Big Screen Avengers 101: CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER

Filmmakers on CAPTAIN AMERICA

Captain America: The First Avenger has been released on DVD and Blu-Ray. This is the final Marvel Studios film to act as a set-up for Marvel's The Avengers. That makes the box office hit a pretty big event and so it's time to look it over with some fun annotations showing the connections to other movies and the original comics. These are written in sequence with what happens during the film, so you can re-watch the cinematic story of the star-spangled Avenger and follow along with these fun facts.

Let's get to it!

This film is directed by Joe Johnston, who also directed films such as Jurassic Park III, October Sky, Jumanji, The Rocketeer, and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.

The film's screenwriters are Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, the writing team that also did the screenplays for the Chronicles of Narnia film franchise.

Captain America was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby and debuted in Captain America Comics #1 in 1941. The same comic featured the first appearance of his young partner Bucky Barnes. The character was popular throughout the early to mid 1940s but sales declined after World War II ended. A brief revival attempt in the 1950s failed. In the 1960s, a few years after Marvel Comics began ushering in a new age of superheroes with the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Thor, Iron Man and the Hulk, it was decided to bring Captain America back in a different way. In the pages of The Avengers comic series, by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the superhero team discovered Cap frozen alive and revived him. The hero revealed that he had fallen into the Arctic Circle in 1945 soon before the war had ended and the super-soldier serum in his veins had kept him from freezing to death. The new idea was that Cap was now a "man out of time" rather than an anachronistic super-soldier and that this would bring a new relevance to the character. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby then produced a new line of stories for the hero, some taking place in the present day and some revealing adventures that took place during the 1940s. Along with being a member (and later leader) of the Avengers, Cap also began working on missions with SHIELD.

The movie begins in the present day, as several SHIELD agents examine a downed aircraft in the Arctic Circle and find a frozen shield (as well as its owner). In a cut-out scene of the film The Incredible Hulk, the titular character was going to cause an avalanche in the Arctic circle and then, for barely a second, a figure with a round shield trapped in ice would have been visible.

SHIELD is an organization from the comics that has appeared in the films Iron Man, Iron Man 2 and Thor. SHIELD files and technology were also seen in the film The Incredible Hulk. In the comics, the organization began during the days of Ancient Egypt and was known as the Brotherhood of the Shield before the 20th century when it evolved into an international intelligence organization that specialized in combating superhuman terrorism and planet-wide threats. In the film Iron Man, it was implied to be a new organization, so new in fact that its agents didn't realize that they had a really fun acronym they could use. In Iron Man 2, however, Nick Fury indicated that the organization was decades old and that Howard Stark (whom we'll see later) was one of its founders.

In the comic book continuity, S.H.I.E.L.D. stands for Strategic Hazard Intervention and Espionage Logistics Directorate. In the Marvel Studios movie universe, it stands for Strategic Homeland Intervention, Espionage and Logistics Division.

 

Realizing what and who they've found frozen in the ice, the SHIELD agent calls for "the Colonel." He is referring to Colonel Nick J. Fury, who has been played by Samuel L. Jackson during his cameos in Iron Man and Iron Man 2. Fury's name was also seen on SHIELD files in The Incredible Hulk.

In the mainstream Marvel Comics universe, Nick Fury was a Caucasian guy from Hell’s Kitchen who led a WW II Rangers unit known as the Howlers and fought alongside Captain America, Wolverine and others. During the 1940s, he was given the “Infinity Formula,” which slowed down his aging considerably. After the war, he got involved in black ops and became a major player in the C.I.A. before he was later appointed to become the new director of S.H.I.E.L.D., recommended by Tony Stark. Years back, he went AWOL and S.H.I.E.L.D. was disbanded. Fury still shows up now and again and S.H.I.E.L.D. is now reforming under new leadership.

 

In the parallel universe of Ultimate Marvel Comics, Nick Fury was an African-American who served in the army and was then used as a test subject for a version of the super-soldier formula, which slowed down his aging. Decades later, he joined S.H.I.E.L.D. After a couple of appearances in the series <strong>Ultimate X-Men</strong>, “Ultimate Nick Fury” was redesigned by artist Bryan Hitch to look like actor Samuel L. Jackson, which made casting Jackson the natural choice for his cameo in <strong>Iron Man</strong> years later.

Since more and more people these days think of Nick Fury as a person resembling Samuel L. Jackson, Marvel decided to address this in more than one medium. First, the cartoon series <strong>Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes</strong> has Nick Fury, Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., as a black man who actually is as old as he looks. He didn’t serve in World War II alongside Captain America, his father did. The mainstream Marvel Comics universe followed this idea a year later. In the mini-series <strong>Battle Scars</strong>, we met Marcus Johnson, one of Fury’s illegitimate children (we met one named Mikel before). As Fury’s only living son and since he has inherited the Infinity Formula (to a degree) in his genes, Marcus was targeted by Nick’s enemies. One enemy took out Marcus’s eye as a joke, in order to increase the family resemblance. In the end, Marcus joined the new version of S.H.I.E.L.D. as a field agent and Nick Fury wished him luck, also remarking that his own Infinity Formula was wearing off so he may not be around for much longer. Along with now resembling the Ultimate Marvel version, Marcus is now using his legal birth name “Nick Fury, Jr.”

