Captain America's shield

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Captain America's shield
Detail, cover of Captain America vol. 5, #8 (Sept. 2005). Art by Steve Epting.
Publication information
PublisherMarvel Comics
First appearanceOriginal shield:
Captain America Comics #1
(March 1941)
Circular shield:
Captain America Comics #2
(April 1941)
Created byJoe Simon and Jack Kirby
In story information
Element of stories featuringCaptain America
Winter Soldier
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Captain America's shield
Detail, cover of Captain America vol. 5, #8 (Sept. 2005). Art by Steve Epting.
Publication information
PublisherMarvel Comics
First appearanceOriginal shield:
Captain America Comics #1
(March 1941)
Circular shield:
Captain America Comics #2
(April 1941)
Created byJoe Simon and Jack Kirby
In story information
Element of stories featuringCaptain America
Winter Soldier

Captain America's shield is a fictional item, the primary defensive and offensive piece of equipment used by the Marvel Comics superhero Captain America; he is seldom seen without it. Over the years, Captain America has had the use of several different shields of varying composition and design. His original heater shield first appeared in Captain America Comics #1 (March 1941), published by Marvel's 1940s predecessor, Timely Comics. The circular shield best associated with the character debuted in the next issue, Captain America Comics #2. Captain America was created by the team of writer-artist Joe Simon and artist Jack Kirby.


Cap's shield is physically indestructible under normal conditions due to its unique metallurgy. While magical, cosmic and godly opponents have broken the shield, it can withstand attacks from the most powerful Marvel characters including Thor with Mjolnir and Hulk's strength without any visible damage. It is able to absorb all kinetic energy and transfers very little energy from each impact, meaning Cap does not feel recoil or impact from blocking attacks. It also means the shield can bounce off of surfaces, ricocheting multiple times. There is a misconception that the shield can return to Cap like a boomerange, but the reality is that Cap is able to calculate how the shield will bounce and so can just predict a throw that will send the shield returning back to him. The sharp edge of the shield also allows Cap to cut his opponents, though he normally prefers to bludgeon them instead.

Original shield[edit]

New York Comic Art Convention program with Joe Simon's original 1940 sketch of Captain America.

In his debut, Captain America (secretly U.S. Army Private Steve Rogers) is equipped with a triangular, badge-shaped shield made from a bulletproof alloy. After complaints by rival comic-book publisher MLJ that the design was too similar to that of its own patriotic hero the Shield,[1] Timely Comics replaced the triangular shield with a disc-shaped one.

While the origin and fate of the original shield were not described in the original comics from the 1940s, the shield's fate was revealed decades later in 2001 through a retconned story. According to the tale, King T'Chaka of the African nation Wakanda met Captain America in early 1941 and gave him a sample of vibranium, an alien metal with unique vibration absorption properties and found only in Wakanda and the Savage Land.[2] In response to this gesture of trust, Captain America gave his original triangular shield to T'Chaka,[3] whose son T'Challa would join the Avengers a generation later as the Black Panther and become a close ally of Captain America. The original shield still resides in Wakanda as a national treasure.

Upon his return to the U.S., Captain America received a second triangular shield that he used until given his disc-shaped shield, which was personally presented to him by President Franklin Roosevelt.[4] This second triangular shield would be kept in storage with Rogers' other personal effects after the war. It was recovered at some point after Rogers joined the superhero team the Avengers in The Avengers #4, and was kept at Avengers Mansion. It was destroyed by the supervillain Mr. Hyde during a raid on the mansion by Baron Zemo's Masters of Evil, and later "plucked from time" and restored by Zemo in Thunderbolts #105 (Oct. 2006). The shield (along with other sentimental items thought destroyed) were returned to Captain America. A third triangular shield is kept in the Smithsonian Institution. It was used by Captain America when he foiled a terrorist attack on the museum itself after the loss of his usual shield; it was then given to him in gratitude. This shield is destroyed several issues later by a Kree alien warrior.

The shield destroyed by Hyde and restored by Zemo was eventually passed on to Elijah Bradley, the teenage hero known as the Patriot and leader of the Young Avengers.

