Some weapons become more iconic than the fictional characters that use them. Others are a vital aspect of a character’s personality. In this column, we take a look at some of the greatest fictional weapons of all time.
Captain America, aka Steve Rogers, is one of the most visual striking comic book characters of all time. The bright red, white, and blue of his costume makes him stand out on both the page and the movie screen and also quickly defines his values and goals. However, it is his shield that is perhaps his most iconic aspect.
When viewed objectively, the choice of a shield is a strange pick for Cap, who is both a soldier and a man in peak physical condition. Shouldn’t a gun or other offensive weapon be better suited for a man known to lead squadrons of both soldiers and superheroes into battle? But that is exactly why the shield immediately becomes so iconic.
Characters like The Punisher do not have an iconic gun. Those are less valued tools and hold far less emotional and ideological weight compared to the shield. While the supersoldier has been known to use other weapons from time to time, the shield has always remained the superior choice. Due to its unique design and impenetrable nature, the weapon allows him to close the distance between him and his enemies. This way, Rogers can use his superior strength, agility, and combat skills to outmatch both foot soldiers from A.I.M. and deadly opponents like Crossbones. Plus it’s got an awesomely lame 60’s cartoon theme song!
Without the shield, Cap would not be able to fight hand-to-hand and with non-lethal methods. Additionally, it is the shield that allows him to dive headlong into battle and sacrifice his own safety for others. This is the choice that consistently defines the man.
The design is simple: a round shield with concentric red and white circles surrounding a bright white star in a blue circle. With two leather straps, the shield can be held by Captain America by slipping his forearm through the straps or carried on his back by strapping them around both arms. By doing so, Rogers can lead the charge, deflecting bullets meant for himself or the people he is protecting. It is this defensive capability that defines Captain America as a protector, not only of civilians and other heroes, but of the ideologies he believes in.
Importantly, the shield serves a second, equally important purpose. Because of his strength, speed, and accuracy, Cap can hurl his shield into enemies from a great distance. Whether it is due to its unique design or because of his precision, the shield will invariably bounce back to Captain America. Few attacks make such a distinct and impactful impression as Cap’s shield crashing into an enemy. Because of its sheer speed and force, few enemies have been able to dodge a shield throw or catch the object in midflight.
The idea of an impenetrable defense that can become a mighty offensive weapon at a moment’s notice is a vital aspect of the character referred to as the Sentinel of Liberty.
History of the Shield
Cap’s shield is a one-of-a-kind weapon due to its accidental creation. Due to a mistake in a laboratory, a metallurgist combined the rare metal vibranium with another alloy, sometimes recognized as adamantium (Wolverine’s bone-sheathing metal). As such, the experiment could never be recreated. The alloy was poured into a tank’s upper hatch mold to create the shield, painted to resemble the American flag, and given to Cap.
Originally, Cap used a badge-shaped metal heater shield, although this was quickly discarded in favor of the round, indestructible shield. Later stories explained the change. Cap gave his shield as a symbol of trust to King T’Chaka of Wakanda and receive a sample of vibranium, which would be used for the iconic shield.
The shield stayed frozen with Cap after his supposed death and plunge into the Arctic Ocean at the end of World War II, only to be discovered by the Avengers along with its owner decades later.
The shield has been replaced several times throughout Cap’s career. Replacements have included his original heater shield and a photon-shield, which could be created by a wrist-worn projection device. Despite it all, the classic shield always returns in one way or another.
The shield is a concave disc that is 2.5 feet in diameter and weighs 12 pounds Due to being made out of vibranium, the shield can not only deflect projectiles like bullets and lasers, but also absorbs great amounts of kinetic energy. As such, Cap can withstand blows from powerful characters like The Hulk and Thor without being knocked off his feet or severely injured. Due to its combination with adamantium, the shield will not bend or break when absorbing damage.
Because of its aerodynamic shape, indestructible nature, and the strength of Captain America, the shield can be thrown hundreds of yards without losing speed. Additionally, it can rebound off of other objects or enemies and return without slowing down. Rogers’ tactical mind and years of experience allow him to take out multiple enemies and bank off walls with a single throw.
Not So Indestructible
Cap’s indestructible shield has actually been broken multiple times within the main Marvel continuity. The Molecule Man, who has complete control over matter, disintegrated the shield. However, it was eventually restored by the villain.
Doctor Doom partially destroyed the shield while wielding godlike powers during The Secret Wars. The attack took out a jagged quarter of the shield, but Cap continued to use it until it was restored by Cap’s wish being granted (awfully convenient).
Thanos, armed with the Infinity Gauntlet, shattered it with a single punch. This was later undone when Thanos’ daughter used the Gauntlet to undue Thanos’ actions (also convenient).
The Serpent, the Asgardian God of Fear, broke the shield in half by hand during the Fear Itself event. After the battle, Asgardian dwarves repaired the shield with uru enhancements.
No matter what may happen, the shield will always be an irreplaceable aspect of Captain America. The shield is not only a vital part of his look, it is an outward representation of Steve Roger’s strength and undying commitment to protect as many people as possible.