by Brock Swinson and Ashley Cotter-Cairns
Captain America comic was born into a time starving for patriotic heroes. With World War II on the rise, Timely comics (later Marvel) creators wanted to design a hero whose blood ran red, white, and blue. (Click to see our Silver Age Captain America comic book price guide.)
In 1941, fictional geek Steve Rogers signed on for an experimental process to make him strong enough to help defeat the Nazis.
Recently, the movie version of the classic tale hit the screen in 2011, starring Chris Evans as the young Captain with Joe Johnston (The Wolfman, Jurassic Park III) as director.
In the newest installment of the series, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the returning cast includes Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Cobie Smulders, Samuel L. Jackson and somewhat surprisingly, the renowned Robert Redford as Agent Alexander Pierce. This adrenaline rush should hit theaters in 2014.
If you've found old Captain America comics, then click here to have us value them for resale or insurance.
Golden Age Captain America #1
First appearance of Captain America
This is among the most sought-after of all early comic books. While values lag behind Batman, Superman and other contemporaries, high-grade copies of this comic book are truly rare.
Minimum value (in really bad shape): $10,000
Record sale: $343,000 for a CGC 9.2
In forty-five pages of Nazi-bashing glory, Captain America first hit the stands in 1941 for only a dime an issue. Littered in red, white, and blue, the cover was originally designed by Jack Kirby, known for his renderings of Captain America, Fantastic Four, Hulk, Manhunter, Thor, and X-Men, to name a few.
Printed in March, the cover art consists of Captain America cleaning Hitler’s clock with a right jab to the chin. Surrounding our hero, the Nazi’s fire bullets from every direction. Another debut character is Bucky, the Captain’s kid ally. The youngster wears a red and blue getup with gloves and boots, along with a Lone Ranger-style mask. Also in this original issue, the evil Red Skull first appeared to battle the American heroes.
Written by Jack Kirby and edited by Joe Simon, Meet Captain America tells the origin story of when young Steve Rogers decides to enroll in the military in order to help destroy the Third Reich.
Rejected by the army for his small size, Rogers is used as a lab-rat for the Super Soldier Project. The injected serum turns the scrawny boy into a muscle-bound, agile hero with stamina to boot. The new man is given a codename — you guessed it — Captain America.
After a few Nazi beatings, alter ego Steve Rogers visits Camp Lehigh, home place of young Bucky Barnes. Admitting his desire to meet the Captain, Bucky later discovers that Rogers is actually Captain America and an Nazi-bashing duo is formed. "From now on we must both share this secret together," said the Captain. "That means you're my partner, Bucky!"
Other first time appearances in this issue include Agent X-13 (Betsy Ross) and Professor Reinstein (Abraham Erskine).
Golden Age Captain America #2
Second appearance of Captain America
Not as valuable as #1, but still a rare comic book for sure.
Minimum value (in really bad shape): $1,300
Record sale: $113,000 for a CGC 9.4
In April, Hitler received his second thrashing from the Captain in the second issue of the series, designed by Joe Simon this time.
Similar to the original cover design, Captain America comes crashing through a window to stop Hitler's potential plans of taking over the US. With Bucky tied up in the Nazi Stronghold, our faithful, shield-carrying hero is back for more.
Written by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, the second issue features The Ageless Orientals that Wouldn't Die!; Trapped in the Nazi Stronghold; The Wax Statue that Struck Death; The Valley of the Mist, and The Devil and the Green Plague. Each issue of Captain America comics from the Golden Age feature several stories.
In the cover story, Nazi operatives kidnap a wealthy American after he has made a sizeable donation to the British war efforts. Out of uniform, Steve Rogers and Bucky sneak out of the military camp and fly over to Europe.
After finding the captive, it turns out that the man was actually working with Hitler the entire time. After discovering a few more turns and twists, the two head back to camp to get chewed out by Sargent Duffy for going AWOL the past few days.
Even heroes have a pecking order within the Timely Comics series.
Another very desirable early Golden Age Cap appearance.
Minimum value (in really bad shape): $1,200
Record sale: $50,000 for a CGC 9.2
Alex Schomburg designs the cover for the third issue of the series while Joe Simon and Jack Kirby continue to develop the story. This issue is notable because it's Stan Lee's first work for Marvel/Timely.
Schomburg's cover features Bucky and Betty tied up to enormous drills, but it appears that the Captain arrives in the nick of time. In this issue, evil is portrayed from the infamous Red Skull and his tribe of Nazi followers.
Entitled Return of the Red Skull, the villain plots revenge on Bucky and Captain America. Running errands for the military, our heroes stumble upon Red Skull's calling card — a miniature red skull.
The pair chases after the villain but loose him after a battle with his foot soldiers. Later, at Wrigley Stadium, it appears that Red Skull has replicated a massive, government-developed drill that he plans to use to terrorize New York City.
Our heroes run into two imposters (Duffer and Midge) posing as Captain America and Bucky, so they decide to rough them up for pretending to be heroes. Red Skull runs into these same phonies and hangs them (bad day for those guys), assuming he has finally murdered his nemesis.
In the subway, the real good guys and bad guys finally meet and have it out. When the villain tosses a bomb at the duo, Captain America throws it back at him, destroying the drill and Red Skull for good (or, at least until Marvel decides to bring him back in issue #16).
Captain America went on to partner with some of the most notable comic book characters in history, including the following:
Browse the covers below to see well-known characters in their prime.
Captain America #5
Captain America #16
Captain America #19
Captain America #12
Captain America #17
Captain America #32
Captain America #50
Fights a King-Kong-like beast!
In the second half of this article, I'll look at the Silver Age Captain America comic books, and point out the valuable issues to look for.
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