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The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Character
Sam Wilson
Falcon
Captain America's sidekick and a member of the Avengers


Sam Wilson is best known as "Falcon", a costumed "super-hero" who was started out as Captain America's non-powered sidekick. He was later given his wings and flying suit by the Black Panther.

Excerpt from: The Leader, review of Avengers vol. 3 #64, on "Leader's Lair" website (http://www.leaderslair.com/avengers/avengersv3-064.html; viewed 15 June 2006):

Avengers vol. 3 #64
Title: "Sight Unseen"
Writer: Geoff Johns
Editor: Tom Brevoort

Sam Wilson, the Falcon, flies through the city. He thinks about how his father, the preacher, knew every passage in the Bible, and how his mother and father lived by the Bible. Sam recalls how when he was sixteen years old that he refused to join the church. He recalls thinking that they would have put up more of a fight, but instead they just gave him a dozen books on other religions. They told him to look at them with open eyes. Sam remembers thinking how he found out that the people he thought were living their lives weren't blind at all, but that he was. Falcon taps into his power to see through the eyes of the birds. He swoops around following Redwing. Sam recalls how his father was killed the next night trying to break up a street fight. He recalls how two years later his mother was shot and killed a block from their apartment. Sam says that he never finished reading the religious books because he regarded them as fairy tales. He says that he did find some words to live by in them though, "An eye for an eye." Sam says that the words got him into a lot of trouble until the day he met Captain America. Falcon looks down at a man jogging through the park. Falcon says that now he lives by another set of words, "Avengers Assemble!" He says that it means you go in fighting and watch each other's back.

Discussion

From: "Religious Inclinations of heroes" message board, started 1 March 2005 on StarDestroyer.net website (http://bbs.stardestroyer.net/viewtopic.php?t=63632&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=25; viewed 8 June 2006):
Stravo
Posted: Tue Mar 01, 2005 6:38 pm

Post subject: Religious Inclinations of heroes

What about other heroes? I notice religion rarely plays a part in mainstream superhero comics (absent things like the Vertigo line) but have you ever picked up on hints or outright admissions by some heroes as to their religious inclinations?

Seems that atheistic heroes are as rare in comics as in real life. If they are religious it's a sort Judaeo-Christian wishy washy sort of religion... Any other examples of guesses?


The Dark
Posted: Sun Mar 20, 2005 12:01 am

Stryker was sort of a Christian, and Captain America (Ultimate one) goes to church weekly, so he's a Christian by standard definition also. Huntress is Catholic. Falcon was raised as a Baptist. The Rayner Green Lantern is Catholic, and Spider-Man often "thinks" to God, so he's some sort of monotheist (could be Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or Zoroastrian...possibly even Brahmanic Hindu). Firebird is also a Christian. Nightwing has DC Talk CDs and an NIV Bible in his room; circumstantial but significant evidence that he may be Christian. The old Superboy (1960s) may be Christian, as he "memorized both Testaments of the Holy Bible," according to an editor's letter.

I'm not sure about the Watcher. He makes a comment about there only being one all-powerful being, "and His only weapon... is love." The Watcher is definitely spiritual if not religious in some way.

Jewish characters include Shaloman and Sabraman, the Hayoth, Ragman, Sabra, and Rose (from Punisher). Moon Knight, Sandman, and Nuklon are all Jewish by heritage though (IIRC) non-practicing. Of course, the Thing is now well-known to be Jewish. Ruben Flagg (American Flagg) is also Jewish.

From: "The religions of comic book characters" thread started 10 February 2001 on rec.arts.comics.marvel.universe newsgroup (http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.comics.marvel.universe/browse_thread/thread/13590fda80c5d6e1/e5e0b094ced80f0b; viewed 12 June 2006):
From: Terry McCombs
Date: Sat, Feb 10 2001 6:35 pm

For the most part you don't get much of an idea as to the private lives of most comic book characters. Marvelish soap opera not withstanding.

What I mean is you don't get much of an idea what their politics or religion might be. This is sensible enough I guess as they don't want to offend any of their customers... for the most part you just can't really say just what, if any religion or personal philosophy that or that comic character might follow.

What do you think?


From: Menshevik
Date: Sun, Feb 11 2001 6:05 am

...As far as Marvel is concerned, there are a few characters where you do: ...Moon Knight's father was later revealed to have been a Rabbi, wasn't Falcon's a preacher of some sort? ...

From: "Islamic super heroes: Are there any?" forum discussion, started 23 August 2005 on "Comic Book Resources" website (http://forums.comicbookresources.com/archive/index.php/t-76010.html; viewed 28 May 2007):

Crinos
08-23-2005, 10:06 PM

Well, anyways, I was thinking of an idea for a UN-sanctioned super hero team with represenatives from different countries, and one of them is a female telepath from Turkey... named Sultana. And I suddenly realized that for the life of me I can't think of a single Muslim super-hero from either Marvel or DC.

So, are there any? And please don't turn this into a political debate.


Shellhead
08-24-2005, 09:05 AM

A Muslim character wouldn't necessarily need to come from the Mideast. An existing Marvel or DC hero could have an interesting storyline that culminated in their converting to Islam.

For example, Sam Wilson, aka the Falcon, was originally a small-time criminal, who was later brainwashed and then became Cap's sidekick. While that whole story was kind of crappy, it is canon, and plausibly could leave Sam feeling a kind of spiritual void. Then he meets (okay, it's comics... he saves) an attractive woman, maybe an African-American woman, who just happens to be Muslim. They date and Sam gets serious, but discovers that Muslim women cannot marry non-Muslims (btw, the reverse is not true, Muslim men can marry non-Muslim women), so he starts to consider converting.