 

It’s entirely possible that when we learn more about the film version of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson is signed on to portray the character in his own movie), we will be told that he is the son of the original WW II era Fury, just as the mainstream comics and cartoons portray.

After the prologue scene in the Arctic circle, the film takes us to Tonsberg, Norway in 1943. This same village was seen in the film Thor during a flashback to the time that Frost Giants came from Jotunheim to invade Earth and were only beaten back thanks to the arrival and help of Odin and the armies of Asgard. Which could explain how Tonsberg became the hiding place for the Cosmic Cube AKA the Tesseract AKA the "jewel of Odin." Perhaps Odin lost it during the battle against the Frost Giants on Earth. Or, more likely, he left it there among people he trusted to hide it.

In the film <strong>Iron Man 2</strong>, Nick Fury’s makeshift office had a world map with areas of interest and trouble spots highlighted. Tonsberg, Norway was marked on the map.

The Cube is hidden behind a relief of Yggdrasil, the World Tree (or Worlds Tree). In Norse mythology, this is a great ash tree that also serves as a map of the universe, connecting the nine realms of Norse cosmology. Asgard, home of Odin, Thor and the other Norse gods, is held in its higher branches whereas Midgard (Earth) is nestled in the lower branches. Yggdrasil was also mentioned several times in the film Thor and the Asgardian named Heimdall used a projected model of the World Tree as a map to determine where the rainbow bridge Bifrost would take its travelers.

The Red Skull mentions how mythological figures and magic are just products of science that is not understood. This concept was a major theme in the film Thor and is also reminiscent of science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke's famous Third Law: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

 

What is the Tesseract? In the comics, it is more commonly known as the Cosmic Cube. In the comics, the Cosmic Cube is a device that some intelligent races have been able to develop, each time seemingly by accident. On Earth, in the Marvel Universe, it was created when scientists of A.I.M. (Advanced Idea Mechanics, a division of HYDRA before it split off and decided to pursue its own agenda) discovered a strange form of energy and ensnared it into a cube-like containment field. Anyone holding the cube was able to alter physical reality based on focusing their thoughts. They could even use the cube to affect the minds and memories of others or to transfer their own consciousness to a new vessel. The biggest weakness with the cube was that lack of focus made you vulnerable and just holding it didn't make you invincible (so basically, if you're focused on using it to defeat the opponents you're looking at, that means you're not using it to make yourself bulletproof or to shield you from an attack from behind).

The Cosmic Cube (or Tesseract) has appeared in other Marvel Studios films. In Iron Man 2, the journal of Howard Stark (Iron Man’s father) shows that he made notes about a "hypercube," which is a term used to describe an actual mathematical construct also known as a tesseract. In the stinger scene at the end of Thor, Nick Fury showed the Cube (now cracked and with its energies faded) to Dr. Selvig, an ally of Thor's.

 

Steve Rogers is played by Chris Evans. This is the fifth comic book live-action adaptation that Evans has starred in. He played Johnny Storm AKA the Human Torch in both Fantastic Four films, he played Jensen in The Losers and he played Lucas Lee in Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. Evans said he appreciated that Steve Rogers was "a guy who has a lot of shortcomings and still chooses to not become jaded or bitter about it. He's a good man, an honest man and a noble man. And as a result of those virtues, he's given this gift and he's able to balance this new life he has with his old set of morals. I think there's a great thing about the fact that he was chosen... A lot of superheroes are born with their abilities or they get them by accident."

Evans also emphasized a respect for the comic book fan-base while also trying to give a movie new audience would enjoy. After choosing to do the film, Chris Evans chose to go to a therapist to help prepare for what he considered would be an emotionally and physically demanding role. "This isn't just a new story you're telling people... A lot of people have an idea of who this guy should be and a lot of people really care about what you're going to do with it. That's the tricky thing. How much of other peoples' opinions do you want to dedicate your performance to and how much do you have to say, you know what, I gotta go with my gut?"

"[In therapy,] it wasn't like there were giant Good Will Hunting moments where we wept and hugged. You go somewhere to talk about... [issues that] you usually just try and fight on your own. Which isn't a healthy approach... You go and you talk with someone and... you walk out feeling better. You walk out feeling a little more clear."

 

Though it isn't mentioned in this movie, Steve makes a living as a freelance artist, earning money through the Works Projects Administration. His skills as an artist will be hinted at a couple of times in this film.

