Comic Legends: Was the Falcon's Facial Appearance Based on OJ Simpson?

Falcon OJ Simpson Gene Colan

Welcome to Comic Book Legends Revealed! This is the six hundred and sixty-first week where we examine comic book legends and whether they are true or false.

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Gene Colan based the Falcon's facial appearance on OJ Simpson


I'm Going With True

In the previous legend of this week's weekly trio of legends, I discussed how Stan Lee came to create the Falcon, Marvel's first African-American hero. As noted there, Stan Lee first announced the creation of Marvel's first African-American hero at a panel at Duke University in February 1969. The panel was titled "Comics as a Reflection of Contemporary Culture." Therefore, it was clear that the Falcon was created to serve a point, as Lee wanted to show that Marvel was trying their best to BE a true reflection of contemporary culture.

The task, though, fell to Gene Colan, to design the new hero, who would ultimately be introduced in Captain America #117 (Joe Sinnott inked Colan in the issue) in an awesome, if bizarre, story. Cap, you see, has switched bodies with the Red Skull (through the Skull using the Cosmic Cube) and Cap used clay to fashion a mask to make himself look like a normal person. The Skull then sends Cap to an island where Skull's old cronies had been exiled. Cap happens to bump into a guy named Sam Wilson and Cap decides to train Sam to help him take down the Red Skull. Sam becomes the Falcon!

That initial panel is tremendous...

It also appears evident that Colan is using photo reference for Sam Wilson's face there. But WHO?

Well, you see, knowing Lee's intent with the character, Colan decided to peruse a bunch of popular African-American centric magazines of the era to find someone who he could base the Falcon on that would be a hero to the black community of the time. And he found it, in the person of then-USC star football player, OJ Simpson, who had just won the Heisman Trophy and was about to enter the NFL.

Colan recalled, "I took my time going through my reference material and ultimately came up with a young sports hero named OJ Simpson. He was a handsome fellow at that time and certainly a hero in most folks' eyes. Today, of course, it's another story. Sadly."

What's funny is that I almost see more of a Sam Wilson/Jim Brown comparison...

And so, too, did Jet Magazine, when they said that the Falcon looked like Jim Brown back in 1970...

But hey, if Gene Colan said that he based him on OJ Simpson, I see no reason to doubt him.

Check out my latest Movie Legends Revealed - Why did Fox need Marvel's permission to use an X-Character in Deadpool when they already held the license to the X-Men characters?

OK, that's it for this week!

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