Everyone Who Has Wielded Captain America's Shield In Marvel Comics
For an item that carries such symbolic weight, the roll call of those who have carried Captain America’s shield is a surprisingly lengthy one. Obviously, Steve Rogers is the individual who wields the shield first, most famously, and most frequently, but he’s had to hand it off to a number of others over the decades. Some of them, like Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes, are household names. Others were only notable when they had the shield in hand, and quickly faded into obscurity after passing it on.
Aside from perhaps Thor’s mighty hammer Mjolnir, no object in comic book history holds as much metaphorical heft as Cap’s iconic buckler. Of course, the shield - made from a unique blend of vibranium, proto-adamantium, and good ol’ American steel - is a worthy weapon in and of itself. But it represents so much more than a handy thing to hurl at a villain’s head, and that’s true no matter who happens to be strapped to it.
In his earliest days as Captain America, Steve Rogers employed an angular shield made of steel against the Third Reich. It would take several real-world years, and several months in-continuity, for Rogers to be gifted with his iconic circular buckler, comprised of a unique and inimitable blend of steel, vibranium, and something called proto-adamantium that has never been replicated. President Franklin D. Roosevelt made the delivery himself.
Since then, the shield has been shattered, lost, and given up on several occasions, but it’s always restored, and it always ends up back where it looks best - in the hands of the original Captain America. Other shield-wielders have carried it proudly, but Rogers set a moral standard that is nearly impossible for anyone to beat.
Upon the conclusion of the Marvel Comics Civil War, Steve Rogers surrendered to the authorities, only to be terminated by Crossbones and a mind-controlled Sharon Carter as he ascended the courthouse steps to his trial. The loss of Captain America proved devastating for pretty much everyone on Earth-616, but none more so than Tony Stark, Cap’s opponent in the previous conflict. Guilt-ridden, Stark set out to find a worthy inheritor of the shield.
After a few false starts, Iron Man zeroed in on Bucky Barnes, only recently revealed to be alive and well as the Winter Soldier, and even more recently cured of his own brainwashing by Rogers’s intervention. After an obligatory brawl, Bucky reluctantly agreed to become the new Cap, so long as Tony would help him remove any lingering mental conditioning left over from the Winter Soldier Program.
Barnes’s habit of toting a gun around behind the shield made some uncomfortable at first, but he soon established himself as a capable successor, leading the Avengers through big-ticket conflicts like the Skrulls’ Secret Invasion and Norman Osborn’s Siege of Asgard. Even after Rogers returned - having been sent through time, not slain, as it turned out - he insisted that Barnes keep the shield for a time. It was only after Bucky’s own apparent demise - which was also not what it seemed - that Steve agreed to be Captain America again.
At one point, the villainous Iron Nail drained Steve Rogers of his Super-Soldier Serum, resulting in Rogers rapidly aging into something resembling his actual chronological age. As such, Old Man Cap had to retire from active duty, taking on a new role as director of S.H.I.E.L.D. - and he also got to name his own successor. It wasn’t a difficult choice.
Cap’s longtime sidekick, Sam Wilson, had since become a genuine independent hero and valued member of the Avengers, and thus it came as no surprise when he was selected to be the next Captain America. Wilson performed so well in the role - taking on Hydra, the daughter of the Red Skull, and the nationalistic Serpent Society - that Rogers insisted he keep the shield even after the latter’s Super-Soldier Serum had been restored.
It was only after Steve had been temporarily replaced with a Hydra-fied version of himself, and that Hydra Cap had briefly taken over the United States, that Sam returned the shield, reasoning that Steve needed it to restore the public’s faith in him. Sam went back to being the Falcon thereafter - though it looks like he’ll be carrying the mantle of Captain America in the MCU now for years to come.
The world of comic books is full of complicated origin stories, and Nathan Summers is easily the most complicated of them all. In short, Nathan was born in modern times to Cyclops and a clone of Jean Grey, infected with a techno-organic virus by Apocalypse, and then sent to be raised in the future where his condition could be better managed. Decades later, from his perspective, he returned to modern times as the grizzled Cable.
During those decades in the future, however, Cable joined and eventually led a rebellion against Apocalypse, who had taken over the planet sometime in the interim. He once led a mission to recover the shield of Steve Rogers, who had long since passed. With the shield in hand, Cable inspired his followers to ultimate victory - but he didn’t bring it with him to the present day.
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The Marvel and DC Universes have only crossed over on the rarest of occasions, and each time has been suitably epic, but none more so than 2003’s JLA/Avengers. That miniseries saw the two teams pitted against one another in a cosmic bet between the Grandmaster and Krona - only to inevitably unite when they discovered that Krona threatened all of existence.
While the combined forces of the Justice League and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes launched a distracting assault on Krona’s villain-stuffed compound, Superman attempted to take Krona on himself. In the heat of the moment, Captain America lent Kal-El his shield and Thor lent him his hammer, allowing for the sort of stunning imagery that these sorts of crossovers are made for - even if it was a team-up between the Flash and Hawkeye, of all people, that defeated Krona in the end.
Moments after Steve Rogers was given the first and only dose of the true Super-Soldier Serum, its creator, Dr. Abraham Erskine, was terminated. Thus, while Rogers was fighting on the Western Front of WWII as Captain America, the US government was hard at work attempting to recreate the serum - often through significantly less-than-ethical means.
The Army recruited a group of 300 Black soldiers to serve as unwitting test subjects, sending letters to their families informing them of their demise on the battlefield. Most of these recruits perished from the experimentation, but five survived to become a team of covert operatives. After just a handful of missions, Isaiah Bradley was the only Black super soldier left standing.
Bradley was sent on one last job, a suicide mission to stop a Third Reich doctor from creating his own version of the serum. Before he left, Bradley took a replica Captain America costume and shield with him, reasoning that he’d more than earned the mantle by then. Bradley succeeded in his objective, but was captured as a POW. Released months later, he returned to the United States, where he was promptly court-martialed and imprisoned for life - ostensibly for the act of pilfering the costume, but in reality to hide the horrors of the experimentation he’d been subjected to.
It wasn’t until the Kennedy administration that Isaiah’s wife, Faith, was able to secure his release, and even then, he was sworn to secrecy. In time, Steve Rogers would help ensure that the truth became public knowledge. These days, Isaiah’s grandson Eli carries on his legacy as the Patriot, a founding member of the Young Avengers.