Steve Rogers attempts to enlist but is told he is 4-F. This designation no longer exists, but used to signify that a person was too weak to complete training or be relied on in actual combat. In the original Captain America story, Steve wasn't allowed to enlist and was immediately recruited by a government agent who was at the recruiting center, leading to him being injected with the super-soldier serum on that very night. Later comics expanded this, saying that Steve was recruited the same day by government agents who'd seen him try to enlist but that he then engaged in training for months, alongside other candidates, before being selected as the test subject for the perfected super-soldier serum. And later still, his origin was slightly revised yet again to say that he had tried to enlist several times before being approached by the military for the project that would make him Captain America, which in the comics was known as "Operation: Rebirth."

 

James Buchanan Barnes (nicknamed "Bucky") and Steve Rogers are longtime friends and Bucky has recently enlisted in the army. This is very different from the comics. Although Steve and Bucky were best friends and saw each other as brothers, they did not meet until some time after Steve had become Captain America. Bucky was about three years younger than Steve and serving as a mascot for Fort LeHigh (he was too young to legally enlist, although many teenagers did lie about their age and enlist during World War I and World War II). He was Cap's young partner, and even in his early 1940s stories he was notably a little wilder and more violent than Steve, often using machine guns and grenades on his enemies while shouting a joke. Since Bucky was a common enough nickname in the 1940s (Captain America creator Joe Simon even knew two brothers who were nicknamed Buck and Bucky), Barnes simply used his nickname while in his costumed identity rather than come up with a fancy alias like "Captain America."

Decades later, writer Ed Brubaker revised Bucky's origin to reveal that, despite his youth, the teenager's obvious skill and ability led to him being specially trained by the military and then later specifically assigned to be Steve's partner, acting as back-up and helping to keep Captain America's image clean by performing tasks that may have seemed less than honorable to civilians (sniper duties, assassinating guards and look-outs, etc).

Bucky Barnes is played by Sebastian Stan, who played a soldier in the TV series Kings and a commie-hating teen in Hot Tub Time Machine. After working with the actor, director Joe Johnston compared him to "a young Marlon Brando." Unfamiliar with the Captain America comics before the film, Stan made sure to read several stories featuring Bucky and then also did research on soldiers during World War II in order to gain a better understanding of what kind of lives they led and thus find a strong way to relate to the character. Stan said he got to enjoy the comic book version of Bucky when he saw that he was "the guy who ended up doing the dirty work."

On his star-spangled co-star, Stan said "[Chris Evans] as a person, I think, carries a lot of the qualities in Captain America... I think he naturally exudes a kind of leadership quality about him. He's the kind of guy who's not afraid to step up to the plate."

Bucky and Steve attend the World's Fair Expo where Howard Stark is showing off his new technology. Iron Man 2 established that Howard Stark and Stark Industries were major players in the World's Fair and that film also depicted his son Tony Stark (AKA Iron Man) ushering a new style of World's Fair at the very same location, again to display technology that would hopefully change the future.

 

Steve and Bucky check out the Modern Marvels Pavilion, an obvious reference to Marvel Comics. One booth can be seen featuring a device called a "Tell-O-Vision." Another booth has what seems to be a mannequin wearing a red bodysuit. The marquee above it reads: "Dr. Phineas Horton Presents The Synthetic Man." This is a reference to the original Marvel character known as the Human Torch. Many folks are familiar with Johnny Storm of the Fantastic Four, but he was actually the second hero to use the name of "Human Torch." In 1939, the original Human Torch appeared in Marvel Comics #1. He was indeed a synthetic man (often referred to as an android or "synthezoid"), created by Dr. Phineas T. Horton.

The android Torch wore a red bodysuit and was in a glass display case similar to the one seen in this film when his existence was finally announced to the world. Exposure to oxygen set his body on fire due to a design flaw and his existence terrified the public, forcing Horton to bury the artificial life form. The Torch later escaped and gained control of his abilities, becoming a superhero (even though a large portion of the public still feared him). He also became an ally of Captain America's during the 1940s and they served together on a group called the Invaders which also included Bucky Barnes, Toro Raymond (the Torch's mutant sidekick), and the aquatic hero Namor the Sub-Mariner. Later members of the Invaders team included the British heroes Spitfire and Union Jack (the latter of whom we'll see later in this film).

 

In the Marvel Comics Universe, the android Human Torch was directly responsible for the death of Hitler, burning his body in the process. Some time after Captain America was revived in the modern world many years later, a copy of the Human Torch's android body was used to create the synthetic life form known as the Vision, who became a member of the superhero team the Avengers and is a long-time ally to Captain America.

In the comic book mini-series The Marvels Project, writer Ed Brubaker revealed that the Torch's creation was supported by the U.S. government, similar to Operation: Rebirth.

Howard Stark's behavior on stage is very similar to how his son Tony has acted in public in the films Iron Man and Iron Man 2. The car he has on stage is the same shade of "hot rod red" that Tony is so fond of and that he specifically wanted his armor to display, as we heard in Iron Man. The car also features a technology that Howard Stark refers to as "gravitic reversion." This is apparently an early form of Iron Man's repulsor technology, which has anti-gravity qualities that he has used for various things in the comics, such as making his briefcase light-weight even when it's carrying his armor. Howard Stark admits it will take a "few years" to perfect this tech. Evidently, it was decades until Tony was able to effectively miniaturize and perfect it for his armored alter ego (though Howard Stark's premature death in a car accident may have contributed to the delay in the development of this tech).