Revised history[edit]

In 2010, the history of the original shield was revised. In the limited series Captain America/Black Panther: Flags of Our Fathers, Captain America, Sergeant Nick Fury and the Howling Commandos meet Azzari (grandfather of T'Challa) -- the Black Panther and king of Wakanda during World War II. Aided by Wakandan military forces, they successfully repel a series of Nazi assaults led by the Red Skull and Baron Strucker. During the battle, the Red Skull (wearing a battle-suit) crushes the triangular shield, and Captain America uses a circular vibranium shield provided by Azzari to incapacitate the Skull. The weapon serves as the inspiration for the circular shield that the super-soldier begins using upon his return to America, and the encounter marks the beginning of friendly relations between the United States and Wakanda.[5]

Circular shield[edit]

The circular shield most associated with Captain America made its debut in Captain America Comics #2 (April 1941). A concavo-convex metal disc approximately 2.5 feet (0.76 m) in diameter, it is virtually indestructible and has remained his most constant shield over the decades.

Again through retroactive continuity, it is established that the shield was presented to Rogers by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.[6] The shield is created by a fictional American metallurgist named Myron MacLain, who had been commissioned by the US government to create an indestructible armor material to aid the war effort. MacLain experiments with the vibration-absorbing metal vibranium.[2]

Captain America vol. 5, #5 (May 2005). Cover art by Steve Epting.

During one of his experiments to fuse vibranium with an experimental iron alloy,[7] MacLain falls asleep and awakens to find the experiment a success. This is due to an unknown catalyst entering the process during his slumber, and he is unable to duplicate the result. The vibranium-iron alloy mix is then poured into a mold for a tank's upper hatch to create the disc shape and painted to become Captain America's symbol. MacLain would later attempt to recreate the shield's metal to no avail, his experiments instead eventually yielding the super-metal adamantium.

Rogers' indestructible shield was long referred to, even in continuity, as being composed of an adamantium, vibranium, and uranium alloy. In actuality, the experimental iron alloy is now referred to as "proto-adamantium", which is slightly stronger than true adamantium. Dr. MacLain's experiments with proto-adamantium lead to the creation of true adamantium. This proto-adamantium (the only known source) was incorporated with the vibranium in the shield. The vibranium in the shield grants it unusual properties, allowing it to absorb virtually all of the kinetic impact from any blows that the shield receives without injuring Rogers in the process. The vibranium is also a factor in the way Rogers throws his shield: he often uses it to ricochet and strike multiple opponents or stationary objects with little loss of velocity in its forward movement after each impact.

When Rogers returns from suspended animation, Tony Stark "improves" the shield by incorporating electronic and magnetic components in it so that Rogers can even control it in flight. Rogers soon discards the additional components because he finds that it upsets the balance of the shield when thrown.

After Rogers' death, Stark takes over custody of the shield, with one replica on display in a museum, and another replica buried with Rogers. The real one is kept by Stark to be used by the new Captain America, whenever they deem it appropriate to train a new one. After failing to find a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent capable of throwing it properly, Stark offers the shield to Clint Barton (known at that time as Ronin), who does manage to throw it. Clint soon rescinds his decision to take up the mantle of Captain America after a confrontation involving the Young Avengers, during which he scolds Kate Bishop for using the Hawkeye name. She tells him that the "Real Cap" gave her that name in honor of his (then thought to be) dead friend. The shield is subsequently stolen by the Winter Soldier, who did not want anyone else to carry the shield. Inevitably, in an effort to honor Rogers' last wishes, Stark offers to let the Winter Soldier (Bucky Barnes) keep the shield, and to serve as the new Captain America. Bucky accepts. This offer is made "off the books", and only the two of them, the Black Widow, and the Falcon, are aware of the situation.

