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The cat's out of the bag, folks! Sam Wilson is officially the new Captain America for the Avengers NOW! line up that also contains the new female Thor as well as Iron Man: San Francisco. After Steve Rogers is depowered, the shield and the star go to The Falcon himself. But who is the man with the metal wings, and what sort of background does he come from?
With a rich history that spans from 1969 to the modern era of comics, The Falcon can not only enrich the comic universe, but also provide us with a blueprint to where the Marvel Cinematic Universe will go with the character. After all, we know how much Marvel loves to mix and match pieces of continuity across a character's personal history to create a cinematic version of their persona. With that in mind, here's five things you should know about the newly crowned Captain America, Sam Wilson!
He Owes His Super Life To The Red SkullSam Wilson, aka The Falcon, was introduced in September 1969 (Captain America #117.) He was one of the first African American characters in mainstream comics, and would go on to become one of Cap's best-known sidekicks. After engaging in his own adventure against Red Skull, Cap encouraged Sam to take the alias and costume of "The Falcon," named as such due to Redwing – the falcon he trained to aid him in serving justice. Unbeknownst to him, life as he knew it (as is the usual turn of events for any comic book hero) would change in an instant.
During (or because of) his adventure fighting Red Skull and his "exiles," Sam Wilson's past history as "Snap" Wilson is erased and replaced with that of a life as a social worker. While Red Skull is busy rewriting Wilson's past via the Cosmic Cube (aka "The Tesseract,") he becomes empowered with the ability to mentally communicate and control not only Redwing, but birds in general. His current incarnation in Avengers NOW! was drafted to replace a recently de-powered Steve Rogers as Captain America. He's previously served as an Avenger, and was at one time even rumored to be a mutant... only to see that be debunked in a later issue.
The Falcon Can Soar With (And Talks With) The Birds Of The WorldAs stated before, Sam Wilson and his pet falcon Redwing forged a strong mental link after the Red Skull had used the Cosmic Cube on the two of them. However, that's just the tip of the iceberg. Not only do the trainer and the animal have a mental link, but Sam can also see through the eyes of Redwing. Eventually, he hones his abilities and becomes able to do this with any bird in the world, as well as gaining the power to access the memories of the birds of the world. Fanciful powers aside, Wilson does have a lot of practical skills he can use. The Falcon is also proficient in hand-to-hand combat, as well as gymnastics.
As for his flight abilities, they are a feat of man-made engineering. The Falcon's original flight harness had detachable wings that were powered by jets and solar energy, but as any good hero will tell you though, that first suit never lasts forever. Surely enough the harness was destroyed in Captain America and the Falcon #2. Thanks to some help from the Black Panther, The Falcon got a costume upgrade with all sorts of gadgets (such as GPS jamming, a grappling hook, and Vibranium micro-weave fiber, which is resistant to "small arms fire").
He's Had Captain America's Powers BeforeThe announcement that Sam Wilson would be the new Captain America has some fans surprised, but if they were to look back at the history of the character's other incarnations, this isn't that much of a surprise. Throughout Marvel's history, the character of Sam Wilson/The Falcon has been "an explorer, adventurer, and scientist" who would work with/become a member of S.H.I.E.L.D. (in the Ultimate Marvel Universe), has fought in the Civil War alongside the Captain (in the Earth-717 universe), and even got to be president at one point (in Daredevil: End Of Days.) Though one incarnation above all would serve as the perfect precursor to where we are today.
That incarnation is contained within the pages of the Heroes Reborn universe, Captain America Vol 2, #1 has both Sam and his father, Abraham, fighting alongside Captain America in World War II. While he didn't have his mental connection to birds in the Heroes Reborn universe, he did gain Super Soldier powers from the Cap. Wounded during a battle with Nazi villain Master Man, Sam is given a blood transfusion with Captain America's blood, thus giving him the powers that would later help him best his father's killer/the man who wounded him in the first place.
His Heroics Don't Depend On SupervillainsWhile most Marvel characters have some sort of background in a field that's dedicated to understanding and bettering the world around them, Sam Wilson has one of the most humanistic professions out of all of them. In both the comics, as well as Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Sam Wilson is a social worker who wants to help people rise above their life circumstances. When he was introduced back in 1969, Wilson was a social worker that worked with inner city youths in his Harlem neighborhood. That changed in his cinematic incarnation featured in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, as Wilson became a counselor for returning soldiers suffering from PTSD.
In either case, we see a hero that is nothing but fit to take over the mantle of Captain America himself. While he isn't as old fashioned as Steve Rogers is in his geopolitical thinking, he's all about helping the public as well as the warfighter. His combat background only bolsters the case for why Sam would even be considered for the position, because if he's given Doctor Erskine's Super Soldier serum as a part of his promotion, it will only amplify his tendency to do good. Whether Sam Wilson is Steve Rogers' choice to don the stars and stripes remains to be seen, but you can't help but feel that he approves.
His Future In The Marvel Cinematic Universe Has A Lot Of PossibilitiesWith all of the previous information in consideration, there's just one big question that remains to be asked. This question is asked even more now than before The Falcon's appearance in Captain America: The Winter Soldier: where does Sam Wilson fit into the Marvel Cinematic Universe? The answer is the same now as it was when people started asking it before the Captain America reveal: where do you want him to fit in? With various memberships to various organizations in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there's a couple of big ways that Sam Wilson can continue his tenure in the MCU and not have to become Captain America just yet (if ever.)
The first option is the obvious one: since he's more than likely drafted to be a S.H.I.E.L.D agent after the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, we'll more than likely see The Falcon become a part of The Avengers films and Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. The second option is more obscure, but still developing nonetheless, as The Falcon has been known to run with a certain other New York based super crew: The Defenders, who are heading to Netflix in the near future. The last option is the brass ring, but it's one that'll require A LOT of work and rights navigation to deliver on. That last option is none other than the 2012 comic book mini-series Avengers vs. X-Men, where he's teamed with She Hulk against the likes of the mutant race.
The Falcon is a deep cut when it comes to Marvel characters, but he's a character you can do a lot with. Comic fans, whether they admit it or not, thrive on these sorts of shake ups to keep their comic rotation fresh and their debating skills fresh. Sam Wilson's transformation into the new Captain America will be something both iconic and innovative, as it brings much needed diversity to the superhero world.