Captain America And S.H.I.E.L.D.: A Comic Book History

by Brett White

As evidenced by the film’s first image and official synopsis, Captain America will be working very closely with the global peace-keeping unit S.H.I.E.L.D. in next year’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” This makes sense given that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been pulling the strings behind the Marvel Cinematic Universe ever since Nick Fury made a surprise cameo after “Iron Man’s” credits. It was S.H.I.E.L.D. that kept tabs on the burgeoning world of super heroes and it was Nick Fury’s goal to make them all play nice with each other. He even added two S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, Hawkeye and Black Widow, to the roster to round out their ranks.

Captain America forged an even more personal connection to the organization after they resuscitated him after a nearly seventy year nap in “Captain America: The First Avenger.” With no home or anyone to turn to, S.H.I.E.L.D. became Steve Rogers’ lone connection to the wider world until he met those other Earthly champions and found a purpose. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” seems to follow Captain America as he gets to work in the here and now as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. This angle will tap into a totally new side of Captain America’s comic book legacy. His relationship with S.H.I.E.L.D. in the Marvel comics goes back a long way.

It must first be mentioned that Captain America was not found by S.H.I.E.L.D. in the comics. That honor goes to the already-formed Avengers, who thawed Cap out in “Avengers” #4. Captain America didn’t come across S.H.I.E.L.D. until three years later, in 1966’s “Tales of Suspense” #75. In that issue, Captain America first teamed up with Agent 13, who was charged with retrieving a stolen cylinder containing the explosive material known as Inferno-42. Captain America wasn’t really recruited as her partner, though. Cap, in his civilian identity, was shocked to see a woman who looked so much like his former love, Peggy Carter. When Agent 13 was attacked by Batroc the Leaper, Captain America rushed to her aid. The two of them thwarted Batroc and HYDRA’s plans for Inferno-42.

Three issues later in “Tales of Suspense” #78, Nick Fury and Captain America finally came face to face. Fury wanted Cap’s assistance in stopping the HYDRA offshoot THEM from creating an artificial intelligence. THEM made this incredibly easy for the heroes by choosing to attack the duo as they were discussing how to stop their plans. The artificial man was soundly defeated, thus giving the old army buddies time to catch up. Captain America had been trying to join S.H.I.E.L.D. for a while, but to no avail. With his schedule fully claimed by his Avengers duty, Fury left Cap a S.H.I.E.L.D. A-1 priority card just in case the Avengers ever needed backup.

Even though he couldn’t join S.H.I.E.L.D. full-time, Cap kept partnering up with Agent 13. The two got pretty close, eventually falling in love (sometime during a mission against the Red Skull and the Sleeper). In 1968’s “Captain America” #103, Agent 13 finally revealed herself to be Sharon Carter, the younger sister of Peggy Carter. This fact has been retconned in recent years as World War II gets further away; Peggy is now said to be Sharon’s aunt.

The Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D. continued to operate in tandem, with Captain American primarily teaming up with Sharon Carter. That all changed with Carter’s death in 1979’s “Captain America #233.” Carter was sent to infiltrate a group called National Force, where she fell under a mind-influencing gas that seemingly caused her to sacrifice herself. It was later revealed that this was all a cover concocted by Nick Fury to allow Carter to go under deep cover. She came back from the dead in “Captain America” #445 in 1995.

Fast-forward to 2004 and the Avengers lie in ruins after being disassembled by a mad Scarlet Witch. With no team to turn to, Cap finally took S.H.I.E.L.D. up on that initial offer and joined the force. It’s this recent tenure with S.H.I.E.L.D. from Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting’s “Captain America” that most informs “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) debuts in this storyline, Cap reteams with Agent 13 (played by Emily VanCamp) and old allies Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johnasson) come back into Cap’s life.

It’s also during this time that a new Avengers team forms, appropriately in the title “New Avengers” by Brian Michael Bendis. Captain America is awarded “Full Champion License” by S.H.I.E.L.D. for the group, meaning he can legally do pretty much whatever superhero-ing he wants with whichever superheroes he wants.

Cap’s legal approval was shattered when the Super Hero Registration Act was put into effect in 2006’s “Civil War” event. Cap majorly opposed the law and led a group of fugitive superheroes against S.H.I.E.L.D. and Iron Man, culminating in his arrest and assassination (don’t worry, he got better).

The Marvel world post-Steve Rogers entered the dark reign of Norman Osborn, the Spider-Man arch-nemesis who rose to become the leading law official in the United States. After Osborn’s defeat and Captain America’s return, he was made America’s new “Top Cop,” a.k.a. “S.H.I.E.L.D. Director.” Steve Rogers went from sometime ally to employee to boss.

Captain America has since stepped down as Director, becoming a full-time Avenger again. But it looks like the Cinematic Universe’s Steve Rogers is set to start his S.H.I.E.L.D. journey next summer. It probably won’t mirror his comic book counterpart’s journey, but one thing’s for sure: they both surprisingly involve Batroc the Leaper.

Which Captain America and S.H.I.E.L.D. adventure do you most want to see adapted for film? Let us know in the comments below or hit us up on Twitter!