 

In the Marvel Comics universe, Howard Stark served as an agent of the Brotherhood of the Shield for a time, protecting the planet from strange threats. He worked alongside Agent Nathaniel Richards, father of Reed Richards AKA Mr. Fantastic, leader of the Fantastic Four.

Steve attempts to enlist yet again and his argument is witnessed by Dr. Abraham Erskine, who in the comics also operated by the codename "Dr. Reinstein." In the original comics continuity, they had apparently only met hours before Steve was augmented by Operation: Rebirth but within that time had developed some sense of trust and understanding. When later comics altered Captain America's origin to say that months passed between when he was selected and when he was actually turned into a super-soldier, it became clear that Erskine and Steve had many talks during that time and developed a friendship.

Erskine tells Steve that he was forced to work for the Nazis before he was finally able to escape. This is true in the comics as well. In the Marvel Comics Universe, Erskine developed the super-soldier serum after examining John Steele (a near-invulnerable superhuman who operated during World War I) and members of the race Homo Mermanus, a water-breathing people that live in the undersea nation of Atlantis. Erskine got word out to the U.S. that he wanted to defect and was rescued from the Nazis by Nick Fury, Sr., a soldier at the time, decades before the man would become director of SHIELD.

In this film, Steve is recruited into Operation: Rebirth in 1943, after the U.S. has already entered World War II. In the Marvel Comics Universe, Steve became Captain America months before the U.S. officially entered the war. So for the first several months of his career, he stayed in the states, pretending to be a simple US Army private by day and hunting down US spies and other menaces at night as Captain America.

 

In the Red Skull's lair, we meet the scientist Dr. Arnim Zola. This is a villain from the comics, said to be one of Hitler's top geneticists. There is a reason why this film initially introduces Zola as a face in a television monitor. In the comics, after the war, Zola transmitted his own mind into a robot body, one with a television monitor in the torso that displays a video image of his face. It is definitely one of Jack Kirby’s creepier villain designs. Over the years, Zola has created numerous freaks and monsters that have plagued Captain America and other heroes.

In this film, the Red Skull is in charge of HYDRA, said to be the Nazi science division. In the comics, the organization that became known as HYDRA began centuries before, as a cult of people determined to dominate the world. They later did indeed become involved with the Nazi party, mainly through the Thule society, and then reformed as the group known as HYDRA towards the end of the war, under the guidance of the Red Skull and the leadership of the Nazi villain Baron von Strucker (one of Nick Fury's arch-enemies). This film also uses their famous motto: "Hail HYDRA! Cut off one head, two more shall take its place!"

The potential test subjects for Operation: Rebirth are seen training at Camp LeHigh. In the original Captain America comics, Fort LeHigh is where Private Steve Rogers was stationed, his superior officers unaware that at night he was operating in secret government missions to protect US interests from foreign spies.

At Camp LeHigh, we meet the loudmouth Gilmore Hodge, who refers to Agent Carter as "your majesty." In the comics, we saw that Hodge was indeed one of the candidates to become the first U.S. super-soldier and that, after a long process of training and testing, it came down to a choice between him and Steve Rogers. Dr. Erskine said he believed Steve was the clear choice, as Hodge was a bully and ignorant and could become as bad as those he was supposed to fight.

 

Hodge gets put in his place by Agent Margaret "Peggy" Carter, played by Hayley Atwell who has appeared in Brideshead Revisited and the TV series Any Human Heart. In the 1960s stories by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby that took place during the 1940s, they revealed that Cap was aided in many adventures by Peggy, who used the codename of Agent 13. In the comics, Peggy was born in Virginia and joined the French Resistance against the Axis Powers when she was just in her late teens. Actor Haley Atwell is British and simply used her natural accent since changing Peggy's nationality didn't really alter the character and it wouldn't be strange for the Strategic Scientific Reserve (SSR) to have a British agent since it's supposed to be an international organization involving the Allies.

In the original Captain America comic book story, a woman named Agent X-13 was involved in Operation: Rebirth. Here, the movie has combined that character with Peggy (Agent 13). Hence, she winds up meeting Steve before he ever becomes Captain America.

In the modern day, Cap has become involved with Peggy's niece Sharon Carter, a SHIELD agent who has also used the codename Agent 13 and who was inspired to become a government agent due to stories her Aunt Peggy told her.

Tommy Lee Jones plays Colonel Chester Phillips. This character is indeed from the comics and was one of the heads of Operation: Rebirth. In the comics, however, he was a general. The conversation he has with Erskine about whether or not to select Hodge rather than Rogers is similar to a conversation in the comics that occurred between Erskine and a character named Col. Fletcher, who was also involved in Operation: Rebirth.

