Drawing Captain America either in his own title or Avengers has been a right of passage for superhero artists since the 1960s. Even artists who have gone on to do very different things, like write and draw Superman’s modern origin (John Byrne) or create Blade the vampire hunter (Gene Colan) have had memorable takes on Cap’s adventures. However, some artists aren’t up for the task. For example, hot-shot X-Force artists and one of the founders of Image Comics Rob Liefeld was tasked with writing and drawing Captain America for Marvel’s Heroes Reborn event. This was the result. However, many artists over the past couple decades have brought new styles and techniques to Captain America’s appearances in various Marvel titles while showing how timeless this character is.
Ron Garney (Captain America in 1995-6, 1998; Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty in 1998; Ultimate Comics Captain America in 2011)
Ron Garney is the definitive Captain America artist of the 1990s. His work had the big muscles and explosions that characterized this time in comics, but he also had a genuine love for Captain America the character and his mythos. He and writer Mark Waid brought Sharon Carter back to the Captain America and also helped clean up the Heroes Reborn mess as well as redefine this Golden Age hero for Generation X. Garney drew some iconic moments in the character’s history, like him holding the Cosmic Cube and battling Red Skull yet again. His action scenes were some of the most brutal yet in the Captain America title with sequences like him slowly cutting Red Skull’s throat with his shield. However, throughout his work on the title, Garney made sure that Captain America would be an icon no matter what era he was written in. This idea extended to his miniseries Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty where he retold old WWII Captain America adventures with the Invaders or other characters in a more “extreme” style. Garney’s work (especially his figures) might seem dated compared to today’s comics, but he and Mark Waid brought him back from the brink of cancellation and captured his heroism and courage through their art and writing.
John Cassaday (Captain America in 2002; Captain America: Fallen Son in 2007; Uncanny Avengers in 2011-12)
John Cassaday is one of the best comic book artists of the late 1990s and early 2000s with his Eisner Award winning (though often delayed) runs on Planetary with Warren Ellis and Astonishing X-Men with Joss Whedon. But before (and during) working on these titles, Cassaday and writer John Ney Reiber relaunched Captain America again under the new Marvel Knights imprint. Continuing in the tradition of creators who combined Captain America and contemporary politics, Reiber and Cassaday told a story where Captain America helped liberate an American town from terrorists. The story was a little heavy-handed, but Cassaday’s art was bright, detailed, and expressive capturing Cap in all his red, white, and blue glory. He mixed the photorealism of painters like Alex Ross with the sequential storytelling of comics greats like Jack Kirby to create one of the most aesthetically pleasing takes on Captain America. Cassaday rarely does interiors, but he returned to draw an issue the Captain America: Fallen Son miniseries and illustrate the guilt Tony Stark felt after Captain America’s death. He also drew the first arc of Uncanny Avengers that featured Captain America trying to unite an Avengers team that combined X-Men and Avengers as well as the most recent incarnation of the Red Skull. Cassaday has done countless covers and variant covers featuring Captain America and really captures the hopeful nature of the character.
Bryan Hitch ( The Ultimates in 2002-2007, Captain America Reborn in 2009-2010, Age of Ultron in 2013)
One of the few non-American artists on this list, Bryan Hitch is the master of “wide-screen” storytelling in which he uses big, horizontal panels and two page spreads to tell a more cinematic story. One of his early triumphs with this technique was The Ultimates, a reimagining of the Avengers in Marvel’s Ultimate Universe. His work on Ultimates began with an extended flashback fighting Nazis in WWII before being frozen and rediscovered in the present by Tony Stark. Hitch’s Ultimate Captain America was much more powerful than his mainstream counterpart and could outrace motorcycles, jump out of planes without a parachute, and even had a low level healing factor. However, he had many flaws, like working for the morally ambiguous SHIELD organization without asking many questions until it was too late and assaulting Hank Pym when he found out that Pym beat his wife Janet. Hitch crafted the biggest Captain America action sequences yet (punching out the Hulk), but he also captured the emotions of a man who has lost all his best friends and adjusting the morally grey world of the 21st century. Hitch would return to draw Captain America Reborn, a series which brought Steve Rogers back from the dead and featured two Captain Americas (Bucky and Steve) in action as well as Age of Ultron, which featured an emotionally downtrodden Captain America in a dark, alternate future. His designs for Captain America’s costume and character also influenced Captain America’s appearance in the film Captain America: The First Avenger.
Steve Epting (Avengers in 1991-1994, 2001; Captain America in 2005-2009, 2013)
Steve Epting first drew Captain America as part of the Avengers in the early 1990s during the big “Operation: Galactic Storm” crossover where the Avengers intervened in an intergalactic conflict between the Kree and Shi’ar. This was a story which revealed the rift between Iron Man and Captain America when Iron Man decided to kill the Kree Supreme Intelligence after Captain America expressly said that Avengers don’t kill. However, Epting’s best work would come much later when he collaborated with Ed Brubaker on an epic Captain America run. Epting returned spy elements to Captain America and illustrated rooftop parkour scenes, car chases, and Cap flinging his shield around like a maniac while Brubaker probed into Steve Rogers’ psyche in his caption boxes. His art is both dynamic and detailed, and he could handle both modern day missions and World War II stories. Epting helped bring Bucky back from the dead and also drew his first adventures as Captain America. His art captured Bucky’s rougher and more pragmatic fighting style as well as using shadow to showcase his stealth abilities that he learned in WWII and during his days as the Winter Soldier. The Russo Brothers seem to have studied Epting’s art on Captain America, and hopefully there will be homages to his work in the upcoming Captain America: Winter Soldier film.
Steve McNiven (New Avengers in 2005-2006; Civil War in 2006-2007; Captain America in 2011; Uncanny Avengers in 2014)
Though not the prolific Captain America artist (like his work on Wolverine), Steve McNiven has illustrated a great variety of Captain America team and solo stories. McNiven’s art is gritty and detailed, which was perfect for the Civil War storyline where Captain America and some of the other heroes had to go underground to avoid being forced to reveal their secret identities. McNiven depicted Cap’s struggles in fighting his former allies for seemingly no reason as well, especially his climactic fight scene against Iron Man. McNiven was also part of yet another Captain America relaunch and illustrated a story featuring some of Cap’s old allies (Nick Fury, Dum Dum Dugan) as well as long-forgotten foes like the Ameridroid. Ed Brubaker’s sparse writing gave McNiven plenty of room for shield throwing, bullet dodging action. More recently, McNiven has collaborated with Rick Remender’s universe shattering conclusion to his “Ragnarok Now” arc on Uncanny Avengers where Captain America has to face threats beyond probably anything he has faced before.
John Buscema (Avengers), Alex Ross (Marvels), David Finch (New Avengers), Neal Adams (Avengers), Butch Guice (Captain America), Mike Zeck (Captain America), Al Avison (Captain America Comics), Syd Shores (Captain America Comics), George Perez (Avengers), John Romita Jr. (Captain America), Mike Deodato (Secret Avengers)