Back Issues: Sam Wilson's Legacy as the Falcon Paved the Way for a New Captain America

The Falcon soars to new heights when he teams up with Winter Soldier in Marvel Studios original series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, where Anthony Mackie reprises his role as the first Black American superhero created in the pages of Marvel Comics. Introduced in 1969 by creators Stan Lee and Gene Colan in Captain America #117, "The Coming of... The Falcon!," Samuel Wilson is a Harlem-born hero who takes to the skies with artificial wings and his hunting hawk sidekick Redwing. After Wilson becomes the modern-day superhero partner of Steve Rogers, the star-spangled Avenger's book is retitled Captain America and The Falcon (issues #134—#222).

Like his comic book counterpart, the Falcon of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is Sam Wilson (Mackie), a former USAF pararescue airman who takes to the skies with a military-designed winged jetpack as Captain America's (Chris Evans) "wingman."

Becoming a trusted ally to Captain America and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in their fight against HYDRA (in Captain America: The Winter Soldier), Sam helps Steve Rogers track down his brainwashed best friend, Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), and the Falcon fights alongside Cap as they oppose the government-mandated Sokovia Accords (in Captain America: Civil War). After Sam is snapped out of existence by Thanos (Josh Brolin) and blips back to life five years later (in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame), he accepts the mantle and shield of Captain America from an aged Steve with a handshake and a promise: "I'll do my best." But Sam's journey in the comics was much different.

In "The Falcon Fights On" (Captain America #118) and "Now Falls the Skull" (Captain America #119), the Falcon fights for the first time when Steve's Nazi nemesis, the Red Skull, uses the power of the Cosmic Cube to swap bodies with Captain America. After his adventure on Exile Island, Sam returns home to Harlem (Captain America #120) and is entrusted with Captain America's secret identity before becoming the wing-headed hero's new partner in the battle against Bulldozer, a humanoid robot unleashed by the villain M.O.D.O.K. (Captain America #133).

Captain America 117_cover
(Photo: Marvel Comics)

Once manipulated into believing that he was formerly "Snap" Wilson — a criminal persona concocted by the Red Skull — the real Sam Wilson is a social worker inspired to help his community after losing his parents to street violence (Captain America #277 and Captain America #278). A skilled martial artist who takes to the skies with artificial wings created by the Black Panther (Captain America #170), Sam also has a telepathic link to Redwing that later allows him to psychically connect with other birds.

After accepting Nick Fury's offer to lead his own super-powered team, the S.H.I.E.L.D. Super-Agents, Sam ends his tenure as Cap's partner (Captain America #217). Rejecting the government quota that made him a "token" member of Earth's mightiest heroes (The Avengers #181, #184), Sam officially resigns from the team after a ten-issue stint as an Avenger (The Avengers #194).

Marvel Avengers The Falcon
(Photo: Marvel Comics)

Later reuniting with Captain America in a battle against the rogue agent Anti-Cap during the events of Avengers Disassembled (Captain America and the Falcon Vol. 1), Sam goes on to side with Steve's underground team of Secret Avengers in opposition to the Superhuman Registration Act during the Civil War event (New Avengers #21).

The Falcon watches from above when the villain Crossbones seemingly assassinates Steve before he can be tried for crimes committed during the superhuman civil war (Captain America Vol. 5 #25). In a world without Captain America, Sam works with Sharon Carter and S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Tony Stark to hunt down Steve's killers: the mind-manipulating Doctor Faustus, the disembodied HYDRA scientist Arnim Zola, and the returned Red Skull.

Captain America Vol 7 21_
(Photo: Marvel Comics)

Ultimately, Steve's once long-lost wartime partner, James "Bucky" Barnes, becomes the new Captain America (Captain America Vol. 5 #34) until Steve's rebirth culminates with him returning to the role (Captain America: Reborn). When The Iron Nail neutralizes the Super-Soldier Serum coursing through Steve's veins, rapidly aging him into a 90-year-old man, Falcon flies to the rescue and defeats the villain — but Captain America is a Super-Soldier no more (Captain America Vol. 7 #21).

After Falcon nearly dies while selflessly flying a powerful bomb up into the atmosphere (Captain America Vol. 7 #24), foiling the plans of Cap's old enemy Arnim Zola, the aged Steve assembles the Avengers to reveal his replacement as the all-new Captain America: a star-spangled Sam Wilson (Captain America Vol. 7 #25).

First taking on the terrorist organization HYDRA and Baron Zemo by foiling a plot to infect the world with a toxin capable of sterilizing humans (All-New Captain America), Sam makes a point to become a more socially-active Captain America amid increasing division in the United States (Captain America: Sam Wilson #1).

Sam Wilson Captain America
(Photo: Marvel Comics)

Once Steve is restored and back in action as a youthful Captain America, and the young Black hero Elvin Haliday, a.k.a. Rage, is viciously beaten and arrested by the Americops (Captain America: Sam Wilson #17), Sam no longer feels he can solve social injustices as the red-white-and-blue-wearing Captain America.

As a protest, Sam steps down from the role (Captain America: Sam Wilson #21) with parting words: "If Steve's Captain America is a symbol of a great country pushing forward, then let Sam Wilson's Captain America have been a reminder of the people it's leaving behind."

Returning the shield to his old partner (Generations: Sam Wilson Captain America & Steve Rogers Captain America #1), Sam Wilson once again takes flight as the Falcon with a young superhero partner — Rayshaun "Shaun" Lucas, the new Patriot — and focuses his efforts on cleaning up the streets of Chicago (Falcon Vol. 2 #1).

Falcon and Winter Soldier #1
(Photo: Marvel Comics)

No longer flying solo, the winged warrior partners with Bucky Barnes to battle Baron Zemo in the ongoing war against HYDRA.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier debuts on Disney+ beginning Friday, March 19th.

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