Superhero-hungry readers have been letting me know they want more Marvel Comics blog posts. With my look at 1970s classics for the Avengers and Spider-Man completed this post starts a look at 70s classics for Captain America & the Falcon.
CAPTAIN AMERICA & THE FALCON Vol 1 #153 (September 1972)
Title: Captain America – Hero or Hoax?
Villains: The Captain America of the 1950s (William Burnside, one of the men whom the U.S. government had assume the role of Captain America while the real Cap was M.I.A. and presumed dead for decades.) and the Bucky of the 1950s (Jack Monroe, one of the young men the government assigned the “Bucky” identity during that same period.)
Synopsis: Captain America and the Falcon, in their secret identities of Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson, are with S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Sharon Carter at the airport. Sam is seeing off Steve and Sharon as they fly to the Bahamas for a long vacation together (By this time Sharon knows that Captain America is really Steve Rogers.)
When the two lovebirds’ plane flies off, Sam Wilson returns to his life as a social worker in Harlem while also fighting crime there in his costumed identity of the Falcon. Because this is before the Falcon got his high-tech wings (that story is coming, too) back then he got around by the way his falconing glove shot a wire like Daredevil’s billy club did, too, so Falcon could swing around the city like DD and Spider-Man.
Days go by and one day while swinging around Harlem while his falcon Redwing flies along beside him, the Falcon sees his on-again off-again girlfriend Leila Taylor publicly cuddling with Rafe Michel, the black militant leader.
NOTE: This was 1972 and the more moderate Falcon was often at odds with Rafe Michel & his militant gang in a Professor X vs Magneto way. Leila Taylor was for a few years torn between her love for Sam Wilson and for the extreme Rafe and bounced between the two. Leila did not yet know that Sam was really the Falcon.
Back to the story, Sam spends the night boiling with jealousy. The next morning we join the police precinct where Steve Rogers was working as a police officer at the time. There is some disgruntlement among the other uniformed cops regarding the way Rogers is suddenly on extended medical leave and the way he always seems to get preferential treatment.
NOTE: The police commissioner was aware that Steve was really Captain America and always covered for the irregular schedule that the hero had to keep. Steve’s Sgt Brian Muldoon was not aware of our hero’s dual identity and often chewed out Rogers over his seemingly lax attitude toward his policeman’s duties.
This setup was basically Marvel Comics’ way of recapturing the formula of their World War Two era Captain America comic books in which high military officers always covered for Private Steve Rogers’ frequent absences and seemingly lax attitude toward his soldierly duties. Steve and Bucky’s Sgt Mike Duffy was not aware of their dual identity the way the higher echelons were.
Back to Steve’s precinct, a few officers are wondering how Sgt Muldoon will freak out when he learns that Steve Rogers is off on leave again for who knows how long. To their surprise the other cops hear that Muldoon is on paid suspension pending an Internal Affairs investigation into his conduct.
In Harlem that morning, social worker Sam Wilson is circulating around like he usually does and is secretly proud as he hears people speaking about his alter ego the Falcon’s incredible work at fighting crime there.
Eventually he comes across Leila Taylor and tries to feel out her ever-changing feelings toward him. She is in full militant mode this morning and is very cold and insulting to Sam for his “soft” attitudes toward white people. Leila accuses him of sympathizing with “the honkeys” even though the honkey superhero Captain America was in Harlem the previous day beating up black people – both criminals and non-criminals alike.
To protect his and Cap’s secret identities Sam can’t tell Leila that that’s impossible since Captain America is in the Bahamas with Sharon Carter. Leila insults Sam again and walks off angrily. Sam returns to his office, dons his Falcon costume and starts swinging around Harlem to see if he can pick up clues about this obviously fake Captain America.
Hours later he spots a man in a Captain America costume roughing up a black man on the assumption that he MUST be a criminal. Falcon attacks this Cap and while they fight and banter the Falcon is stunned to hear that the man’s voice sounds exactly like that of Steve Rogers. (I’ll explain in a few minutes.)
