In Meta-Messages, I explore the context behind (using reader danjack’s term) “meta-messages.” A meta-message is where a comic book creator comments on/references the work of another comic book/comic book creator (or sometimes even themselves) in their comic. Each time around, I’ll give you the context behind one such “meta-message.” This time around, we look at a little mocking of the Falcon’s retconned origin in the pages of Christopher Priest’s Black Panther run.
In the world of comic book retcons, few are quite as controversial as the revelation in Captain America #186, at the end of Steve Englehart’s acclaimed run on Captain America. Note that Englehart left the book mid-way through the story, so there is a very reasonable chance that he was going to reverse course on this retcon by the end of his story. The problem is that since he left mid-way through the arc, the guy who took over for him, John Warner, did not what to do one way or the other. Then Jack Kirby took over soon after on the book and while he kept Falcon in the book, Kirby was not interested in anyone’s storyline before he took over the book, so he made no references or retcons and by the time Kirby finished on the book, so much time had passed that the retcon was sort of stuck.
Anyhow, so here is the controversial origin. Note that by this point, Sam Wilson had already become a social worker. Englehart had the Red Skull reveal that Sam Wilson wasn’t just a good natured guide that Captain America met on the Exiles’ island after being exiled there himself in the body of the Red Skull (after the Red Skull used the Cosmic Cube to switch bodies with Cap). No, Englehart revealed that the Red Skull had used the Cosmic Cube at the time to take a street hustler named “Snap” Wilson and transformed him into Captain America’s perfect partner so that, in the future, the Red Skull could reveal the “truth.”
Taking Marvel’s first African-American superhero and revealing that he wasn’t actually a good guy but that he was actually a street hustler (who dressed in clothing akin to a pimp, although it is clear that he is not a pimp in the story itself) was not a popularly received retcon.
Since later writers were sort of stuck with the retcon, for reasons I noted above, writers struggled with how to deal with it over the years. J.M. DeMatteis had a great story where he had it be that Sam was dealing poorly with the death of his father and that the “Snap” persona wasn’t REALLY Sam.
In general, though, writers just ignored it because it was such a weird revelation. One writer who thought that it was a bad idea was Christopher Priest, and so when he had Falcon guest star in an issue of Priest’s Black Panther run, he decided to poke a little fun at the retconned origin.
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