365 Reasons to Love Comics #54
Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s… wait, it’s a bird. Sort of.
Our hero for today is a fun character who always gets the short straw. Funny how that’s been working out with most of the characters we’ve looked at, huh? You’d think there’s a hidden theme or something.
Also, Black History Month will be wrapping up next week, so while I’ve got the chance, I’m opening the place for suggestions. Do you have a favorite black character or creator who hasn’t been spotlighted yet? If so, speak up! I need to know if I’ve forgotten anyone important. There are a few I’ve left out purposefully because they’re just not cool enough, but it’s very easy for you to convince me otherwise, so give it a shot. And if you’ve got suggestions for future themes or random awesome one-offs, drop on by the suggestion thread on our forum. I’d love to see your ideas.
You can click that to increase the wingspread, so to speak. (It’s the cover of an issue of the quickly-cancelled Captain America & The Falcon series from a couple years back.)
The Falcon, aka Sam Wilson, was Marvel’s first African-American (remember, Black Panther isn’t American) super-character, debuting in Captain America in 1969. I’m also told he’s the first black superhero to not have the word “Black” in his codename. Zany. And he’s the uncle of Jim Wilson, noted Hulk supporting character! I had no idea. Even I learn things while writing this column!
For instance, I didn’t know Falcon’s origin was so weird. He was a thug called “Snap” empowered by the cosmic cube to become the perfect partner for Captain America? It was all part of Red Skull’s evil plan and backfired, giving Falcon his superhero career? Weird.
Falcon didn’t have the whole flying gimmick going for him, yet, but he did have his “empathic connection” to Redwing, his, er, falcon. Eventually, our pal the Black Panther built a flying harness for him, and the rest is history.
Like a lot of the African-American heroes we’ve looked at this week, Falcon was one of those “streetwise” superheroes who was big on the community. In his civilian identity, Sam works as a social worker. I think this is a pretty cool and unique thing in the superhero realm. Even if it’s silly that almost all the black guys had to be racially and socially “relevant” just ’cause they were the black guys, the concept of a superhero social worker is brilliant, and a lot could be done with it. I love potential.
Falcon continued appearing in Cap’s book, even sharing the headline with him. Kirby did a run with him! I think all of it’s in trade by now, maybe. It’s probably so awesome that you will lose control of your bowels. I haven’t read it yet, no, but I will have to one day to complete my Kirby collection. I’ll need to buy some adult diapers first.
Falc got phased out of the book, but eventually got a mini, and joined the Avengers, and then shared another book with Cap, the aforementioned Priest-penned series. None of these stints lasted very long, though. Why isn’t the Falcon popular? He could be, man. He could be. I hear he had a decent role in Civil War. And I know he’s shown up in the Ultimate books. Let’s have more of that. No. Let’s have more than that.
Yeah, all these cool black superheroes have had a lot of adversity to conquer– and that adversity manifests in poor sales or just plain bad luck with publishing. I mean, I know Falcon is one of a long list of guys who are “neighborhood heroes”– but something should be done with them aside from trotting them out every other crossover.
We know Falcon is cool. He’s a social worker into ornithology. That’s awesome! So, okay, his only “power” is flying and talking to birds. So is he Aquaman in the air? If only! (Aquaman is one of the coolest dudes ever. You know it’s true.) He could be, though. Marvel doesn’t have too many characters who excel in flying. Let’s have that be Falcon. In air, he should be unstoppable. On land, he should be a good fighter. He should always be a smart individual who wants to help people out. That could be the focus of a Falcon series– helping out people in need who he meets in his civilian identity. It’s not a perfect premise, but it works, and it gives him a genre to live in. Human interest stories, with crimefighting. And the occasional super-villain.
There’s no reason why any character couldn’t hold his own series if you use them properly. Falcon is yet another example of that.