 

Steve is told that Operation: Rebirth and the soldiers and agents at Camp LeHigh are all under the direction of the <strong>Strategic Scientific Reserve</strong>, an international Allied organization. We can see by Steve's T-shirt that the S.S.R. emblem, an eagle enclosed in a circle, bears a similar appearance to the S.H.I.E.L.D. emblem, implying a connection. Sure enough, in deleted footage from the final scene of this movie, Nick Fury tells Steve that the S.S.R. later evolved into S.H.I.E.L.D.

Steve and the other potentials at Camp LeHigh are trained by Sgt. Duffy, played by Damon Driver. In the original Captain America comic book stories of the 1940s, Sgt. Duffy was indeed Steve’s superior at Fort LeHigh.

Erskine tells Steve that the Johann Schmidt, the Red Skull, tried an early version of the super-soldier serum and that this resulted in his body becoming disfigured. This origin is actually taken from the 1990 live-action Captain America film starring Matt Salinger. In the comics, the Red Skull was just a man that Hitler took under his wing and eventually made into his personal enforcer. Schmidt wore a red mask and took on the alias of the Red Skull in order to seem more than human and become a symbol of everything people needed to fear from the Nazi party. The Red Skull became a recurring villain in the comics, Cap's arch-enemy, and the first comic book villain to have a soundtrack (he enjoyed playing Chopin's "Funeral March" on a recorder or a record player as he tortured and killed his victims). He later developed a chemical weapon he called his "dust of death," which he was immune to but left others dead and with a red, skull-like appearance to their faces. In time, Hitler grew fearful of the Red Skull, realizing that Schmidt intended to take his place and conquer the world by himself.

Many decades later, the Red Skull was dying but got a new lease on life by transplanting his mind into a new body cloned from Steve Rogers, thus also giving him super-soldier abilities since the cloned cells had Erskine's formula in them. This also gave him Steve Rogers' face, but then an exposure to his own dust of death caused severe disfigurement, making his face now resemble his old skull mask and forcing him to occasionally disguise himself with false flesh (as he does in this film). The Skull's full story is expanded in the new Marvel Comics mini-series Red Skull: Incarnate.

 

Erskine's super-soldier formula is colored a bright blue. This was first seen in the movie The Incredible Hulk when an attempted replication of the formula was used to turn soldier Emil Blonsky into a super-soldier himself. The director of that film was Louis Letterier and he said during a panel at New York Comic-Con that the chemical used on Blonsky had been specifically colored blue in order to reference its connection to Captain America, who wore mostly blue.

The film <strong>The Incredible Hulk</strong> included a few references to Captain America. In that movie, Thaddeus Ross explained that his biological weapons research was based on research done in a World War II "bio-force” project, which Emil Blonsky then referred to as a “super-soldier" experiment. Ross then explained that one attempt to replicate the Erskine serum had proved “promising” and that he’d kept a batch. When we see him retrieve it, the label on the container reveals it is made by Stark Industries and that the chemical is Batch 6-version 2, has been treated with vita-rays (or some attempt to duplicate vita-radiation), was developed by "Dr. Reinstein," and was part of the "Weapons Plus" program. In the comics, after realizing how many superhumans existed on Earth during World War II, the U.S. government decided to attempt to create a new form of biological weapon that could combat such super-powered beings if necessary. This was known as the Weapons Plus Program and Operation: Rebirth was then retroactively referred to as "Weapon I." Years later, the tenth project under this program was called Weapon X and involved fusing the mutant Wolverine’s skeleton with adamantium, as well as altering his mind to make him into a walking weapon.

Operation: Rebirth goes into action. Erskine injects Steve with his super-soldier serum and Howard Stark bombards the young man’s body with a mysterious form of radiation Erskine refers to as "vita-rays." In the very first Captain America comic, only the serum was needed for Steve's transformation. Later comics added that vita-rays had been necessary as well to stabilize its effects. Those who attempted to take the serum without vita-radiation suffered a violent change in personality or serious physical problems. A couple of stories have depicted the transformation with three stages: one formula to be injected, another to be ingested and then the vita-rays.

Erskine remarks in this film that the formula is affected by the core of the person. “Good becomes great, bad becomes worse.” This was reflected in the film <strong>The Incredible Hulk</strong> when Dr. Bruce Banner used an imperfect duplicate of the Erskine formula on himself (under the impression that it was intended to protect a person from radiation) and then bombarded his body with gamma rays. As a result, he mutates into the near-invincible monster the Hulk whenever he is angered or frightened past a certain point. So a guy like Steve Rogers with the proper chemicals and vita-rays gives you Captain America, whereas a person like Bruce Banner (who may have had a traumatic childhood, like his comic book counterpart) with imperfect chemicals and gamma rays becomes the Hulk. And Emil Blonsky, who is a monster at heart, tries his own version of the Erskine serum and, eventually (with further treatments) becomes the Abomination.

