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History of: The Falcon - GIQUE

History of: The Falcon

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Sam Wilson has gone from being The Falcon, to being Captain America, and back to being the Falcon again.

What is it about his past that made him make those choices?

Let’s explore the history of The Falcon.

Real-World Origins

Sam Wilson was created by Stan Lee and the prolific-yet-often-overlooked artist Gene Colan, as a response to the civil rights protests of the 1960s.

Colan writes, in his introduction to Marvel Masterworks: Captain American Volume 4:

“I drew as many different types of people as I could into the scenes I illustrated, and I loved drawing black people. I always found their features interesting and so much of their strength, spirit and wisdom written on their faces. I approached Stan, as I remember, with the idea of introducing an African-American hero and he took to it right away. I looked at several African-American magazines, and used them as the basis of inspiration for bringing The Falcon to life.

While such a statement might be considered problematic today, it was genuine progress for the time – progress that led to the creation of Sam Wilson, the first African-American superhero for mainstream Marvel.

Wilson first appeared in Captain America #117 as a random resident of New York’s well-known Harlem district, but his name wasn’t revealed in that comic. Strangely, the name of his sidekick, Redwing, was.

As we hopefully all know, Marvel is fond of rebooting their universe. Sometimes, a character’s past gets retconned (which is a nerdy way of saying ‘their history has changed’). This is why, depending on which comic you’re reading and when it’s from, you might read that Redwing was with Wilson in Harlem. In other stories, the pair don’t meet until later on.

Regardless, Wilson’s name was revealed in the next issue of Captain America.

The Falcon would become so synonymous with Captain America that the comic would soon be called Captain America and The Falcon.

However, in the early ‘80s, Wilson had an issue-long solo adventure. Why is this interesting? Because it appeared in an issue of Marvel Premiere (a series for experiments in storytelling) and not an issue of Captain America: Marvel were happy to have Wilson in Captain America comics – just not as the star.

It seems ironic, given that he’d eventually become Captain America – perhaps the saying ‘true progress doesn’t happen overnight’ has a grain of truth to it.

However, The Falcon would soon get his own limited-issue solo series, which ran for 4 issues (a common number of issues for a limited series, as seen with Vision and Wolverine.)

Strangely, the series revealed that Falcon was a mutant – but this fact was retconned almost 20 years later after writers finally admitted that they didn’t know what to do with it. Consider this: The Falcon could have been one of the X-Men if Marvel’s editorial staff would have allowed it.

In 2014, Wilson became the newest African-American Captain America – the first was, of course, Isaiah Bradley.

Although this change was well-received by most fans, Wilson would retake the mantle of The Falcon, and hand the shield back over to Steve Rogers – after only three years.

In-Universe Origins

Sam Wilson was born and raised in Harlem.

His father, a church minister, was well-known and imparted a strong sense of community to Sam.

As a young boy, Sam loved to spend his time with his fellow Harlem residents – including pigeons. In fact, Sam had the largest pigeon coop in all of Harlem, and was clearly gifted at training them (as well as other birds).

As he grew into his teen years and young adulthood, he became upset at how much racism his community had to deal with, and the effect that it had on them as a whole. He would soon find he had other problems to deal with as well.

His father, for instance, was killed while trying to de-escalate a fight. Two years later, his mother would be killed by a mugger.

Both of his parents had been killed by members of their own community, and Sam couldn’t take it any more. He set his pigeons free, remade himself as a street thug named Snap Wilson, and left for the sunny shores of Los Angeles.

His new life of crime led him to an island named Exile Island, where he was stranded. The inhabited island have been overtaken by Red Skull, who’d enslaved the indigenous peoples of the island, because Nazis are the worst.

According to most versions of Sam’s history, this is where he met Redwing. Also stranded was a man named Steve Rogers, who Sam befriended.

However, Red Skull wasn’t happy with just being a slavemaster – he also wanted to perform experiments on people. Again, this is because Nazis are just the worst.

One of the experiments that Red Skull performed was on Sam (who was being mind-controlled by Red Skull) and Redwing. He mentally bonded them together, with the end goal of creating a team who could take out Captain America. However, this would backfire on Red Skull: Wilson couldn’t be mind-controlled for long, and his mental bond with Redwing would eventually extend to most birds.

Red Skull then used a galactic artefact known as the Cosmic Cube in an attempt to rewrite history – the first of multiple times he’d try this. Fortunately for people who don’t like convoluted stories, Red Skull didn’t really change anything.

After the experiment, Steve Rogers (who didn’t have his Captain America gear) persuaded Sam to use his new powers to inspire the indigenous people to rise up against Red Skull.

Sam, with a superhero costume (the wings would come later on) and the persona of ‘The Falcon’ managed to achieve this, and Red Skull was, ironically, exiled from Exile Island.

With a new perspective on life, and a team-mate he’d soon find out was Captain America, Sam began a long and slow redemption from former criminal to legitimate superhero.

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