The Falcon, accompanied by Redwing.
|First appearance||Captain America #117
|Created by||Stan Lee
|Alter ego||Samuel Thomas "Sam" Wilson|
"Defenders for a Day"
Heroes for Hire
|Notable aliases||"Snap" Wilson, Blackwing, Blackbird|
|Abilities||Empathic link with pet falcon
Ability to see through the eyes of nearby birds
Skilled martial artist and gymnast
The Falcon, real name Samuel Wilson, is a fictional comic book superhero who appears in comic books published by Marvel Comics. Created by writer-editor Stan Lee and artist Gene Colan, and introduced in Captain America #117 (Sept. 1969), the character is mainstream comics' first African-American superhero. Marvel's previously introduced Black Panther is African, a native of the fictional country Wakanda. The Falcon followed the company's first African-American co-starring character, the non-superpowered World War II soldier Gabe Jones, and first regular supporting character, Joe Robertson of The Amazing Spider-Man. The Falcon debuted nearly three years before Luke Cage, Marvel's first African-American series star, and almost six years before the African character Storm, the first black female, and also precedes Marvel's British vampire hunter Blade, also created by Colan, by almost four years. The Falcon is also the first superhero of African descent not to have the word "black" as part of his superhero name, preceding the John Stewart Green Lantern by over two years. (The first African-American starring character in comics is Dell Comics' Old West gunfighter Lobo, introduced in 1965.)
The Falcon's deceased nephew was the Incredible Hulk's sometime-sidekick Jim Wilson, one of the first openly HIV-positive comic-book characters. Jim Wilson's father Gideon Wilson would go on to join the Gamma Corps. Gideon would presumably be Sam's older brother. Sam also has a sister named Sarah Casper and a niece named Jody Casper.
In May 2011, Falcon placed 96th on IGN's Top 100 Comic Book Heroes of All Time.
- 1 Publication history
- 2 Fictional character biography
- 3 Powers, abilities, and equipment
- 4 Reception
- 5 Other versions
- 6 In other media
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
The Falcon, the first African-American superhero in mainstream comic books, first appeared in Captain America #117 (Sept. 1969). Created by writer-editor Stan Lee and artist Gene Colan, he came about, Colan recalled in 2008,
...in the late 1960s [when news of the] Vietnam War and civil rights protests were regular occurrences, and Stan, always wanting to be at the forefront of things, started bringing these headlines into the comics. ... One of the biggest steps we took in this direction came in Captain America. I enjoyed drawing people of every kind. I drew as many different types of people as I could into the scenes I illustrated, and I loved drawing black people. I always found their features interesting and so much of their strength, spirit and wisdom written on their faces. I approached Stan, as I remember, with the idea of introducing an African-American hero and he took to it right away. ... I looked at several African-American magazines, and used them as the basis of inspiration for bringing The Falcon to life.
He was introduced as an unnamed former resident of New York City's Harlem neighborhood, who had adopted a wild falcon he trained and named Redwing. (His own name, Sam Wilson, was not given until page five of the following issue.) When a group of men on an island "in the tropics" wanted a hunting falcon, Wilson answered the ad, only to discover that the self-dubbed "Exiles" were former Nazis in league with the supervillain the Red Skull. He escaped, but remained on the island to organize the natives to confront the Exiles, who had turned them into serfs. At the urging of Steve Rogers, whom he later learned was Captain America, Wilson took on the costumed identity of the Falcon and underwent training with Rogers in order to better inspire the villagers and lead the fight.
Through most of the 1970s, the Falcon and Captain America were a team in New York City, and the series was cover-billed Captain America and the Falcon from issues #134–192 and 194–222 (February 1971 – June 1978), though still copyrighted as Captain America. In issue #186 (June 1975), writer Steve Englehart retconned aspects of the Falcon's past. Originally depicted as a former social worker, motivated by a desire to better the lives of inner-city youth, the Falcon was revealed as a mob-connected thug and pimp whose memories were altered by the reality-warping Cosmic Cube.
