Sam Wilson is a superhero in Marvel comics who goes by the name Falcon and is a longtime partner to Steve Rogers a.k.a Captain America. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Wilson is portrayed by Anthony Mackie, and stars alongside Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) in “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.”
Due to his proximity to Captain America, Wilson is one of the better-known superheroes in Marvel comics. Wilson has been part of many superhero teams since his debut in Captain America #117, including multiple iterations of the Avengers. Falcon has also been a key secondary character in the MCU, delivering the iconic “On your left” line in the climactic end moments of “Avengers: Endgame.” Mackie’s portrayal of the character appears to be a core part of Marvel’s future plans, so he’ll likely continue to be fleshed out on screen.
Wilson’s layers are already being peeled back in “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” but here’s what you need to know about the character from the comics and the MCU.
1. Wilson Becomes Captain America in the Comics, But Will the ‘Falcon’ Show Follow Suit?
Fans of the Marvel films and streaming shows often look to the Marvel comics for insights about what might happen next to the MCU version of that character. One question many fans are asking is whether Sam Wilson, who currently operates as the hero Falcon, will become the next Captain America by the end of “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.”
The MCU has hinted at a possible Wilson run as Captain America. An elderly Rogers (Chris Evans) gives Wilson his shield at the end of “Avengers: Endgame,” but that’s not proven to be a true passing of the torch. In the first episode of “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” Wilson donates the shield to the Smithsonian, and the government then names John Walker to be the new Captain America. It’s unclear whether Wilson would wind up becoming the next Captain America by the six-episode series’ end, but the show is tackling the subject matter.
During his time as Captain America in the comics, Wilson fought many classic Cap enemies. In his first mission carrying the shield, Wilson took on Baron Zemo – who is an antagonist in “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” – and thwarted a secret HYDRA plot. He also becomes part of a new iteration of the Avengers during this period after teaming up with a group of heroes that included Iron Man, Spider-Man and Thor to battle Warbringer.
Aside from serving as one of Captain America’s key partners in the comics, Wilson took up the shield and mantel after the super-soldier serum was removed from Rogers’s body. Wilson served as Captain America throughout the events of Civil War II and Secret Wars in the comics, but he eventually gives that up after Rogers’s superhuman abilities are returned.
Perhaps Wilson’s most memorable arc during his run as Captain America was his role in defeating a version of Rogers who had revealed himself to be a HYDRA agent and taken over the United States. When Rogers was restored to his prime health, his memories had been altered to make him believe he was a part of HYDRA. While Wilson made it known he didn’t want anything to do with fighting his friend, he still inspired others with his resistance of Rogers’s HYDRA regime, even taking up the Mantel of Captain America again. Eventually, Wilson takes part in a plan to fix Rogers, and they succeed in drawing out the original Rogers from the HYDRA version.
2. The First African-American Superhero
Making his Marvel debut in 1969, Falcon became the first African-American superhero in mainstream comics. He had been preceded as a black superhero in Marvel only by Black Panther, who was introduced in 1966 but was located in Wakanda and not an American. Falcon was also the first mainstream black superhero to not actually have the word “black” in his title.
This is referenced in “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” with a clever interaction between Wilson and a pair of kids in the community. One of the young boys calls out to Wilson by the name “Black Falcon,” which he says is the name his father uses. When Wilson gets confirmation that the boy’s father calls him that because he goes by the Falcon and he is black, he asks the boy if he should call him “Black Kid” for the same reasons.
For a show that is tackling the question of the role race plays in society and leadership, Wilson’s refusal to be called Black Falcon is a nice nod to the barrier-breaking role he played in comics.
3. Wilson’s Defining Superhero Qualities
As the name Falcon would suggest, Wilson’s abilities have a certain avian theme. Flight is his defining ability, and he’s able to do so with a set of technically advanced wings and a special costume provided by Blank Panther. Prior to Black Panther’s help, Wilson had a jet-powered glider that enabled him to fly. Wilson does not have any enhanced powers, but he is an expert fighter and in peak physical condition.
One of the more unique aspects of Wilson is his connection to Redwing, his pet Falcon. Per Marvel’s official page on Wilson, “Sam has a telepathic connection with birds, especially with Redwing.” Redwing has been described as more akin to a friend than a pet for Wilson, and the falcon has helped in a fight on numerous occasions. Wilson eventually gains the ability to see through the eyes of birds and to control them telepathically.
The MCU has brought this relationship to life on-screen, but with a key difference. Playing into more of the technical aspect in the movies and on “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” Redwing is the name of Wilson’s flying drone. In the MCU, Wilson can use Redwing for surveillance, communication and use its weapons in battle. In the first episode of “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” it’s revealed that Wilson, alone, repairs Redwing, a seeming nod at their close relationship in the comics.
4. Anthony Mackie’s ‘Holy S***’ Moments as Falcon
To those who are much more familiar with Marvel because of the movies, Anthony Mackie is Sam Wilson. Now headlining a Disney Plus series, Falcon is getting a much fuller backstory and space to grown on-screen.
It’s also providing some really cool moments to showcase his fighting chops. In a recent interview with BBC Radio 1, Mackie revealed his two favorite on-screen Falcon moments. The first profanity-inducing moment for Mackie came in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”
“When the [helicarriers] are coming up, and I go under the [helicarriers], and the missiles are following me,” Mackie said. “I do a barrel tuck, and they hit the [helicarrier] and I come back out. For me, that was the first moment I was like, ‘This is amazing.'”
That moment, which came in Mackie’s debut movie as the character, wasn’t top on his list, however. It’s only fitting that his very best moment came in the opening scene of his new show. The air fight scene at the beginning of the first episode of “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” that starts with a cool shot of Mackie leaping out of a plane is what really blew the actor away.
“My all-time, all-time [moment] is this first sequence in episode one,” Mackie said. “The first 10 minutes. That was the second time when I saw myself and I went, ‘Holy s***.'”
5. A Change to Wilson’s Origins
Redwing isn’t the only thing that changed for Wilson in the MCU. His hometown origins are completely different. It’s not a subtle move, either. In the comics, Wilson is from Harlem, New York. In “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” it’s revealed Wilson’s hometown is Delacroix, Louisiana.
Cities are sometimes used in comics to make a hero more realized, and New York and Louisiana each convey distinct vibes as cities. In a press conference before the series’s debut, Mackie said he felt the comics did a good job of letting Wilson evolve as “African American culture evolved” and that the show accomplishes that as well. Louisiana is a location that should allow Marvel to tell grounded stories about Wilson as a man returning to his community.
Perhaps it’s not entirely a coincidence that Marvel selected Louisiana to be Wilson’s new home state, because it happens to be Mackie’s as well. Born in New Orleans, Mackie can bring real knowledge of that community and way of life to the character. Given how the show’s head writer, Malcolm Spellman, explained the importance of diversity in storytelling, the choice of Louisiana makes a lot of sense.
“I think this is going to be an extremely relevant show in a lot of ways, and that is not by accident,” Spellman said in an interview with Variety. “The magic of embracing diversity in the writers room and having an almost all-Black staff allows you to tap into pop culture. I mean, Black folk are the masters of it, and when we get a shot, to do what we do, it is universal for everyone because our struggle and our point of view is a concentrated version of the greater human struggle. So it is yeah, those moments you’re talking about are pointed, and we dig deeper and deeper and deeper as the series progresses.”