Captain America's shield is a fictional item, the primary defensive and offensive piece of equipment used by the Marvel ComicssuperheroCaptain 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 shieldfirst 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.
In his debut, Captain America (secretly U.S. ArmyPrivate 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, 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. In response to this gesture of trust, Captain America gave his original triangular shield to T'Chaka, 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. 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.
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.
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. 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.
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, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In Avengers Vol. 3 #63 (March 2003), an enraged Rune King Thor, dents the shield. Thor later repairs it.
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.
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. 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.
An example of Captain America's shield
While Rogers was asleep in suspended animation, three other men used the identity of Captain America, all using steel replicas of the discus shield. The 1950s Captain America was placed in suspended animation after becoming mentally unstable. By the time he was revived years later, Rogers had returned. When the two clashed, the 1950s Captain America's shield was broken.
In the 1980s, in a story written by Mark Gruenwald, Rogers chose to resign his identity rather than submit to the orders of the United States government and took the alias of "The Captain" instead. During this period, the role of Captain America was assumed by John Walker, the former Super-Patriot, who used both the costume and the indestructible shield. (Captain America #332–#351, 1987–1989). In his new identity of "The Captain", Rogers initially used a pure adamantium shield provided by Tony Stark, but a falling out between the two as a result of the "Armor Wars" storyline led Rogers to return it. He then began to use a pure vibranium shield provided by the Black Panther. When Rogers returned to his Captain America identity, Walker became the U.S. Agent and returned the shield to him. Walker would go on to have his own array of different shields over the years, the first of which appeared to be the last vibranium shield Rogers was using as the Captain. The U.S. Agent used shields with an eagle motif and one in the shape of a star, as well as a photonic energy shield.
At one point, when Rogers was exiled from the United States and was briefly unable to use his shield, Sharon Carter provided him with a photonic energy shield designed to mimic a vibranium matrix. This shield was also able to turn into an energy staff that could be used as a weapon.
During the time when the shield was lost in the Atlantic, Rogers tried using a pure adamantium shield, but was unable to get used to the balance. He also tried fighting without a shield but also found it awkward. While up against HYDRA agents in the Smithsonian, he picked up the triangular shield that was being exhibited there and used it for a time before it was crushed by a Kree warrior.
Sharon Carter next provided him with another photonic shield, but one whose shape could be controlled to morph the energy field into a wider force field, a bo staff or even fire a projection of the shield. While he enjoyed the versatility, Rogers noticed a number of drawbacks, particularly its inability to ricochet. Rogers gave one of the energy shield gloves to a freedom fighter in an oppressive future he traveled to and received a replacement from S.H.I.E.L.D. when he got back to his own time. The generator that created the shield was eventually destroyed in a confrontation with Ultron when Hank Pym's use of vibranium resulted in the destruction of the generator, leading to Rogers finally reacquiring his original shield.
In Secret Avengers, he uses a new energy shield which could be generated on either arm, or both, and was able to be thrown and ricochet off surfaces to hit targets before it dissipates, preventing enemies from using it against him. A new shield would be generated moments later. Moon Knight, who had acquired a copy of the technology, had it described to him as a "zero point energy shield".
A British analogue, Captain Midlands, wields a golden circular shield in the design of the traditional lion symbol of Britain and coated in an Anti-Magic nanominium gloss.
In the 1998-1999 time travel mini-series Avengers Forever, various future and alternate versions of Captain America are shown with many different variations of the shield.
Cable claims to have borne the shield into battle many times during his early adulthood, far in the future. In another version, Cable claims that the origin of his techno-organic arm was because his original one was lost when he attempted to retrieve the shield as a symbol for morale in the futuristic war against Apocalypse.
