Photo: Julie Vrabelova/Marvel Studios
This article contains The Falcon and the Winter Soldier spoilers.
Marvel’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier episode 2 is much less of a slow burn than the first episode. Not only do we actually get Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes sharing screen time together, and a better understanding of what new Captain America John Walker is all about, but we get a host of new Marvel Comics characters introduced to the MCU!
There’s a lot going on in this episode, so let’s start digging in to all the Marvel goodness to be found…
The Star-Spangled Man
- The title of the episode is of course a reference to Steve Rogers’ tenure as a piece of propaganda in Captain America: The First Avenger, when he was sent out to convince people to buy war bonds. That excellent MCU film featured an era-appropriate song called “The Star-Spangled Man” with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by David Zippel. When the new Captain America runs onto the football field for his Good Morning America appearance, we have an updated version of the very song being played by the high school marching band.
- Similarly, that quick montage of John signing Captain America merchandise is somewhat reminiscent of the “Star-Spangled Man” sequence in The First Avenger, which showed Steve shaking hands, signing autographs, as well as all the 1940s Cap merch that was being produced at the time.
- John’s origin is so much better here than in the comics, where he was a reactionary almost supervillain called Super Patriot before taking on the Captain America job. Still, despite his early comics history, Walker took the Cap job as seriously and sincerely as the one we see here on The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and MCU John seems even more sympathetic than Marvel Comics John.
- Walker using his shield to cushion Battlestar’s fall from the truck is a pretty classic comic book style Captain America maneuver.
- Custer’s Grove, Georgia is a fictional town in Marvel Comics, and that’s indeed where the John Walker of the comics came from. To talk more about this here might get into potential spoilers for future episodes (no, we haven’t seen them either), so for now, let’s just say this is a nice nod to John’s comics history.
- John’s wife, Olivia Walker (played by Gabrielle Byndloss) is a new creation for the MCU, and as far as we can tell, she doesn’t have a Marvel Comics counterpart.
- John Walker mentions that he’s “been a captain before,” and that probably refers to both his military service
- Co-created by Axel Alonso, Robert Morales, and Kyle Baker, Isaiah Bradley was introduced in 2003’s Truth: Red, White, & Black. In the miniseries, Steve Rogers discovered that after his own creation, other scientists tried to replicate the super soldier serum and experimented on Black soldiers. The lone survivor of this was Bradley, who donned a Captain America outfit and fought Nazis against orders. Like his MCU counterpart, he was punished and thrown in prison for years. Eventually, he was pardoned and spent his days living in obscurity, only known as a legend by the Black community.
- On the show, Bradley is depicted as being the secret Captain America of the 1950s. This is likely to be the closest reference we’ll get to William Burnside, yet another replacement Captain America. Back in the ‘50s, Captain America comics continued to exist, but were a little too knee-deep in being anti-communist propoganda. When Marvel reintroduced Captain America in the 1960s as a member of the Avengers and introduced the plot point that Steve had been frozen during World War II, it essentially negated his 1950s adventures.
- Down the line, they explained that those comics were in continuity, but the Cap and Bucky in them were impersonators who had undergone plastic surgery and underwent incomplete versions of the super soldier experiment. This drove them to insanity and the comics were explained as them being paranoid and seeing communists everywhere. The two were put on ice for a while, but were eventually thawed out to fight the real Captain America and Falcon. While Burnside later became the villainous Grand Director, the fake Bucky went on to become a hero named Nomad.
- The teenager with Isaiah is Elijah Bradley. Introduced in 2005’s Young Avengers, Eli is Isaiah’s grandson. When the Avengers ceased to exist, Eli became the leader of the Young Avengers under the name Patriot. He insisted that he had super soldier serum in his blood, but was secretly just using Mutant Growth Hormone to get by. Eventually, his grandfather gave him a blood transfusion, making his super soldier claims legit.
- Eli is just one of the many Young Avengers characters popping up in the MCU recently (including Billy and Tommy on WandaVision, and Kate Bishop’s upcoming introduction on Hawkeye), suggesting a possible incarnation of the tea is coming to the MCU down the line.
- Introduced in Captain America #323, Lemar Hoskins is yet another character pulled out of Mark Gruenwald’s legendary run. Hoskins was originally a professional wrestler who was granted super strength from the Power Broker (more on him in a minute). When John Walker took over as Captain America, Hoskins first became the new Bucky before ditching the name in favor of Battlestar. After the storyline of Walker as Cap ran its course, Battlestar has remained a minor patriotic vigilante in the Marvel universe, showing up here and there through the years.
The kid in Baltimore who greets Sam Wilson as “Black Falcon” seems like a fun nod to the fact that when Black superheroes were first becoming a thing in comics, they were often identified as such with their names (Black Panther, Black Lightning, Black Vulcan, etc). Sam was never known as “Black Falcon” but given the era he was created in, things probably could have gone that way. See also, Sam joking with Bucky about being “White Panther.” (Of course, Bucky’s “White Wolf” moniker was first heard in the post-credits scene of Black Panther).
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The Power Broker
Robert Moses was the racist bastard who built most of New York City between the Depression and the 1960s…hang on…different Power Broker.
- Curtiss Jackson was originally a Machine Man villain, created by Roger Stern and Sal Buscema in the late 1970s before he was picked up for the legendary Gruenwald run of Captain America. There, he ran a corporation that used super science from Dr. Karl Malus to give superstrength to people for a price. That price: indentured servitude in Jackson’s pro wrestling promotion.
- Among the people given super strength through the Power Broker’s program: Dennis Dunphy, the legendary D-Man; Sharon Ventura, the second Ms. Marvel (and eventually the second Thing); as well as both John Walker and Lemar Hoskins themselves. Jackson was eventually attacked by the Scourge of the Underworld, a Punisher-like vigilante, and forced to give himself his own super strength treatment, which caused him to become a deformed giant.
- The Power Broker of the MCU is definitely tracking in some kind of bootleg super soldier technology, and that seems to be where the Flag-Smashers have gotten their augmented abilities.
- The Hobbit was indeed originally published in 1937, but wasn’t published in the U.S. until 1938. So either Bucky was a really voracious reader who ordered stuff from abroad, or his memory is a little faulty…unless James Buchanan Barnes was already running secret missions in Europe long before the United States entered World War II?
- We get Bucky’s therapist’s first name here, she’s Dr. Christina Raynor. Still not finding any Marvel Comics parallels here, but we’re keeping our eyes open.
- The shot of the two pairs in the truck staring each other out seems like a homage to every tv episode where a duo meet alternate dimension versions of themselves, and aren’t impressed.
Spot anything we missed? Let us know in the comments!