17

So we all know how the story goes...

Captain America has defeated the Red Skull towards the end of World War II. He is aboard the Red Skull's giant plane-bomb (bomb-plane?) and determines he must crash the plane into the frozen arctic to prevent collateral damage to the USA.

Cap then spends the next 67-ish years trapped in said ice until he is uncovered and revived in 2011 at a SHIELD facility. I will chalk his ability to survive this long trapped in ice due to the super-soldier serum that enhanced the rest of his body along with a mild dose of suspension-of-disbelief.

What I am interested in is during those 67 years what did Cap experience? Was it complete blackness, did he have dreams, slip in and out of consciousness, something else entirely?

I am looking for answers from the MCU; however if no suitable answer is available there I am willing to accept comic references as well.

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  • 9
    He appears to have had no memory beyond going into the ice, so lucidity is out of the question
    – Valorum
    Oct 26, 2022 at 19:25
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    “Defeated” the Red Skull? Ol’ Johann got some sweet pre-distressed robes and a whole mountain to himself! (Spoilers for Endgame.) Who’s the real winner here?!? Oct 27, 2022 at 15:09
  • 2
    @PaulD.Waite okay... vanquished!
    – Skooba
    Oct 27, 2022 at 19:14
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    He experienced the worst case of brain freeze in all of history...
    – djm
    Oct 28, 2022 at 0:34

3 Answers 3

18

When he was originally thawed out in the comics (in Avengers #4), Cap had no memory of any time passing during the time he was frozen. When the Avengers woke him up, he was still distraught over Bucky's recent death.

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20

The trope of being frozen relies on the concept of suspended animation, a hypothetical state in which absolutely nothing changes—metabolism shuts down, nerves don’t fire, cells don’t age or die, and new cells aren’t born. This is why Cap didn’t age—at some point his “animation” became “suspended,” and from that point until he was thawed, his bodily state—right down to the cellular level—was entirely on pause.

Since experiencing anything—having thoughts—relies on cellular processes, it would be impossible for Cap to have experienced anything at all in that state.

(Not that it’s impossible to imagine comic book authors messing up even their fictional technobabble, but per other answers it doesn’t appear the authors of Captain America messed this particular thing up.)

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    There's an interesting short story about an astronaut, stranded on a near absolute zero planet surface, chooses to die early by shutting down his suit environmental machinery and removing his helmet. He loses consciousness for a while but then, as his brain nears absolute zero, regains a sort of consciousness due to something along the lines of superconductivity. The effect comes and goes due to day/night cycles. Found it in the Q/A: scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/200030/…
    – user90961
    Oct 27, 2022 at 14:27
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    @CTeegarden Neat story, but ultimately even less realistic than suspended animation: nerves don’t form continuous wires, there are gaps—synapses—between one nerve and another, which requires chemical action on the nerve’s part to propagate the signal. Even if we buy the extremely unlikely scenario where the electricity-conducting parts of the nerve are capable of superconduction (they’re not), the synapses would still stop that. (Or, if they don’t, it means the nerve is not suspended and the body won’t live very long at all.)
    – KRyan
    Oct 27, 2022 at 14:37
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    I hadn't thought about the synaptic gap but, yeah, superconductivity isn't a given for all materials reaching absolute zero even. It's just a story. There's no such thing as truly hard science science fiction - as later discoveries make clear.
    – user90961
    Oct 27, 2022 at 15:10
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    You are assuming the thing you wish to prove -- that the mind is entirely a phenomenon of the brain tissue. If the mind is a combination of physical body and immaterial soul, Cap could conceivably have experienced a dream state or something even weirder.
    – workerjoe
    Oct 27, 2022 at 18:01
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    And this is Marvel Comics, where psychic powers, astral projection, literal ghosts, etc. are a thing, so evidently no brain activity is no guarantee of anything. If it was, that would be pretty solid, though.
    – A. B.
    Oct 28, 2022 at 3:16
13

The MCU answer is clearly "nothing". After the plane crashes, the movie jumps to 2011. You'll note that when Steve wakes up, SHIELD has gone to great lengths to make him feel like it's 1941. Alas, they picked a radio broadcast for baseball game he was familiar with and he saw through the ruse. After he escapes into downtown New York City, where he's swarmed by SHIELD agents

Nick Fury then confronts him and says this

FURY: Look, I'm sorry about that little show back there, but we thought it best to break it to you slowly.
STEVE: Break what?
FURY: You've been asleep, Cap. For almost 70 years.

If Steve had really remembered anything from his time under the ocean, he would not have bought any of the ruse, nor would SHIELD have felt the need to try and "break it slowly"

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    Well, time works differently when you are asleep. Sometimes you feel like it has been days and other times minutes, when it was the same 8 hours of real time. I do not know enough about what real life coma patients say about this, but asking about that would probably make this off-topic. I like your point of the ruse and it does come from the MCU, so +1.
    – Skooba
    Oct 27, 2022 at 21:14
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    not that I don't buy the overall answer, but SHIELD feeling the need to "break it slowly" doesn't really have anything to do with this... if he did slip in and out of consciousness, SHIELD wouldn't necessarily have known that. they may have assumed, incorrectly, he was asleep the whole time.
    – strugee
    Oct 28, 2022 at 0:19

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