In the Future Imperfect setting, where the Hulk becomes the Maestro and is both the last surviving superbeing and a despotic ruler, an ancient Rick Jones assembles a trophy room as a tribute to the fallen heroes, with the shield among them. Jones uses the shield to defend against one of the Maestro's blows, but the wheelchair used by the disabled Jones was not sturdy enough for such an impact. Jones is sent flying back and is impaled on Wolverine's skeleton. When the Hulk, plucked from the past, throws the shield to attack his future self, he manages to injure the Maestro, causing a large gash on his chest as he attempts to cut the Maestro in half. Throwing the Hulk off, the Maestro attempts to hit Hulk with the shield himself, commenting that Rogers could never throw the shield hard enough to do him any damage, but the Hulk deflects it with the Silver Surfer's old board. After the battle, Jones is cremated and the Hulk poured Jones' ashes over the shield, affixing it with an epoxy. The Hulk then throws it into space, hoping that it will land somewhere exciting.
In the Marvel manga stories, Captain America uses a photonic shield before his death in Volumes 1 and 2, and his bodyguards use shields of metal. The shield also appears in the Rings of Fate mini-series, having been acquired by Carol Danvers after Elektra stole it from Avengers Mansion when she uses the costume of Captain America.
In the Colonel America reality of Marvel Zombies, the shield is held by the last humans, who have formed a new society. As part of a self-defense program, the shield is used by the semi-sentient body/mind configuration of Colonel America's body and the son of Black Panther. It is also used by Forge, who is fighting in Iron Man's old armor. The shield and many zombie allies of the humans are lost in the dimensions due to a traitor.
Captain Mexical is an alternate world version of Captain America from a dimension where the Aztec empire never fell. He is kept in the mainstream Marvel universe. His shield is used by Machine Man as a weapon during a zombie incursion; Mexical himself is slain.
In Mark Millar's 2008-2009 "Old Man Logan" storyline in Wolverine, the Red Skull has a trophy room filled with artifacts belonging to the heroes of the Marvel Universe. Captain America's shield is at the center of the trophy room, and is later used by Wolverine to decapitate the Red Skull.
Within the third and fourth issues of Avengers and Power Pack Assemble! miniseries, the Power Pack were thrown ten years into the future and met older versions of themselves, including a 25-year-old Alex Power. In those issues he shows greater control over his powers, (such as being able to deconstruct an enemy powered-armor suit), and now wields Captain America's shield.
In the Age of Ultron story, Captain America is shown sitting in a storeroom in the base of the last remaining active heroes, with the shattered fragments of his shield around him.
In issue #7 of the Marvel series Strikeforce: Morituri the shield is stored in a trophy room belonging to the alien "Horde" invaders.
In Ultimate Nightmare, Ultimate Captain America encounters his Russian counterpart, who has been driven mad due to being trapped in an underground complex for many years. He has created a "replica" of the shield, which turns out to be made out of scrap metal and human remains and grafted directly onto his forearm, and which proves far less powerful than Captain America's own shield.
In the alternate reality shown in What If...? #114, where the heroes and villains are unable to leave Battleworld at the conclusion of the Secret Wars, the shield is passed on to the daughter of Captain America and Rogue.
In other media
In the 1970s Captain America TV movies, Steve Rogers was given a transparent Plexiglas shield painted with concentric stripes (red and clear transparent) and a central star. The shield was designed to act as the windscreen for his motorcycle, but could be detached and used in its traditional offensive / defensive role when Rogers goes on foot. Furthermore, the shield can apparently return to Rogers in a smooth arc when thrown without needing to be ricocheted and with enough force to knock a man down in the return path .
In 2003, the company Factory X released a line of licensed prop replicas of items from the Marvel Universe. An aluminum replica of Captain America's shield was among their initial line up of props, and was limited to a production of 2,525 pieces.
In the closing of the March 12, 2007 episode of The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert read a letter from Joe Quesada in response to Colbert's earlier comments toward Captain America. He was then presented with what was said to be Captain America's indestructible shield, reportedly willed to Colbert in the event of Cap's "death". The shield was originally credited to be one of the Factory X replicas, but this is not the case. The shield given to Colbert was originally acquired by the long-time writer and editor (and late) Mark Gruenwald, who either commissioned it or received it as a gift. It eventually found its way into the hands of Marvel Editor Tom Brevoort, and was kept in his office until being passed on to Colbert. In a pre-show conversation with a studio audience, Colbert, speaking out of character, said that when his wife saw the shield and the accompanying note, she started crying. He confessed he was a little bemused by her reaction to a fictional character sending a prop shield to a fictional version of himself. The shield has been on display hanging on the wall along with other trophies on The Colbert Report set for every episode since.
