The Sentinels of Liberty was a name often given to groups, usually youth organizations, spearheaded by Captain America during World War II. This is the Joint Venture Universe version of the organization.
The lineup of the Sentinels of Liberty remained mostly the same throughout World War II and the subsequent War On HYDRA, only disbanding after the apparent death of Captain America in 1945, and the public's subsequent disillusionment with the idea of superheroes.
- Captain Steven Grant Rogers, AKA Captain America, the team's founder and leader,
- Lieutenant James Buchanan "Bucky" Barnes, his sidekick, an expert gymnast and sharpshooter,
- British special agent Margaret "Peggy" Carter, who served as the team's government liason and mission control,
- Nina Minoru, AKA "Nina the Conjurer," a half-Japanese, half-Brazilian woman who was a skilled markswoman and the Sorceress Supreme of the era, and served as the team's second leader after Captain America and Bucky went on to join the Howling Commandoes,
- Jim Hammond, the original Human Torch, a lifelike android with pyrokinesis,
- Namor, the prince of Atlantis and a half-human, called the Sub-Mariner,
- Madeline Joyce, Erskine's former assistant, who received the powers of superhuman strength, stamina, and durability from a chemical spill of a prototype of the Erskine serum, and flew with the aid of a magical cape granted her by Nina Minoru, becoming the first Miss America,
- Robert Frank, AKA The Whizzer, Madeline's boyfriend (later husband), a latent mutant speedster whose mutant genes were activated by a blood transfusion,
- and a genius inventor and defector from Germany, who never gave her true name, but was instead known only as "the Riveter," and served as the team's chief technician and mechanic.
After the team's first few missions, Namor the Sub-Mariner was called back to Atlantis on matters of state, and the Human Torch was seemingly destroyed. To fill the ranks after these losses, Captain America reached out to other superhumans whom he had considered asking to join the first incarnation:
- Patrick Mason, a British operative of Peggy Carter's acquaintance known as Thunderfist, a large mutant who possessed superhuman strength,
- Richard Grey, also known as Zephyr, a mutant with the power of flight and gravity manipulation, living in the forests of Maryland as something of an urban legend,
- And at Captain America's own insistence, Isaiah Bradley, the first official test subject for the Erskine serum, thereby becoming the first officially recognized African-American superhero, and the first hero to be called Patriot.
The Sentinels of Liberty were the very first officially-recognized team of superhumans to operate on United States soil. As such, they were a precursor to modern-day superhero teams like the Avengers and the Fantastic Four, though they shared considerably more in common with the X-Men, including a diverse, international roster and several mutants.
The Sentinels were assembled by Captain America, Bucky Barnes, and Peggy Carter, under the auspices of the federal government, but at Cap's insistence, often operated outside its boundaries, both geographical and legal, recruiting not only American superhumans, but heroes from across the world, even from Atlantis.
Changing the face of Liberty
After the team's first few missions, Namor the Sub-Mariner was called back to Atlantis on matters of state, and the Human Torch was seemingly destroyed in battle against Frost Giants, summoned from Asgard by HYDRA and their co-conspirator Loki, a prince of Asgard, operating behind the back of his father Odin.
In the wake of these losses, Captain America reached out to other superhumans whom he had considered asking to join the first incarnation: Thunderfist, Zephyr, and Patriot, the first test subject of the Erskine serum. Patriot was the last person to join the team before Captain America and Bucky also departed, to join Jack Fury's Howling Commandoes.
Group diversity and obscurity
Captain America's strongly leftist views, while they clashed with the government at times, also allowed the team to recruit superhumans from minority groups, including women, non-Caucasians, and LGBT+ individuals. Several of the earliest mutants to be documented as such served on this team as well, including Namor the Sub-Mariner, the Whizzer, Thunderfist, and Zephyr, a member of the Grey family which would later produce the X-Man known as Phoenix. Perhaps because of this, the team was not often documented, and information about them remained scarce for many decades.
The "Death" of Captain America - disbanding
Despite being separate teams with very separate modus operandi, the Sentinels of Liberty and the Howling Commandoes were intrinsically tied together, often working on the same missions from different angles. Sadly, the war against HYDRA ended for both squads just outside of Berlin in 1945, where Captain America, Bucky, and HYDRA's villainous leader the Red Skull all seemingly perished in a plane explosion over the Red Skull's castle. The remaining agents of HYDRA surrendered after their leader's apparent demise.
In the aftermath of the battle, Peggy Carter, Jack Fury, Nina Minoru, and Isiaiah Bradley held a meeting with the rest of the Sentinels. The Allies had all but completely won World War II, and neither of the assembled teams -- Commandoes or Sentinels -- had gotten any sort of public recognition beyond association with Captain America. Indeed, with the Captain gone, the government was trying to impose harsher restrictions, as well as expel certain members of the Sentinels and the Commandoes -- including both teams' leaders and seconds-in-command -- based on criteria such as gender, race, and sexual orientation.