 

As a super-soldier, Steve does not have what comics classify as superhuman abilities. He isn't as strong or agile as Spider-Man, nor does he have superhuman speed or hyper-active healing like Wolverine of the X-Men. His body's abilities have been enhanced to their peak. Basically, the reaction time and incredible strength that some people have been seen to display during adrenaline surges and times of extreme stress are now his default levels. He can bench press about 1200 lbs. and run a mile in 73 seconds. His body resists fatigue poisons, so his stamina is far greater than a normal person's, but he can still become tired and strained. He can't outrun a bullet, but his reaction time is enhanced enough that, if there's enough distance between him and the gun, he can dodge them and deflect them with his shield.

Nazi spy Heinz Kruger kills Erskine and is then chased by Steve to a submarine he had prepared for his escape, only to then kill himself with a poison tablet disguised as a tooth. In the comics, there was no chase scene. After seeing him shoot Erskine, Steve grabbed Kruger and, not realizing his new strength, tossed him into the lab equipment, which wrecked the vita-rays and resulted in the spy's death when he tried to free himself from the electrical cables. In both the film and the comics, there are no left over samples of the serum and it cannot be perfectly duplicated because Erskine had memorized parts of the formula for the sake of security.

While chasing down Kruger, Steve uses a star-decorated taxi cab door as a shield. This is, of course, a reference to Captain America's famous shield, as was the trash can lid Steve used in the alleyway when confronting the bully from the movie theater.

In the comics, before Erskine was killed, his notes on the formula (or, at least, on an earlier version of the formula) were copied by another Nazi spy named Albrecht Kerfoot. Over the years in the comics, Kerfoot's notes (as well as other people's attempts to recreate the Erskine formula) have led to the creation of several superheroes and villains. However, no one has been able to perfectly duplicate Steve's results.

From the newspaper headlines that Steve is shown, we can see that he was transformed on June 22, 1943 in this film. In the comics, he was recruited in late 1940 and became a super-soldier on March 10, 1941. Realizing that he was now the only one of his kind, General Phillips had Steve undergo further training to get used to his new abilities until he came up with a new idea. Inspired by the Red Skull having become a living tool of propaganda, Phillips decided that Steve would become America's answer, that he would be seen by the public not as a man but as a living rallying symbol. The costume was designed based on drawings of a patriotic superhero found in Steve's sketchbook. Phillips then set up Steve's cover identity at Fort LeHigh while sending him on missions as Captain America to take out Axis spies, until finally sending him overseas months later.

Here, things are obviously a bit different since Col. Phillips sees no real use for Steve and our hero is forced to become a spokesperson rather than a symbol. In fact, there's apparently no effort made to hide Steve's identity in this version of events, partially due to the newspapers putting his face into the public view.

Steve's initial costume that he uses to sell war bonds is actually an accurate adaptation of his classic costume from the comics. The shield he uses is the same design as Cap's original shield from the comics. This shield was altered by Captain America Comics #2 into a discus design after publisher Archie Comics complained that the triangular shield resembled the shirt worn by their own patriotic hero called the Shield.

 

Cap's career of selling war bonds is a nod to the fact that his comic books would often include pages of him and Bucky telling readers to buy war bonds, as well as to recycle their comics books in order to help the war effort.

In his stage act, Cap punches Hitler in the face. This is a nod to one of the most famous comic book covers of all, the cover of Captain America Comics #1, where Steve did just that.

Steve evidently had a career as a showman for a few months, since he agreed to do so on June 23 and it's not until November that he finally acts against the Nazis by going to rescue Bucky. Later remarks by Col. Phillips reveal that this day is November 3rd.

Although the army wasn't integrated at this time, there are soldiers of mixed ethnicities at Col. Phillips' camp. Though it is not directly addressed in the film, this is explained by the fact that these soldiers are not part of the U.S. Army but serve in the Strategic Scientific Reserve. As an international Allied organization, it seems to have its own rules (which also explains Agent Peggy Carter having such power in the group) and is integrated. The POWs that Cap rescues may be from different, segregated military units, but then they are absorbed into the S.S.R. and serve together. Some have criticized this in the film as it glosses over racial issues of the era, whereas the stories in Marvel Comics have more directly addressed these issues.

 

As he goes on his rescue operation, Steve is wearing a makeshift style involving military gear and his costume. This look resembles the World War II era costume worn by Cap in the Ultimate Marvel comics line, which takes place in a parallel universe where certain things are different. For instance, in the Ultimate Marvel universe, Cap actually does have superhuman strength and is a much harsher, more brutal person.

The man with the derby hat who calls a HYDRA soldier "Fritz" is Timothy "Dum-Dum" Dugan. In the Marvel Comics universe, Dugan served under Sgt. Nick Fury during World War II. Their unit was called the Howlers (referred to by the British as the "Howling Commandos"). The Howlers earned their name by shouting "WAH-HOO!" as they charged into battle, which Dugan does in this film during his escape. Later, a few of the Howlers joined Nick Fury as agents of SHIELD. Some of the other prisoners are Howlers from the comics.