As the battle continues, this Captain America calls the Falcon “boy” and otherwise insults him, assuming most black people are criminals or are secretly insurrectionists. At one point, the Falcon gets enough of an upper hand to peel back “Cap’s” mask enough to see that the face underneath REALLY IS that of Steve Rogers.
Suddenly, another person attacks the Falcon from behind, giving Cap the chance to mask up again. The newcomer, to Falc’s further shock, is a young man in a Bucky costume. This Captain America boasts that the Falcon won’t be able to stop the return of “the REAL Captain America and Bucky!” And that cliffhanger ends this issue.
NOTE: With this 4-part story Marvel Comics was at last providing an “in-universe” explanation for how – if Steve Rogers/ Captain America was frozen in suspended animation from 1945 until the present day – there were Captain America and Bucky comic book stories in the late 1940s and the 1950s featuring Cap, who was still going by Steve Rogers for his secret identity.
In real life it was because Stan Lee and company had no idea in the 40s and 50s that in 1961 they would launch a new lineup of superhero characters. They soon wanted to start incorporating some of their 1940s superheroes into that new continuity. First they brought back the Sub-Mariner by having the Fantastic Four meet him and learn that as a human/ Atlantean hybrid he had an extraordinarily long lifespan so that’s why he was still alive and young-seeming.
For Cap they had the Avengers discover his frozen body and claimed he had been M.I.A. since 1945. Now, with the new generation of comic book readers being more savvy, the fans were often demanding explanations for the inconsistency of Captain America and Bucky being active during the late 40s and the 50s when Cap was supposedly frozen and Bucky was presumed dead.
IN ADDITION, Marvel writers Roy Thomas and Steve Englehart decided they would also use this story to deconstruct the attitudes and language of 1940s and 1950s (Golden Age) superheroes compared to their 1970s counterparts. Hence this Cap calling Falcon “boy” and looking for insurrection and subversion everywhere.
In other words, we once again see Marvel Comics writers doing what the overrated Alan Moore did LONG YEARS BEFORE Moore’s 1980s story Watchmen. Roy Thomas and Steve Englehart were presenting this 1950s Captain America and Bucky as the reflexively violent, overly “tough on crime” vigilantes and super-patriots that Moore later depicted Rorschach and the Comedian as being.
In real life, of course, different societal attitudes as the decades rolled by accounted for the stark difference between the way superheroes were depicted in the 1940s and 1950s compared to the 1970s.
The simpler “punch first and ask questions later” stories of Golden Age heroes were thus recontextualized to fuel an interesting deconstruction of the superhero mythos. Ultimately, however, readers got literally decades of nothing BUT the deconstruction of superheroes in stories that became as cliched, tiresome and overused as the “dark and gritty” approach to superhero stories.
CAPTAIN AMERICA & THE FALCON Vol 1 #154 (October 1972)
Title: The Falcon Fights Alone
Villains: The 1950s Captain America and Bucky
Synopsis: We pick up immediately after the end of the previous issue. The battle begins again, with the Falcon’s trained falcon Redwing distracting Cap and Bucky with its clawed attacks from time to time to help its master survive the two on one fight.
The writing goes on dealing with the 1950s mentality vs 1970s mentality. This Cap and Bucky continue to use racial slurs against the Falcon and make outdated remarks like “flatter than a Russkie’s bank book!”
At length the uneven odds tell the tale and the Falcon is defeated. The 50s Cap and Bucky talk about taking the Falcon to their hideout at Tyler’s Warehouse. Some Harlem kids have been watching the fight and run to Sam Wilson’s office to tell him what happened to the Falcon. They don’t know that the Falcon IS Sam Wilson so they’ll find his office locked up and empty.
