The first African American superhero is finally coming to the big screen this spring. Anthony Mackie portrays Sam Wilson / The Falcon in Marvel Studios’ Captain America: The Winter Soldier. In the film, Wilson plays an ex-paratrooper trained by the military in aerial combat using a specially designed wing pack.
“He’s the first African-American superhero,” says Mackie. “It makes me feel all the work I’ve done has been paying off. I have a son, nephews and nieces, and I love the idea that they can dress up as the Falcon on Halloween. They now have someone they can idolize. That’s a huge honor for me.”
The Falcon, real name Samuel Wilson, is a fictional comic book superhero who appears in comic books published by Marvel Comics. Created by writer-editor Stan Lee and artist Gene Colan, introduced in Captain America #117 (Sept. 1969), the character is mainstream comics’ first African-American superhero. Marvel’s previously introduced Black Panther is African, a native of the fictional country Wakanda. The Falcon followed the company’s first African-American co- starring character, the non-superpowered World War II soldier Gabriel “Gabe” Jones, and first regular supporting character, Joe Robertson of The Amazing Spider-Man. The Falcon debuted nearly three years before Luke Cage, the “Hero for Hire,” Marvel’s first African-American series star, and almost six years before the African character Storm, the first black female, and also precedes Marvel’s British vampire hunter Blade, also created by Colan, by almost four years. “Gabe” Jones served as one of Sgt. Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos; Fury’s character in modern times is the Director of the covert superspy agency S.H.I.E.L.D. and is portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson in Marvel films, including Winter Soldier, and ABC television’s Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Marvel cast Mackie because of his “energy and sense of fun,” but did not let him read a script before signing on. Mackie stated that he spent five months doing two-a-day workouts and eating an 11,000 calorie per day diet to get into shape for the role. Mackie says Wilson is “a really smart guy who went through major military training and becomes a tactical leader.”
The film Captain America: The Winter Soldier is set two years after the events of The Avengers. Former World War II supersoldier Steve Rogers, played by Chris Evans, revived from a 70-year hibernation, is residing peacefully in Washington, D.C., struggling to adapt to contemporary society. However, after a S.H.I.E.L.D. compatriot is assailed, Rogers becomes entangled in a mystery that may endanger the globe. Together with Natasha Romanoff, the reformed assassin turned S.H.I.E.L.D. agent known as Black Widow played by Scarlett Johannsen, Captain America attempts to uncover the growing machination while fending off hired hit men. When the entire scheme is discovered, Captain America and the Black Widow must recruit the aid of the Falcon and soon encounter an unanticipated and powerful adversary —the Winter Soldier.
Commenting on Rogers’ relationship with Wilson, Evans said, “Meeting Mackie’s character, he used to serve, now he works at the VA counseling guys who come home with PTSD — they connect on that level. I think they’re both wounded warriors who don’t bleed on other people. Cap has no one to bleed on. I think Mackie knows how to handle people like that. … Sometimes when things are bad, trusting a stranger is the way to go.”
Sebastian Stan is James “Bucky” Barnes / the Winter Soldier, Steve Rogers’ best friend, who has reemerged as an enhanced brainwashed assassin after being thought killed in action during World War II. Cobie Smulders is Maria Hill, high-ranking S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who works closely with Nick Fury. Emily VanCamp is Sharon Carter / Agent 13, a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent assigned to guard Rogers without his knowledge. Hayley Atwell is Peggy Carter, retired officer with the Strategic Scientific Reserve and former love interest of Captain America; and Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce, a senior leader within S.H.I.E.L.D., a member of the World Security Council and an old comrade of Nick Fury.
Samuel L. Jackson is Nick Fury, the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Regarding Fury’s questionable code of ethics, Jackson said, “Almost everything that comes out of Nick Fury’s mouth is a lie in some sense. He has to ask, is he even lying to himself, too? He has a very good idea of what’s going on but his paranoia keeps him from believing some of it.” Jackson added, “You see Nick Fury the office guy, him going about the day-to-day work of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the politics as opposed to that other stuff. It’s great to have him dealing with Captain America in terms of being able to speak to him soldier to soldier and try to explain to him how the world has changed in another way while he was frozen in time. Some of the people who used to be our enemies are now our allies — him trying to figure out, ‘Well, how do we trust those guys?’ or ‘How do we trust the guys that you didn’t trust who don’t trust you?’ And explaining to him that the black and white of good guys/bad guys has now turned into this gray area.”
Captain America: The Winter Soldier, directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo, produced by Kevin Feige, written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, premiered in Los Angeles on March 13, 2014, and was released internationally on March 26, 2014 and in North America on April 4, 2014, in 2D, 3D and IMAX 3D. A sequel is scheduled for release on May 6, 2016.