Today Captain America #25 (Volume 4) hit newstands. That event would not be remarkable save for two things. First, it is the final issue of the series. Second, it ends with Captain America being fatally shot by a sniper as he leaves a courthouse. That's right, Captain America is dead.
It has been a long run for Captain America, albeit with some interruptions. The character made his debut in Captain America Comics #1, March 1941. Created by comic book legends Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, Captain America was 90 pound weakling Steve Rogers, classed "4-F" by the military because of his poor health. Fortunately, Rogers received a reprieve in the form of a "Super Soldier" serum, which gave the young man superhuman strength. Rogers donned a costume and the name "Captain America" to combat America's enemies.
Although not the first patriotic superhero (that would be The Shield, published by MLJ Comics, now Archie Comics), Captain America was arguably the most popular. Following World War II, however, the popularity of superheroes declines sharply and the last issue of Captain America Comics was published in February 1950. He was revived briefly in 1954, but the revival did not last. Finally, when Stan Lee revitalised the Marvel Comics line in the Sixties, Captain America was revived once again, in the pages of The Avengers in 1964. He soon became the leader of The Avengers and also received his own title once more.
Despite Captain America's death, plans for a feature film to be released in 2009 are still underway. And Marvel Comics has not ruled out the possibility that Captain America will return. Indeed, in a medium where death is rarely permanent, I rather suspect it is very likely. Many will remember years ago when DC Comics "killed off" Superman. DC Comics always had plans to revive the Man of the Steel and did so after several months. I have to wonder if Marvel Comics could not be doing the same thing. They generate new interest in the character by killing him off, with plans of reviving him at a later date. I cannot say that is what they are doing, but it at least seems possible.
At any rate, I cannot say I would be happy if Captain America was dead once and for all. While I cannot say that Captain America was necessarily one of my favourite superheroes, I have always been partial to the Golden Age characters. Sadly, beyond the Sub-Mariner, Captain America was one of the few characters from Marvel Comics' Golden Age to see publication on a somewhat regular basis. To me then, in killing Captain America off, Marvel Comics is disposing of an important part of its history. At any rate, Marvel Comics won't be the same without him.