Cap on Camera – J.W. Ward on Captain America’s filmography

For the folks at Marvel Entertainment, Friday is a big day.

With the release of Captain America: The First Avenger, fans of the super-powered patriot have high expectations following the success of earlier Marvel films like Iron Man, Thor and the Incredible Hulk.
This one is different, however. Captain America is Marvel’s last celluloid stop before throwing everything together in 2012’s The Avengers, and is the first step towards truly building on the shared universe hinted at throughout the earlier films. If you opt to see Chris Evans as the shield-slinger this weekend, be sure to stay in your seat through the credits for a taste of what’s to come.
For now, it’s all about the man dressed in the red, white and blue. And it isn’t his first time on the silver screen.
Today, Biff Bam Pop takes a look back at Captain America’s earlier appearances in film and television.
If you’re lactose intolerant, take your pills – there’s gonna be a lot of cheese.
The 1940s
After Timely Comics released the first Captain America comic book in 1941, it didn’t take long for the character to find himself getting the serial treatment. 1944 brought the 15-chapter Captain America to movie screens, with actor Dick Purcell portraying the titular hero.
Not quite faithful to the comic books, the serial saw Cap more as a gun-toting, crime-fighting alter-ego for District Attorney Grant Gardner. Produced by Republic Pictures at a cost of $223,000, it was the most expensive and last superhero serial the company would release.

The 1960s
After superheroes fell out of favour in the 1950s, comic books and films shifted their focus to crime, mystery and western-themed stories. By the 1960s, superheroes had begun to make a comeback, and so too did Captain America. Frozen in an iceberg near the end of World War II, Cap was revived in the pages of Marvel Comics’ The Avengers #4 in March of 1964.
By 1966, Marvel Comics licensed Grantway-Lawrence Animation to bring its characters to the small screen in The Marvel Super Heroes, a sixty-five episode half-hour series that alternately focused on the Hulk, Namor the Sub-Mariner, Iron Man, Thor and Captain America. To keep animation costs low, Grantway-Lawrence borrowed and manipulated panels from the original Marvel Comics, depending heavily on voice-over narration to fill in the blanks.

Come 1969, Captain America was enough of a figure in the popular culture to warrant a mention in Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider, as the nickname of flag-clad biker Wyatt, played by Peter Fonda.
The 1970s
Thanks to the success of NBC’s live-action take on The Incredible Hulk in 1977, other networks decided to dive into the comic book market. CBS got Cap in on the action in 1979 with two television movies starring Reb Brown as Steve Rogers, a recently-discharged marine injected with a “super-steroid” to save his life after a car accident.

The 1980s
The “Me” decade brought some incredible Saturday morning cartoons to kids across North America, not the least of which was 1981’s Spider-Man and Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends. Captain America showed up in three episodes between both series, even bringing along arch-nemesis the Red Skull for “The Capture of Captain America.”

The 1990s
Taking another shot at the big screen, Marvel Comics licensed the rights to their favourite American patriot to 21st Century Film Corporation, ultimately producing Captain America in 1990. Starring Matt Salinger as Steve Rogers/Captain America, what distinguished this interpretation was the fact that the Red Skull was an Italian fascist instead of a Nazi scientist.

Cap also made plenty of appearances in animation through the decade, including Fox’s X-Men in an episode called “Old Soldiers,” with the web-headed wall-crawler for a few episodes of 1994’s Spider-Man and in 1999’s short-lived The Avengers.

Remaining in an animated limbo for much of the decade, Cap made another WWII flashback appearance with Wolverine in a second-season episode of X-Men: Evolution titled “Operation: Rebirth.” Cap later became a regular fixture in Marvel Animation’s Super Hero Squad in 2009 and Disney XD’s The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in 2010.
As Marvel’s “Ultimate” line of comics became popular with a more mature and modernized take on Marvel’s iconic characters, two animated direct-to-DVD adaptations appeared in 2006. Ultimate Avengers and Ultimate Avengers 2 both featured Captain America as a central character struggling to adapt to the modern world while leading a team of conflicting, occasionally egotistical superheroes.

The Marvel Films
While not actually appearing in any of Marvel Entertainment’s recent films, Captain America is alluded to throughout.
First off, in 2008’s Iron Man, what looks like a prototype of Captain America’s shield is seen in the background as Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) struggles to remove his armour.

Then, in 2008’s Incredible Hulk, to aid in his pursuit of the green goliath, an obsessed General Ross (William Hurt) injects Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) with a new super-soldier serum, after explaining the singular success of the program during World War II. When faced with the Hulk a second time, it allows Blonsky the opportunity to do this:

When Iron Man 2 was released in 2010, the prototype shield made another, more blatant appearance.

With a film history like that and teases aplenty in Marvel’s recent high-quality efforts, all that’s left now is for Captain America to actually show up.
Let’s hope he does.

Will you be seeing Captain America: The First Avenger this weekend?
JW Ward is a Toronto-based writer, media personality and professional cynic. Follow him on Twitter at @jasonwardDOTca, through his website at and every Thursday here at Biff Bam Pop!

Leave a Reply