwald. This book collects the highpoint in Gruenwald's run, working with artist Kieron Dwyer on the mad nazi Baron Zemo and the hunt for the mythical Bloodstone thought to be able to raise Zemo's father from the grave. This arc is James Bond meets Indiana Jones, with amazing art and dialogue that makes this easily a non-stop read from cover to cover.

Captain America: To Protect & Serve: After the events of "Heroes Reborn", Captain America returned to the standard Marvel universe and was out to prove himself — and prove himself he did. Led by writer Mark Waid and artist Ron Garney, the storyarc collected in Captain America: To Protect & Serve showed Steve Rogers in his classic role without being stodgy or old-fashioned. In this arc, Waid & Garney take the Captain from the streets of Japan to the bottom of the sea after his lost shield.

The Ultimates: Ultimate Collection Vol. 1Although not a solo story but an ensemble piece, The Ultimates stands as the closest thing to a modern retelling of Captain America's origin — and the series served as blueprint for the launching of the recent Marvel movies. This Ultimatized version of Marvel's Avengers team is an ideal  gateway comic for someone who has seen the Iron Man movies and wants to know what to expect with Captain America: The First Avenger and 2012's The Avengers.

Captain America: War & RemembranceThis collects the classic — and overlooked — run on Captain America by writer Roger Stern and artist John Byne. This eight-issue run pits Marvel's Super Soldier against some of the character's larger rogues gallery, from Mister Hyde to Batroc the Leaper and Baron Blood. Also included is the unique "Cap for President" story-arc which was revisited years later in Captain America: Homeland.

Marvel Masterworks Golden Age: Captain America Comics Vol. 1: Where it all began. This deluxe collection of the first four issues of Captain America by creators Joe Simon and Jack Kirby is fully re-mastered, and features the character's first clash with the Red Skull and the Nazis, as well as his earliest team-ups with Bucky.

Comments

  1. Bloodstone Hunt still in stock at Amazon?  Ordered.

  2. How is Captain America: Operation Rebirth, not on this list?

  3. Great list Chris, and I can contest they are all great in their own ways.

    However, you forgot to put on ‘Captain America: Man & Wolf’.

    Not only is a constant reminder of how not to do a Captain America story, but it’s also a lot of fun to laugh at just how terrible 90’s comics were. I mean this came out two issues after the 400th issue of Captain America! Imagine that: That was the best story idea they could think of after a big issue release.

  4. Great list. i was thinking about this feature earlier. i love jack kirby’s marvel work but i’ve never read any of his other stuff, just the fantastic four and avengers. I’ve love to see a where do i start on his cosmic stuff

  5. Brubaker, Brubaker, and more Brubaker. 

  6. There’s a great story arc – somewhere around 290s – 300 of the book in the 80s – that has the Red Skull, Sin (then Mother Superior) and Zemo kidnapping Cap, having him (and the Skull) age to real time, then battling it out. Has two great issues near the end with an origin of the Skull and a retelling of Bucky’s death that are MUST READ. That Skull origin issue (298) stays with me to this day as just being very creepy. Written by JM DeMatteis when he was at his peak, this arc needs a collection, especially with Fear Itself coming and Sin’s role as the new Red Skull. Classic comic booking.

  7. Captain America works best in Avengers.

  8. I am the proud owner of a complete, two decade shy collection of CAPTAIN AMERICA dating back to around issue #350. (If the words CAPTAIN and AMERICA were in the title, I own it, regardless.) He is my all time favorite Marvel hero, and my second favorite hero in all of comics.

    No matter how much I read I will always love my first story: Mark Waid & Ron Garney’s A MAN W/OUT A COUNTRY. I started w/ the second issue, and had to track down the first. It really is one of the great super hero works out there.

    -J.

  9. I just recently started reading Cap’t.  I started from Winter Soldier.  Is that where the Omnibus starts?  So far I’ve read Winter Soldier, Red Menace 1 and 2, Civil War and am about to read the death of cap’t.  Am I missing something that the omnibus will cover?

  10. There was a great 4-part series called “The Adventures of Captain America” from 91-92, written by Fabian Nicieza that I really enjoyed. It covered the origin story and WWII era very well.

  11. Captain America: Operation Rebirth (contains Man Without a Country) is also a GREAT Cap tale too. It was the first go around on the character by Waid and Garney. Some great art and a good action packed story. It’s more of a cross between the Gruenwald stuff and Brubaker. Really good read. Conor made it his book of the month a few years ago.

    Also a good Cap Avengers tale is Avengers Forever. It takes Cap at one of his weakest moments and shows you why he’s honored and respected in Marvel U. The art by Carlos Pacheco is to die for.

  12. @mikedwarner  You’ve read all of the material in the omnibus 🙂 You can get an omnibus of the death of captain america or there are three trades I think. 

  13. @KickAss  I agree with you big time on this one. I never understood why this is, but i LOVE Captain America as an Avengers member, but have very little interest in him as a solo character. I love the idea of all these super powered heroes and aliens and Gods all having the ultimate respect for a regular guy and be willing to follow him no matter what. it really makes him seem like this amazingly special character. When he’s on his own, I think some of the magic is lost for me. 

  14. Gotta say, Cap is the one character in the Avengers that I always hated! I remember reading Avengers in the late 90’s when it was relaunched with the Perez art. I just found him to be a completely bizarre character. The concept of a personifaction seems kinda redundent to me, even for a vocally patriotic people like you yankees! I know theres more to the character than the symbols etc. but i’ve never read anything with him in it where i didnt dislike him instantly. 

    So my question is…can the suggestions change my mind? 

  15. @kidCharlemagne  Probably not. If you don’t like the core concept of a character, it’s doubtful you will like stories featuring that character in a prominent role.

  16. Two others to mention that are coming out later this year:

    Captain America Omnibus, Vol. 1 by Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Jack Kirby and Jim Sparling (May 18, 2011)

    Captain America by Jack Kirby Omnibus by Jack Kirby (Mar 30, 2011) 

  17. I remember reading Cap back in 1976 with all the bicentennialcelebrations going on.  That and the storyline with Cap and Falcon riding skateboards in  “roller ball” style death match.  Great looking Kirby-esque art.

  18. I just ordered “Bloodstone” from Amazon UK where it is described as, “Revised Edition”.  Does anyone know what the difference will be?

  19. Hell it was Jack Kirby!!! Cool.

  20. I randomly picked up “War and Remembrance” a little while ago and just finished reading it, I enjoyed it very much.

  21. The new Mark Waid mini, Man Out of Time is a pretty damn great introduction to the character as well.

  22. I agree with llash Mark Waid’s Man Out Of Time Arc really captured Captain America and how he really felt after being revived and how the world had changed so much since he disappeared and how much the world felt foreign to him and he felt lost until the end it was beautiful characterization of The Only Captain in comics in my opinion.

  23. What about the 70s Kirby run – Cap and The Falcon!? It’s the only Captain America I’ve ever read, but I’m loving it… then again I’m a sucker for 70s Kirby – The Demon, Kamandi etc