Steve & Sam, BFFs

August 6th, 2008 by | Tags: , , , ,

I’m working on a post about black people in comics right now, but you’re going to have to live with this other post about the same thing for today. I have to put in some work on that other piece, because I think it deserves it.

This one is about Captain America & The Falcon.

This was originally one of my least favorite Kirby works, if only because Panther and the 4th World were full of big ideas and bigger executions. Cap & Falcon wasn’t as sexy as his other stuff. I’d always assumed it was just by-the-numbers superheroics. What’d I’d read of it years ago seemed like regular old superheroics. I thought it was just like his old Joe Simon Cap jawns.

It definitely has its high points, though. It’s essentially a high octane buddy movie. Cap & Falcon are two best friends who stay in the thick of battle. The art is pure Kirby– impossible poses, punches, and maneuvers. Those weird double fist uppercuts/body slams that throw people over your head, the amazing and impossible flips, and kirby krackle. All of it is in here.

What’s even more remarkable is how Kirby juxtaposed the mundane with the insane. Cap & Falcon has a black lead character, so Issues tend to come up sometimes. They have a discussion about slavery, Falcon distrusts the government, and so on.

You could easily paint Sam as the Angry Black Man, but that’s needlessly reductive. He’s conscious of the past, which makes him conscious of the future. You can either speak up or keep getting sand kicked in your face, right?

Throughout the book, whether his name is on the cover or not, Cap & Falcon are portrayed as equals. They fight together, live together, and come close to dying together. The people they meet treat them as equal threats. He isn’t the sidekick. He isn’t the Black Version Of Captain America Who Is Almost As Good As The Real Thing But Not Quite. He’s the partner. He’s the equal.

I’m kind of consistently amazed at the deft touch Kirby had when it came to black characters back in the day. It isn’t perfect, and the jive talk is pretty awkward (“It took two hundred years, Falcon… but this country’s grown up!” “Jive! It’s still trying, friend! I’ll stake my life on that!”), but Kirby pretty much sat down and did it better than some people do it now. He approached things from the right place, and I really appreciate that.

Really, though… Captain America & The Falcon can be summed up in one image. It’s an image of two best friends arm-wrestling on the kitchen table and talking smack before a mind ray zaps into the room and turns both of them crazy.

What, you thought I was kidding?

Later on, Henry Kissinger tells them to call him “Henny.” Some nights, Henny hits the bar and orders two Thug Passions. He pours one out for the homey Tupac and tosses the other back like it was nothing.

There’s so much to love about this series. Leila is awesome, but has disappeared down the same black hole as Glory Grant. I’d love to see her show up again, since last I remember, she was in Priest’s Cap & Falcon. I’ve talked about Kirby here, here, and here.

Jack Kirby is like Darwyn Cooke for me. I love them, but the work doesn’t exactly hit every month, so I tend to forget exactly how much I love them. And then I find, or remember, something they did and I realize that I’m a huge stan all over again.

Big ups to Chris from FBB for sparking this post thanks to an offhand image link and hilarious discussion.

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7 comments to “Steve & Sam, BFFs”

  1. Do you think Brubaker’s handling him well paired up with Bucky’s Cap?

  2. “…I’m a huge stan all over again.”

    Like in the Eminem song?

  3. Yep.

    Do you think Brubaker’s handling him well paired up with Bucky’s Cap?

    Yeah, I think he is. I’m happy with it. I’d like to see him show up more, but the book isn’t Captain America & the Falcon any more. He hasn’t certainly done anything that’d make me go “Aw, man, what?”

    Plus, the Falcon/Bucky dynamic is really interesting.

  4. I don’t read Captain America’s series. What’s falcon like with Bucky?

  5. I think Falcon’s portrayed as an older, wiser head compared to how Bucky can go off and go half-cocked into things. He’s put into the supporting cast, but he’s off doing his own thing and doesn’t just show up to back up Bucky.

  6. Kirby’s 70s “young black man” dialogue is about as good as his 70s “white teenage hipster” dialogue (which is about as good as Rob Liefeld’s understanding of foot anatomy), so I wouldn’t fault him too much for that…

  7. I like what Brubaker’s been doing with Falcon, too. I think it was Bru’s Cap run that got me interested in the character and made me realize what a cool character he is. Honestly, I wouldn’t mind seeing some Falcon focused stories or maybe even a Falcon mini-series written by Brubaker.