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While watching people pick loyalties in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, some (a tiny bit) of the tension gets lost because of an easy litmus test: if Captain America objects to it, it's wrong. Characters who side with Cap (like Black Widow) are good, and those who side against him are bad, because Cap's judgement is incorruptible.

That led me to wonder, has Captain America ever (on his own and free from deception or mind control, etc) gone off the reservation? Has he ever, in the comics or cartoons or anywhere, genuinely been in the wrong on an important issue? I know there have been disagreements and misunderstandings, or "different perspective" sort of things, but has he ever just straight-up been on the wrong side of something?

Superman is featured in many stories in which his "boy scout" tendencies lead him to darker conclusions, like in Injustice: Gods Among Us or A Better World. Does anything like that exist for Cap? Or is he truly a beacon for what's right, always?

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    Capmania? Captain America allowed himself to become a highly popular media personality for very little reason, which enabled a Skrull infiltrator to impersonate him and start a disastrous series of riots in the US. – James Sheridan Jan 24 '15 at 0:13
  • "In the wrong" is subjective, no? So what are you asking? Has Cap ever done anything that I personally disagree with? Or that most people would personally disagree with? If the latter, according to which survey? etc – Lightness Races with Monica Jan 24 '15 at 0:15
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    He also started diddling Diamondback when she was still a bad guy. But somehow, I can't make myself think of that as wrong. – Omegacron Jan 24 '15 at 1:33
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit Moral relativism works in real life, but in superhero comics there is generally a clearly-illustrated "good" and "bad" side. We can argue the relative merits of freedom vs security all day, but Alexander Pierce is indisputably the "bad guy" of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I'm saying, was Cap ever clearly "the bad guy", the way Superman was "the bad guy" in Injustice or A Better World? – Nerrolken Jan 26 '15 at 17:23
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    In the JLA/Avengers crossover ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… ) Captain America sees the Justice League of America as demanding adulation in return for being heroes. But his mind was being influenced by the differences between the two realities, so he wasn't fully in his right mind. Of course, coming from the Marvel Universe, seeing civilians' reactions to being saved as something other than "Kill the freak!" might throw anybody for a loop. – Darth Wedgius Apr 28 '15 at 21:51
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In my experience, the answer to this question is NO. However, it is a difficult question to answer because Captain America started off a symbol of patriotic fervor and under the wrong circumstances could have lead to his being used as a form of jingoism. (See: U.S. Agent/Super-Patriot)

  • Steve Rogers as Captain America's goal was to be a symbol of a nation at war with the Axis powers whose goals were clearly anti-America and anti-freedom. His very existence might have been construed by many, to have been wrong from the start.

  • Countering that perspective, Rogers was a good soldier who fought to protect other soldiers from harm and promoting the efforts of his leaders as he understood them. Coming from a position of weakness, it was essential to his character to defend those weaker than he was and this was his core philosophy as a soldier and defender, not as a warrior.

  • Steve Rogers was an exceptional leader of men. His poise under fire, his ability to inspire men under his command, and his indefatigable dedication to duty made him a legend during his exploits during World War II.

  • It was the untimely death of Steve Rogers during World War II that rendered his existence as a potential jingoistic symbol for American war efforts and as a symbol of liberty, truth and justice up for debate to the historians for many decades afterwards.

  • However, and this is where the rubber hits the road, Steve Rogers embraced a higher form of morality and patriotism than merely: "America is good." Rogers has always believed in a freedom espoused in the IDEALS of America, not necessarily in the examples America has presented. Rogers is an idealist even in the presence of very real necessities because he wants people to make the hard choices, even if they require more work.

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  • Captain America's integrity has always been to the dream of equality. That every man has the right to freedom and the opportunity to pursue their dreams without fear of oppression by powers greater than they are. Cap is a believer in the Everyman, in the concept that we all have the ability within us to be heroes.

  • Several times, Steve Rogers has laid aside the shield and cowl when asked to do questionable things by his government. He is not a puppet to the government serving, in his mind, the Dream of a United States, not the jingoistic rantings of a government consumed with power. When he was asked to become an agent of the Secret Empire in Captain America Vol. 1 #332 he declined and turned in his shield and costume (see above). He would become Nomad, a man without a country while other less savory men became Captain America, for a time.

