Celebrating Black History Month: Sam Wilson and The Hero’s Journey
There is perhaps no character in Marvel’s history who has gone through as many transformations or evolutions, as we celebrate Black History Month by honoring Sam Wilson and the hero’s journey.
Of all the great black characters that have made their way within the pages of Marvel comics, or within the scenes of the lauded MCU, perhaps none has been as crafted and defined by the weight of their inherited responsibility as Sam Wilson.
Wilson was not a king. Wilson was not truly even born to be a hero. But the traits that defined how Sam Wilson came to be one of Marvel’s pinnacle black characters, and the inheritor of the most sacred mantle in Marvel comics, are only defined by the incredible journey that Wilson has always embarked upon.
Created by Stan Lee and Gene Colan, Sam Wilson’s Falcon first debut in Captain America #117, and quickly became the first African-American superhero in mainstream comics.
Wilson was first introduced as just any Harlem native, except he had bonded with, and trained, a wild falcon he named Redwing; his earlier comic book origins saw him personally trained by Steve Rogers himself after aiding Captain America in a fight against the Red Skull.
Under the name Falcon, Wilson would act as the right hand of Steve Rogers, and the two would headline one of Marvel’s most successful and immediately iconic titles, Captain America and the Falcon.
What is truly interesting, however, is how little we consider just how groundbreaking the creation of Sam Wilson was, particularly for both the time period that the character entered into and the character chosen to be his greatest ally and teacher.
Stan Lee has orchestrated the rise of Marvel comics right in the heart of the Civil Rights movement, with protests against the Vietnam War, and fights for equal rights informing Lee’s commitment to champion diversity and peace within his stories.
Lee created a black superhero that was hand-chosen by his created embodiment of the American Dream; there was a certain renegade quality about this pursuit for Lee.
To take Steve Rogers, the blonde hair blue eyed hero of World War II, and to then establish his willingness to pour into, teach, and guide this young black hero spoke to the quality of character that Sam Wilson possessed; and unbeknownst to the reader, or even Lee, would foreshadow his future.
Eventually, following the death of Steve Rogers, it was Wilson who carried the incredible weight that came along with that famed red white, and blue shield, and inherited the mantle of Captain America.
It was a mantle that seemed made for Wilson, after all, his entire story was defined by his connection to this symbol of the American Dream, and it was Wilson who was perfectly equipped to inherit that same symbol, and carry it proudly for new generations of readers.
Sam Wilson was adapted to the screen in a very similar way, chosen by Steve Rogers, and beloved as his closest confidant and friend; until the day came when that guidance and love transformed into responsibility and purpose.
The MCU is facing a future with Sam Wilson as Captain America, and we stand under the pressure of a new generation in which their Captain America will be a black man.
Sam Wilson and the hero’s journey displayed a character who was just a man willing to do good, growing into a man able to carry the unbearable weight of a comparable symbol.
What better way to celebrate Black History Month than to celebrate the hero that is Sam Wilson…Or better yet, what better way to celebrate Black History Month than to celebrate the hero that is Captain America.