Or, the first time Sam Wilson was Captain America. While this was published in the late 90s, the story actually takes place in Sam’s early days as the Falcon – no wings, still wearing the green costume from Exile Island. This would seem to put it somewhere between Captain America vol 1 #134 to #143, in the period where the comic is titled Captain America and the Falcon but before the cover art switches to the new white and red design for him. But really it could be set at practically any time in the last 50 years. This is an issue that isn’t going anywhere fast, and that’s one of the things that sadly helps the weird Marvel stretch time work. Comics that were published in the 60s become “a few years ago” in the 80s; at the moment I’m saying that Sam and Steve have been working together for about 15 years.
1971. Racial tensions are high. The Sons of the Serpent are now branding themselves the Sons of the Shield and they’ve got a plan: set up a mob of black people to seemingly murder Captain America and turn him into a martyr for their white supremacist cause. This panel features magnificent side-eye from both Steve and Sam, especially the latter. Look at it. Just look.
Is anyone really surprised that Steve “doesn’t see race”?
At least he gets it here, as they debrief after a chat with some of the other Harlem community leaders. Anyway, there’s this whole thing that starts with the one black guy who’s being paid by the Sons of the Shield firebombing a church and ends with a rioter accidentally shooting Steve dead. (We’re supposed to assume, of course, but we all know he’s coming back somehow.) As for Sam, up with this he will not put!
Oh yeah. Though I think I actually like the earlier one better. Anyway, Sam is… a bit more rough and tumble than Steve is.
“Cap protects the country… Falcon protects the hood.”
But damn, he even has the speechifying down.
As we all knew, Steve isn’t really dead, but got teleported and had his brain taken over electronically. Sam rips off all the wiring and happily does not short circuit his buddy’s brain, then goes to try to shut down the gas that’s designed to target only black men.
Hey, Sam. On your left.
Origins! More origins!
This arc showed a few scenes from Steve’s life pre-serum, including him listening to Roosevelt on the radio before wrapping up with this. Little Stevie Rogers, learning that the president of the United States is disabled, just as he was. It’s pretty adorable.
Two days after he came out of the ice, Tony Stark broke the news.
Just like in the MCU, 616!Steve will do pretty much anything for Sam. I love their relationship. It’s basically been 50 years of Guy Love. Here’s Steve’s reaction when Sam’s feeling down because he doesn’t have super powers like Cap (this was before they retconned in his psychic link to birds):
“Sam, you’re perfect how you are, but lemme talk to T’Challa. Back in two hours!” Bless him. (Let’s just not comment on the homoeroticism of the middle image there…. Then again, maybe we should!) And speaking of homoeroticism, note that Steve is apparently sleeping in Sam’s office.
Of course back in those days (1974) Sam was dating Leila Taylor, which may not have been his wisest decision – she was a bit reckless sometimes. Here she is pissing off powerful international diplomats by throwing spears at heads of state and hitting on people indiscriminately. That grumpy looking woman as they see her off is Tanzika. She’s angry because Leila asked if she had “sumthin’ goin'” with the Panther and when Tanzika said she didn’t understand what that meant Leila threw a fit. She makes friends quickly.
Blank Panther is quick to decide that he should send her off to Nigeria to get her out of his hair while he kits out
Captain America’s boyfriend
the Falcon. The very end of issue 170 shows us the first version of Falcon’s wings as he and the Black Panther have to charge off to save Leila.
“These incredibly light, but super-strong, super-strong, glider-wings – jet-powered from their tips by those wafer-thin integrated circuits, feeding off a sunlight-charged power-pack – and all controlled by direct link to my brain – Well, with these, this Falcon can fly, brother! And right now, he wants to hunt!”
Yes, they put super-strong twice, but that’s okay.