Hot on the heels of the Thor announcement from earlier this week, Marvel has done it again by dropping on the Colbert Report that Captain America’s buddy Sam, aka Falcon, will be taking up the shield when Remender and Immonen’s All-New Captain America drops in November. For those of you who’ve been keeping up with the comics, this shouldn’t be a huge surprise. Falcon has been the muscle and bailed the newly depowered and rapidly aged Steve Rogers out of some hairy situations in this, the final arc of the current Captain America comic.
The new book sounds pretty awesome; with Steve hanging out as the tactician and mentor to the now-winged Cap and a newly minted Nomad (taking up that mantle will be the son of Arnim Zola from another dimension… ahhhh, comics). Kinda like Batman Beyond, but less angsty.
Of course, the thing that will be grabbing headlines here is that Cap is now black. This won’t be the first time that an African American has worn the classic threads, the 2003 miniseries Truth gave us Isaiah Bradley, part of a secret government program that ultimately had him taking up the shield. But that was a mini-series, albeit an excellent one. This is the first time we’ve seen this kind of shakeup for a core title.
I’m excited to see Marvel striking hard at the diversity in their core characters. When most of these comics were conceived, having superheroes be anything other than white guys was unthinkable. But times have changed, audiences are considerably more diverse than they once were, and kids looking to pick up comics want to have characters they can identify with. I wish I could say that I don’t expect there to be much flak over Sam’s race; but I do. Much like the announcement of a woman picking up Thor’s hammer, this will trigger some base responses. I hope that, ultimately, people will see that this is a smart move on Marvel’s part. It moves their universe forward and paves the way for new stories that do much more than strip-mine past plots.
And let’s not forget that other Marvel universe. The Marvel Cinematic Universe and good ol’ 616 have become more and more intrinsically tied as the movies and television shows have developed. The real-world issue of actors leaving roles (as will happen with Chris Evans after the next two movies) has its ripples felt in the comics. It’s the sharp fanboy that takes a look at this image of the new Avengers (also revealed last night) and sees, not just a diverse and wildly different team, but a glimpse at what casting directors will be looking for in the years to come: