I swear I didn’t plan this, but on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day we’re kicking off our week of Marvel Phase 2 Character Guides with Falcon, mainstream comics’ first African-American superhero. For some reason I always thought that title belonged to Luke Cage, but I was wrong. I’ve had a passing understanding of Falcon as a member of the Avengers in various shows I watched as a kid, but I knew I wanted to brush up his history before he debuts on the big screen in Captain America 2: The Winter Solider.
As with the rest of the character guides this week, this should give you a brief overview of the character, show you how he’ll fit into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and then point you in a few different directions so you can learn more, like I’ll be doing.
Falcon, aka Sam Wilson, first appeared in the pages of Captain America #117 in 1969. Sean Howe, author of Marvel Comics: The Untold Story (highly recommended by Tim), offers an interesting story about how An Underground Newspaper Changed Marvel Comics. Basically, in March of 1969, an article by D.A. Latimer was published in the East Village Other discussing comics’ lack of black characters. This directly led to Stan Lee introducing the Falcon six months later in the pages of Captain America.
Sam Wilson/The Falcon is known for his telepathic connection to his pet bird Redwing and his ability to fly using jet-powered wings. This sounds like the perfect recipe for a super-lame superhero, but it works for Falcon. He makes a great partner for Captain America, and he’s even a social worker by day, and really, you can’t hate a social worker.
Before Sam Wilson became the Falcon, he was a troubled teen from New York who had moved to California and was selling drugs for the mob. On an assignment, his plane crashed on a remote island inhabited by the Red Skull (that’s how things work in comics) who used the cosmic cube to create Sam’s mental link to his bird. Apparently Red Skull meant to use Falcon against Captain America at some point, but instead the two becamse BFFs and regularly teamed up to kick Red Skull’s ass.
Falcon eventually became a member of The Avengers, and that’s how I first heard of him. When I was about 15 years old, I was a fan of The Avengers: United They Stand, a cartoon that only lasted 13 episodes and is widely regarded as the worst Marvel cartoon ever. Falcon was a regular member of that team, and I had his action figure. I’ve always associated Falcon with The Avengers and never knew of his connection to Captain America, so when I heard that the character would premier in Cap’s sequel, I was a bit confused.
It all makes sense now.
Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier
I love Captain America: The First Avenger. I think it’s pretty much a perfect Captain America movie, but after I saw it I was worried how the character would translate to modern times in The Avengers. Luckily, it worked well, and now that millions of people have enjoyed The Avengers, Marvel can move on and tell more Captain America stories, starting with The Winter Soldier in April of 2014.
When it was announced that Falcon would be Cap’s new sidekick, I was confused, but like I said it’s all clear now. Now that I know the history of the character I’m excited to see him team up with Captain America. One thing Marvel has been great about has been casting, and that still seems to be the case. They cast Anthony Mackie as Falcon, and I think that’s a great choice. I’ve only seen Mackie in The Hurt Locker, but he was great. Also, he seems super excited about portraying Marvel’s first African-American hero.
Here’s Mackie quoted in an interview over at Comic Book Movie.
Every time I go see the comic book movie and I have a 3 year-old son and he’s always telling me he wants to be Spider-Man or Captain America. It’s unfair for little black kids not to have a superhero to look up to. When I got the call about the Falcon that was a no brainer. I feel that this is for a whole generation who has the opportunity to know a superhero like we did.
This is going to be a big deal for a lot of kids out there, and I can’t wait to see how Falcon is portrayed in Cap 2. Mackie has stated that he will fly and have wings, but I would be surprised if they dove into Redwing and his mental link with birds in general. That doesn’t seem very cinematic to me. My guess is that Sam Wilson will have a thing for birds and possibly have a pet Falcon, but who knows. After The Avengers, Marvel kind of has a get away with anything card. I think audiences are a lot more willing to buy in to common comic book tropes if they’re done well as they have been in these Marvel movies.
Mackie recently bulked up for Michael Bay’s new movie Pain and Gain, and the dude is pretty huge. He should be able to pull off the superhero look next to Captain America, and hopefully in a badass costume.
I don’t know how much of Captain America 2 will be spent on Falcon’s origin, but at this point audiences should be quick to understand that S.H.I.E.L.D. employs lots of interesting people and that one more badass doesn’t need a lot of explanation. It’s kind of cool that Marvel has that power now. Nick Fury could literally walk in to Cap’s dressing room and introduce Falcon and his powers in one sentence and the movie wouldn’t suffer much from the lack of exposition.
After Captain America 2
Although it isn’t confirmed yet, it looks like Falcon will be a new member of The Avengers in 2015. Disney canceled the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes cartoon in order to prep a new, more Cinematic Universed-themed show for this year called Avengers Assemble.
The show is set to air on Disney XD this year, and Falcon is going to be a member of the new lineup. The show looks very inspired by the Marvel films, so it’s safe to say Disney is prepping kids for the new character, so they will recognize him come April 2014 and again in Avengers 2 in May 2015. Something tells me we’ll see Thanos pop up in this new cartoon too.
I think Marvel is doing a bang-up job with the way they plan these characters’ introductions. They find the right moment to introduce them, cast a great actor, lock them in for multiple movies, and we get a cool cohesive cinematic universe.
I’m excited for Falcon to make his big screen debut and join the ranks of the other Avengers.