The Falcon briefly joined the superhero team the Defenders, appearing in issues #62–64 (August–October1978), and was a member of the Avengers from issues #183–194 (May 1979 – April 1980). He starred in his own four-issue miniseries in 1983, written by Jim Owsley. Its first issue was illustrated by Paul Smith with the final three issues by Mark Bright. The series revealed that the Falcon was a mutant, although this development was later retconned.
After regularly appearing in Captain America vol. 2 (November 1996 – November 1997), the Falcon rejoined the Avengers in The Avengers vol. 3, #1 (February 1998). This time, he remained with the team, becoming one of its most prominent members by issue #57 (Oct. 2002). Concurrently, he was also a supporting character in Captain America vols. 3–4 (January 1998 – February 2002 and June 2002 – December 2004). The Falcon next appeared in the short-lived Captain America and the Falcon series, in 2004 and 2005. After the events of the storyline "Avengers Disassembled", when the Scarlet Witch temporarily restored his criminal personality, the Falcon became a supporting character in Captain America vol. 5 (January 2005 – July 2009). The Falcon continued to play a significant role in the series after it returned to its original numbering, beginning with Captain America #600 (Aug. 2009).
Fictional character biography
Samuel Thomas Wilson was born in Harlem, New York City, to Paul Wilson, a prominent minister, and Darlene Wilson. Wilson has a happy childhood and finds he has a natural affinity for birds. He takes up training pigeons, and has the largest pigeon coop in Harlem. In his teens, however, encounters with racism leave him jaded. When he is 16, Wilson refuses to join the church, believing his deeply religious parents to be ignorant for their faith. To his surprise, rather than put up a fight, his parents provide him with books on different religions and comparative theology. The next night, however, Sam's father is killed trying to break up a neighborhood fight. Two years later, his mother is shot and killed by a mugger one block from their apartment. Consumed by grief and "angry at the world" Sam turns his back on his past as a respected community volunteer. He moves to Los Angeles and creates a new persona: "Snap" Wilson, a professional criminal, gang member, and pimp.
While Snap is on his way to "a big score in Rio de Janeiro", his plane crashes on Exile Island (years later, he would say "I actually loved this place quite a bit. It's where I met my two best friends," referring to Captain America and Redwing). The once-peaceful island had been taken over by the Exiles, a group of would-be world conquerors who had collaborated with the Nazi supervillain the Red Skull during World War II. More recently, they had been betrayed by the Red Skull, and were forced to remain in hiding on the island, enslaving the natives. Wilson finds and befriends Redwing, a falcon with which he feels a remarkably strong bond.[volume & issue needed]
Becoming the Falcon
As part of a plot against Captain America, the Red Skull uses the Cosmic Cube, a creation that allows its user to alter reality, to mentally fuse Wilson with Redwing, creating a "super-normal mental link" that would, with time and concentration, give Wilson broad powers over all birds. Next, the Skull uses the Cube to rewrite the past and erase the years Wilson had spent angrily living as Snap Wilson. In this new history, Wilson was an upright and cheerful social worker who is eventually lured to the Exiles' island and organizes the natives to fight for their freedom. Steve Rogers (Captain America) befriends him there and convinces Wilson to adopt a persona to inspire the natives in their rebellion. The two create the costumed persona the Falcon, and train together extensively before attacking and defeating the Exiles and the Red Skull. The Falcon becomes Captain America's regular partner in crime-fighting, and briefly even takes on the Captain America costume and identity when Rogers is believed to have been killed.
Later, again as the Falcon, Wilson receives help from the Black Panther, who creates a harness for Wilson, allowing him to fly. When Rogers briefly abandons his Captain America identity, others attempt to take up the mantle, including a young man named Roscoe whom the Falcon mentors. When the Red Skull eventually kills Roscoe, Rogers again becomes Captain America.
Soon afterwards, the Red Skull reveals the Falcon's true past as Snap Wilson, and unsuccessfully attempts to use the Cosmic Cube to make the Falcon kill Captain America. Now aware of his past but deciding to continue as a hero, the Falcon is eventually named head of the Super Agents at the espionage agency S.H.I.E.L.D..