While the Howling Commandoes would become an international organization and eventually found SHIELD under the auspices of Peggy Carter, Jack Fury, and Jack's son Nicholas, the Sentinels of Liberty -- who were a much smaller organization with a much greater foreign and minority presence, and possessed of superpowers besides -- knew that the federal government would come down harder on them out of fear. Thus, it was agreed upon by most that the Sentinels of Liberty should disband. The only objectors were Miss America, who had been especially devastated by Captain America's death and therefore all the more dedicated to preserving his legacy, and Thunderfist, who felt that to disband the Sentinels would be to capitulate to the government's fear of their differences.
Fate of the Sentinels
Though they could no longer officially work as a team, individually, many Sentinels continued their superheroics well into the 1950s and beyond:
- Miss America and the Whizzer continued to fight crime and injustice on American soil until they mysteriously disappeared in the late 1950s, though unsubstantiated rumors persisted in the followign years of them resurfacing in eastern Europe.
- Nina Minoru, as Sorceress Supreme of Earth, could not abandon her responsibilities simply because she had no team to fight alongside. She continued to serve as Earth's protector well into her old age. However, in the 1990s, she would mysteriously vanish, leaving no trace except for the accoutrements of the Sorcerer Supreme, which were gathered by her predecessor, Yao the Ancient One, and held in safekeeping while he searched for her successor. Despite her disapparance, Nina passed on a powerful legacy of sorcery to her children and grandchildren, including a mystical artifact she made after the war, crafted from her blood and the souls of the unjustly slain dead from the conflict, called the Staff of One.
- Namor, possessing the preternaturally long lifespan of most Atlanteans, eventually ascended to the throne and became King, considering all of the oceans his protectorate. His protectiveness of Earth's oceans often pitted him, and Atlantis itself, against the surface world, though just as often he would serve as Earth's protector, including as a founding member of the group known as the Defenders.
Other former Sentinels, however, would retire from superheroics permanently and try their best to live peaceful, quiet lives.
- Isaiah Bradley moved to Harlem, New York, where he became a well-respected role model and public speaker, even marching on Washington with Martin Luther King, Jr. during the Civil Rights movement. Eventually, he married and raised a family, leading to his grandson Elijah Bradley, who would eventually become the second Patriot.
- Richard Grey and Patrick Mason eventually reconnected with Richard's brother, Joe Grey, and his wife, and moved to Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, helping to raise first Joe's son John, and then John's daughters Jean and Sara, and then Sara's children, Gailyn and Joey Bailey. Finally, in the early 2000s, they were married in a public ceremony with many of their surviving teammates, including a revived Captain America, in attendance.
The Sentinels of Liberty would remain an obscure, often-avoided footnote in American history until Captain America's revival in the opening decade of the 21st century. In the wake of this revival, and the formation of modern-day superhero teams like the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, and the X-Men, the public appetite for superheroes had been revived with interest. It was then that journalist Trish Tilby filmed an expository documentary featuring the surviving Sentinels and Howling Commandoes, and the descendants of those who had passed. Called Avenging before the Avengers, it put the Sentinels back in the public eye, and now the group, and individual members, often make public appearances to speak at many key events. The only exception to this is Namor, who refuses to engage with the surface world outside of his capacity as ruler of Atlantis.
Though in the 21st century, nearly all the Sentinels of Liberty have retired, many heroes operating in the present day still bear their names or roles:
- After Nina Minoru's disappearance, Yao the Ancient One searched for a successor to the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme, which he found in the form of Dr. Stephen Strange, a brilliant multi-disciplinary physician whose hands had been badly damaged in a car accident. Dr. Strange is considered the world's foremost expert on matters of magic and the arcane, and serves as the current Sorcerer Supreme of Earth. Her artifact, the Staff of One, has been passed down in her family, first to her daughter Tina, and then to her granddaughter Nico, a member o the Young Avengers who is its current wielder.
- Jim Hammond's name and powers as the Human Torch would eventually resurfact in the form of Johnny Storm, a member of the Fantastic Four. The remnants of Hammond's own robotic body and mind would prove instrumental in the creation of the android Avenger known as the Vision.
- Isaiah Bradley's grandson Elijah, troubled by the disrespect with which history treated his grandfather, would eventually turn to vigilantism as the second Patriot, only to be approached by Captain America and legitimized as a founding member of the Young Avengers.
- Maria America Chavez, a young woman born from a union between a human and the Demiurge, the personification of Earth's collective life force, inherited tremendous powers not dissimilar to the original Miss America's, and thus eventually became Ms. America, another member of the Young Avengers.
- Finally, while not a 'legacy character' in the most direct sense of the word, Zephyr's great-niece Jean Grey would suffer a traumatizing loss at the age of ten. This loss would catalyze her latent telepathic abilities, which were then brought back under her control with the help of Professor Charles Xavier. Later, when the Grey family (including Zephyr and Thunderfist) came under attack from the Brotherhood of Mutant Liberation, Jean and her friend Ororo Munroe would fight them off, and Jean would join the X-Men as Phoenix, wielding not only telepathy, but telekinetic powers not dissimilar from Richard's own gravity-manipulation powers as Zephyr.