A 98-pound weakling with a heart of gold, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) agreed to become a test subject for "Project Rebirth," an experiment that turned him into a jacked-up supersoldier with the body of a Spartan warrior. Sadly, the secret to the greatest five-minute workout of all time was lost when the experiment's inventor was assassinated shortly after Steve's transformation.
In one of his first missions, Captain America rescued his best friend, James "Bucky" Barnes (Sebastian Stan), from Nazi officer Johann “The Red Skull” Schmidt (Hugo Weaving). He performed the daring rescue while wearing his red, white, and blue USO uniform, and the look stuck. Oh, and he got some help from his military liaison and love interest, Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell).
Tony Stark's dad, Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper), developed some of the technology used in "Project Rebirth" and created a few high-tech elements for Steve's "Captain America" uniform, including his near-indestructible shield. Howard's son, Tony, would eventually become Captain America's ally in The Avengers, giving the whole relationship a sort of "deja vu all over again" feel.
During a mission led by Captain America to capture the Nazi scientist Arnim Zola (Toby Jones), Bucky fell to his (presumed) death when he was knocked out of a train as it was crossing a bridge through the mountains. You know what they say about characters staying dead in the comics world, though...
Near the end of the war, Captain America was forced to sacrifice himself by piloting an airplane full of explosives into the freezing waters of the Arctic Ocean. The end result was a lot like Titanic except with less "I'm king of the world" and more super-powered Nazis.
Steve Rogers' body was eventually found in a block of ice almost 70 years after he disappeared into the ocean. He was later "thawed out" by S.H.I.E.L.D. and decided to return to active service, but only after (we assume) being briefed on the proper use of microwave ovens and watching all of Breaking Bad (to avoid spoilers, of course).
When Earth was invaded by Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and the alien Chitauri in The Avengers, S.H.I.E.L.D. commander Nick Fury (Samuel Jackson) launched the "Avengers Initiative," which brought together Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Hawkeye, and Black Widow to battle the Chitauri. Naturally, they saved the world – but it was close for a little while there.
During a series of S.H.I.E.L.D. missions with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Captain America has begun to question some of the organization's methods and wonder what other secrets they might be keeping from him. That can't be good, right?
And that is where we find soldier-turned-superhero Steve Rogers when the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier kick off...