US government superhero liaison Henry Peter Gyrich then recruits the Falcon, one of the few active African-American superheroes, to fill a mandated racial quota for the venerable team the Avengers. Resentful of being a "token", the Falcon quits at the first opportunity. He debuts a new costume when he fights the supervillain Taskmaster.
Falcon becomes a member of the new team of Avengers assembled to fight the international menace Scorpio as a United Nations peacekeeping agency. By this point, Falcon had discovered that he could extend his telepathic bond with Redwing, allowing him to control other birds and "see" through their eyes. He uses this ability to spy on Henry Gyrich (now the Avengers' liaison with the United Nations) and discovers that the United States' Secretary of Defense, Senator Dell Rusk, has been pressuring Gyrich to spy on the Avengers and turn over their secrets. Although initially hostile to one another, Falcon convinces Gyrich to help the Avengers spy on Rusk, feeding him false information while gathering evidence to expose him. They discover that Rusk is actually the Red Skull, who has launched a biological weapon attack on America, intending to use the ensuing panic to gain control over America's government and start a war with other countries. Falcon is instrumental in defeating the Red Skull.
It is around this period of time that, a new "Captain America" secretly created by the Office of Naval Intelligence (O.N.I.) goes rogue and begins eliminating anything and anyone he sees as a source of terrorism. To draw this agent (dubbed "The Anti-Cap") out, O.N.I. leaks information about their involvement in a biological weapons project with the notorious Rivas Family, powerful Cuban drug lords. Reporter and Social Activist Leila Taylor investigates this rumor and attempts to smuggle a sample of the virus into America, but she is arrested by U.S. forces in Cuba. Falcon, who is a friend of Taylor, breaks her out of prison and investigates her claims, destroying the Rivas Family's biological weapons lab and obtaining a sample of the mysterious virus they were developing for O.N.I. Falcon is able to fly Leila back to America (although his flying harness is destroyed in a hurricane) while Captain America follows Falcon's directions and retrieves the virus sample. The Anti-Cap kills the head of the Rivas family, and pursues Leila, Falcon, and Cap, intent on obtaining the virus sample. After reuniting, Falcon and Captain America are able to barely defeat the Anti-Cap. Realizing that O.N.I.'s goal was to draw out their rogue agent to execute him, Captain America arranges to have the Anti-Cap be secretly imprisoned in the Wakandan embassy, until O.N.I. agrees not to kill him.
Since Captain America and Falcon now possess both O.N.I.'s rogue agent and the last remaining sample of O.N.I.'s virus, O.N.I. begins to put increasing amounts of pressure on the heroes. Falcon is especially targeted - he had broken Leila out of Federal Custody, and his criminal history makes it easier for O.N.I. to create further false charges against him. Falcon soon finds himself on the run from O.N.I.
Meanwhile the superheroine the Scarlet Witch, having gone insane, begins using her powers to recreate many of the Avengers' greatest trials and tragedies. She destabilizes the Falcon's mind, causing him to act increasingly like his "Snap" persona. He begins carrying a gun, keeps secrets from his friends, assaults Leila's boyfriend Norman when he protests they go into hiding, and uses a high power rifle to shoot at his friend Robbie Robertson (to fool Robbie into thinking O.N.I. was threatening to kill him). Although they succeed in exposing the illegal activities of O.N.I. and clear Wilson's name, Sam's methods cause his relationship with Captain America to become strained. Cap confronts Falcon about his recent actions, and Falcon, angered at what he sees as an ultimatum terminates their partnership. As they are walking away, Norman (who blames Falcon for the end of his relationship with Leila) appears and shoots at Falcon. Captain America is seriously injured by the stray bullets, and even appears to die. The shock of watching his best friend seemingly die because of his actions has a powerful affect on Sam, who briefly gives up being Falcon and reexamines his life.
Sam Wilson reappears as Falcon in the 2005 "House of M" storyline and in the 2006-2007 "Civil War" storyline. In the latter, he supports Captain America against the Superhuman Registration Act. When the Captain becomes incapacitated, Falcon temporarily assumes leadership of the "Secret Avengers" rebel group. Following Captain America's assassination by the machinations of the Red Skull, the Falcon registers with the government and is made responsible for Harlem, although he continues to maintain contact with the underground New Avengers. He is also called upon to investigate the Captain's assassination by locating Winter Soldier and tracking down the Red Skull.
