Captain America's shield

Captain America's shield
Publication information
Publisher Marvel Comics
First appearance Original shield:
Captain America Comics #1
(March 1941)
Circular shield:
Captain America Comics #2
(April 1941)
Created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby
In story information
Type Large round shield / flying disc (Vibranium-Adamantium alloy)
Element of stories featuring Captain America
Winter Soldier

Captain America's shield is a fictional item appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. It is 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.


Vibranium Steel alloy

Captain America's shield is virtually indestructible under normal conditions; while cosmic and magical or godly opponents have broken the shield, the shield proves strong enough to absorb Hulk's strength, and repel an attack from Thor's mystical hammer Mjölnir without any visible damage. It is able to absorb all kinetic energy and transfers very little energy from each impact, meaning Captain America does not feel recoil or transferred impact forces from blocking attacks. These physical properties also means the shield can bounce off of most smooth surfaces, ricocheting multiple times with minimal loss in aerodynamic stability or velocity. The shield can also absorb the kinetic impact of a fall, allowing Captain America to land safely even when jumping off of several stories.

Ricochet ballistics

A common misconception is that the shield can "magically" return to Captain America . The "superhuman serum" that enhanced Captain America's physical attributes also improved his mental faculties—such as cognition, perception, balance, aim, and reflexes—to near genius-level. This allows him to instantly calculate ballistic-physics and predict the probable trajectory of objects in motion. This makes him a perfect shot. He can dodge or deflect bullets with his shield without collateral ricochet to civilians, to calculate where or how the shield will bounce and when it will return to his location, or trip a running person to cause them to fall into a specific position. After his memories are altered to make him believe that he is a Hydra sleeper agent, Rogers uses his precise knowledge of the shield to put Sam Wilson, its current wielder, in a position where he will fail to save a senator from Flag-Smasher by arranging for Wilson to be forced to throw the shield in a manner that Rogers knows from his own experience will miss its target by mere millimetres.[1]

Original shield

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,[2] 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.[3] In response to this gesture of trust, Captain America gave his original triangular shield to T'Chaka,[4] 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.[5] 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) was 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 Hydra 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

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.[6]

Circular shield

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.

In Captain America #255 (March 1981), it is established that the shield was presented to Rogers by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.[7] 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.[3]

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,[8] 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. During a confrontation involving the Young Avengers, he scolds Kate Bishop for using the Hawkeye name. She tells him that the "Real Cap" gave her that name in honor of his at the time dead friend, so this leads Barton to refuse to be Captain America.[9] 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.[10]

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 to give the shield character.[11] This premise was not observed in subsequent storylines, as artists have not continued depicting the shield with the scar.[12]


In the 2003-2004 Marvel Comics/DC Comics inter-company crossover 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

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:

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.[13]

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.[14]

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.[15]

Due to a stray molecule being out of place when Rogers reconstructed the shield using the Beyonder's residual power, a vibranium 'cancer' was introduced to the shield, spreading with each subsequent impact until it finally shattered after it was retrieved from the bottom of the ocean. Learning that the vibranium cancer would require the destruction of the shield in order to cure it, Rogers took the shield to the main vibranium deposit in Wakanda so that he could use a device created by Tony Stark to halt the 'cancer' before it could contaminate the Wakandan vibranium and destroy the world, only to be intercepted by the villain Klaw, who sought to absorb the power and become stronger. Fortunately, the amount of energy Klaw had absorbed was released when he struck the shattered shield with full force after Rogers picked it up on reflex, resulting in Klaw unintentionally restoring the shield to its original state, realigning its molecules and destroying the cancer.[16]

In Avengers Vol. 3 #63 (March 2003), an enraged Thor, wielding the Odinforce, dents the shield. Thor later repairs it.[17]

In Thor Vol. 2 #73 (January 2004) an enraged King Thor with Rune Magic, destroyed the shield, killing Steve Rogers with it.[18] This timeline was later erased in Thor Vol. 2 #79.[19]

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.[20] After the battle, the shield is repaired by Asgardian dwarves and Tony Stark with added Asgardian uru-infused enhancements and Stark's own technology to make it stronger, though a scar is left, and the dwarves are unable to repair it. Stark offers a solution to the scar, but Rogers declines, saying that it "gave the old girl a little bit of character".

Other shields

Other versions

In issue #7 of the Marvel series Strikeforce: Morituri the shield is stored in a trophy room belonging to the alien "Horde" invaders.[35]

In other media

Marvel Cinematic Universe

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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  6. Captain America/Black Panther: Flags of Our Fathers #1-4 (June – September 2010), Marvel Comics
  7. Captain America #255 (March 1981)
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  9. Fallen Son: The Death of Captain America #3 (July 2007)
  10. Captain America #33 (Dec. 2007)
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  14. Secret Wars #11 (March 1985). Marvel Comics
  15. Infinity Gauntlet #3 (September 1991), Marvel Comics
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  18. Thor Vol. 2 #73 (January 2004), Marvel Comics
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  23. Moon Knight #9 (2012), Marvel Comics
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  27. Cable and Deadpool #25 (April 2006), Marvel Comics
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  29. Hulk: Future Imperfect #2 (1992), Marvel Comics
  30. Marvel Zombies 2 1-5 (October 2007 - February 2008), Marvel Comics
  31. Marvel Zombies 3 #1-4 (October 2008 – January 2009), Marvel Comics
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  37. Ultimate Comics: Avengers vs. New Ultimates#6 (September 2011), Marvel Comics
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