Meanwhile the 50s Cap and Bucky get the unconscious Falcon to the aforementioned warehouse where they tie him up in a chair. When he comes to, they make it clear to him that they are aware of the “softer” current Captain America and figure he can either be bait or willingly lead them to the current Cap.
The 50s Cap and Bucky even use the casually excessive violence that Golden Age superheroes often used against people to get info out of them. The Falcon endures it all without giving away any information about the real Cap or where he can be found.
Elsewhere the Harlem kids who found that Sam Wilson was not at his office turn to black militant Rafe Michel, who again has Leila at his side. The kids tell Rafe about the danger the Falcon is in but Rafe is indifferent, saying that he doesn’t care about that “boot-lickin’ Uncle Tom sellout.”
NOTE: Yes, racial conversation in America has been stagnated in these same cliches for over FIFTY YEARS now, with each succeeding generation feeling the previous generation were the REAL racists and/ or “White Supremacists” and with any black people who aren’t filled with resentment dismissed as Uncle Toms … or as they are called these days “the black face of White Supremacy” who have “internalized white racism.”
COMMENT: I won’t be talking politics and social issues in all of these Captain America stories but in this particular one it’s unavoidable.
Back to the story, more moderate African Americans jump into the conversation, defending the Falcon and pointing out that fighting black on black crime does not make the Falcon a sellout or an Uncle Tom. Leila weighs in on the side of helping the Falcon, too, so Rafe has his militants join the moderates and the crowd advances on Tyler’s Warehouse.
Meanwhile, in the Bahamas, a swimwear clad Steve Rogers and Sharon Carter are frolicking on the beach when a muscular horndog tries to move in on Sharon. She rebuffs the horndog but he gets handsy with her, prompting her to use her expertise in unarmed combat against him.
When he persists, Steve steps in and decks him. He and Sharon then ponder how much they’d love to go someplace where it’s just the two of them and they don’t have to deal with other people. They decide to go to a private stretch of beach at Mosca Cay.
Back in Harlem, the 50s Cap and Bucky are still trying to force info out of the Falcon. This Cap refers to how the current Cap seems like he’s soft on the Russians.
NOTE: In a change of pace, back then it was the Republicans who were gung-ho against Russia, while today it is the Democrats who are gung-ho against Russia.
Returning to the story, the crowd of black people break into the warehouse to help the Falcon. While the 50s Cap and Bucky fight them off, the Falcon frees himself and then takes on Cap while the crowd overwhelms Bucky. This Cap saves Bucky and carries him off with him as he escapes.
After more harsh words between Rafe Michel and the Falcon, the latter swings off to scour Harlem for leads on Cap and Bucky and to find out who owns Tyler’s Warehouse and rented it to the duo. All roads lead him to Morgan, the Marvel Comics crime boss of Harlem.
Morgan reveals that he got a lot of money by mail with a note to have his men stay away from Tyler’s Warehouse for several days. Figuring it was just some well-heeled criminals running a caper he did so.
Elsewhere, one of Sgt Brian Muldoon’s fellow police officers visits him at home where he is stewing over his ongoing suspension with pay. Their conversation leads them to Steve Rogers being on extended leave again and Muldoon convinces himself that Rogers must be a dirty cop and that he somehow set him up for suspension.
The Falcon, meanwhile, still can’t find the 50s Cap and Bucky so he calls the Bahamas hotel of Steve and Sharon hoping to warn them about the ongoing situation. The hotel staff inform him that Steve and Sharon are at isolated Mosca Cay and cannot be contacted. The Falcon decides to let the Avengers know about the false Cap on the loose.
Falc and Redwing arrive at Avengers Mansion. Even though the Falcon was not yet an actual Avenger he HAD helped the team rescue the Hulk from a planet in the Microverse/ Quantum Realm when greenskin was in the clutches of the supervillain called Psyklop (Avengers #88, May 1971).
Because the team knows him from that adventure they let him in and he explains to the Scarlet Witch, Iron Man and Hawkeye about the Cap imposter. The Vision enters the room upon hearing this, alarmed because several minutes before the Falcon arrived, “Captain America” entered the mansion and relieved him on monitor duty.
