Sam Wilson, AKA “The Falcon” has been a mainstay of Marvel since he was introduced in 1969. As the publisher’s first African-American hero, his high-tech wings and psychic connection to his pet falcon have helped him save the world through his partnership with Captain America and the Avengers. Along the way, the character has been used to explore social issues in his home in Harlem.
How to Love Comics has put together a list of the seven best comic book stories featuring The Falcon. This eclectic mix of stories has something for every kind of fan, including team-ups with Captain America and Winter Soldier, solo adventures, socially aware tales, and much more.
FYI: This list doesn’t include any stories from the period when Sam Wilson was Captain America. There’s nothing wrong with him being Captain America, but the comics were poorly executed and bogged down by the controversial Hydra Cap saga.
Now Begins The Nightmare!
Written by Stan Lee. Art by Gene Colan.
While this story technically starts in Captain America #115, we’ll only be discussing the Falcon-related issues for the sake of this list. Don’t stress about missing the previous issues. All you need to know is that there are some shenanigans with the Cosmic Cube, where Captain America and Red Skull have swapped bodies.
Captain America #117 marks the first appearance of Falcon! While stranded on a desert island together, Sam Wilson teams up with the Red Skull body-trapped Captain America. Cap teaches him some fighting skills and encourages Sam to take on a hero identity. From there, they take on Red Skull’s cronies and then Red Skull himself.
Sam impresses in his first outing as a hero. He shows plenty of natural skill, even if he doesn’t yet have the experience. So much so, that he’s able to keep up with Captain America and defend himself against Red Skull.
They Call Him Stone-Face
Written by Stan Lee. Art by Gene Colon.
In the final panel of Captain America #133, Falcon and Captain America became official crime-fighting partners. In the subsequent story, readers get to see this long-term partnership in action for the first time when they take on crime boss, Stone-Face. Stone-Face’s gang have been shaking down Harlem business owners and recruiting disenfranchised youths to do their dirty work – including Falcon’s nephew, Jody.
The story also explores the socially conscious side of Sam Wilson. Acting as more of a social worker than a hero, Sam attempts to talk Jody out of joining a Stone-Face’s gang. Through this, the comic explores why youths turn to criminal gangs, and discusses what can be done from a social perspective.
We also get to see more of the Captain America and Falcon partnership in play. As you’ll soon see, they’re a well-oiled machine who gel well together in their friendship and crime-fighting. So much so, that the comic is renamed Captain America and The Falcon with this issue.
When a Legend Dies/J’Accuse/Bust Out
Written by Steve Englehart and Mike Friedrich. Art by Sal Buscema.
One of Falcon’s most notable features is his wings. However, for the first five years of his publication history, he didn’t have them. With this trio of issues, we get to see how he got them, the motivation behind them, and their use for the first time.
Up until this point, Falcon didn’t have any special technology or a Super-Soldier Serum to help him fight crime. Because of this, he was frustrated with being a “costumed athlete” in Captain America’s shadow. Although, this changes with the help of Black Panther and some high-tech wings.
Giving Falcon wings allowed him to stand out, and gave him an ability that separated him from Captain America. It also changed the dynamic of the character forever, opening up other storytelling possibilities.
Written by Steve Englehart and John Warner. Art by Frank Robbins.
Up until this issue, everyone thought that Sam Wilson was just a bird-loving social worker from Harlem. However, in this story, readers discover his true background and that everything we thought we knew about him was a lie.
Mind Cage tells about Sam’s secret history, which was previously obscured by Red Skull and the Cosmic Cube. A past where Sam led a life of crime before meeting Captain America.
Whether this history is true or not is up to reader’s own interpretation. The fact that this information was revealed by Red Skull, an unreliable narrator, means that it could possibly be a lie.
This revelation was initially meant to be explored further by the incoming creative team. However, it was quietly forgotten about a few months later when Jack Kirby returned to take over the book. Other stories since then have touched upon Sam’s past, but I believe Marvel eventually decided that this secret history was a product of the Cosmic Cube.
Brothers and Keepers
Written by Christopher Priest. Art by Joe Bennet, Andrea DiVito, and Greg Tocchini.
Falcon and Captain America have always been on the same page when it comes to their crime-fighting partnership. So what happens when the Falcon begins to act out of character and uses questionable methods behind Cap’s back? It’s definitely not the best time to not see eye-to-eye when they also have to worry about Anti-Cap and M.O.D.O.K.
What makes this an interesting Falcon story is the way that Sam is approached. While readers might not agree or understand Sam’s methods, Falcon can step out from under Captain America’s shadow. He has more agency, and uses his unique set of skills to take on situations by himself.
BONUS PICK: Want to see how this plays out? American Psycho (Captain America and the Falcon (2004 series) #13-14) explores Sam’s behaviour further.
Written by Rodney Barnes. Art by Joshua Cassara.
Sam Wilson had a short stint as Captain America but ultimately decided to build his own legacy as the Falcon. Take Flight is the first story in his return to the classic moniker, which sees him figuring out what kind of hero he wants to be.
As part of this, he attempts to stop a war between rival Chicago gangs. While that’s already tough enough as it is, it’s made far more difficult by agitators who profit from the conflict.
Further to this, we see Sam as a mentor when he takes on a sidekick. This adds a new dimension to Falcon, who has often played second string to Captain America.
Falcon and Winter Soldier
Written by Derek Landy. Art by Federico Vincenti.
Before the MCU’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier hit Disney+, Marvel Comics released the Falcon and Winter Soldier miniseries. In this 2019 miniseries, Hydra is on the rise and threatens world peace. It’ll be up to the two former Captain Americas, Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes, to team up to stop them.
MCU fans will enjoy this miniseries for its big action and character dynamics. Readers get to see how Sam works with Bucky in the comics and the tension between the duo’s different approaches to saving the world. Can they get along for long enough to save the world? You’ll have to read to find out.