Falcon appears in the 2010 Shadowland storyline, after which he becomes an operative in the new incarnation of the Heroes for Hire team, in the book of the same name. He later appears in the 2012 Avengers vs. X-Men storyline, helping She-Hulk and several other Avengers contain the students at the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning.
Powers, abilities, and equipment
In his earliest appearances Falcon exhibits a close bond with his bird Redwing, which in Captain America #174 Professor X confirms as being a paranormal empathic link. The Red Skull later reveals that he had used the Cosmic Cube to create a "super-normal mental link" between Sam Wilson and Redwing. Falcon later recalled the experience, stating "Hurt like hell. Being mentally fused with that falcon. Able to see through his eyes."
Falcon eventually revealed that he has been able to extend this empathic link. "I'm always psychically connected with Redwing, but through concentration I've recently tapped into another ability -- I'm able to link-up with other birds. ... I have over six billion pairs of eyes in the United States alone." He used this ability to quickly search New York City when the criminal Scarecrow kidnapped two children, as well as to spy on Senator Dell Rusk (actually the Red Skull in disguise) and Henry Peter Gyrich. He is also apparently able to access the memories of birds, and see things they had witnessed in the past (although birds have a different concept of the passage of time, which makes it difficult for him to know when any events they witnessed occurred).
Falcon has shown some ability to apparently control birds, as shown when he enlisted their aid in attacking Scarecrow, and when (badly injured and manacled to a wall) he telepathically summoned a large number of different birds from the surrounding area to smash through a window and attack the Red Skull.
Uniform and flight harness
The Falcon's original wing harness featured detachable jet-powered glider wings made of lightweight titanium ribbing and Mylar. The wings were covered with wafer-thin solar power receptors that convert sunlight into electricity to power miniature high-speed electric turbine fans in his uniform and boots. The wings detached and reattached to his uniform cybernetically. The harness was destroyed in Captain America and the Falcon #2 (2004). The uniform was made of synthetic stretch fabric lined with a steel-alloy mesh.[volume & issue needed]
After the original flying harness's destruction, the Black Panther supplied Falcon with a new costume and wings. An emitter array on Falcon's back creates holographic "hard light" wings with a maximum wingspan of up to 50 feet (15 m). Controlled by a cybernetic link, the wings can be instantly reconfigured into "dozens of different cruise configurations". A "magnetic drive", in turn, provides the thrust needed to get Falcon airborne. The emitter also possesses GPS Jamming Devices that prevent satellite tracking, while the hard-light wings interfere with infra-red tracking. A Vibranium microweave was added to the costume itself, making Falcon resistant to small arms fire. The entire system is controlled mentally through cybernetic circuitry in the Falcon's mask. The costume has in the past featured a hidden "talon," a cybernetically controlled grappling line built into the gauntlets of his costume which he uses to entangle opponents, hook objects, or for swinging and climbing when his wings are detached. The costume's visors come equipped with various capabilities, including infrared lenses, giving him the ability to see objects by their infrared signature at night, magnification capabilities, and remote imaging sensors that allow a full 360 degree of vision when activated. The cowl also has a wide band receiver and transmitter with an unspecified range. The suit was originally built by the Black Panther, with costume modifications by Desmond Burrell.[volume & issue needed]
The Falcon is an excellent trainer of wild birds, and has been trained in gymnastics and hand-to-hand combat by Captain America.[volume & issue needed]
Redwing is a highly trained hunting falcon who responds to the Falcon's verbal and mental commands and joins him in battle against his adversaries.[volume & issue needed]
- Falcon appears as one of the zombified heroes in the Marvel Zombies universe. Initially, he is among the many heroes summoned by Nick Fury to fight off the infection, but he winds up being infected.[volume & issue needed] Afterwards, in Marvel Zombies 3, he, along with other wing-laden characters (Angel, Beak and Vulture), attack Machine Man, Ultron and Jocasta as soon as they arrive in this ravaged universe, but he and the others are quickly killed by Machine Man.
