How Marvel's new Captain America comics will highlight both Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson
It's a dark, confusing time in the United States of America — which conversely means, in the grand tradition of Marvel comics, that it might be a great time for Captain America stories. The most iconic superhero to wear the American flag as a costume has often proven his worth most at times of real-life crisis for the country he represents.
Viewers of the Marvel Cinematic Universe fell in love with Captain America through Chris Evans' portrayal of Steve Rogers, which lasted until Avengers: Endgame when the character passed the star-spangled shield to Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie). Formerly known as the Falcon, Sam's ascension began in the pages of Marvel comics in 2014. That was a time when Marvel was working hard to diversify its superhero lineup: There was a female Thor, an Asian-American Hulk, a Black Captain America! But when the original versions of those characters eventually reasserted themselves, their would-be replacements were sometimes left floating in space.
But now Marvel is making room for both Sam and Steve. This spring, the one-shot issue Captain America #0 will mark a new beginning for the founding Avenger. Two new ongoing comics will come out of it. Captain America: Symbol of Truth starts in May, will focus on Sam, and will be written by Tochi Onyebuchi with art by R.B. Silva (Powers of X), while Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty arrives in June, will focus on Steve, and will be written by Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing with art by Carmen Carnero (Hellions).
In an exclusive interview with EW, the three writers previewed their plans for this new two-track approach to Captain America. Read on for details.
A new beginning
Captain America #0 arrives this April. Co-written by Kelly, Lanzing, and Onyebuchi with art by Mattia De Iulis, the issue will make it clear why two Captain Americas are not contradictory.
"What's interesting about Captain America #0 is that, unlike a lot of zero issues, we're not gonna spend a lot of time building the plot for both books or teasing out a bunch of amazing stuff," Lanzing says. "The issue #1's are gonna do that. Issue #0 is effectively a conversation between Steve and Sam about what it means for both of them to be Captain America simultaneously. But that conversation isn't had in a room sitting down over beers, that conversation is had while flying/holding onto the side of a massive rocket heading into the sky to obliterate all of mankind because Arnim Zola is back and he's got a bad plan."
Sam Wilson: Symbol of Truth
In this new dynamic, Sam will be the public-facing Captain America: The one people think of as holding that title. Even though he's been in this position before, Onyebuchi points out there's still a lot of unexplored territory.
"We have basically only touched the surface of his interaction with the Marvel Universe," says Onyebuchi. "There are so many characters that have yet to interact with Sam as Captain America, dynamics we haven't yet seen. It feels like the world is my oyster. It's been really cool exploring that with Sam, but also with Joaquín Torres, who is the Falcon in this book."
At a genre level, Captain America: Symbol of Truth will invoke globe-trotting spy thrillers. The "truth" in the title resonates with Sam's efforts to untangle some aspects of America's shady foreign policy.
"We've seen Sam Wilson deal with the legacy of Captain America and race in very inward terms with regards to America: What does it mean for America to accept a Black Captain America?" Onyebuchi says. "One of the things I'm teasing in my book is, what does it mean for the rest of the world to accept a Black Captain America? That's another part of the equation. If Captain America is in many ways a mimesis of America, with all the good and bad pathologies, what does that mean for the way in which America interacts with the rest of the world?"
Onyebuchi continues, "I'm a huge fan of action thrillers that involve foreign locals and all of that stuff. One of the things that Sam has to do is he has to get to the bottom of a conspiracy. He has to figure out what the truth of the matter is, he has to figure out what's really going on. When so much of American foreign policy historically has been founded on operating in the shadows, manipulating federal employees or members of another government into enacting regime change for the benefit of various corporate interests, what is it going to look like when Sam runs up against the people who would wish to manipulate him for their own ends in terms of furthering 'America's interests' abroad? What does it mean to be the 'Symbol of Truth' in that context?"
In the past, Steve has occasionally gotten so fed up with the American government that he has resigned his position as Captain America in protest of his country's actions. But as a Black social worker from Harlem, Sam is coming into the office already well aware of America's shortcomings.
"Steve went through a whole process during Nixon and Reagan where he kind of learned how the sausage was made," Lanzing says. "Sam's gonna be coming into that forewarned and forearmed. I'm amazed by the idea that he really can't put down the shield the way that Steve could. It's really important that he not. So then, what does it mean for him to stand there with that and be like, 'okay, I'm gonna hold the shield, but I'm also gonna deal with this?'"
Steve Rogers: Sentinel of Liberty
While Sam looks out across the world, Steve is going to be looking inward — especially in the wake of Ta-Nehisi Coates' acclaimed run on the character.
"Steve is a member of the Greatest Generation. That's so important, especially now, because he's seen so much of the 20th century and he's really able to weigh it," Kelly says. "With our story, what we really wanted to start looking at was, how has America changed? What does it mean to be a patriot now? Because it means something very different, even in the last two or three years. We've seen a radical shift in our country and, especially for a lot of young people, a real fury and disappointment at what our country has started to do to itself. Cap can't turn his back on America, neither of the Caps can, because the idea is good. The core is good and worth fighting for, but both need to wrestle with what that means in the year of our Lord 2022."
While Sam is the public-facing Captain America, Steve will be spending more time in civilian clothes. But don't worry: He's still very much Captain America. Plus, he'll still have Bucky around to help him figure things out.
"I think Steve has learned through the Coates run that there's a lot of inward-looking he has to do in terms of his legacy and himself. Maybe he's become too much Captain America and not enough Steve Rogers," Lanzing says. "In our book, he is going to be really looking at what it means to be Steve Rogers. We'll see what it means when he finds a threat that truly needs his version of Captain America, and what he has to step up to become that. What does Captain America mean to Steve beyond being the leader of the Avengers and answering to the government? Since he feels he's handed that off. So what is Steve building? What is he organizing? What do his friends need from him specifically? What does Bucky need from him?"
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