The five superheroes race to the monitor room, where the Avengers screens display readouts from throughout their own mansion and the world outside. They see that the fake Cap is gone and that he was monitoring the Falcon’s conversation with Wanda, Hawkeye, Iron Man and the Vision and therefore overheard Falc mention that Steve is at Cay Mosca.
The Falcon states he needs immediate air transportation to that site in order to warn Steve and help him and Sharon against the 50s Cap and Bucky.
CAPTAIN AMERICA & THE FALCON Vol 1 #155 (November 1972)
Title: The Origin of the Other Captain America
Villains: The 1950s Captain America and Bucky
Synopsis: Several hours later, we join Steve Rogers and Sharon Carter frolicking on the private beach and relishing their privacy.
Suddenly, Steve spots a young man in swimming trunks who is a dead ringer for Bucky and chases after him, figuring it can’t be the real Bucky but must be an android duplicate or something, like the Red Skull once used against him (Tales of Suspense #88 & 89, April & May 1967).
The 1950s Bucky leads Steve into an ambush, where he and the 50s Cap knock him out with a sneak attack. Sharon comes running to his rescue and is about to be overcome by the 50s Cap when the Falcon suddenly arrives, saying he’s been searching the island for Steve and Sharon since he arrived.
Again, we get a 50s vs 70s approach as the fake Cap and Bucky use more slurs against the Falcon during the fight and refer to Sharon as a “dame” and a “frail.” This Cap and Bucky defeat Falc and Sharon, rendering them unconscious.
Later, when Steve, Falcon and Sharon come to, they are all bound to chairs on board the stolen cargo plane that the 50s Cap and Bucky used to reach Mosca Cay. While Bucky flies the plane, 50s Cap shows our heroes that he has brought along the current Cap’s costume and shield, which Steve had with him on vacation in case danger arose.
Next the 50s Cap does a Villain Rant about his origin, and this would have been 1972 readers’ FIRST EVER exposure to the retconned notion that other Caps took the original Cap’s place during his absence. This 50s Cap is really named William Burnside but had plastic surgery and vocal chord modification to assume the Steve Rogers identity. His “Bucky” is really named Jack Monroe and he likewise had surgery to perfectly resemble the original.
The William Burnside Cap goes on to explain how, working with the U.S. government the Super Soldier Serum was at last re-created and he and his Bucky both used it. The Vita-Ray procedure that followed Steve’s use of the serum in 1941 had not yet been rediscovered, however.
This “new” Cap and Bucky settled into their cover identities as Steve Rogers and J.B. Barnes. As in the 1950s issues of Captain America Comics, “Steve”/ William Burnside was a professor at the Lee School, a prep academy, with “Bucky” as one of his students.
As the Villain Rant continues, the 50s Cap rehashes some of his and Bucky’s 1950s adventures, including their battles with the Red Skull.
NOTE: In the 1950s the writers capitalized on the “red” part of the Red Skull’s name to say that he had converted to Communism and was working for the Soviet Union instead of Nazi Germany now. In this 1972 story they have the 50s Cap claim that the Communist Red Skull was really an imposter.
At any rate, Marvel at last had come up with a fictional explanation for the late 40s and 1950s Captain America and Bucky stories, while also using it as the excuse for why the 50s Cap and Bucky had such different attitudes compared to present-day superheroes.
As the years went by, it became clear to the U.S. government that the lack of Vita-Ray bombardment to the replacement Cap and Bucky after they took the Super Soldier Serum was causing biological reactions which were driving them to irrational behavior and edging them to insanity.
Tricking the 50s Cap and Bucky to stop them from being the wild cards they were becoming, the government tranquilized the pair and put them into cryogenic suspended animation. This way they would be kept alive but unaging until science could find a way of curing their growing insanity.