Captain America Exercises Sound Judgment

  • Being a mortal among many god-like metahumans, Captain America takes nothing for granted. He studies his friends and his enemies as if lives may depend on his knowledge, because they often do. Captain America is a hands-on leader, never asking anyone to do anything dangerous he isn't prepared to do himself.

  • Showing his strength of judgment and character, Cap leads from the front of the battle, not the rear, which inspires people to make the hard and often right choice they might not make without his example. Cap believes it is the duty of every man to stand up to tyranny no matter the cost and presents himself as the ultimate example. Witness Cap as he squares off against Thanos while the rest of the Avengers plot for a chance to steal the Infinity Gauntlet from the Mad God:

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  • In most Avengers comics, if Captain America is on the scene, everyone generally defers to his tactical judgement, even if there are other skilled, long-time Avengers there. Cap never puts anyone in a role they are not suited for and possesses an keen sense of who needs to be where and why. It is this sense of measuring the abilities and motives of individuals which makes Captain America's judgement nearly-infallible. Cap thinks of the individual not just the battle and would not sacrifice another life before his own. During the Crossover between the DC and Marvel Universe, Cap lead both teams over even the brilliant tactical genius of Batman because of his sense of both the greater good and the individual good.

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  • When Marvel and DC had one of their greatest cross-overs (Avengers/JLA #4) it was Captain America who lead both teams against their enemy Krona. Yes, Captain America gave orders to both Batman and Superman.

Marvel's "Civil War"

The closest anyone has come to questioning Captain America (Steve Rogers) judgement was during the Civil War event. Captain America leads the opposing side in a question of superheroes being forced to register with the government as "weapons of mass destruction" following destructive incidents with the Hulk and the supervillain, Nitro whose explosive powers resulted in the deaths of 600 people in a small town.

  • Cap opposed the idea of registration citing the rights of an individual's privacy and protection of their loved ones through the anonymity of their secret identities. Iron Man (Tony Stark) took the other side saying superheroes had an obligation to safety and needed training before being allowed to use their powers in public.

  • This lead to a battle throughout the metahuman community spawning bad blood between Stark and Rogers and causing the metahumans of the Marvel Universe to undergo major upheavals. Ultimately, Rogers loses this confrontation and registration becomes the law of the land.

  • Captain America was arrested for opposing the registration act and later killed on the courthouse steps by the assassin Crossbones. The Civil War saga was long and complex and there is no clear answer to which side was right. Most good arguments are like that. But Captain America stood his ground for freedom of the individual and died defending that right.

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    The only thing that seems like it could make this answer better is a separation of Steve Rogers and Captain America, which you touched on in the title. Rogers isn't the only person to have gone by the alias 'Captain America.' I know there was a... college teacher or something? In the 50s, with the whole situation being very retcon-y, but that guy basically went insane and became a baddie didn't he? And I wouldn't be shocked if one of the various US government-imposed replacements had to be stopped by Rogers in a non-Cap guise because he was overzealous or something. – Judy Jan 24 '15 at 2:14
  • @Judy - that's a good point. Also, another guy - John Walker - may not be insane, but he's close. The guy is very aggressive and has a bad temper. Although he's more widely known as US Agent, he DID function as Captain America briefly. – Omegacron Jan 26 '15 at 22:34
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This might be a stretch, but during Avengers vs. X-men, there was a fight that he started with Wolverine that defiantly has some problems:

  1. Cap started it, without warning.
  2. Wolvie's point of view seemed more practical at that point in the story.
  3. The fight was planned.

They were just arguing(it was basically whether one person should be killed to save the world, or not kill that person because killing is bad, the former being Wolvie's position, and making more sense to me), when
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I feel like this was not a justified response to a difference of opinion, if he'd actually tried to have a civil conversation things could have turned out much differently. Then, Cap gets backup, so we know he planned this whole thing:
enter image description here
True, he is sticking to an overall ideal of not killing that one person, and Wolvie wasn't going to be convinced he was wrong anyway, and so this was perhaps the easiest way to get rid of him. But even if Wolvie was completely wrong, that doesn't make Cap right.

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John Byrnes' run on Hulk in the late 80s. He and the Avengers just watched as The Hulk killed thousands! His foolish sympathy for The Hulk has caused earth's heroes a lot of trouble over the years.

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