A key focus of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier series is the legacy of Captain America.
The premiere had Sam Wilson giving up Cap’s shield as he believed no one could live up to Steve Rogers’s legacy.
Instead, the government named John Walker as the new Cap. While Walker continues to fight on, Sam may be tempted to take the shield for himself.
As it happens, the comics have long established that more than one person has been Captain America. Steve has occasionally given up the role while others have attempted to fill his shoes.
Many failed as Steve’s courage and spirit help make Cap so important, yet it’s intriguing when someone else wears the costume.
These are ten characters who wore the costume and bore the iconic shield to show the amazing legacy Steve began.
Roscoe Simons (Captain America Vol 1, #181-183)
Roscoe Simons’ tenure as Cap was tragically short-lived, but Roscoe Simons was important in the role. In a bold storyline, Steve was hunting the Secret Empire, a powerful conspiracy trying to ruin America.
Steve was horrified when the Empire’s leader was the President himself who took his life before Steve’s eyes.
Losing his faith in America, Steve gave up being Cap to become the costumed Nomad. Former mechanic Roscoe Simons was chosen for the role but lacked Steve’s experience.
Roscoe was killed by the Red Skull, which rocked Steve to become Cap once more. While his reign was short, it was vital to help Steve out of a serious crisis.
Peggy Carter (Exiles Vol 3 #3, Marvel What If?)
Technically, she’d be “Captain Britain,” but a few stories have played with the idea of Steve’s World War II love somehow bearing the shield herself.
It first happened in Exiles, a comic where a team of heroes travels across alternate realities.
One has Peggy undergoing the Super-Soldier Serum to become a costumed hero. Peggy held herself well in the role, overcoming any doubters to be a symbol of freedom.
The upcoming animated What If? series will have Haley Atwell voicing Peggy becoming Cap in another reality to prove to be a woman worthy of the mantle.
Frank Castle (Punisher War Journal Vol 2 #6-12)
The idea of the Punisher as Captain America may seem hard to believe.
While Frank Castle respects Cap as a soldier, Steve Rogers disdains the Punisher’s brutal methods. Yet when Cap was believed killed, S.H.I.E.L.D. briefly tested Castle as a replacement.
While good with the shield, Frank decided he wasn’t worthy of the official Cap mantle. He did alter his costume to mimic Cap for a brief time, but a confrontation with Bucky Barnes made Castle realize Steve would hate him in the role.
A few “What If?” stories have shown Frank as Cap in another reality but not in the Marvel-616 world.
Isaiah Bradley (Truth: Red White & Black #1-7)
His existence hidden for decades, Isaiah Bradley was the first Captain America. He was one of the hundreds of black soldiers used as guinea pigs for the early Super-Soldier Serum.
Isaiah was the only one to survive, but the government decided a Black man wasn’t right for their first Super Soldier.
Isaiah stole the uniform and shield to go on a private mission, succeeding, but he spent years in prison. The Serum slowed his physical aging while also affecting his mind.
His grandson, Eli, would become the heroic Patriot, with Steve outright ashamed at how his country treated this hero.
William Naslund (What If vol 1 #4, Captain America vol 1 Annual #6)
In the waning days of World War II, Steve Rogers and Bucky tried to stop a bomb-laden test plane before it exploded. This caused Steve to be frozen in ice for decades.
The American government worried that revealing Captain America was believed dead would be too much of a blow to public morale and picked William Naslund, who had been the Revolutionary-themed hero The Spirit of ’76, to be Steve’s replacement.
Naslund did his best but lacked Steve’s skills and was killed in 1946. Still, he did his best to keep the Cap legacy going.
Jeffrey Mace (What If vol 1 #4, Captain America vol 1 #215)
Back in the 1940s, you couldn’t throw a rock without hitting some patriotic costumed hero.
Jeffrey Mace was one of them, the aptly named Patriot who fought saboteurs on the homefront during World War II. He even stopped an assassination attempt on a young John F. Kennedy.
When William Naslund was killed, Mace stepped in as the new Captain America for a few years before retiring in 1949.
He peacefully died of cancer as an older man with Steve right at his bedside to assure Mace he would always consider him Captain America.
William Burnside (Captain America vol 1 #153-156)
In the 1950s, Marvel briefly revived Cap, now fighting communists. Later stories would establish this was William Burnside, a huge fan of Cap to the point he even had himself surgically altered to look like Steve.
He recruited young Jack Monroe as his Bucky and a Super-Soldier Serum version to be like Cap.
But the Serum turned them unstable, seeing enemies everywhere, and became dangerous fanatics. While defeated by the real Cap, Burnside has returned a few times.
Steve often cites Burnside as a “dark mirror” of what Captain America can be.
John Walker (Captain America vol 1 #333-350)
In a bold 1987 storyline, a government commission declared that if Steve wanted to continue as Captain America, he would have to follow their orders.
Unwilling to compromise his morals, Steve quit as Cap.
The Commission gave the shield and suit to John Walker, who had been trying to supplant Cap for some time. While doing well at first, Walker was soon growing unstable and even killing his enemies.
It turned out the Commission was secretly manipulated by the Red Skull. Steve, now known simply as “The Captain,” defeated Walker to take back the name.
Walker went on to become U.S. Agent while proving that Steve was the better pick as Cap.
Bucky Barnes (Captain America vol 4 #33)
For years, Steve believed his best friend and partner Bucky Barnes had been killed in the same explosion that put Steve in suspended animation.
He eventually discovered Bucky survived but was captured and brainwashed by the Soviets into becoming the deadly assassin known as the Winter Soldier.
Steve managed to undo the brainwashing for Bucky to redeem himself. After Steve was seemingly killed, Bucky honored him by becoming a new Cap, his suit more military-oriented and using a pistol with his shield.
When Steve returned to life, Bucky gave back the mantle even if Steve felt his former partner was worthy of it.
Sam Wilson (All-New Captain America #1)
This is an obvious choice and clearly where the Falcon and the Winter Soldier series is going. During an adventure in another dimension, Steve had the Super-Soldier Serum pulled from his body.
This forced Steve to physically age to his 70’s. Unable to continue as Cap, Steve gave the shield to trusted partner the Falcon, who integrated it with his flying costume.
Sam did well and continued as Cap even after Steve regained his youth. He finally gave up the role to allow Steve back as Cap, yet Steve himself gave Sam credit for more than living up to Captain America’s legacy.