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Bandwagon Nerds Presents: Race, Falcon, & the Winter Soldier

Bandwagon Nerds’ Rey Ca$h writes about the Falcon and the Winter Soldier show and how race intersects the show, the comics, and real life.

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Bandwagon Nerds’ Rey Ca$h writes about the Falcon and the Winter Soldier show and how race intersects the show, the comics, and real life.

I am a black man.  I am also a comic book aficionado.  Unfortunately, those two things often end up being mutually exclusive.  I have long loved everything in the fantastical world of superheroes, gods, and aliens that companies like Marvel and DC have created, but for most of that time, I have been a spectator.  Rarely have I been able to feel like a participant.  Even though there are some amazing stories told about black heroes and black villains and black culture in general, most of these are few and far in between.

This brings me to the modern day of comics, and the rise of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the DC Extended Universe.  Marvel’s creation of the first multi-faceted, all inclusive, ever-extending movie franchise has not only changed how comics are imagined; they have changed how movies are imagined.  Now, comic films are the biggest in the medium, and every major star in Hollywood clamors to be in one.  In the MCU, they’ve been able to take linear storytelling to the next level, by having every film matter in the next.  You may not need to watch EVERY movie, but there is a very visible plus if you do.  And to understand the ENTIRE story being told, you do need to watch everything.  Add this to creation of Disney+ and the revamping of Marvel’s Television department, and now you have a gamut of ways to tell the different stories once only found on the artistic pages found in a comic shop.

So, what does this have to do with race?  Well, the current Marvel program of the moment is the powerful Falcon and the Winter Soldier.  Anthony Mackie’s Sam Wilson AKA The Falcon and Sebastian Stan’s Bucky Barns AKA The Winter Soldier have moved from secondary acts to the marquee stars of their own global adventure.  The show picks up about 6 months after the events of Avengers: Endgame, and the struggle of whether or not Sam should carry on the legendary mantle of Captain America, given to him by an old and retired Steve Rogers.  Now in the movies, this is a big deal, seeing as how it’s been established that Captain America isn’t just America’s hero but the worlds.  If you dig a big deeper, however, the comic story that this is referenced from shows that there is a much deeper issue.

In Captain America: Sam Wilson, the entire story of Sam being given the mantle and the shield revolves around how the United States government doesn’t think he’s worthy of it.  And it has nothing to do with his credentials; it’s solely because he isn’t their choice.  And that’s absolutely because he’s a black man.  So many of the fights that Sam has as “Cap” are based on regular racial issues that most black people have dealt with.  So much, that they picked their own Captain America to replace him – John Walker AKA US Agent.  Now, Marvel has beautifully adapted this story to the live action screen.  We’ve seen Sam be stopped in the middle of the street for arguing with Bucky, the very same Bucky who is world renowned as the greatest killer of the 20st century.  It also shows him, the very same superhero who’s fought aliens, and androids, and wizards (the big three), but also can’t get a loan from the bank.  For the first time in Marvel’s long, storied history of the MCU, we’re seeing the real lives of the superheroes and what they deal with when the capes and suits are off.

And then there’s the story of Isaiah Bradley.  Isaiah is one of Marvel’s greatest and most controversial secrets.  In Truth: Red, White, and Black, it’s revealed that Steve Rogers wasn’t the only American super soldier.  The American government experimented on black soldiers, imitating the real-life Tuskegee experiment, and of 300 test subjects, only 5 survived.  The main one of these five and the only one who stuck was Isaiah Bradley.  He was used to fight covert missions for the US, ones likely to end in death.  Only, he succeeded every time.  The one time he was set to work with Steve Rogers, Steve couldn’t make it and Isaiah stole the Captain America uniform, only to save the day.  Unfortunately, he was caught by German soldiers until he was saved by German revolutionaries.  Once he returned to America, the country in which he’d done so much for, he was jailed for 30 years for stealing the Captain America suit.  In jail, he was experimented and put in isolation until he developed Alzheimer’s.

Isaiah Bradley is inserted into Falcon and the Winter Soldier as a stark message to Sam – that this is bigger than him.  The fact that it was Bucky who introduced the two, only knowing him from an encounter when he was Hydra-controlled and beaten by Isaiah, makes the story that much deeper.  Isaiah did so much for his country and was not only forgotten about, but he was essentially whitewashed from history.  It took his counterpart to point out who he was.  And this is so much of the black experience in America.  Isaiah represents so many black soldiers that have fought for this country and then come home only to be secondhand citizens.  Sam’s anger after they leave Isaiah’s house in urban Baltimore is palpable.  You should feel angry too that there was a black super soldier and nobody knew about it.

There has been the concern that race is being shoehorned into the MCU and this show for the purpose of being opportunistic.  As we all know, race relations are at an all time high and there is a re-evaluation of sorts among entertainment.  We are finally seeing more inclusive stories being written, directed, and produced by an ever-inclusive cast and crew.  So, of course it’s natural to think that this story plays directly into that.  But, if you’ve been privy to anything Marvel over the 13 years that it’s existed, you know that the only thing that matters is the story.  And this story is integral to the growth and importance of both Sam and Bucky, as well as John Walker.