One of the best cyberpunk books that I ever read was When Gravity Fails, by George Alec Effinger. It takes place in a fictious middle-eastern city in a decadent future, and the main character is a small-time private eye with a drug addiction and a stripper girlfriend. A local crimelord who is also a serious Muslim takes him on as a protege of sorts, gradually involving the protagonist in both some moral gray areas and some devout Muslim practices. It was especially interesting to watch this cynical and streetwise character gradually see the benefits of adhering to the pillars of Islam.

Seeing Sam Wilson undergo a similar spiritual journey could be fascinating. Some of the other Marvel heroes might react with suspicion at first, or even bigotry, leading to some interesting discussions between characters and also between fans.


Shellhead
08-24-2005, 09:48 AM

re: Heh. It would be interesting to see how a newly-converted Sam Wilson would react to the typical boob-sock, fetish model gear of the typical Marvel superheroine.

I don't think he would instantly turn into a repressed fundamentalist. The protagonist of When Gravity Fails continued his relationship with his stripper girlfriend even as he turned to Islam, although he gradually got more strict in his outlook.

This could be a chance to really allow Sam to grow as a character. Many solo titles fail because the writer never develops a decent supporting cast. Here, we could have Sam's Muslim girlfriend, some sort of spiritual mentor who guides him through his conversion, and then people involved with a charitable organization that Sam donates money to. He could start a soup kitchen, or a homeless shelter, maybe have a cameo from the notorious D-Man.

Sam could also struggle with his identity as an american versus his new faith, and once he is on steadier ground, have some serious discussions with his good friend Steve Rogers. There would be a chance to dispel some myths about Islam... for example, a worshipper is exempt from Ramadan while travelling or recovering from either sickness or injury.

Another interesting storyline would involve Sam's eventual journey to Mecca. As a former U.S. Senator, there would be interesting difficulties and controversy involving such a journey.


SOGG
08-24-2005, 10:02 AM

Another interesting storyline would involve Sam's eventual journey to Mecca. As a former U.S. Senator, there would be interesting difficulties and controversy involving such a journey.

Dude, the buildup is so brilliant. Who's doing pencils?


Shellhead
08-24-2005, 10:09 AM

Good question. This is just an idea I came up with reading this thread a while ago, so I'm just making this up as I go. Since this series would be dealing with personal growth and morality, I'd like to see an artist who can keep up with a monthly schedule but still do expressive faces with the characters. Don Kramer? Barry Kitson?


SOGG
08-24-2005, 11:16 AM

I think you've got a winner here. I mean, I'd read it.


Shellhead
08-24-2005, 11:19 AM

I'd love to see this done, too. Is this something that Quesada would go for?


Kurt Busiek
08-24-2005, 12:45 PM

re: His parents were deeply spiritual (if you believe Busiek) and encouraged him to make up his mind.

I don't think I've ever said anything about the Falcon's parents, actually.

I'm not sure I've ever even thought about them.

- kdb [editor's note: This is apparently Kurt Busiek, the actual writer of the Avengers comic book in which the Falcon appeared at the time.]


Shellhead
08-24-2005, 01:00 PM

I would love to see somebody take this idea and run with it. (Yeah, I'm looking at you, Mr. Busiek. ;) ) I'm not sure if Quesada would be receptive to this idea, and I definitely don't have the ability to write this myself, so I'm giving this idea away if anyone wants it. I think it would be exciting, to deal with some very timely topics with a Marvel character who has his own interesting history. It would be bold and innovative, and I think it would attract some extra attention in the media.


Shellhead
08-24-2005, 01:43 PM

I would still like to see Sam Wilson become a Muslim. It would take decent writing to move him along that spiritual journey, but the payoff would be great. Captain America is the most straight-forward symbol of America in all of comics, and so a dialogue between him and an Islamic hero would be interesting. Make that Islamic hero the Falcon, and their shared past adventures would tend to make that a respectful dialogue between two heroes with solid reputations.

The name Falcon has no direct connection whatsoever to Islam or the Mideast, so we avoid the shallow stereotyping of characters like Shamrock or Arabian Knight. Since Sam was a U.S. Senator, there would be no question of his patriotism, and his perspective as an American Muslim would make it easier for both writer and readers to get into. Any early errors about Islam could be explained away as Sam's misconceptions before he learns enough about his new faith.


SOGG
08-24-2005, 01:53 PM

STOP IT! It's getting way too cool and we're setting ourselves up for disappointment when it doesn't get printed.

From: "New Joe Fridays: Week 49" forum discussion, started 1 June 2007 on Newsarama website (http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=114952&page=5; viewed 8 June 2007):

06-03-2007, 04:58 AM
TheToileteer

You brought up the issue of comic-book stereotypes and religions. Since I study religion (all kinds, really) this is something I've thought about a lot.

First the issue of stereotypes in general: The first major black Marvel characters were the Black Panther (Phantom/Tarzan-like jungle lord with a name that may or may not have predated the American political party by that name), Luke Cage (1970's blacksploitation character), Falcon (sidekick with a criminal past), and Storm (African princess modeled after Lt. Uhura)... I see all this as stemming not from maliciousness, but from the tendency of comic books to deal in stock characters, as a kind of shorthand. Later attempts improved with time, for the most part, though new characters have always had greater difficulty gaining a foothold...


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