When Steve Rogers can’t continue as Captain America, his longtime ally Sam Wilson, a.k.a. Falcon, will pick up the iconic shield – and, heavier still, the heroic name.
Marvel Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada announced the comic-book news Wednesday night to Cap fan Stephen Colbert on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report,” continuing a shakeup of some of the House of Ideas’ most successful concepts.
“Steve Rogers saved the world again, but not without personal sacrifice,” Quesada told the arch comic host before naming the World War II veteran’s replacement (which, to Colbert’s disappointment wasn’t him) and unveiling the new Cap’s look.
“But let me ask you something,” Colbert’s mock-reactionary pundit began. “This guy’s, this guy’s, this new guy is black — doesn’t that make him Captain African America?”
Quesada shook his head and replied, “I don’t see colors.”
(This being “The Colbert Report,” there was a joke fired back: “If you don’t see colors, how do you do comic books?”)
The high-profile televised announcement came a day after it was revealed on ABC’s morning talk show “The View” that in October, a woman will become Thor.
Sam Wilson’s rise to his new role in the upcoming “All-New Captain America” series, launching in November, isn’t sudden. Current “Captain America” writer Rick Remender, who has been on the title for two years, has been building to it, with the character as a regular presence in stories.
“This is the fireworks factory we’re arriving at, and now everything’s going to blow up and be very pretty and exciting to look at,” Remender told Marvel.com, adding, “Sam’s not going to be Steve. Steve can be very rigid. That can be kind of joyless at times, whereas Sam is absolutely not that.”
In last month’s “Captain America” No. 21, an attack by the Iron Nail removed the super-serum that transformed the once-scrawny young Steve into a superhero from his blood, aging him 65 years – “meaning his new super-serum will be Ensure,” Colbert joked.
As the story line continues, Sam will don the red, white and blue – with his old friend as his tactical advisor (and Steve’s young charge from Dimension Z, Ian, as the new Nomad).
Not that he’s subsuming his own identity: The former Falcon will keep his wings.
“Historically, Falcon would often act as air support, flying Steve into the battle,” Remender said. “Why not merge the two? He pops the wings, and as he flies, he keeps the shield latched onto his back. He dives down onto the scene, hurls the shield, wings retract, and rolls into a kick or jump, catches the shield on the way back. He doesn’t have the super soldier serum, but he has the added zing-zang-zoom of flight.”
It’s been a long flight to here for Sam Wilson, who as the Falcon was the first African American superhero in mainstream comics. Introduced in 1969’s “Captain America” No. 117 and portrayed as a social worker, he was trained by Rogers to fight wrong physically. They became quite the team, and for most of the 1970s, the cover to Cap’s series read, “Captain America and the Falcon.” He’s also endured changes and reversions in his back story – including having him be a former criminal – and flown in and out of regular use.
His profile has been soaring of late: Earlier this year, millions of moviegoers saw Anthony Mackie play Sam in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” Quesada indicated to Colbert that the change is just in the comics, not the films.
Others besides Steve Rogers have been Captain America, including John F. Walker (later known as U.S. Agent) for a spell in the mid-1980s, and, more recently, Cap’s returned Nazi-fighting sidekick Bucky Barnes.
It’s also not unprecedented – or a recent development – at Marvel for a close African American ally to step into a superhero role usually filled by a white male: James Rhodes, a.k.a. War Machine and played by Don Cheadle on screen, at times in the ’80s and ’90s took over as Iron Man while his friend Tony Stark struggled with alcoholism or was thought dead.
The idea of a black Captain America was also floated in “Truth: Red White and Black,” a 2003 miniseries by Robert Morales and Kyle Baker, in which black soldiers were subjected to super-serum treatments during World War II to replicate the Steve Rogers success, with only one survivor, Isaiah Bradley.
Still, the continues a push by Marvel to make comics with the diversity to reflect (and expand) its audience: In recent years, the company hosted mainstream superhero comics’ first same-sex wedding, introduced black and Latino teen Miles Morales as the Spider-Man of its Ultimate line, and bolstered the profile of female superheroes with the high-flying “Captain Marvel,” the new Pakistani American and Muslim “Ms. Marvel” and more.
“All-New Captain America,” due in the fall, will have art by Stuart Immonen (“Ultimate Spider-Man,” “All-New X-Men”). The costume was designed by Carlose Pacheco, Remender noted on Twitter. And to anyone wondering about those goggles, he tweeted:
So, with Sam Wilson as Captain America, the job of the Falcon is open. Quesada suggested maybe Colbert could do that.
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