I Believe He Can Fly
Falcon: “You’re going after [Bucky].”
Captain America: “You don’t have to come…”
Falcon: “I know. When do we start?” – Captain America: The Winter Soldier
A terrorist patrols a military complex. He sees a shadow move, but no one is around to cast it. A realization hits the terrorist as he looks up and sees a winged man draw a pair of guns. The terrorist’s cries for reinforcements are cut off by a bullet to the throat.
Other terrorists are unable to get a bead on the flying man, who continues to mow them down. The leader turns to flee but is dive-bombed by a falcon. He loses an eye to the bird’s talons and stumbles backwards. The flying man grabs the leader and drags him into the air. As soon as he gets high enough, the man drops the leader to his doom. All objectives complete, Falcon flies back toward his base.
Falcon is a trendsetter. He was the first mainstream African-American superhero and the first black superhero whose name didn’t include the word “black”. So who is he? How is he able to fly? Why is Falcon the new Captain America? Let’s find out.
Take Flight: The Falcon’s Backstory
The Falcon: [running through a warzone] “Hey, Cap, how do we know the good guys from the bad guys?”
Captain America: “If they’re shooting at you, they’re bad.” – Captain America: The Winter Soldier
The Falcon debuted in Captain America #117 in 1969. He was created by Stan Lee and Gene Colan. Lee was inspired by the civil rights movement and Colan claims that he approached Lee to create an African-American superhero.
Samuel Wilson was a social worker and bird trainer. He was hired by a group on a tropical island to train hunting falcons. He arrived and quickly learned that his clients were exiled Nazis who had conquered the island. Sam fled their base, but remained on the island to protect the indigenous people.
Captain America soon infiltrated the island, having learned about The Exiles. Cap got his ass kicked and was rescued by Sam and his newest pet, a falcon named Redwing. Captain America realized he needed backup and gave Sam a crash course in superheroics. Sam took inspiration from Redwing and named himself Falcon. Together, he and Captain America were able to take down The Exiles.
Returning to the U.S.A., Falcon partnered with Cap. Black Panther gifted him with a wingsuit that allowed him to fly. He was reluctantly inducted into The Avengers when their manager decided the team needed to be more ethnically diverse. Despite his misgivings, Falcon has since led several Avengers teams.
Soar like an Eagle: Falcon’s History
Sam Wilson: [to Steve] “I just wanna make sure we consider all our options. The people that shoot at you usually wind up shooting at me.” – Captain America: Civil War
Shortly after Falcon’s debut, readers learned about his sordid past. Sam had been a stereotypical pimp and racketeer nicknamed “Snap” Wilson and had been lured to the island by the promise of a big score. It was later retconned that the Snap Wilson story was the result of false memories Red Skull had implanted. Red Skull wanted to discredit Falcon and Marvel writers wanted that stupid racist backstory erased.
Captain America’s super powers faded during an event story, leaving him a weak old man. He handed his iconic shield and title of Captain America to Falcon. The All-New Captain America eventually found a way to restore Steve Rogers’ youth and powers, but kept the shield and identity.
In the event series Secret Empire, Marvel revealed that Steve had been brainwashed into becoming the leader of Hydra. This set friend against friend as Captain America helped lead the resistance against Hydra leader Rogers. Sam eventually won the day by faking a surrender and using a macguffin to restore Steve’s memories.
Bird Brain: Falcon’s Powers and Personality
[a villain is taunting Sam with his past as Snap Wilson]
Sin: “But, you’ve always wondered, haven’t you? In quiet moments. “Is it true?” “Is that me?”
Sam: “I’m not perfect, but I’m not that person. I’m Samuel Wilson, raised by Paul and Darlene Wilson to fight people like you for a better world. Like it or not, Nazi, I am Captain America.” – All-New Captain America #3
Falcon is best known for his wingsuit, which differs from real life versions with the addition of actual wings. The original wingsuit used solar-powered jet turbines to fly. The version Black Panther gave him was a suit lined with Vibranium that has wings created by “hard light emitters”. Kinda like the Holodeck in Star Trek. Falcon uses a cybernetic link to activate the wings, which are sharp enough to cut through objects.
The Red Skull once captured and experimented on Falcon. This resulted in Falcon gaining a telepathic link to Redwing. The link soon grew into an ability to communicate with all birds a la Aquaman. Between Nick Fury with all of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s resources and Falcon with all of NYC’s pigeons, Falcon has the better spy network.
Captain America has extensively trained Falcon in karate and judo. Cap also entrusted the indestructible adamantium shield to him. Falcon had horrible aim throwing the shield, but has since become a master.
The Actors who play Falcon
Falcon debuted in The Avengers: United They Stand voiced by Martin Roach. He next appeared in The Super Hero Squad Show voiced by Numb3rs’ Alimi Ballard. The Wire’s Lance Reddic voiced him in The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Bumper Robinson voiced him in Avengers Assemble and Ultimate Spider-Man: Web Warriors.
Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker) plays Falcon in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Mackie is a fan of the character and was reportedly disappointed the studio wasn’t using the original red Spandex costume. In the MCU, Falcon is portrayed as a veteran and PTSD counselor who kept an experimental flight pack when he retired.
Falcon is scheduled to star in a television show alongside Sebastian Stan’s Winter Soldier on Disney+.
Didya Get All That?
The Aquaman of birds and leader of the Avengers.
Jared Bounacos has written for Movie Rewind since 2017.