Anthony Mackie, 42, becomes the first black Captain America in the history of the Marvel Universe. He replaces Chris Evans, who announced in 2019 that he would hang his superhero cape on the hook. With this, the franchise is moving away from the American ideal for the first time: “No, no more blonde hair and blue eyes”, Marvel producer Malcolm Spellman nods. “That will undoubtedly cause controversy, we knew that, and we are not afraid of it.”
Spellman was the driving force behind the successful Disney + series ‘The Falcon & The Winter Soldier’, which stars Mackie alongside Sebastian Stan. In it, we see how Mackie’s character, Sam Wilson, takes over the role of Captain America.
“With this series, we have told the grimmest Marvel story ever,” he chuckles with satisfaction. “One of the characters has PTSD (post-traumatic stress syndrome, ed.)and goes to the psychologist weekly, the other is a black man struggling with his position in American society. We were a bit worried that Disney wouldn’t appreciate that, but they didn’t have to think twice when we started proposing the script. Also, during the recordings, I kept expecting a tap on my fingers, but it never came. We knew in advance that this would cause controversy. It’s 2021, but we are not naive. The only difference is: we are no longer afraid of that controversy. It is time.”
“A great honour”
Mackie will soon be seen in the fourth ‘Captain America’ movie, just announced by the studio. Where it was initially unclear who would play the leading role, there is now no doubt about it.
“I think playing a black Captain America puts just as much pressure as a woman playing Captain Marvel: the most powerful hero in the Marvel universe. Unfortunately, not everyone agrees to this yet,” said Anthony Mackie in an interview with this newspaper.
“But that representation is so important. I want to show black youth that they can be superheroes too. It’s quite an honour, but also scary, to play a character who represents a minority. That entails responsibility. And hate reactions. But it is worth it,” it sounds.
“A black Captain America comes at just the right time,” the actor continues. “It is an extra boost for the movements that oppose racism, homophobia, sexism or such nonsense that should have been off the track for a long time. I have also included that struggle with society in my character. He wonders how, as a black American hero, he can represent a people that does not represent him. They are still waiting for that blonde hair and those blue eyes….”
Make up for something
According to Spellman, Marvel had something else to do with the black community. In 2003 a comic was released, ‘Truth: Red, White & Black’, by Robert Morales and Kyle Baker. It first portrayed a black super soldier such as Captain America. It caused so much controversy that the book was withdrawn from the market.
Since then, the story has been silenced, even after Disney bought the company in 2009. We not only named that character – Isaiah – but also gave it a role in ‘The Falcon & The Winter Soldier’. Then top it off with the casting of Anthony as our new Captain. Since the very first comics in 1970, The Falcon has been merely ‘the sidekick’ of a white hero. It was up to us to do something about that. It does not make up for the mistakes of the past, but it is a good start.
Marvel has increasingly focused on diversity in recent years. There was the movie ‘Captain Marvel’ – with a female hero as the lead, ‘Black Panther’ – with an all-black cast, and soon also ‘Shang-Chi’ – with an all-Asian cast.