You’ve agreed to go see the new Captain America movie with your offspring/BFF/main squeeze/parental unit but you’re just not sure who is who. The redhead is the Black Widow? How does that work? Why does everyone keep mentioning what happened in New York? And what put the guy with the eye patch in such a bad mood? Well, wonder no more. Our resident experts on nerd culture have assembled this easy primer on who’s who in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We’ll have you sounding like a fanboy or girl in no time. So go ahead, study up, there might be a quiz.
Captain America, a.k.a., Steve Rogers: You can’t miss him—he’s the big guy with the star in the middle of his chest. Steve has been having issues as of late. A former 90-pound asthmatic weakling, he was given the Super Soldier formula during World War II and transformed into the pinnacle of human strength, speed, and endurance. While fighting the good fight during the war, Cap’s plane went down in the Arctic where he remained frozen in a sort of suspended animation until he was thawed out by an elite super-spy organization known as S.H.I.E.L.D. (a.k.a the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division. Whew—that’s a mouthful!). He’s returned to saving the world, but is a bit lost. The world he knew ended nearly 70 years ago.
James “Bucky” Barnes, a.k.a., The Winter Soldier: Cap’s best friend from back in the day, Bucky used to look out for his skinny little friend. Once Cap bulked up, he and Bucky were part of a special operations unit taking out a faux-Nazi organization called HYDRA during World War II. Bucky fell to his death during the war—but there’s a renegade called The Winter Soldier who bears an uncanny resemblance to him.
The Falcon, a.k.a., Sam Wilson: New on the scene, Wilson comes with some heavy-duty government training, and a bitchin’ set of wings. One of comicdom’s first prominent African-American characters, he was Captain America’s partner in print for many years.
Nick Fury, Director of S.H.I.E.L.D.: The guy with the eye patch; he runs S.H.I.E.L.D. You can’t scratch a superhero without Fury’s name or organization being mentioned. He assembled the world’s greatest superhero team to fight off an alien invasion of New York City in the 2012 blockbuster mega-hit Marvel’s The Avengers.
The Black Widow, a.k.a., Natasha Romanoff: She’s not a woman you’d want to get mad. This superspy has Russian roots and a flair for getting out of tight spots. In addition to speaking five languages and keeping up with the REALLY big boys (think Thor and the Hulk) she packs a weapon known as “the widow’s sting,” which she uses to zap bad guys into submission. She is THE undercover operative.
Agent Phil Coulson: He may have started out as an omnipresent bureaucrat but Coulson has grown to be one of the most beloved characters in the Marvel universe and doesn’t know when to stay dead. Coulson leads the Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on the TV show of the same name, and is often called upon to liaison between the superhero world and our reality. He also has a really nice car. (She’s called Lola. Don’t touch Lola.)
Got it? Good! Now get out there and impress your movie companions with your geeky goodness. And don’t forget to stay until the very end—as in, until the screen goes blank and the theater lights come up. Marvel fans know that the best stuff comes after all the credits roll.
-Brought to you by the Agents of the BookTrib Nerd Squad