Captain America: Civil War hits theaters on May 6, and we’ve been binge-reading Captain America comics nonstop to prepare ourselves. Word on the street is that movie has some of the greatest fight scenes we’ve seen yet, so we thought it would be fun to look back at Cap’s greatest brawls throughout history with a top 10 of our personal favorites.
10. Captain America #1: Captain America vs. Hitler
OK, this one doesn’t really count since it didn’t actually happen inside the comic. It is a heavy contender for the greatest comic book cover of all time, though. Captain America Comics #1, the first ever appearance of Captain America, started with a picture of him punching Hitler in the face. There are very few truly perfect things in life, but this image is one of them.
9. The Winter Soldier: The Elevator Fight
I really want to focus on comics in this article, so I’m only including one live-action fight scene. The MCU stunt teams deserve a lot of credit though for their work on making Captain America’s fights in the movies feel like they’re lifted straight from the comics. Probably most iconic is the scene in The Winter Soldier where Cap has to take down an entire elevator full of Hydra goons. I love this fight partially because the choreography is a badass masterpiece (badassterpiece?), but more importantly because it inspired Community to do an incredible parody with Dean Pelton.
8. Satan and the Sorcerer’s Secret: Captain America vs. Satan
I still kind of can’t believe this actually happened, and the fact that it’s a Golden Age comic only makes it more ridiculous. In Captain America Comics #21, Cap actually fought Satan himself. If they told this story in a modern-day comic, Cap probably would’ve needed some kind of enchantment or magical weapon. Nah dude. Golden Age Cap requires no such things when he has his trusty haymaker. The 1940s were a simpler time, when all you needed to defeat the literal devil was a solid right hook.
Oh, gosh. It gets even better. Satan admits defeat after looking into Cap’s eyes and seeing “the indestructible good of mankind.” Mostly ,I’m just thankful somebody defeated Satan without anyone having to listen to a fiddle.
7. Two Into One Won’t Go: Steve Rogers vs. William Burnside
The legacy of Steve Rogers is a frequent theme in the comics. Between the time he was frozen in ice and the time he was thawed, the American government repeatedly tried to replace him. They felt the country still needed a symbol like Captain America to inspire people… but of course, none of the candidates they picked up could live up to Steve Rogers. Captain America #156 gave us this great fight with one of Cap’s replacements.
William Burnside was the Captain America of the 1950s, brainwashed and given plastic surgery until he believed he really was Steve Rogers. Of course, Burnside was a relic of an ugly chapter in American history. He was bigoted and hateful, more concerned with smashing Communists than preserving American ideals. The real Steve Rogers put him in his place.
6. Blood on the Moors: Captain America vs. Baron Blood
Captain America #254 is part of a story that introduced us to a new Union Jack. It also saw Cap fight against a vampire named Baron Blood. Eventually, Cap gets the upper hand by exposing Blood to sunlight… but it’s a setting sun, and he knows the monster will only get stronger as the sunlight fades.
Cap does what he has to do.
5. Infinity Gauntlet: Captain America vs. Thanos
The battle between Captain America and Thanos in the original Infinity Gauntlet story was of course ridiculous. Of course Captain America can’t go head-to-head with the mad Titan and walk away victorious. That’s even more true when Thanos is wielding the infinity gems. This moment wasn’t about that.
The reason this moment is so great is that it shows Captain America never gives up, no matter what. It doesn’t matter that the odds are physically impossible and all the rest of his friends have been felled. He stands no chance.
He still gets right back up and punches a god in the face.
4. Winter Soldier: Captain America vs. Bucky Barnes
The Winter Soldier movie translated this scene beautifully, taking a lot of the exact dialogue… because there are some things you just can’t improve on. Captain America (Volume 5) #14 is one of those comics.
There was a lot of doubt when writer Ed Brubaker said he wanted to bring back Bucky Barnes. The death of Bucky was one of those sacred things in comics that you just didn’t touch… people used to say that it would be like resurrecting Uncle Ben. You don’t take a shot like that unless you’re absolutely sure you can do it right. Having him return as the brainwashed assassin Winter Soldier brought new dimensions to the character, and Brubaker didn’t cheap out on any of the difficult moments.
It’s not just a great fight scene… it’s one of the most intense emotional moments of Captain America’s career. It often feels silly when two people carry on a full conversation while they’re fighting, but in this case it’s 100 percent appropriate. You can feel the weight of their blows as they really lay into each other, but Cap really just wants to bring Bucky back and Bucky really just wants to figure out who he is.
3. JLA/Avengers: Captain America vs. Batman
It only lasts two pages, but the confrontation between Captain America and Batman in JLA/Avengers is absolutely perfect. While the gods and sorcerers and robots wage war above them, the two step away to do battle on their own.
Of course, like any superhero fight, there’s only one way it can end. They realize they’re on the same side and they team up against the greater threat. It’s a perfect moment because they both recognize each other instantly… they recognize the drive and purity of intention in each other, and their fight leads to an immediate sense of mutual respect.
2. Civil War: Captain America vs. Iron Man
I’m not gonna lie, the fight between Cap and Iron Man in Civil War was kind of hard for me to read the first time. It’s just so brutal. Steve and Tony really were the best of friends in the comics, unlike the movies where they’ve kind of just been making fun of each other for two films.
Civil War was a story with a lot of intense moments, but you didn’t realize how bad it had gotten until you saw Cap and Tony come to blows for the first time. That was the moment where it stopped just being a fun superhero crossover and started really getting serious.
It ends with Cap getting a serious beatdown from Iron Man, but the fact that he’s able to stand up to a metal fighting machine like that for so long is a testament to his greatness.
1. The Ultimates: Captain America vs. Herr Kleiser
The Ultimates is an undeniable classic, an Avengers comic that reads like a summer blockbuster. It’s also the comic that introduced the Chitauri, who would go on to become the villains for the first Avengers movie. In the climax, there’s a nearly full-issue battle between Cap and the Chitauri’s leader Herr Kleiser. Kleiser is a nearly unkillable alien who’s been plotting the invasion of Earth for decades, and worked alongside the Nazis during World War II. He actually does manage to pin Cap at one point, and then he makes the worst mistake of his life: Telling Captain America to “Surrender.”
I might take some flack for including this moment as my number one, since there are a lot of people who have criticized it for being ridiculous. It also maybe represents a side of Captain America that they’ve deliberately walked away from in the regular Marvel Universe.
But damn, that’s a great panel.