1. Because nobody ever suspects… the Butterfly!
They can’t all be the Red Skull, can they? Early in his crime-fighting career — his third issue, to be exact — Cap was already embarrassing himself by going up against adversaries who weren’t about to replace Hitler’s favorite crimson-chromed terrorist as Cap’s arch-nemesis. Take the Butterfly, a flying criminal who used his long proboscis to impale museum guards. Cap gets involved when, during a class trip to a museum, Bucky finds a secret door in the museum that leads to the Butterfly’s secret lair and gets trapped in a mummy case by a… you know what? It’s just too bizarre to recap. Let’s just cut to the big fight scene, which ends in Cap causing the deaths of the Butterfly and his giant henchman. But wait! We then learn the Butterfly is Dr. Vitroli, the museum scientist who dressed like a butterfly and killed his employees because… um, you know, that’s a really good question. It’s not like he was bitten by a radioactive butterfly, or he was an insane lepidopterist out to collect all the butterflies in the world. He just loved stealing stuff from the museum. Even though he had a key to the place and could take whatever he wanted! So dressing up like a butterfly… yeah, not really sure what that was about. But at least Cap got away with two counts of manslaughter! That’s worth celebrating with a puff on the pipe!
2. I believe they prefer to be called “gentlemen of a certain stature.”
The end of the Second World War was a tough time for patriotic superheroes who donned the red, white and blue to defend America, and Captain America was no exception. After the war was over, he tried replacing Nazis and Japanese soldiers with bank robbers and monsters, but it just wasn’t the same. After a few issues of the writers trying to rip off the more popular true-crime comics of the day, Captain America got goddamned weird, like this issue featuring “The Weird Tales of the Wee Males!” The story has Rogers telling a class about Captain America’s adventures in the land of (sigh) King Teeny and the Teeny-Weeny People after his plane crashes in remote mountains. So okay, you could do worse than rip off Gulliver’s Travels… but what is up with that giant hand coming out to grab him by the crotch? And speaking of groins… am I the only one looking at Cap’s and thinking it looks like his butt is on the front? Not that I make a habit of looking at superheroes’ groins, of course.
3. “Boss, there’s a guy out here with a big shield and an ‘A’ on his forehead. Should we let him in?”
As embarrassing as it might have been getting his butt kicked by the Teeny-Weeny people, at least Cap was still welcome inside his own book. Desperate to keep the title going in a time when superheroes had fallen out of fashion, Marvel renamed the book Captain America’s Weird Tales with issue #74 in 1949, giving most of the cover to an inexplicably long-nailed Red Skull who looms over a tiny Cap and Golden Girl. When the next and final issue of Cap’s Golden Age series came out four months later, Cap didn’t even make a cameo appearance in his own book. Just goes to show old soldiers really do fade away.
4. Never figured you for a defeatist, Cap.
Back in the 1980s, Marvel put out a one-shot comic called The Marvel No-Prize Book featuring some of the more memorable bloopers that made it to print. The editors of that issue singled out this mistake from 1967’s Tales of Suspense #92 as their favorite, and no wonder. As you can tell from the page number in the corner of the first panel, this was a situation where the text in the panel on the second page didn’t quite follow the text on the page preceding it, and all the people involved in the book from Stan Lee on down completely missed it. D’oh!
5. Next time, call Edna Mode. She’ll set you up right, Cap.
So there was this time in the ’70s when Cap was disillusioned with the country he symbolized, and he decided to adopt a different costume and codename to fight crime. (The option of simply retiring from crime-fighting to take up another hobby — like fly-fishing — apparently never occurred to him.) After whipping out his sketchpad and sewing needle, he finally settled on Nomad (as in a man without a country) and put together the darling little number you see here. Now, that costume itself qualifies as an embarrassing moment in Cap’s life (all the way down to the belt buckle, huh, Steve?), but Cap compounds the idiocy by tripping on his own cape on his very first case, allowing the bad guys enough time to make their escape. “I always knew I’d see someone do that someday!” the serpentine sister hisses, and… yeah. When the people dressed up as snakes are laughing their asses off at you, that’s just sad.
6. Also, all this “twerking” business suddenly makes sense to him.
Among his many talents, Captain America is often referred to as a master tactician, a guy who can size up any situation and find the surest way to victory using whatever resources are at his disposal. So when he decides to help a friend find her missing teenage sister, he figures the best way to do it is to… go undercover as a teenager himself? And ask an Avengers teammate to magically de-age him? And go through with his plan even after he realizes the transformation is “no cosmetic change” and he’s given up his serum-enhanced super-strength in the process? And of course he spends what looks like 10 minutes on the streets of New York City before he gets a lead on the missing girl’s whereabouts, a lead that takes him to an indoctrination camp run by bondage-obsessed women affiliated with the Red Skull. Isn’t that always the way…