- In Amazing Spider-Girl #7, which is part of the Marvel Comics 2 universe, Falcon was revealed to be dead. However, the Ladyhawk twins wear attire similar to his first costume (before he got his wings).
- In the Ultimate Marvel universe, Samuel Wilson is an explorer, adventurer, and scientist who uses a backpack with high-tech folding wings to fly. Wilson first appeared in Ultimate Nightmare and then worked on the Vision, demonstrating a high level of technological understanding and confronted George Tarleton of A.I.M. aboard a space station studying a Gah Lak Tus module. He is an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. rather than an official member of the Ultimates or Reserves. He has served with or under General Nick Fury, and was a member of the armed forces but retired to pursue scientific interests. This version appears to be an accomplished combatant, especially when using the sharp edge of the metal wings he wears as a weapon, which are controlled through the help of nanotechnology, with which he can communicate and retrieve computer information. The wings are partially self-repairing, as referenced in Ultimate Extinction.
- In Marvel's MAX imprint series U.S. War Machine, Falcon appeared alongside Captain America and Hawkeye; he and Hawkeye served as Captain America's backup and wore no costumes, only being addressed by their real names. In this reality, Captain America was actually Bucky wearing the Captain's uniform as here the Captain had died in World War II in his stead.
- In the 2006 comic What If Captain America had fought in the Civil War?, the Earth-717 version of Wilson was an orphan raised by a Shawnee medicine man, and grew up to fight in the American Civil War as part of an Indian volunteer regiment. He performs a ritual to give Steven Rogers the power of We-Pi-Ahk, the Eagle Spirit, and has a red eagle painted on his chest for this ceremony. He is killed by Colonel Barnes, the White Skull.
- In the "Heroes Reborn" universe, created by Franklin Richards, a version of Samuel Wilson/Falcon appears. His father, Abraham "Abe" Wilson fought alongside Captain America during World War II, but is later killed by Master Man's army. During the fight, Abe's son Sam Wilson is shot in a fight and gravely wounded, but Captain America saves his life by giving him a transfusion of the Super-Soldier's own blood. Consequently, Wilson gains superhuman abilities comparable to those of Captain America. His military nickname, "The Falcon", becomes his superhero code name, avenges his father by beating Master Man, and along with Captain America, and Nick Fury defeat the Red Skull's plans for world domination.
- In an alternate timeline seen in Avengers: The Children's Crusade, Sam was succeeded as the Falcon by his daughter Samantha. Samantha is shown as a member of the Avengers alongside her husband Eli (the new Captain America), and their son Steve (the new Bucky).
- In Daredevil: End of Days, Wilson is briefly shown as the future president of the United States of America.
In other media
- The Falcon (along with his bird Redwing) appeared as a member of the Avengers in the television series The Avengers: United They Stand, voiced by Martin Roach.
- Falcon (along with his bird Redwing) appears in The Super Hero Squad Show, with Falcon voiced by Alimi Ballard and Redwing voiced by Steven Blum. In this version, he is capable of launching his "feathers" at his enemies.
- Falcon appears in The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes episodes "Nightmare in Red", "Code Red", and "Avengers Assemble", voiced by Lance Reddick.
- Falcon appears alongside his pet, Redwing, as one of the main characters in the animated series Avengers Assemble, voiced by Bumper Robinson.
- Anthony Mackie is set to portray the Falcon in the Marvel Studios film Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Wilson will be an agent for S.H.I.E.L.D. who has had military training and is a tactical leader.
- Falcon appears as a playable character in the Marvel Super Hero Squad video game and its sequel Marvel Super Hero Squad: The Infinity Gauntlet, with Alimi Ballard reprising the role.
- Falcon is once again a playable character in the game Marvel Super Hero Squad: Comic Combat, with Ballard voicing the role.
- Falcon is a playable character in Marvel Super Hero Squad Online.
- Falcon appears as DLC in Lego Marvel Super Heroes, voiced by Andrew Kishino.
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