Events in America in the late 1960s and early 1970s, including Vietnam War protests, the end of the military draft and Nixon going to China alarmed elements of the United States Intelligence Community. As always abusing their position, those intelligence community elements revived the sleeping 50s Cap and Bucky and let them loose.
For their first action they set out to take down the current Captain America. This ends the flashback and brings us back to the cargo plane. The 50s Cap states he is going to publicly battle, defeat and kill the current Cap, thus asserting himself and his worldview as the correct one for a true Captain America to pursue.
The 50s Cap then rejoins Bucky in the cockpit and shuts the door. Our Cap has, by now, broken free of his bonds. He frees Falcon and Sharon. She gets dressed while Steve dons his costume and gets ready for the showdown – the 1950s Captain America vs the 1970s Captain America, to see whose vision of America will prevail.
CAPTAIN AMERICA & THE FALCON Vol 1 #156 (December 1972)
Title: Two Into One Won’t Go
Villains: The 1950s Captain America and Bucky
Synopsis: With the 50s Cap and Bucky still assuming their captives are bound, the real Captain America and his allies Falcon and Sharon Carter decide it’s too dangerous to attack the villains while the craft is airborne. They wait until the stolen cargo plane is setting down near Miami, then go into action.
The two Captain Americas battle and exchange insults while the Falcon and Sharon fight the fake Bucky. A Coast Guard cutter comes across the scene and gets damaged while the battle royal rages.
The current Captain America, Falcon and Sharon Carter rush to rescue the Coast Guard personnel in danger of drowning while the 50s Cap and Bucky leave, telling the real Cap that the public battle he planned between the two of them will take place at the Torch of Friendship one hour from now.
After our three heroes’ rescue operation is done, they go to the Miami police department. Captain America invokes his Avengers authority to have the cops cordon off the area around the Torch of Friendship to prevent any innocent bystanders from getting hurt as he confronts his 1950s counterpart.
Meanwhile, in New York City, Sgt Brian Muldoon and fellow cop Bob Courtney use their badges on Steve Rogers’ landlord to gain access to his apartment. They scour the place for any sign that Steve is a dirty cop but find nothing.
NOTE: Yes, they should have found the spare costumes that readers were always shown that Cap kept in his closet, but you know how slipshod so much comic book writing is.
Near the Torch of Friendship, the skulking Bucky attacks the Falcon and Sharon so that they can all fight while Cap enters the cordoned off area to take on the other Captain America. A crowd of people has gathered around the police barricades to watch the fight, just vaguely aware that a Captain America imposter and the real Cap will be facing each other.
Once again, the 50s Bucky uses racist and sexist slurs against Falcon and Sharon Carter while fighting them. In the Cap vs Cap battle there is a bit more of a philosophical tinge about what being a “patriot” means in the 70s vs the 50s.
After lengthy fight scenes, Falc and Sharon defeat Bucky, while our Captain America defeats the 1950s Cap. It’s a bittersweet victory for the real Steve Rogers as he ponders the literal and figurative implications of this odd adventure.
In the aftermath the government takes custody of the 50s Cap and Bucky and puts them back into cryogenic deep freeze until science can find a way of curing the insanity caused by their flawed version of the process to create Super Soldiers.
FOR THE NEXT INSTALLMENT OF CAPTAIN AMERICA & THE FALCON 1970s CLASSICS CLICK HERE.
FOR CHAPTER LINKS IN THE AVENGERS/ MANTIS/ KANG/ CELESTIAL MADONNA STORY CLICK HERE.
FOR CHAPTER LINKS IN THE AVENGERS/ KREE-SKRULL WAR STORY CLICK HERE.
FOR CHAPTER LINKS TO THE 1970s ADAM WARLOCK/ GAMORA/ THANOS/ MAGUS STORY CLICK HERE.
FOR CHAPTER LINKS TO THE 1970s BLACK PANTHER VS KILLMONGER STORY CLICK HERE.