I’ve mentioned that the MCU is set up so that every movie leads into the next, and that the story is all encompassing.  So, you can’t tell the story of John Walker without Sam Wilson, and you can’t tell the story of Sam Wilson without Steve Rogers, and you can’t tell the story of Steve Rogers without Bucky Barnes, etc.  When we first saw Sam, he was running at the National Mall with Steve and ran group sessions for military personnel who just came home.  Sam was a regular guy.  Just because he happened to be a guy who was in the right place at the right time, he befriended Steve and joined into the fight.  Sam is in every way a soldier, willing to jump in the fight whenever necessary.  From that initial run, he ended up fighting a super soldier, the Avengers, and then the greatest army in the universe.  His story had to be told in this way to show who he was.  If you told the story of race with Sam from the very beginning, he never would’ve been able to establish who Falcon was; we’d be transfixed with Sam Wilson.

Also, race has been a major part of the MCU.  To this day, the highest grossing non-Avengers movie is Black Panther, a movie about the most technologically advanced nation in the world being in Africa.  In Black Panther, the newly crowned King T’Challa AKA Black Panther is faced with the threat of his long-lost cousin Erik Killmonger, who wants to take the crown and use Wakanda to liberate black people around the world.  This brings up the significant conversation of isolationism, as Wakanda has been content historically to let the matters of the world happen outside of their borders, knowing that they can help.  It also brings up the lesser talked about issue of the relationship of Black Americans and their relationship with our home continent.  By the end of the movie, Wakanda decides to open it’s doors, which becomes important with the healing of Bucky’s brainwashing, the refuge of the Secret Avengers, and the Battle of Wakanda against Thanos and the Black Order.

I’d also like to point out that other black stories are being told, but they weren’t able to be told in the MCU because of contractual issues.  The X-Men just had their rights reverted back to Marvel, so now Storm and Bishop can make their debut.  Luke Cage and Misty Knight were a part of the Defenders-verse on Netflix, who’s rights should be back in Marvel’s proper hands.  A Blade reboot is in the works with the uber-talented Mahershala Ali, which should be coming in 2022 or 2023.  And you can’t forget about the existing and soon to debut MCU heroes, such as Monica Rambeau’s Spectrum, RiRi Williams’ Ironheart, Miles Morales’ Spider-Man, Eli Bradley (Isaiah’s grandson) AKA Patriot, and the godfather of black heroes in the MCU, the War Machine portrayed by Don Cheadle.  All these heroes are set to have their own show or movie or be a major part of one coming up in the next phase.

Could this have been done sooner?  Sure.  Anything could be done in entertainment, so essentially, the stories could have been different.  But would they have been told as well?  Would they have been as financially successful?  I don’t know.  It’s telling that Marvel bet the farm on the MCU off the back of Robert Downey Jr., long thought as one of the most talented people in Hollywood but known more for his legal troubles than his acting career.  Downey, a perfect match for Tony Stark, was a big name cheap enough to put the wheel in motion.  And then they continued to build around major stars – Chris Evans, Chris Helmsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, and of course, Samuel L. Jackson.  The sequence of stories in which Marvel has chosen is a genius web that they’ve woven to get from movie 1 to movie 23 and on.

Being a black comic fan hasn’t always been easy, but with productions like Black Panther and Falcon and the Winter Soldier, people like me are starting to finally be a participant in the story.  I can see myself in T’Challa and Sam in ways that I never did in characters like Tony Stark or Steve Rogers.  And this isn’t just a black superhero thing.  Eternals is set to have the first openly LGBTQ+ character, just as Valkerie is set to be in Thor: Love and Thunder.  The greatest living fighter in the MCU is coming to life as Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is coming out this year, with the long-awaited debut of the actual Mandarin.  We just had Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel be the first MCU property fronted by a woman, and Black Widow set to be the second in July.  More diversity is good because it allows for more stories to be told.  And the more stories that are told only means more opportunities the company.  The journey has been a long arduous one, but I’d rather spend my time enjoying what is than lamenting what could’ve been.

FIN


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Bandwagon Nerds #138: Cookouts & Premiere Dates

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Bandwagon Nerds
Bandwagon Nerds #138: Cookouts & Premiere Dates

David Ungar returns from vacation and PC Tunney is heading to a cookout this week on the Bandwagon.  Patrick does his best to keep the guys focused with a review of the penultimate episode of The Boys season 3 and News around the Nerdosphere!  This week is dominated by release dates from Lucasfilm, Warner Brothers and NBC.  The guys ponder problems facing the upcoming the Star Wars films and discuss what upcoming shows they will (and won’t) watch this fall.  Plus, all kinds of casting rumors are swirling around the MCU, the Nerds tell you which ones are worth buying and which ones are duds.

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Join Patrick O’Dowd, David Ungar, PC Tunney and Rey Cash as they keep everyone up on all things nerd, and maybe add some new nerds along the way. It’s the Bandwagon Nerds Podcast!

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Chairshot Radio 5 by 5: SNL Films

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With Dave and Patrick both on vacation this week, Hockey Talk had to take a pause and will be back to reflect on the Stanley Cup Finals next week.  We all knows that means another edition of the Five by Five!  This week, “Mr. Saturday Night” PC Tunney returns to the show with Patrick to give you their list of the Five Best and Five worst SNL movies of all time.

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About the Chairshot Radio Network

Created in 2017, the Chairshot Radio Network presents you with the best in wrestling and wrestling crossover podcasts, including POD is WAR, Women’s Wrestling Talk, Chairshot Radio daily editions, The #Miranda Show, Badlands’ Wrestling Mount Rushmores, The Outsider’s Edge, DWI Podcast, Bandwagon Nerds, the Greg DeMarco Show, 3 Man Weave, Five Rounds, Turnbuckle Talk, The Reaction and more! You can find these great shows each week at theChairshot.com and through our distribution partners, including podcasting’s most popular platforms.

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