Let’s talk about Sharon Carter.
"But then, something occurs which snaps the brooding adventurer out of his gloomy reverie…"
Steve: That girl! When she walked by, I thought I was in the past again — looking at — her!
Steve: How wary she looks — clutching that cylinder as though her life depends on it!
Tales of Suspense #75, by Lee and Kirby
First introduced in 1966, Sharon Carter has over the years become one of the most iconic characters in Captain America mythos. She has no superpowers. This alone puts her on a whole new level of badass, since despite her relative normalcy she can hold her own as part of a team that includes Captain America, War Machine and Valkyrie.
At different points in her (long and tumultuous) history she has been a SHIELD agent, a freelance spy, a mercenary, a renegade agent and sometimes more than one of those things at once. She has been presumed dead, she has been executive director of SHIELD, she ran an all-female SHIELD spec ops squad, she has fought behind enemy lines, she suffered trauma and brainwashing and throughout all that she stayed true to her ideals and always strived to do the right thing.
Sharon is one of the few women heroes in today’s comics whose motivation and origin isn’t tied with a male legacy. Despite the fact that her relationship with Peggy Carter has been retconned multiple times, the one consistent aspect of it is that Sharon was first inspired to join SHIELD by Peggy and her wartime exploits. She carries a female legacy and lives up to that name, and her motivation is refreshingly free of male influence and agency.
It’s interesting to note that Sharon was introduced in the same issue as Peggy — in fact we actually met Sharon first, on-panel, while Peggy was mentioned but not named until later. Neither of them were ever meant to be a better or more valid character than the other: they’re simply two women from different eras, functioning in different narrative contexts. They are each other’s origin story and plot device, yes, but it always goes both ways. That is why even though in-universe Sharon is a legacy character, she isn’t one narratively. She is and always has been her own person.
Contessa: You were baldy injured…and your orders are to take it easy and sit this one out! So be a doll and play it that way, huh?
Sharon: Not a chance, Val! I’m physically and mentally fit again…and I’m resuming my command! Now tell me what’s going on…and that’s an order!
Captain America v1 #148, by Friedrich and Buscema
Personality-wise Sharon is brash, impatient, very stubborn and no-nonsense — traits more often associated with male characters (and reason why she’s so very often labelled a b*tch. Let’s be real here, Sharon isn’t very popular among fans, even female fans, which honestly boggles the mind). Despite her sense of justice she’s also very cynical; especially in Mark Waid’s Captain America she serves as a perfect foil for Steve Rogers’ idealism. Her misanthropic streak stems from her experiences as a SHIELD operative, in particular the time she was sent deep undercover and then apparently abandoned by Nick Fury behind enemy lines and had to fend for herself.
It would be impossible to summarise Sharon’s forty-seven years of continuity in a tiny tumblr post, so I’m just going to direct you to the wiki (and the Marvel wiki).
Good points to jump onboard the love train:
- Captain America #444-#454, written by Mark Waid (1995)
- Captain America v3, written by Mark Waid, Dan Jurgens (1998)
- Nick Fury and Agent 13, written by Terry Kavanagh (1998)
- Secret Avengers #17-#21, written by Warren Ellis (2011)
- Captain America and the Secret Avengers, written by Kelly Sue DeConnick (2011)