Recently, Marvel Comics announced news that would change the dynamic of their universe forever (or at least until they retcon it); Sam Wilson, the bird themed superhero formerly known as The Falcon would replace a de-powered Steve Rogers as Captain America.
This news was met with all of the rational logic that is to be expected of any die hard fan of anything – that is to say, crap hit the fan immediately and people started to panic asking if the change was for the best or not.
Well, for all of you Captain America purists, this should make your heads explode; I support this.
First of all, It’s not like Sam Wilson is a nobody in the Marvel Universe. He’s a long time friend and ally to The Avengers – especially to Steve Rogers. As a character, he has paid his dues and is probably the best person to stand in for Steve in a pinch.
Secondly, Steve as the Captain is a rather unfortunate anachronism. To the reading audience, He represented the United States’ values during World War II and the Cold War. While this serves the purpose of a time capsule of American history, from a story telling standpoint, our values have changed with our understanding of the world. We need a new hero to serve as our collective voice and desire.
Thirdly, for those ‘delightful’ people that are going to bring up changing the Captain’s race as an issue, the comic book industry – even after turning Nick Fury into Samuel L. Jackson, replacing the old Blue Beetle with a Hispanic teen, and making the golden age Green Lantern gay – is still HORRIBLY diversity deprived. As clunky as it may be to do it this way, I have no problems with writers wanting to insert a little variety in perspective via race, creed, gender, sexuality, or otherwise.
Besides, it’s not like there haven’t been black Captain Americas in the past. Josiah X and his father Isaiah Bradley‘s turns as the Captain allowed a great story to be told about internal government corruption as well as a stunning critique of the people responsible for the heinous Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment. Meanwhile, Isaiah’s grandson Elijah still serves as The Patriot; a young Captain America fighting for The Young Avengers
Lastly, this has the effect of making the Captain a legacy hero – one who passes his title down to one deemed worthy when he or she is know longer capable of or willing to continue their work (think The Dread Pirate Roberts from The Princess Bride). I love legacy heroes, because they allow writers to tell new stories by reflecting on or reacting to previous mantle holders. Other great legacy heroes you may be familiar with include Robin, Green Lantern, The Flash, and – yes – even Batman.
So yes, I’m looking forward to seeing what Sam Wilson – one of the first African American heroes in comics and the only person in the Marvel Universe truly worthy to inherit the title of Captain America – does with his new responsibility to the people and his country. Be a good one, soldier.