Although Bucky attempted to return the shield to Rogers after his resurrection, Rogers let Bucky keep it as he felt that he could do more good in his new role as Commander Steve Rogers rather than Captain America, using a photonic shield in its place when circumstances called for him to go into combat. He reclaimed the shield for good after Bucky was apparently killed during the Fear Itself event- Bucky really going underground after his past as the Winter Soldier was exposed-, which also resulted in the shield being broken and reassembled by Asgardian blacksmiths, who add some of the mystical metal Uru to the reconstructed shield, making it even stronger than before, although it is left with a noticeable scar that Rogers decided to keep rather than try to buff down as it gave the shield character.[8]


In the Marvel Comics/DC Comics limited series JLA/Avengers, Superman is given the shield by Captain America to wield in battle in the final confrontation with Krona, and is impressed with its might. When he asks where he could get one just like it while battling foes, Thor replies, "Enjoy it while thou canst, Superman. There is none other like it in all the worlds". Throughout the final battle, the shield changes forms between the pointed shield and the circular shield due to various temporal ripples caused by Krona's equipment, and Superman even loses the shield altogether at one point when he morphs into his energy form while Cap reacquires the photonic shield, although the metal shield reappears on Superman's arm after he morphs back into his regular form.

Destruction of the shield[edit]

The Serpent breaks Captain America's shield in Fear Itself #5 (October 2011). Art by Stuart Immonen and Wade Von Grawbadger. Colors by Laura Martin.

Over time the shield has been damaged or destroyed several times within the confines of the Earth-616 continuity. On several of these occasions, the shield was subjected to a cosmically powerful force capable of reshaping matter on a massive scale, though recent times have seen it fall into the role of a narrative device that is meant to be destroyed to emphasize the power of an antagonist, regardless of whether or not such displays are consistent with a villain's other showings of power. Specifically, the powers that affected the shield are:

In The Avengers #215–216, the Molecule Man used his total control over matter to disintegrate the shield, along with Thor's hammer, Iron Man's armor, and the Silver Surfer's board. After he does so, he comments that the board's molecules are "weird", and while there are "odd forces interweaving" among the hammer's molecules, the shield is "weirdest of all". He later reassembles these items, with the exception of the armor, as the electronic circuits are too complicated for him to understand.[9]

During the 1984-1985 Secret Wars limited series, the shield is partially destroyed by Doctor Doom, who has stolen the power of the godlike being known as the Beyonder. Even broken, Rogers is able to wield what is left as an effective weapon, with the shield largely retaining its balance when thrown. When the Beyonder reclaims its power, the heroes are temporarily granted the ability to realize their wishes. Rogers uses this to reconstruct the shield.[10]

During the 1991 miniseries The Infinity Gauntlet, Thanos, who possesses near-omnipotence via the Infinity Gauntlet, shatters the shield with a blow of his fist while in combat with Captain America. The shield is soon restored by Thanos' alleged granddaughter, Nebula, when she obtains the Gauntlet and uses it to undo the events of Thanos's temporary godhood, resulting in her erasing the death and destruction that Thanos had caused over the previous 24 hours.[11]

In Avengers Vol. 3 #63 (March 2003), an enraged Rune King Thor, dents the shield. Thor later repairs it.[12]

In Thor Vol. 2 #73 (January 2004) an enraged King Thor with Rune Magic, destroyed the shield, killing Steve Rogers with it. This timeline was later erased in "Thor" Vol. 2 #79.[13][14]

During the 2011 miniseries Fear Itself, the Serpent, the Asgardian god of fear and brother to Odin, breaks it in half with his bare hands.[15] After the battle, the shield is repaired by Asgardian dwarves with added Asgardian uru-infused enhancements to make it stronger, though a noticeable scar on the surface is visible, which Captain America elects to keep to give character to the shield.[16]

Other shields[edit]

An example of Captain America's shield

Other versions[edit]

In issue #7 of the Marvel series Strikeforce: Morituri the shield is stored in a trophy room belonging to the alien "Horde" invaders.[29]

In other media[edit]

Marvel Cinematic Universe[edit]

A poster for the 2011 film Captain America: The First Avenger, featuring the shield.

Captain America's shield is a recurring image throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise.


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  2. ^ a b Lundin, Leigh (2011-10-16). "The Mystery of Superheroes". Orlando: 
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