 

Dum-Dum Dugan is played by Neal McDonough, who has been seen in Star Trek: First Contact, the SyFy Channel's mini-series Tin Man, the Fox mini-series White Dwarf, and Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li. This isn't his first time playing a comic book character either. He played the voice of Bruce Banner in the 1990s Incredible Hulk cartoon, the villain Firebrand in the 1990s Iron Man cartoon, and the hero Oliver Queen in the animated short DC Showcase: Green Arrow.

Three of the other prisoners with Dugan are British soldier Lord James Montgomery Fallsworth (played by J.J. Feild), Gabe Jones (played by Derek Luke), Jacques Dernier (Bruno Ricci), and Jim Morita (played by Kenneth Choi). In the comics, Fallsworth was a World War I British hero called Union Jack who later operated alongside Captain America during WW II and joined the Invaders team. Gabe Jones was a member of the Howlers, Jacques "Frenchie" Dernier was a French resistance fighter who helped the Howlers on a few occasions, and Jim Morita was a Japanese-American soldier who was rescued from a Nazi prison camp by the Howlers and wound up joining them on several missions. Although the US Army wasn't integrated during World War II, Gabe Jones served with the Howlers because Nick Fury specifically asked for him and, by that time, had enough pull and influence that his request was given a green light.

Col. Phillips reports that "Steven G. Rogers" is missing behind enemy lines and likely dead. For some time in the comics, it was said that Cap's full name was Steven Grant Rogers but a story in the 1980s revealed that this was false, part of a cover story Cap was instructed to use if he were ever captured by Axis forces, a slightly different name that would help lead them down the wrong path when they tried to research his life and identity. In actuality, Steve has no known middle name. Despite this, some comics and web-sites still list Steve as having the middle name of Grant.

A group of military officers expects to meet Captain America but he doesn't show. One of the people in the audience sees another man and, mistaking this for Steve, says, "I thought he'd be taller." This is Stan Lee, creator of many Marvel superheroes. Though he did not create Captain America, Stan Lee was the first writer to say that Cap could throw his discus shield as a weapon and it was he and Jack Kirby who brought Cap back into the modern-world by having the Avengers find him frozen in ice. Working with Jack Kirby, Stan Lee also wrote the stories that revealed the Red Skull's origin story and how Bucky had died during the 1940s. He and Kirby also created the villain Dr. Arnim Zola.

 

Howard Stark makes Steve a light-weight suit of body armor, which is funny considering how his son Tony would later become famous for building very special suits of armor. Just like in the comics, Steve's sketches provide ideas for his suit. Howard Stark was not involved with Captain America's World War II career in the comics, but the hero did wear body armor. The red and white striped shirt he wore was a thick leather and the blue he wore over it was originally said to be chain mail and then later portrayed as scale mail. According to the comics, the combination of materials used protected him from small arms fire and most bladed attacks. The chain mail around his neck even protected him from a vampire in one adventure.

Steve selects a prototype discus shield that Howard Stark says is forged of vibranium, the only sample of vibranium available to the SSR. In the comics, the shield is actually a vibranium-steel alloy. Vibranium is an ore found in the fictional African nation of Wakanda, ruled over by the Black Panther family line. Vibranium absorbs sound and kinetic energy, thus when Cap throws it and ricochets it off different surfaces, it doesn't lose its momentum. Likewise, its unique properties allow Steve to block blows from the Hulk and other powerful foes without breaking his arm in the process.

In the comics continuity, Captain America and Nick Fury, along with the Howlers, wound up meeting T'Chaka, the ruling Black Panther of the 1940s, and helped him fight off Nazi invaders. In gratitude, T'Chaka gave Steve a sample of vibranium for his own use. Steve gave the sample to Dr. Myron MacLain and the government scientist spent some time experimenting on making a vibranium-steel alloy. One night, MacLain amazingly succeeded and the alloy was forged into a new discus shield that was then given to Cap. MacLain spent years trying to duplicate the process, but never succeeded. His efforts to do so led to the creation of the unbreakable metal known as adamantium, which was later used to coat the skeleton and claws of the hero Wolverine. Years after he woke up in the modern-day world, Captain America met the new Black Panther T'Challa, son of T'Chaka, and sponsored his membership into the Avengers.

In the film Iron Man 2, Nick Fury is seen looking over a world map that marks several areas of interest. One of the markers points to Wakanda, also marked on maps in this film in the S.S.R. headquarters in Europe.

 

Steve's group is a mixture of the Invaders (Bucky, Union Jack) and Nick Fury's Howling Commandos and allies (Dum-Dum, Jacques, Jim, Gabe). By glossing over the team's missions, which take place over a matter of months (and possibly years), the film makers have deliberately given sequel films the leeway to use flashbacks to reveal yet other villains and strange threats that Steve fought during the 1940s. So other Nazi villains from the comics such as Baron Zemo, Baron von Strucker, Master Man and the group called Super-Axis, as well as other 1940s heroes, may yet make appearances in future films.

