Friday, February 17, 2017

Flight Of The Falcon!


Although this month has been largely dedicated to Marvel's first black superhero The Black Panther, I do want to take a few moments to focus on Marvel's first African-American hero The Falcon. Like the Black Panther before him, the Falcon appears in the pages of Captain America and fights alongside the Living Legend against dire menaces. Whereas the Panther's partnership with Cap led to his longtime membership in the Avengers, the Falcon would eventually find a longstanding partnership with Cap himself and would even for many years share the title of Cap's own book.


But like several of the Marvel heroes of this era such as the Human Torch, Ka-Zar, Black Knight and the Vision, the Falcon is something of a reboot of a Golden Age hero created by Carl Burgos no less. Appearing in only a few stories in the pages of Daring Mystery Comics, the first Marvel Falcon was a white district attorney who battles the mob.


In the pages of Captain America, the Falcon is a displaced citizen of Harlem who first dons the costume at the behest of Cap himself so that he and his pet falcon Redwing can strike a wee bit more terror into the benighted hears of the Red Skull's former allies the Exiles.


The story had begun a few issues earlier when Cap had been defeated by his arch enemy the Red Skull who had come into possession of the Cosmic Cube once again. This powerful tool had allowed the Skull to have his revenge on Cap by switching bodies with him, forcing Steve Rogers to have to deal with the consequences of being the Red Skull, Not surprisingly he is attacked by the police and even his own allies the Avengers, none of whom will believe his story. The Red Skull meanwhile works to ruin Cap's reputation and takes glee in hurting his friends such as Rick Jones who wanders off to find his own new destiny in the pages of Captain Marvel. Eventually the Skull sends Cap to the island of the Exiles, the Skull's former allies, a murderous gang of former Axis agents who seek revenge on the Skull himself for abandoning them. Thinking Cap is the Skull they attack him and he barely escapes thanks to the interference of a falcon.


That falcon is named Redwing and is the pet (partner?) of Sam Wilson. Wilson reveals that he is a man from Harlem who was always fascinated with birds and ended up in South America where he took up falconry. He came to the island to supply the Exiles with sport but soon learned of their repressive ways against the natives of the island and has made it his goal to stand against them. Cap having ditched his Red Skull mask, helps him to do just that by training him and helping design the identity of the Falcon.


The two men take the fight to the Exiles with no small effect, as it is shown again that men with bravery and smarts can stand up to an overwhelming threat. But the Red Skull, who watches them from afar with the Cosmic Cube changes the game when he abandons his role as the bogus Cap and returns to his Nazi castle in Germany.


He uses the Cube to bring Cap and the Falcon to the castle and returns Cap to his old self so that he can watch him die. But things fall apart for the Skull when unknown to him the forces of A.I.M.(Advanced Idea Mechanics) use their technology to destroy the Cube so that no one might use it against them. The Red Skull is defeated and Captain America is restored and a new hero named the Falcon is ready for the world.


The Falcon and Cap part company in the streets of Harlem in the very next issue as Cap heads off to new adventures, but it's not long until the Falcon returns.


It is not very long until the Falcon returns and helps Cap battle a smalltime crime lord named Diamond Head.


And it's less than a year later when the Falcon's name is added to the cover masthead giving Marvel its first black hero with his own regular comic book venue.


Cap and the Falcon would become friends and longstanding partners throughout the Bronze Age. The Falcon eventually gets a makeover, losing his green and gold duds and adopting a red and white costume (oddly more similar to the Golden Age Falcon in some respects) and also getting the power of flight added to his repertoire thanks to the technological expertise of all people, the Black Panther.


These days we know that "Sam Wilson" as portrayed by Anthony Mackie is a big deal at Marvel and in the Captain America movies he's become one of the best characters they have.


His great line in the first teaming of the two in which he says in regard to his role with Cap that "I do what he does, just slower." is one of my favorite lines in all of film. It encapsulates the philosophy of a man who like a soldier knows how he fits and is comfortable in being who he is on his own account as well as a part of an effective team. Cap and Falcon were a partnership that worked, and that's why blessedly it lasted so very very long.

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6 comments:

  1. I’m likely in the minority of Falcon fans in that – I always preferred the green and gold costume to the somewhat gaudier red and white outfit. Also, would have been fine if he hadn’t gained the power of flight (via the Wakandan technology.) I actually liked the grappling hook which fit over his gauntlet and could be used defensively or as a means of getting around. There were times where he even utilized the clunky SHIELD jet pack (which was a cool sometimes-look)…The goofy red, feathered wings: no thanks… I think a more earth-bound, brawler Falcon made for a better partner for Cap too…But I understand a guy called The Falcon should be able to fly in most people’s minds.

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    1. I'm a gold and green fan myself. When I think of the Falcon that's the look that leaps to mind. He was totally different and when he adopted the red and white costume it seemed to be a step to make him more a visual counterpart to Cap which to my mind undercut his distinctiveness, maybe the point to some extent.

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  2. I agree, I love Falcon in the cinematic universe. And that's my favorite line too :)

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    1. His flying is so darned effective, so fast and convincing.

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  3. Thanks for the history, man! I actually learned a lot about Falcon that I didn't know. Sorry, but as a child of the late 80s I gotta dispute with you good guys. I really don't like the movie depiction of Falcon. In my mind, he should ALWAYS be wearing red and white...and Redwing should DEFINITELY be a real falcon, not a drone.

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    1. To each his own and I agree about Redwing. I miss the old bird.

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