From Captain America’s sidekick to accepting the Captain America mantle, The Falcon (Sam Wilson) is a great example of how to write an interesting and unique character.
Sam Wilson started out as The Falcon, became Captain America, and then handed the title of Captain America (and presumably all the Captain America gear) back to the original Captain America, Steve Rogers.
The street-wise (and genre-savvy) Sam Wilson is one of the most famous Person-Of-Colour Marvel characters – and for good reason, too. He’s intelligent, has a strong sense of ethics, and exemplifies what it means to be a Marvel hero.
Join us as we examine the life and times of Sam Wilson, The Falcon.
The Falcon: A Brief Overview
Sam Wilson, also known as The Falcon, is a bird-themed African-American superhero.
Similar to DC’s Aquaman and his relationship to sea creatures, The Falcon is able to communicate with birds – and sometimes they’ll even take orders from him.
With his razor-tipped wings, he fights crime on many levels, from local crimes to helping other heroes save the earth, or even the universe. As a former criminal, he has a certain insight into the criminal mind that many other heroes don’t have. This is why he worked so well with the clean-living Captain America, which was how Wilson began his superhero career.
Showing signs of being an excellent leader, it was natural that Wilson would eventually take up the mantle of Captain America after Steve Rogers.
However, he didn’t stay Captain America forever, as he felt – well, you’ll see.
The Falcon: Origins
Wilson was born and raised in Harlem, the famous New York neighbourhood.
His father, Paul, was a popular church minister, and Sam was raised with a strong sense of community.
As a child, Sam enjoyed the company of humans, and also birds.
As a teen, due to the prevalence of racism, Sam mainly enjoyed the company of birds. He trained pigeons, and was locally-famous for having the largest pigeon coop in Harlem.
Although he loved his community, he chose not to join a church (including his father’s). Sam assumed this would create a rift between him and his father, but his father surprised him by giving him books covering different religions and general philosophy.
This helped Sam see the value of tolerance.
However, this tolerance would soon be tested, as he would lose both of his parents to crime within two years. Disappointed with his community, and angry at the world, Sam (now a young adult) remade himself as a professional criminal and moved to Los Angeles.
His decision to become a criminal resulted in him crash-landing on Exile Island. He met his sidekick there, a falcon named Redwing.
However, he also met Red Skull, who was busy enslaving the indigenous people. Red Skull forcefully bonded the minds of Wilson and Redwing together, which would eventually allow Wilson to communicate with most birds. Not long after that, Captain America met Sam and persuaded him to create the Falcon persona, and use it to inspire the island’s indigenous people to rise up against the Red Skull – which he did.
Realising they worked well together, Wilson – and, naturally, Redwing – chose to team up with Captain America.
This partnership would last for years.
The Falcon: Powers
Wilson has a telepathic link with most birds but the link is strongest with Redwing.
He can see through the eyes of many birds. He can even read their thoughts and memories, but because the bird mind is so different to the human mind, it can be quite taxing for him.
Beyond that, Wilson is also a highly-trained hand-to-hand fighter, and his ability to use Captain America’s shield is second only to Steve Rogers himself.
The Falcon: Equipment
Originally, Wilson’s wings were made of lightweight titanium and a high-tensile polyester film.
Those wings were destroyed, but they were replaced with new wings (and a new costume) designed by Black Panther. The new wings are hard-light holograms, similar to the holograms in the holodecks from Star Trek.
The new wings have all the things that a veteran bird-themed superhero needs: A magnetic drive to aid in flight, multiple configurations for the hard-light wings, GPS (and a GPS jammer), a grappling hook, and hi-tech visors with infrared, magnification, and a 360-degree field of vision.
The Falcon: Allies
Obviously, there’s Captain America – and by extension Winter Solider.
As an on-again off-again Avenger, he can rely on the Avengers to help him out in a pinch as well. He also feels a close sense of kinship with his fellow POC superheroes, such as Black Panther and Luke Cage.
Overall, Wilson’s often-cheery disposition has allowed to make many superhero friends (as opposed to, say, The Punisher or Wolverine).
The Falcon: Enemies
As Captain America’s former sidekick, Wilson also has many of the same enemies so Wilson often fights against Red Skull, Hydra, and AIM.
He’s also fought against minor players such as Mole Man, and major players such as Ultron.
The Falcon: Common Themes
Obviously, one of the themes that Wilson stories deal with is racism.
There’s also things like: Tolerance, poverty, the meaning of community, the meaning of heroism, and knowing when to stand alone and when to accept help.
Speaking of which: He handed the Captain America mantle back to Steve Rogers because he genuinely believed that Rogers was the most worthy of the title of ‘Captain America’.
Possibly moreso than Spiderman, The Falcon’s life exemplifies the saying ‘With great power comes great responsibility’.
The Falcon: Cultural Impact
As arguably the most famous POC Marvel character, Wilson’s cultural impact cannot be overstated.
Along with Storm, Black Panther, Luke Cage, and War Machine, he has allowed readers of colour to feel seen, heard, and represented.
And the same is true of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where Wilson will soon appear alongside Bucky Barnes in their film ‘The Falcon and Winter Soldier’.