5 Graphic Novels for Kids Who Love ‘Captain America’
by Tom Burns
Captain America, the star-spangled Avenger, is primed to have a big year. The hero’s 75th anniversary also marks the release of “Captain America: Civil War”, the third in Marvel’s new series of Cap movies starring Chris Evans (who makes for a very attractive 75-year-old superhero). “Civil War” is expected to be one of the biggest movies of the summer — having Iron Man, Spider-Man, Ant-Man, and almost every Marvel hero you can imagine in one film will do that — so get ready to hear your kids talking about Captain America A LOT over the next few months.
Since there are over 75 years’ worth of Captain America comic books out there, you may also want to introduce your kid to their favorite red-white-and-blue hero in his native medium. Here are five essential Captain America graphic novels that any young Marvel movie fan will love.
This is the story that inspired the new movie, and while there are major differences between the book and the film, the broad strokes remain the same. After a tragic accident, the U.S. Government calls for all superheroes to give up their secret identities and register themselves as government employees. Iron Man thinks it’s a great idea, Captain America does not, which leads to all of Marvel’s heroes picking sides and fighting amongst themselves. It has some adult themes — mainly violence — but if your kid can see a PG-13 movie, they should be fine with Civil War.
Captain America: Winter Soldier
The Winter Soldier plays a huge role in the second Captain America movie (as well as “Civil War,” by the looks of it) and the original Winter Soldier storyline remains one of the most essential and critically acclaimed Cap stories in the past 20 years. Writer Ed Brubaker did what many past Cap writers regarded as unthinkable — he brought back Bucky, Captain America’s World War II sidekick who was thought to be killed in the accident that froze Captain America in ice until the present day. Brubaker took that taboo subject matter and created an emotional, sophisticated spy story where post-accident Bucky was transformed into the Winter Soldier, an enhanced, mind-warped Soviet assassin who would live to one day to confront his former mentor.
Captain America: The Captain
Long-time Captain America fans often cite this 1987 storyline as one of their favorites — a story that some argue inspired the popular Civil War arc. After Captain America refuses to take the orders of a government committee, Steve Rogers is fired and a replacement Captain America is named. However, Rogers refuses to leave the role quietly, donning a new black costume and traveling the nation calling himself “The Captain.” He has to avoid the authorities, he gets into a fight with Iron Man, he teams up with some of his hero friends to rediscover his purpose — it has several “Civil War” parallels. It’s a fun ride watching Rogers prove there is (and always will be) only one Captain America. (The graphic novel is out-of-print, but is available used or digitally via the Kindle and comiXology apps).
Captain America: White
Captain America got his start as a World War II hero, so this beautiful story by Loeb and Sale — creators of the beloved Batman: Long Halloween storyline – will definitely appeal to fans who want to read a “classic” 1940s Cap adventure. Set in ‘41, the story follows Cap, Bucky, Nick Fury, and his Howling Commandos fighting the Red Skull across war-torn Europe. It’s one of the more insightful stories about the Captain and Bucky’s mentor/protégé relationship, which should help new fans understand why the young sidekick (who would one day become the Winter Soldier) means so much to Captain America.
Captain America: Truth
If your teen reader finds the Avengers too cheesy and heroic, you might want to introduce them to this literate, intellectual, and emotional take on the Captain America legend. Morales and Baker imagine a world where the “super-soldier serum” that gave Steve Rogers his amazing powers was actually first secretly tested on unwitting African-American soldiers during World War II. A clear parallel to the true story of the Tuskegee Airmen, Truth shows the impact that the imperfect serum had on the life of the only soldier to survive the early experimentation tests, and what being a part of the Captain America legacy means to him. It touches on questions of racism, genetics, and discrimination, while still feeling like a true Captain America story. Ideal for well-read middle or high school students.
BONUS: Marvel's Captain America: The Ultimate Guide to the First Avenger
While not technically a graphic novel, this awesome, artwork-packed encyclopedia does an excellent job of walking young readers through Captain America’s vast and colorful history. They’ll spend hours poring through this visual guide to the life and times of Steve Rogers, the man who would be Captain America, learning all about his special abilities, friends, enemies, and greatest adventures. If the beautiful reproductions of classic comic art aren’t enough to draw your kid in, there’s also a fun introduction by Marvel legend Stan Lee.
Do you have a young Captain America fan at home who might have more recommendations? Let us know in the comments section below!