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In this column, I will spotlight plotlines by writers that probably weren’t a good idea at the time and have only become more problematic in retrospect. I’ll try to stick with stuff that’s more ill-conceived than flat-out offensive (like racist stereotypes of characters during the 1940s).
Today we look at the Falcon’s past as a street hustler.
Captain America #186 has one of the most controversial retcons in Marvel Comics history, where we learn that Captain America’s partner, the Falcon, was actually a former crook who the Red Skull had used the Cosmic Cube to make into Cap’s perfect partner, all for the purpose of eventually having the Falcon turn on his friend at a key moment…
The Falcon manages to break free of the Red Skull’s control, but still, the part of his past has remained in continuity ever since…
As I talked about in a Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed last year, the guy who even CAME UP with the retcon, Steve Englehart, himself was never necessarily intending for this retcon to stick. The issue was that he left the title before the story was finished, leaving it to his replacement, John Warner, to resolve it however Warner wanted to. Warner, though, was only briefly on the book. Soon Jack Kirby took over the title and Kirby wasn’t about to be addressing plots from the previous writers (he also glossed over the fact that Englehart had given Captain America increased super-strength). So the Falcon street hustler plot was just sort of forgotten about. As some commenters noted, though, J.M. DeMatteis valiantly tried redeeming it a bit by saying that Sam became Snap after suffering some horrible personal tragedies…
A priest explains the concept of the trauma “creating” Snap…
But we later learn that the priest was actually a figment of Sam’s imagination, which is…well…different.
Even with this, though, we still have it established that Falcon’s past included a time as a street hustler.
That was pretty much it for Snap for years. It happened, no one wants to talk about it but it happened. That was until Christopher Priest made it a big part of his Captain America and Falcon series in 2004. Priest chose to “turn into the swerve,” as it were and actually deal with the Falcon’s troubled retconned past head on (as most writers have just glossed over it over the years)…
I think it was a bad idea in the first place that I don’t think helps the character at all (especially with the character now a major movie character) and I wouldn’t mind a future writer making an offhand comment that the Red Skull was lying and that he had used the Cosmic Cube to CREATE the Snap Wilson history and that it was NOT Sam’s actual past. Or, of course, the current situation of just ignoring it is fine, too.
EDITED TO ADD: Awesomely enough, Rick Remender and I are on the same exact wavelength. He talked to CBR about his upcoming series featuring Sam Wilson as Captain America and that’s the EXACT retcon he’s going with. He told CBR:
The Red Skull is a guy who tweaked reality with the Cosmic Cube to create “Snap” Wilson, to try and defame Sam, which is something that we will be digging into.
There never was a “Snap” Wilson. “Snap” Wilson was a construct of the Red Skull. He was an attempt to defame Sam. So Sam has a very personal grudge against the Red Skull.
Awesome! Thanks, Rick!
If you have any other suggestions of comic book plots that you think it’d be best to forget, drop me a line at email@example.com
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