Sam Wilson gave up his coveted role as Captain America in Marvel Comics after backlash left him feeling that the country had turned its back on him.
Marvel Comics‘ Sam Wilson may have reluctantly accepted the role of Captain America in an attempt to improve the world beyond superheroics, but the viciousness and cruelty occurring in Sam’s own backyard prompted Wilson return the title to his predecessor yet again.
Harlem native Sam Wilson never particularly sought the Captain America moniker and his tenure with the shield comes to a head in writer Nick Spencer (The Amazing Spider-Man, The Astonishing Ant-Man) and artist Daniel Acuna (Captain America, Black Panther)’s Sam Wilson: Captain America #21. Initially having his own personal doubts, Sam ultimately pushes forward and perseveres to honor his friend and original “Sentinel of Liberty” Steve Rogers, despite a myriad of protests from American citizens. While Sam never wanted to take up the mantle, the former ally of Captain America sees the larger-than-life opportunity as a way to inspire more than simply fighting supervillains and collaborating with other heroes. However, the deployment of a brutal police force known as the Americops gradually diminishes Sam’s burgeoning optimism, with young Black hero Elvin Holiday a.k.a. Rage being placed in the hospital as a result of the actions of those sworn to protect the innocent. Elvin’s sudden hospitalization proves to be the final straw that pushes Sam to leave his Captain America days behind.
In a formal message left to former love interest Misty Knight that is subsequently broadcast to the entire world, Sam reveals that he has lost faith in the justice system during his time as Captain America. Sam does not hold back relating his experiences and what he has endured during his tenure as the Earth’s star-spangled Avenger. Not unlike Marvel’s mutants, Sam is yet another superhero minority figure whom society has turned its back on, and he feels he cannot allow himself to carry on as America’s symbol of freedom and liberty. Instead, Sam ditches the red, white, and blues in favor of his old Falcon garb. He even acknowledges past instances in which America’s “true Cap” turned his back on the United States in favor of his own firm beliefs and ideologies. Wilson was not particularly looking to follow in the footsteps of Steve Rogers verbatim but instead, be his own Captain America intent on improving areas of his life that the world was not paying certain attention to.
Throughout his entire run on Sam Wilson: Captain America, writer Nick Spencer placed a realistic lens on the inner turmoil that would likely transpire as a result of an African American superhero taking on the role of a beloved title that has been primarily portrayed by a white figure for decades. Issue #21, nearing the conclusion of Spencer’s defining Cap run, acts as the tragic climax of the 24-issue series. Sam’s journey as Captain America would continue when Spencer’s follow-up Secret Empire crossover event reveals Steve Rogers to be an agent of the terrorist organization HYDRA.
While the entirety of the Spencer’s Sam Wilson: Captain America comic series was written well before development even began on The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, the comic aligns quite a bit with the MCU Sam’s own reservations about taking up the prestigious Captain America role. But those same insecurities and fears ironically become the push that Sam needs to take up the mantle in the television series, as opposed to quitting. Though Sam has just acquired the Captain America title in the MCU, it will be interesting to see exactly how Sam Wilson operates under his new role and whether he will grow to have the same waning optimism as his comic book counterpart.
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