How Does Sam Wilson Become Captain America in Marvel Comics?

The Big Picture

  • In the MCU, Steve Rogers passes on the mantle of Captain America to Sam Wilson, who fully embraces the role in the Disney+ series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
  • Sam Wilson was introduced as the Falcon in Marvel Comics and formed a partnership with Steve Rogers, leading to his eventual tenure as Captain America.
  • Sam Wilson became Captain America officially in Captain America Vol. 7 #25 after Rogers named him his replacement due to aging and his powers being neutralized. Wilson later picked up the shield again to restore America from Hydra’s rule and eventually returned it to Rogers.

Ever since debuting in Timely Comics’ Captain America Comics #1 in December 1940, Steve Rogers is the name that has become synonymous with the All-American hero Captain America. The same is true, of course, in the MCU, where Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) became Captain America in the 2011 film Captain America: The First Avenger. Fans of the MCU will also know that an aged Steve Rogers passed his shield on to Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), aka Falcon, at the end of Avengers: Endgame, placing the mantle of Captain America on Wilson’s shoulders. It wouldn’t be until the end of the Disney+ series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, though, when Sam Wilson fully embraced the moniker, and it won’t be until the 2024 release of the fourth Captain America film, Captain America: Brave New World, that we see Wilson’s Cap back in action. In the pages of Marvel Comics, though, Sam Wilson has already been there and done that for some time.

What Is Sam Wilson’s Relationship to Steve Rogers in Marvel Comics?

The Falcon with Captain America in the pages of Marvel Comics
Image via Marvel Comics

Sam Wilson was introduced in the pages of Captain America #117, September 1969. He is a former Harlem resident who had adopted and trained a wild falcon he named Redwing. After a group of men on an island placed an ad looking for a hunting falcon, Wilson answered. However, he soon learned that the men were former Nazis and cohorts with the villainous Red Skull. Escaping from their clutches, Wilson stayed on the island to encourage the natives to rise against the men. Wilson then met Steve Rogers, who urged Wilson to take on the identity of the Falcon, one of the first Black American superheroes in mainstream comics, training with him in order to inspire the villagers to action. It was the beginning of a partnership, one that would see them as a formidable team throughout the 1970s and beyond. It’s that camaraderie and trust between the two that set the stage for Wilson’s tenure as Captain America.

When Did Sam Wilson Officially Become Captain America?

Sam Wilson as Captain America in Marvel Comics, circa 2014
Image via Marvel Comics

Sam Wilson had taken over for his friend a few times over the years, including one storyline where Rogers was killed by the leader of the Sons of the Shield, leading to Wilson taking on the role of Captain America, so the legacy of his friend wouldn’t become tarnished. But it wouldn’t be until Captain America Vol. 7 #25, released in October 2014, that Sam would first legitimately become Captain America. In the accompanying storyline, Rogers had his Super-Soldier Serum powers neutralized by the villain known as Iron Nail, causing him to age rapidly. Unable to continue, Rogers named Wilson as his official replacement at an Avengers meeting, a no-brainer given how the Falcon had risked his life to protect and save the world.

Wilson’s tenure as the new Cap carried on in the 2015 All-New Captain America comics, and then a 2015-2017 run of Captain America: Sam Wilson. After learning that S.H.I.E.L.D. was creating its own Cosmic Cube, an action Wilson was very much against, he quit working for the government, choosing to be a hero whose priority was the people. After the new Cosmic Cube, Kobik, was finished, it gave Rogers his powers, and youth, back, and for a time both Rogers and Wilson were Captain America, only Hydra Supreme had replaced Rogers with a Hydra version. As Rogers and Hydra began taking over the US government, Wilson officially quit as the Captain, refusing to cooperate with America as the country went in a concerning direction.

As the US became a fascist state under Hydra Rogers’ rule, Wilson worked in a rescue network, helping people flee the country. When he discovered that the real Steve Rogers was trapped inside Kobik, which had been shattered into pieces, Wilson picked the shield back up, determined to restore an America that had dramatically fallen. As Cap, Wilson helped find all the pieces of Kobik, restoring the true Rogers, who took his evil Doppelgänger down, restoring America to its former freedoms. In Generations: Sam Wilson Captain America & Steve Rogers Captain America #1, Wilson returned the shield to Rogers, believing that the world needed Rogers as Captain America to inspire them, and wanting his long-time friend to have the opportunity to redeem himself.

RELATED: Anthony Mackie Says His Captain America Isn’t as “Rash” as Steve Rogers

Sam Wilson Returns as Captain America, With a Little Help From His Friends

Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson, two Captain Americas accompanied by a host of other Marvel characters.
Image via Marvel Comics

Captain America #750 features a story that explains why Sam Wilson became Captain America again, and it’s one of the most touching moments in comicdom. Steve Rogers himself would keep trying to have Wilson back as a fellow Captain America, but Wilson was dismissive of the idea. That is until private investigator and friend Misty Knight hands over a new shield, one built with the help of all the Avengers. “T’Challa supplied the vibranium,” Misty says. “Tony molded the design. Thor used his hammer. And I used mine.” She then reads out a who’s who of Marvel heroes, all of whom believe in him becoming Captain America again: Sharon Carter, Quicksilver, Black Widow, Steve Rogers, and more. It would be a solemn moment, standing before the gravestones of his parents, when Wilson truly becomes motivated to become who they raised him to be, to become Captain America.

The beauty of Sam Wilson as Captain America is how he speaks for and empathizes with, the people. He has no powers, no Super-Soldier Serum to enhance his strength, no mutant abilities, not even a vast fortune and the know-how to create a high-tech armory. Wilson is just a man, but a man who believes in the good he can do as a symbol of what is right. A man who can relate to the struggles of humanity on a level that those with superhuman abilities simply can not understand. As the Falcon, Wilson protected the people of his city, working alongside Rogers to make the world a safer place. As Captain America, he works alongside Rogers’ Captain America as an equal, two inspirational heroes who define those honorable qualities that lift their country, and the rest of the free world, above those who would rally against them.

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