Saluting Captain America: Secret Empire

Every day we celebrate Captain America’s 75th anniversary by looking deep into the Marvel Unlimited archives and going through some of Steve Rogers’ most thrilling adventures. Happy diamond anniversary Sentinel of Liberty!

Remember back when Captain America gave up on the Captain America identity to become Nomad? In that post we teased the hows and whys for a future date and here they are! The classic “Secret Empire” storyline ran from CAPTAIN AMERICA #169176 in 1974 thanks to writers Steve Englehart and Mike Friedrich along with artist Sal Buscema.

Originally part of Hydra, the Secret Empire works in the shadows to overthrow the government and garner as much power as possible. Though the group debuts in TALES TO ASTONISH #81, they later mount an incredibly complicated plan that includes tarnishing Cap’s good name, inserting the original Moonstone as a new hero, and even kidnapping a variety of mutants for a mysterious project.

Along the way, Falcon and Leila fly off with Black Panther for some technological advancements, the Secret Empire frames the Star-Spangled Avenger for crimes against the very law he vows to protect, and both heroes have a run-in first with Banshee and then Professor X and the original X-Men. Later, Steve and Sam infiltrate the Secret Empire in civilian guises where they come across the plan to siphon brain energy from mutants including Iceman, Beast, Havok, Mastermind and others.

Before long, Cap proves more powerful than his Secret Empire captors before taking down their pet hero Moonstone. Feeling victorious, our hero chases down the evil group’s leader Number One and unmasks him. As it turns out, a trusted, high-ranking government official hides under that hood, but also a cowardly one who decides to end his own life instead of facing his crimes.

As the last issue of the saga opens, Steve declares, “Captain America must die!” thinking that he represents a sham. After recounting his origin, he talks with both Thor and Iron Man who encourage their fellow Avenger to stick with it. Even with all that support, he ultimately decides at the end of the issue that his alter ego must indeed perish!

Of course, we know how that turns out as Steve takes a short hero break before creating the Nomad identity and eventually realizing that he’s the only man fit to wield the shield. No matter how corrupt the country’s government might be, he still represents the ideals and the dreams of the people who make up this great nation. With that in mind, what makes him give up the identity in the late 80’s? Come back soon to find out!

Cap Declassified

Even though Sam Wilson joined on as co-headliner with 1971’s CAPTAIN AMERICA #134, he didn’t come into possession of the now-iconic red wings until #170. Instead of turning to some of Cap’s pals in the Avengers, he gets in touch with Black Panther who builds the “incredibly light, but super-strong, glider-wings” that also feature jet tips, solar batteries, and neuro-circuitry for better control. He immediately puts them to good use in saving his girlfriend Leila and helping Cap fight the male Moonstone and the mutant Banshee.

Next, Steve Rogers gives up his well-known secret identity once again in the pages of the epic CAPTAIN AMERICA #332-350 by Mark Gruenwald, Kieron Dwyer, Tom Morgan and the gang.