It’s the Fourth of July, the day we celebrate our independence. Time to break out the fireworks, hotdogs, and watermelon. Time to put on Independence Day or your favorite war film. Time for me to gush about my new favorite superhero, Captain America.
Sure, Batman will always hold a special place in my heart for being my first superhero, and I still look up to Superman for reminding me that a good heart is what really makes a hero. But not only does Cap combine the physical perfection and fighting prowess of Batman with the simple, old-fashioned morals of Superman, but he’s also just plain awesome. Don’t believe me? Here are my Crown Jewels of reasons Captain America is awesome. Note that I’ll be pulling from both the movies and the comics.
10. He fights Nazis
I’ve said it before, but Nazis are some of the greatest and most fun villains ever (in the entertainment industry; I realizes there’s nothing fun about them in real life). But with villains like the Red Skull, Iron Cross, Baron Zemo, and Dr. Arnim Zola, Cap seems a permanent part of the greatest generation, even in modern times. It helps that he’s famous for punching Hitler (even though he’s never gotten the chance to actually do it). Batman and Spider-Man may have the most colorful Rogues’ Galleries, but Cap has neo-Nazi Hydra, and that’s a force to be reckoned with.
9. He likes French people (except Batroc)
Today, America seems to collectively enjoy stereotyping the French as snooty, rude, and cowardly (regardless of the fact that France’s assistance helped get us a country in the first place). But in the Captain America: The Winter Soldier comics, Cap recalls the French Resistance and their sacrifice during the German occupation of World War II. He respects the French people’s willingness to give their lives despite their government’s willingness to give in to the Nazis. So if you don’t want to tick off the supersoldier, don’t call the French cowards.
8. His relationship with Peggy Carter
This romance starts off sweet enough, with Steve Rogers as a scrawny, unsure kid who’s saving his first dance for the right partner and who charms Peggy with his innocence. That’s easy enough to do when your lover is young and beautiful, but Winter Soldier takes it a step further by showing Cap visiting Peggy in a nursing home. She’s old and appears to be suffering from Alzheimer’s or some form of dementia, but Cap still comes to see her and calls her his girl. That’s devotion you can’t buy.
7. He opposes racism
In Captain America’s Bicentennial Battles, Cap is sent back in time by Mister Buda in order to get a better picture of America. One of his stops on this trip involves him helping a runaway slave, while another has him trying to make peace between U.S. troops and Geronimo. “We are all Americans,” he says. Add to that the fact that his partner during the 1970s was a Civil Rights-minded African-American, and we see that Cap has never shied away from making a statement about America’s diverse racial heritage. I’d say that’s pretty fly for a white guy.
6. He survived his life before the super-soldier serum
Steve Rogers was a scrawny, sickly kid. His parents were poor Irish immigrants who died while he was still young. He had to grow up alone in Great Depression-era Brooklyn, getting beaten by bullies every time he took a stand for what was right. But that’s the thing; he didn’t let his sorry life get him down. He kept making stands because he knew it was right, even though he couldn’t do anything about it. Entering the army might as well have been a death sentence, but despite his rough childhood, he still believed that this was the greatest country in the world and that our freedom was worth fighting for.
5. He serves America as it should be, not as it is
In Winter Soldier, Cap is disillusioned by the tactics of SHIELD, abhorring their lies and secrecy and calling them out for supporting fear, not freedom. Meanwhile, in the comics, after a government conspiracy involving the Secret Empire (and reflecting Watergate and the feelings of that era), Cap gives up his identity for a while, calling himself Nomad, the man without a country. In the end, though, he comes back to his Captain America role, declaring that he is loyal to nothing but the American Dream. He also stands against the government later, opposing the Superhero Registration Act. Why does the symbol of America stand against American government so often? Because he holds the principles America was founded upon and the dreams of its people to be more important than the power of its leaders.
4. He respects symbolism and ideals
This point should be fairly obvious, considering the fact that the guy wears the American flag every day. But it goes deeper than that. In one comic, Cap’s shield is stolen by a member of an aristocratic hierarchy for use in a deadly high-tech roller derby with a pot of gold as the prize (yes, that actually happened). When he finds out, he crashes the roller derby in order to get his shield back. It’s not that he values the shield itself so much; rather, he understands that the shield is a symbol, an extension of his own symbolism, and he refuses to let anyone use a symbol of freedom and protection for death and destruction. That’s a man who understands, as one of my favorite movies states, that symbols should be incorruptible and everlasting and therefore should be protected.
3. He knows it’s what’s inside that counts
Sure, he’s a superhero on steroids that make him the pinnacle of human potential, but that doesn’t mean he relies on his strength or skill completely. After all, it was Dr. Erskine, creator of the super-soldier serum, who told him to never stop being the good man he is, no matter what he becomes on the outside. So in The Avengers, it’s easy to understand why Cap gets ticked off at Iron Man. “Take the suit off, and what are you?” he asks. He knows that while Tony may have some of the coolest powers in the group, it’s the man behind the suit that’s really important, and while it’s easy to laugh at Tony’s snarkiness from a distance, it’s not so great when you have to count on the guy to save the world. It’s good to know, then, that our protector values a good heart over powers or popularity.
2. He is loyal to his friends no matter what
When the Falcon’s criminal past comes out in the comics, Cap is shaken, but he still stands by his partner, even testifying for him at the trial. Meanwhile, in Winter Soldier (both the comics and the movie), Cap’s best friend, Bucky, returns as an assassin working for the bad guys. Even then, Cap refuses to believe the worst, pursuing him and even giving him a chance to kill him. He won’t give up until his friend is back in control of his mind. If you’re Cap’s friend, no matter what you’ve done, he’ll always be with you “to the end of the line.”
1. He’s willing to sacrifice his life for what he believes is right
In The First Avenger, then-Private Steve Rogers has no qualms about leaping onto a grenade to save his fellow soldiers. That willingness to sacrifice all carries through into his supersoldier form. In the Infinity Gauntlet saga, after seeing his friends decimated by Thanos, a mad Titan with the power of a god, Cap walks up to the fiend with no plan and no hope of defeating him and basically defies him to his face. As long as he’s alive, he won’t let Thanos win, even if that means facing off alone against omnipotent evil. That’s the kind of courage we’d all like to have.
Forged in the fires of poverty, loss, war, conspiracy, and crime, Steve Rogers is a hero in every sense of the word, one who is still relevant today. Captain America has a character that’s every bit as strong as he is, and that’s what makes him the world’s greatest hero.
Captain America and all related properties are owned by Marvel.