Brief history of the Captain America character and his audience
The history of Captain America begins in the United States, particularly in New York City. According to an article by Peter Sanderson, Andy Mangels, and David Roach, Captain America was “created by writer Joe Simon and artist Jack Kirby for Timely Comics” (Mangels, et. al. 1). To explain, Simon and Kirby created Captain America, specifically the Steve Rogers version, as a comic book superhero in a company that would years later become Marvel Comics. The character debuted in Captain America Comics #1 in March of 1941 and was the star of his own comic book series.
Adam Bellotto attests, “Captain America was soon the star of his very own film serial” (Bellotto 1). This particular series had nothing to do with the original comics written by Kirby and Simon, but with a district attorney who assumed the superhero identity of Captain America (Bellotto 1). The creation of this series goes to show how popular and successful the character was during that time period, but none have been more prosperous than the Steve Rogers adaptation.
As shown by the Marvel website, Steven Grant Rogers was the son of Irish immigrants named Joseph and Sarah Rogers, who later died and left him as an orphan. Steve was born with an immense amount of medical conditions, including asthma, high blood pressure, chronic colds, heart trouble, palpitations, and many more. These conditions hindered him from being accepted into the army as a soldier during the Second World War, but Dr. Abraham Erskine saw potential in Rogers and allowed him to join the United States Army.
After this, Rogers was chosen for the Super-Soldier program, and he was to be injected with the Super-Soldier Serum by Dr. Erskine. The serum turned his body into the peak of human perfection in terms of strength, ability, intelligence, etc. His iconic weapon is a shield made out of the metal vibranium, and the shield has changed shape throughout the years. Throughout the rest of the war, Captain America and his best friend James “Bucky” Buchanan Barnes went on missions to defeat the Nazi Regime (Marvel 1). This is the storyline that has been made into the movies from the Marvel Cinematic Universe that the public sees today. Marvel Studios is an American media franchise that creates a series of superheroes film which take place in a shared reality and are based on the characters from the comics; Captain America is one of the original big three (the other two being Thor and Iron Man), which means he fights alongside the Avengers as well as has his own solo films.
In the beginning, Captain America comics were primarily purchased by Americans, and the time period in which they were released was considered the Golden Age of Comics. Bellotto proclaims, “the first Captain America book sold nearly a million copies” (Bellotto 1). The Golden Age lead to the cementation of comic books as a mainstream art form with their own form of storytelling. This Golden Age meant Americans of all races, genders, age, and social classes were buying and reading these comics during the 40s, as well as the fact that the comics were relatively cheap and were items that could be transported anywhere. The Captain America article declared, “The first issue announced the creation of 'The Sentinels of Liberty' fan club; eager young readers could join for just a dime, which entitled them to a membership card and a metal badge” (Mangels, et. al. 1 Appendix A).
This club shows how young children enjoyed Captain America stories, but the creators did not have a specific or single demographic as an intended audience when they created him. Botello affirms, “Simon and Kirby needed a hero who could embody the American intervention they believed was right” (Bellotto 1). To clarify, the United States had not yet joined World War II, and Simon and Kirby detested Nazis, so they made a character who would interfere and stand up against those fascists. While the superhero elements and action sequences might have been more popular among younger audiences, the message of freedom that Captain America portrayed resonated with all Americans during this troublesome time.