Captain America’s first appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe was actually in a blink-and-you-miss-it cameo in The Incredible Hulk, three years before his solo movie. The cameo was a clever way to start linking the movies together, without overcrowding The Incredible Hulk. Captain America’s subtle and sneaky cameo in The Incredible Hulk was perfect, even though the scene was eventually cut from the final movie.

Captain America (Chris Evans) made his debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase 1, but his very first appearance happened three years before his solo movie was released. Captain America became one of the leaders of the MCU’s Infinity Saga as he led the original Avengers team alongside Iron Man. Captain America is also one of the most tragic MCU characters to date, as while his transformation into a Super Soldier allowed him to become a superhero, he also dealt with many losses throughout his life, before and during the war and during his time as an Avenger, as well.

Captain America made his first MCU appearance in his first solo movie, Captain America: The First Avenger, where his origin story was explored. The First Avenger followed young Steve Rogers who after being rejected for World War II military recruitment due to his many health and physical problems, became part of the “Super-Soldier” experiment. The experiment was a success and turned him into a superhero, but after fighting in the war and defeating the Red Skull, Captain America had to make a huge sacrifice that left him frozen for 70 years. Although The First Avenger was the proper, official introduction of Captain America, he actually made his very first MCU appearance in The Incredible Hulk.

Related: Captain America’s Perfect MCU Introduction Was Almost Ruined By Marvel

Captain America Has A Sneaky Cameo In The Incredible Hulk

The MCU’s movies are packed with Easter eggs and hidden references to other movies within this universe, living up to the concept of “everything is connected”. More often than not, these Easter eggs and hidden details tease or set up the introduction of future heroes and villains, and this has been happening since Phase 1. One of the most interesting and fun Easter eggs in the MCU’s history is that of Captain America’s blink-and-you-miss-it cameo in The Incredible Hulk, the often-forgotten second movie in the MCU.

Directed by Louis Leterrier, The Incredible Hulk tells the origin story of Bruce Banner (then played by Edward Norton), who after an experiment with gamma radiation goes wrong, begins to transform into an enormous green humanoid monster known as the Hulk. The Incredible Hulk went through various cuts and edits before its release, and among the scenes left out of the final cut was one where Banner went to the Arctic to commit suicide (an event that Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner mentioned in The Avengers). This scene ends with the Hulk taking over and reacting as he normally does, causing the ice to break.

As confirmed in the book The Art of Marvel’s The Avengers, the frozen Captain America can be seen in the ice as the avalanche approaches the screen. It’s a very sneaky cameo that’s very easy to miss, but it has already been confirmed by Marvel that Captain America made his first appearance three years before his first solo movie.

Why Captain America’s First Appearance Is So Perfect

Although it’s not a proper, full appearance as it’s truly a blink-and-you-miss-it moment (in a deleted scene), Captain America’s cameo in The Incredible Hulk actually works perfectly. It took three years after the Hulk’s first movie for the MCU to officially introduce Captain America, but it was a clever and perfect way to start linking the movies together. The Incredible Hulk kept Tony Stark’s surprise appearance right at the end, but Captain America’s cameo is so subtle that it would have also worked without overcrowding Hulk’s movie. While it’s understandable why the scene was cut from The Incredible Hulk as it’s a bit too dark (and as the MCU was just starting, they had to be extra careful), Captain America’s sneaky cameo was perfect.

Source: The Art of Marvel’s The Avengers.

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