Captain America's shields shows marks from battle. The shield's vibranium properties keep it from getting scratched or damaged, but the paint coating it isn't so lucky.

While pursuing Zola, Bucky falls to his death down a snow-covered mountain. In the comics, similar circumstances led to Bucky's death. Near the end of the war, Bucky and Cap confronted the Nazi villain Baron Zemo as he was sending a robot plane back to Germany, so that its technology could be replicated and Germany could deliver thousands of similar robot aircraft carrying explosives to Allied nations, aircraft that would be too small to detect or stop in time. This operation of Zemo's had been arranged and supervised by the Red Skull, making him partly responsible for what happened next. Cap and Bucky jumped onto the plane as it took off, but as they passed over the Arctic Circle they realized it was rigged with explosives to prevent tampering. Steve fell off the plane, unable to hand on (though in an alternate version of the story, Bucky forced him off to protect him) and the explosives went off, killing his young partner. Steve saw the explosion moments before he hit the waters, falling into suspended animation as the waters froze his body in ice.

As he attempts to get drunk, Steve mentions the regenerative properties of his cells. In the comics, he can be affected by toxins, it just takes a larger and more focused dose than would affect a normal person of his size and build. His conversation with Peggy about his regenerative abilities is also a clever set-up of how the super-soldier formula will keep him alive despite being frozen.

 

Steve's shield cracks the Cosmic Cube during his final battle with Schmidt, explaining its damaged appearance in the stinger scene from Thor. As the Skull grabs it, he appears to burn away, just as he was warned he would be if he made direct contact with the object. However, above him we can see the same view of space seen in the Thor film when the story was moving from Earth to Asgard. Basically, we're seeing what the tree of Yggdrasil at the beginning of this movie represented. And as the Skull screams, his apparent disintegration bears a resemblance to the rainbow bridge/space-warp effect seen in the Thor movie. It seems likely then that the Skull has been transported to one of the other nine realms, possibly to Asgard itself.

In the comics, the Skull was seemingly killed when his bunker was bombed, just a day before Captain America himself wound up being frozen alive. But, in truth, the Skull survived and experimental gasses allowed him to survive into the modern day without aging. He resumed his battles with Captain America when the hero realized he was alive and well.

In the film, the Allies mourn the loss of Captain America. In the comics, the White House feared that news of Cap's death would demoralize American forces and so they quickly got a replacement by asking another superhero known as The Spirit of '76 to become the new Captain America. Though he was only a normal person with training and good athletic ability, the Spirit agreed since Captain America had been an inspiration. Other superheroes were aware that a new person now wore the costume, but the general public believed Cap was still alive. The deception continued when the Spirit was killed in action and the mantle of Captain America was adopted by yet another costumed vigilante inspired by Steve, a man known as the Patriot. By the late 1940s, the Patriot retired from the guise as there no longer seemed a need for the star-spangled "sentinel of liberty." Years later, the public became aware that the original Captain America had been lost in the Arctic Circle.

 

In the comics, the Avengers had already been a team for weeks when they found Steve and it was they, along with teenager Rick Jones (a frequent ally of the Hulk), who introduced the WW II hero to the modern world and helped him adjust. Here, Steve's revived by SHIELD and the Avengers haven't formed yet. However, Nick Fury did mention something called the "Avengers Initiative" in Iron Man and Iron Man 2 and, in the last scene of The Incredible Hulk, Tony Stark mentioned that he and others were putting together a team. In the comics, the original Avengers Initiative was basically a directive by the White House for Nick Fury to assemble a team of special agents (some of whom had powers) to track down escaped Nazis and Nazi superhumans. This had no connection to when Tony Stark, the Hulk, Thor, Ant-Man and the Wasp later joined forces against the god of mischief Loki and decided to stay together as a group, with the Wasp suggesting the name "Avengers." In more recent times, the Avengers Initiative was put into action again, this time giving Steve Rogers the authority to form groups of superhumans into official Avengers when he wants to.

Our final scene brings back Samuel L. Jackson in the role of Nick Fury and sets us up for the next Marvel Studios film The Avengers, where Cap, Thor, Iron Man, the Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye will team up to take on Loki and his forces.

And that wraps it up, folks! Thanks for joining us! 

More Marvel Studios Annotations:

Agent of S.T.Y.L.E. movie Avengers profiles:

Alan "Sizzler" Kistler is an actor and freelance writer living in New York City. His work can be found on various websites and he has been recognized by publishers and news media outlets as a comic book historian and Doctor Who historian. He is the creator and host of the podcast and web-series Crazy Sexy Geeks. He is a contributor to the book Star Trek and History, coming soon. He knows entirely too much about superheroes, time travel stories, Muppets, and vampires that don't sparkle. His website is AlanKistler.com and his twitterfeed is @SizzlerKistler.

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