Thursday, July 17, 2014

No Fear of a Black Cap, or Why Sam as Cap Sends Me

On Wednesday night, Marvel announced that Sam Wilson, heretofore known as the Falcon, will take up the stars, stripes and shield as the new Captain America, due to events set in motion by Rick Remender in Cap’s solo title.

Now, for some of us, it wasn’t that long ago when another of Steve Rogers’ longtime cohorts, James “Bucky” Barnes, wore the costume. Or maybe you’re a little older and you remember when John Walker wore the costume, before he became USAgent. Maybe you’re really up on your Cap continuity and you know that his published 1950s adventures were retconned as having been undertaken by other dudes wearing his costume, one of whom was driven crazy by the Super-Soldier Serum. Or you remember the story of Isaiah Bradley, who underwent a Tuskegee-style Super Soldier experiment as depicted in Truth: Red White & Black.

My point is, yeah, it’s been done before, and it’ll be done again. And also COUGH COUGH – James Rhodes, Eric Masterson, Dick Grayson, Kyle Rayner, Wally West, Miles Morales, Jamie Reyes, Sam Alexander, every Robin – COUGH COUGH. Sorry, sarcastic throat tickle. You know how it is.
Of all of Cap’s partners, sidekicks, pals and body doubles over the years, Falcon is at least the most deserving of the costume, perhaps moreso than Bucky. While Bucky needed to become Cap after the Civil War to set his redemption arc in motion and find his place in the modern Marvel Universe, Sam fought at Cap’s side for much longer and has proved himself in battle more times over the years.

Also – and this is the most important distinction between the two – Bucky was Cap’s sidekick, but the Falcon was his PARTNER. For recent evidence of this, look no further than Anthony Mackie’s most-excellent portrayal of Wilson in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Sam doesn’t follow Cap around like some awestruck fanboy. The two bust each other’s chops right off the bat, like a pair of mismatched cops that have already gotten through all the “He’s crazy”-“He’s too rigid” character work in front of their angry captain. They’re Riggs and Murtaugh in Lethal Weapon 2; Schmidt and Jenko in 22 Jump Street. Hell, they’re Mahoney, Hightower, Tackleberry, Hooks and the rest of the gang in Police Academy 2 rolled into two people.

Remender writing Falcon also seems like an amazing opportunity to continue harkening to one of the craziest, most breathless, ASTONISHING, PULSE-POUNDING, ALL CAPS, END-EVERY-SENTENCE-WITH-AN-EXCLAMATION-POINT-AND-DON’T-STOP-FOR-A-CUP-OF-BENDIS-BRAND-COFFEE runs in Cap history: Jack Kirby’s stretch in the mid 1970s. Remender started his volume of Cap with a Kirby throwback story in which Steve Rogers finds himself trapped in a dimension ruled by Arnim Zola, the Nazi scientist created by Kirby in the ’70s, immediately differentiating his run from the more grounded espionage-and-intrigue of Ed Brubaker’s eight-year arc.

And while I’m not saying Remender should just rehash characters such as the Midnight People, the Swine and Mr. Budda (the latter would be a bit insensitive), it would be refreshing to revisit that sort of new-threat-every-issue, stakes-have-never-been-higher tone with Sam. Because while the Falcon has tended to be a grounding voice for Cap, he’s not immune to crazy. Remember, he spent much of his early years thinking he shared a split personality with a West Coast drug dealer named Snap Wilson, even though he grew up in Harlem and worked as a social worker. I could see Remender having a field day with that. Although maybe not, after that nonsense from the other week.

Of course, change is the order of the day for the Avengers’ big three. Marvel unloaded a wheelbarrow full of pre-San Diego news this week, not the least of which is that a woman will become Thor and that Thor will become the un-Thor or something, and that Tony Stark’s title will change to Superior Iron Man, with a West Coast move in the works a la Daredevil and the Punisher.

The key thing to remember, nonsports fans, is this: If you don’t like these changes, wait. There’s always the next creative team, and you’re likely to get your precious status quo back sooner than you think.

Dan Grote has been a Matt Signal contributor since 2014 and friends with Matt since there were four Supermen and two Psylockes. His two novels, My Evil Twin and I and Of Robots, God and Government, are available on Amazon.

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