We’ve all seen the movie- after a powerful punch thrown by the Red Skull dents Steve’s triangular shield, it is discarded and upgraded to his familiar circular one. But in the comics, Steve’s original shield has a little more history to it.
Captain America Comics #1 debuted in 1941, and as part of Private Steve Rogers’ uniform, he was given a bullet-proof shield to carry into battle. The shield itself was a triangular “kite” shape, and was similar in design to the shield found on numerous US Military Badges and political seals (shown below in the Presidential Seal).
Unfortunately this also meant that it was similar in design to the chestplate worn by the patriotic hero, The Shield, who was featured in MLJ Comics’ (now Archie Comics) PEP COMICS #1, published a full year before Captain America saw the light of day.
The similarity in design would lead to arguments between MLJ and Marvel predecessor, Timely Comics, and by the time Captain America Comics #2 was released Cap was seen sporting his now iconic circular shield.
While we knew the real reason for the change, it was never directly addressed in the comic book universe. However, nearly 60 years after the change, 2001’s BLACK PANTHER VOL. 3 #30, would explain that Steve lost his original shield while on a trip to Wakanda in early 1941 (presumably after Rogers went to Camp Lehigh but before Bucky joined him).
Two versions of this story exist. The first, which is detailed in that very issue of BLACK PANTHER, explained that while on a trip to Wakanda in early 1941, Steve met with King T’Chaka and presented him with the kite shield as a gift of trust in exchange for a piece of vibranium that was offered in a similar gesture. According to T’Challa, the current Black Panther and King of Wakanda, that shield was considered a National Treasure and has been displayed proudly in Wakanda for generations.
Yet there is another version of events shown in 2010’s Captain America/ Black Panther: Flags of our Fathers miniseries on the Marvel Knights imprint. This title claims to reveal for the first time what actually happened in Wakanda in 1941, and shows Cap, Black Panther (King Azzari the Wise), and the Howling Commandos facing off against a Nazi battalion during their time in Africa. In this particular story, Cap’s original shield is destroyed while fighting the Red Skull, forcing him to use a circular shield supplied to the soldiers of Wakanda and inspiring him to request the familiar disc-shape once he returned.
Whatever the actual fate of the shield may have been, the fact remains it did not return home from the African mission. While waiting for the creation of his new “throwing disc” version, Steve would be fitted with a 2nd triangle shield that would see little action. It can be assumed that this is the one seen in the adventures in Captain America Comics #1 after teaming-up with Bucky.
That second shield was later put into storage in favor of the Vibranium-Alloy disc and would be kept by Rogers as a keepsake until it was destroyed during a raid on the Avengers Mansion by Baron Zemo’s Masters of Evil.
Despite it’s short-lived use in the Marvel Universe, the kite shield would make an ever-lasting impact, being copied several more times and even serving as inspiration for Steve’s current shield appearing in Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 in 2016, proving that it has become just as much a symbol of justice and peace as it’s famous circular cousin.