7. Captain America: Cross-dressing for freedom!
Hoo boy. Okay, here’s the plot: Cap and his buddy, Paladin, are searching for Diamondback, Cap’s girlfriend at the time. Their search leads them to a luxury cruise ship full of female super-villains assembled by Superia to establish a futuristic colony where men are slaves to women. Still with me? Cap and Paladin are captured and placed inside fluid-filled tubes designed to change them into women (because… why?), but they escape with some inside help. Of course, they can’t run around a ship full of women in their tightie-whities, so they borrow some clothes and make their escape. Okay, two things: First, there is no way anyone will look at these two guys in domino masks and tight outfits and think “steroid-abusing females.” Second… really, Cap? You think wearing “super-stretchy Spandex” makes you look ridiculous? As opposed to all the other times you’ve put on a pair of super-stretchy Spandex tights to fight for the American way?
8. “I got yer Man of Steel right here!”
So the inevitable happens and Cap’s geriatric body finally collapses under the strain he constantly puts it under, super-soldier serum be damned. Does he take the hint and check into a nice retirement home? Shift gears and play a more behind-the-scenes role with the Avengers? Set up a school for young superheroes in training? Hell, no! He just calls up his buddy with the body armor and orders a specially made exoskeleton that allows him to keep pushing his body to the brink! While looking incredibly dorky at the same time! Seriously, how many arguments do you think Cap and Stark have over the design specs? “I don’t care if it’s extra weight, Tony. The. Wings. Stay. On. My. Head.”
9. “Awooooo,” indeed, Cap. “Awooooo,” indeed.
Does Captain America hold the record for goofy transformations? Probably not. But man, has he gone through some doozies. Case in point: while searching for his mysteriously vanished comrade, Cap is taken prisoner by Nightshade, queen of the werewolves. She promptly turns Cap into a six-foot-tall werewolf, and he ends up racing through the woods panting, “Woods… run free… need to run… need to run… need to run!” I’d like to think this was followed by his werewolf form thinking, “Must… call agent… need to… get out of contract…”
10. Shut up, this totally worked on that TV show about the sexy vampires and their magic blood.
Ah, Rob Liefeld. We do love to kick him around, don’t we? Back in the 1990s, Marvel decided a corporate bankruptcy was the perfect time to put out a maddeningly confusing crossover event that would end with most of its flagship characters shunted into a “pocket dimension” — a place where new (read: former Marvel staffers who had earlier left the company to found Image Comics) creative teams would update the characters for the ’90s. Captain America, God help him, was assigned to Liefeld, the then-reigning “bad boy” of the comics business who never let a lack of talent or inability to meet a deadline stop him from reaching for the stars. His Captain America was a loyal WWII soldier who could not in good conscience support the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and so the government “reprogrammed” him to believe he was just another working-stiff American, with a robot wife and everything. It didn’t last. Fast forward to this scene, where a dying Sam Wilson has just been shot by a racist bad guy, and Cap decides the only way to save him is… to use the edge of his shield to slice open his hand in the middle of a firefight. And feed his blood to Wilson. Which should cure him because “it has a kind of… super-serum in it.” Oh, and Captain America’s blood is green because…. I don’t know, maybe because making Sam drink red blood would be gross? Yep, makes total sense.
11. Pretty much the entire 97 minutes of the 1990 Captain America movie qualifies as a “moment” here.
Prior to Chris Evans donning the red, white and blue in Captain America: The First Avenger, Cap starred in a movie serial during the 1940s and in two made-for-TV movies in 1979. None of them was what you might call “good,” but they were Citizen Kane compared to the 1990 film unleashed on an unsuspecting public by the same people who brought us Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. Run, don’t walk, to your favorite trash heap to unearth your very own VHS copy of this desperate-to-be-forgotten film, and thrill to such thrilling scenes as:
- Captain America getting his ass handed to him by an inexplicably Italian Red Skull in his very first mission!
- Captain America getting tied to a rocket aimed straight at the White House!
- Captain America kicking the rocket’s fin with his boot(!) and altering its trajectory just enough to crash-land in Alaska!
- Captain America, after being discovered by scientists, climbing out of his ice tomb and exiting their tent without speaking a word to begin his walk back to Washington!
- Captain America escaping evil supermodel assassins on dirt bikes by heroically leaping into a pickup truck driven by Ned Beatty!
- Captain America faking car sickness so he can steal the car of someone who’s trying to help him and leave them stranded in hostile territory — not once but twice!
The Nostalgia Critic said it best: “This guy is an asshole! When he’s not getting his useless butt kicked, he’s either hiding under something or running away!” And why is he doing all this hiding and running? Why, to save the president, of course — the same guy got himself kidnapped by an Italian crime family headed by the Red Skull because his environmental policies would be bad for criminals, or something. I want to say you can’t make up this stuff if you tried, but clearly someone did. Someone we can only hope never got their hands on another movie script again.