When Captain America knocks at your door, you answer – Kari Skogland
The power that one tagline or title has to change the world and turn continuity on its head never ceases to amaze us.
When it was released in two thousand and eleven, Captain America: The First Avenger leaned heavily on the fact that the new fans drawn to the MCU would buy into the idea of Steve Rogers and having been hooked by the movie, and Iron Man and Thor would happily return to theatres to see Steve, Tony and Odin’s firstborn team-up to fight whatever big bad, would eventually end up threatening the world in the first Avengers celluloid outing.
And the box office receipts that the move generated when it was eventually released, proved them right. But somewhere between Steve Rogers getting pumped up on super-soldier serum and him trying Shawarma for the first time seventy years and a decimated Chitauri fleet later, fandom seemingly neglected to think about the significance of the title of Cap’s MCU debut and whether or not, as it claimed, he really was the First Avenger.
We get it, we understand, everyone, we included, was just happy to see Captain America and the Red Skull on the big screen, and the title of the film was the last thing that we were thinking about at the time.
However, that was then and this is now, and ten years down the line, there’s enough distance between us and Steve Rogers for us to look back and ask the question that we really should have asked a decade ago – “Was Captain America really the First Avenger, and if he wasn’t, who was?”
The Avengers Initiative
If we go by the strict timeline established by the MCU, then technically Steve Rogers was the First Avenger.
Even though we know that the Avenger’s protocol was named to honor Carol Danvers callsign, which was established in the closing moments of Captain Marvel, as she was off-planet protecting the Skrulls and other alien worlds from the attentions of the Universe’s dark side when the Avengers initiative began and as Captain America was the first superpowered individual to sign up for and become a willing part of it, he can lay claim to being the First Avenger.
Nothing is ever that simple and straightforward in the Marvel Universe though, as the team’s non-super-powered members, Black Widow and Hawkeye were already serving under Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D’s command, so either of them could also claim to be the First Avenger.
In fact, as Nick Fury put the team together, and it was his idea, he could also be the First Avenger.
It all depends on how you look at the timeline, and whether or not you believe tta the first member of the team had to be superpowered in order to qualify as an Avenger.
The Silver Age Avengers
As if things weren’t already confusing enough, if we take the four-color history of the Avengers into account, Captain America is automatically ruled out as the First Avenger.
He wasn’t even a member of the team when they first answered the call to help Thor combat the evil machinations of his brother Loki.
Created by Stan Lee in nineteen sixty-three, the founding member of the Avengers and the individual responsible for bringing the team together is actually Rick Jones.
He brought Iron Man, Ant-Man, and the Wasp to the aid of Thor and the Hulk in Avengers ‘#1, and because he was the first person to “assemble” the Avengers, Rick Jones was and is the first Avenger.
Although, whether or not Tony Stark, who has always seen himself as being the team’s principal member and guiding light would agree with the “Jones Theory” is another matter altogether, and one that’s caused more than a few lifelong comic shop buddies to fall out and go their separate ways.
Captain America, is, however, considered by most comic historians to be an original member of the team, as it was the ragtag bunch of heroes who were brought together by Rick Jones that discovered him frozen in ice in Avengers #4 and revived him from his two-decade slumber.
And, having nowhere else to go after being trapped in the ice for twenty years, the first thing Captain America did when he returned to the land of the living, was join the team that saved his life.
Steve Rogers wasn’t the first Avenger in Marvel mythology, but he was there at the beginning.
Twenty-First Century Canon
According to Marvel, everything that we’ve just said, and you’ve just read about The Avengers, used to be true but isn’t anymore.
We know, it gets more confusing by the moment, but bear with us, as we’re about to clear up who the first Avenger was, once and for all.
During Jason Aaron’s recent, and still ongoing run on the book, in a storyline that catapulted the audience one million years into the past, the writer revealed that the very first Avengers were formed to defeat, and protect Earth from a rogue Celestial.
While the line-up of the stone age Avengers was different from anything that longtime readers had seen before, it did feature at least one familiar face as Odin heard the call and was happy to answer and stand firm against the dangers threatening Midgard.
Even though he was a member of the team, Odin wasn’t the one responsible for bringing the Avengers together, as he was asked to join the team and didn’t found it.
The First Avenger, and the first superhero responsible for forging and creating the initial line-up of the very first Avengers, was none other than the very first human to be possessed by, and imbued with the powers of, the Phoenix force.
This means that, according to up to the minute canon which could change again in the blink of an eye, the first Avenger wasn’t Steve Rogers. It was the Phoenix.
Of course, whether you believe the stone age Avengers are actually part of the accepted canon and mythology is entirely up to you, and whether you choose the Silver Age history of the team or the MCU version, is your choice.
Was Captain America the First Avenger? The choice is yours…