You know him as the Falcon, but for a time in Marvel Comics, Sam Wilson went by another name: Captain America. That’s right, the Captain America. A de-powered Steve Rogers passed the shield to Sam during a time of civil unrest, and the new Captain America fought his hardest to do his job protecting a country that didn’t consider him worthy of the name.
The surprising ending of Avengers: Endgame also saw an elderly Steve Rogers hand the shield off to Sam with a smile — but the mantle of Captain America stayed with Steve. What challenges will Sam face in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier without Steve by his side? And will he become the new Cap? Let’s take a look at Sam as Captain America in the comics to get some sense of where his flight path might lead him in the Disney+ series, starring Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan.
These are the topics we’ll be covering here:
- Who Is Sam Wilson, the Falcon?
- Falcon as Captain America
- Sam Wilson’s Powers and Abilities as Captain America
- Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Bucky Barnes
- The Falcon and the Winter Soldier on Disney+
- Sam Wilson as Captain America in TV and Games
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Who Is Sam Wilson, the Falcon?
Sam Wilson made his debut in Captain America #117 (1969). While his origin has gone under a few revisions over the years, the basic premise remains that Sam loved birds as a youth and adopted a falcon named Redwing. He crossed paths with Captain America, and when the hero took him under his wing (pun intended), Sam took on the high-flying mantle of Falcon.
Over the years, Sam and Steve would form a close friendship as both partners and cornerstone members of the Avengers. In 2014, when the super-soldier serum was drained from Steve’s body during a fight with a villain called Iron Nail, he decided to hand over the title and shield to Sam Wilson to continue the Captain America legacy.
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Falcon as Captain America
Captain America: Sam Wilson by Nick Spencer, Daniel Acuna, and Paul Renaud put Sam in the spotlight, along with all the good and bad that comes from being in it. Spencer tackled prominent social issues like immigration and racism during Sam’s tenure as Captain America; Sam felt that part of his duty as Cap included stating his beliefs to let the world know what he was fighting for. His statement immediately painted him as a “political” figure, earning the ire of those who didn’t agree with him. (While Steve didn’t agree that Sam should have held a press conference, he ultimately respected Sam’s decision.)
Impassioned protestors in the politically divided country took to the streets to hold signs that declared “Not My Captain America,” and various talking heads were often seen on television demanding Sam give back the shield to Steve.
Sam also joined a new Avengers team as Captain America, mentoring younger members like Kamala Khan and Miles Morales in All-New, All-Different Avengers. (Unfortunately, the protests followed him there as well.) Not only did Captain America lead and train the new members in combat, but he and Thor (Jane Foster) also became closer, even sharing a kiss in the heat of battle.
Most notably, as Captain America Sam faced the ramifications of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s tampering with Kobik, a sentient Cosmic Cube that adopted the form of a four-year-old girl. Director Maria Hill persuaded Kobik, who wielded reality-altering powers, to create a new life for some of Marvel’s worst villains in a seemingly idyllic town that doubled as a high-security prison. Among their numbers? Classic Captain America foes Red Skull and Baron Zemo.
The villains broke free of their altered realities and identities and rebelled, and it took a team-up of Sam, Bucky Barnes, and Steve Rogers to contain the fray. (Kobik would later have a mind-boggling — and notorious — impact on the Marvel universe when Red Skull convinced her to change Steve’s reality to make him a sleeper HYDRA agent in the Secret Empire event.)
Bucky and Sam’s banter and close relationship in this “Standoff!” storyline in particular holds the most clues as to what we’ll see when the two team up in the Disney+ series.
Sam Wilson’s Powers and Abilities as Captain America
As Captain America, Sam Wilson has no super-soldier serum or traditional superpowers. Sam is an elite-level athlete and master hand-to-hand combatant trained by Steve Rogers. He can hurl the shield with pinpoint accuracy, although his skill isn’t on the same, experienced level of Steve Rogers.
Sam wears wings crafted from Wakandan technology, attached to his back with a harness, that allow for propulsion, long-range flight, and maneuverability in the air. (Yes, he kept his wings when he became Cap.) His goggles grant infrared vision and other bonuses to his sight.
Sam Wilson also has a telepathic bond with his falcon companion, Redwing, which has recently extended to a link to all birds on the planet.
Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Bucky Barnes
In the comics just as in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Sam and Bucky have a unique friendship that sometimes devolves into name-calling and arguing. But unlike the MCU, Bucky donned Cap’s patriotic uniform and shield long before Sam did, and he was probably the only person in the world who understood the pressure Sam was under as Captain America (aside from Steve Rogers himself).
“We may have our differences… but in the end, we’re friends,” Sam said of Bucky in Captain America: Sam Wilson #7. “More than that. We’re brothers. There’s a connection that comes with the shield — a tie that binds us — we’re all Captain America.”
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The Falcon and the Winter Soldier on Disney+
We’ve seen the snarky side of Falcon and the Winter Soldier’s friendship in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so the Disney+ series is a fantastic opportunity to explore their relationship as partners who always have each other’s backs.
Could their fight involve a government operation gone wrong, as it did in the comics? With the presence of both Baron Zemo (Daniel Bruhl) and Sharon Carter (Emily Van Camp) in the show confirmed, it seems quite possible that the government could be involved somehow. And while neither of the heroes will be bearing the name Captain America, it’s obvious that honoring the legacy of Steve Rogers could be an added pressure for both Bucky and Sam.
By the end of the series, one of the two could even end up with the name and shield of Captain America to lead a new team of younger Avengers in the next phase of Marvel storytelling.
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Sam Wilson as Captain America in TV and Games
- TV: While Sam has appeared in a number of TV series as Falcon, his Captain America costume and round shield have yet to show up.
- Games: Sam as Captain America can, however, be found in LEGO Marvel’s Avengers and Marvel Puzzle Quest as appearance options.
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Editor’s note (3/24/21): This story has been updated with the latest information about The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
Kelly Knox is a freelance writer who also contributes to StarWars.com, DCComics.com, Nerdist, and more. Follow her on Twitter at @kelly_knox to talk Star Wars, Dungeons & Dragons, and comics.