In the animated movie Ultimate Avengers, based loosely on The Ultimates, Captain America uses a shield made from vibranium and adamantium compound. Captain America used his triangular shield throughout World War II, only gaining the disc-shaped vibranium-bearing shield after he awoke in the present day. The composition of the triangular shield remains unrevealed. It did prove to be effective against the bullets of German soldiers, but was dented by the punch of a Chitauri taking the form of Herr Kleiser.
In the 2010 iOS game Infinity Blade, the player has the option to purchase a shield called The Patriot. The design of the shield, featuring three concentric rings, a star in the center, and what appears to be red, white, and blue paint all but completely worn off, closely resembles Captain America's shield.
In Marvel Heroes (video game), Captain America is a playable character and uses the shield defensively and offensively, blocking attacks and attacking with it as a bludgeoning and thrown weapon.
Notably, in the Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes episode "A Day Unlike Any Other", Loki uses his magic to shatter Captain America's shield while taunting him. In the episode "Behold... The Vision!", Captain America's shield is restored by Black Panther's Wakanda people using the Vibranium machine that fused the pieces back together.
The adamatium/vibranium version of the shield becomes the main plot device for the story in the Ultimate Spider-Man episode "Not a Toy".
In the 2008 film Iron Man, a partially completed replica (possibly a prototype) of Captain America’s shield appears approximately 1 hour 20 minutes into the movie at the point where Pepper Potts comes in on Tony Stark trying to get out of his damaged armor; the shield is visible in the distance below Tony's right arm. According to a tie-in comic, Tony's father Howard Stark created the shield. Tony subsequently used the alloy of a prototype to create his armor.
In the 2008 film The Incredible Hulk, a deleted opening scene features the shield and Captain America buried in ice. However, the 2011 film Captain America: The First Avenger reveals this scene, or at least the appearance of Captain America to be non-canon.
In the 2010 film Iron Man 2, Tony Stark is building a particle accelerator in his home to create a new element for his arc reactor when S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Phil Coulson finds the replica of Captain America's shield that was seen on Tony's work table in the first Iron Man film and asks if it is what he thinks it is. Stark ignores the question and asks him to hand the shield over, using it as a shim to level the accelerator.
In the 2011 film Captain America: The First Avenger, the round shield is found by archeologists in the Arctic within a crashed aircraft in the present day. During World War II, Steve Rogers uses an ornamental version of the triangular shield during a musical tour promoting War Bonds, which he then uses in his first field mission and is rendered useless when Johann Schmidt punches a large dent in it. He later acquires the familiar circular shield from Howard Stark. Rogers chooses the unadorned vibranium shield (actually a prototype) over several more advanced models based on the triangular shield, having it painted into the familiar red, white and blue pattern from its original grey color. It is made from what is said to be all the known vibranium there is on Earth.
In the 2012 film The Avengers, Captain America wields the same shield as the one seen in Captain America: The First Avenger. While described in the prequel film as being vibration-absorbent, it is shown here as being rather vibration-reflecting, as the kinetic force from Mjolnir striking the shield rebounds as a powerful shockwave, leveling a small section of heavily forested area in the process. This may be due to the shield reaching its limit of absorption, thus reflecting the excess away. It is also capable of deflecting Iron Man's repulsor blasts against a band of Chitauri invaders but again this may be due to absorbing part of the energy.
In the teaser trailer for the 2013 film Iron Man 3, Trevor Slattery has a tattoo resembling the shield on the back of his neck. Slattery's tattoo is visible in the Marvel One-Shot short film All Hail the King.
In the 2014 film Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America uses a darker colored version of the shield on a covert mission for S.H.I.E.L.D. The shield later appears in the film in its classic red, white and blue version. Notably, Rogers takes advantage of the vibranium by jumping out of a building and landing on the shield, thereby surviving without any serious injuries. Near the end of a confrontation with the Winter Soldier, he drops it into the Potomac River, but it appears next to his bed as he is recovering in a hospital.