Contributed By Errick A. Nunnally
There were two comics, for me. I know: lame, but it’s true. One from the past and one from the not too distant past—and both, in a stunning coincidence, are connected.
We’ll start with the four-issue mini-series “The Falcon” by James Owsley and Paul Smith. I tended to go after comics with artists I liked—damn the writers—and I liked Smith’s work. Plus, hey, The Falcon, yo. Here’s a guy who’s only got a pair of gifted wings and a pet falcon, Redwing, to work with. You have to admire that. This particular mini-series saw The Falcon (Sam Wilson) back in Harlem foiling a plot against the president. Sort of. Because this is Sam Wilson, the story gets convoluted inside and outside the book. As I understand it, Marvel only intended to do a one-shot, so the first two issues are fairly self-contained. The last two are a connected adventure, which is nice, but doesn’t do much to let our hero have an arc. Regardless, since this is Sam Wilson, there’s always some evolution of his origins or his abilities.
Wilson has at least three origin stories that I’m aware of, but all of them involve The Red Skull and the Cosmic Cube. At the time, prevailing continuity held that Wilson gained a psychic connection with his bird, Redwing. In this particular mini-series, however, he was unmasked as a mutant! Which explains the Sentinel clutching Wilson in issue #2. He also has a sort of “open secret” secret identity. By day, he’s a social worker and by whenever else he’s trying to stop crime and set would-be criminals on the right path. This is what I found fascinating. I don’t think I’d seen much of that sort of story-telling at the time and I certainly didn’t see any black heroes struggling against the sorts of crime Falcon dealt with. (Along with giant robots, Electro and shit, because, hey, it’s still a comic book.)
The final act finds President Reagan kidnapped during an outreach visit to Harlem. He’s taken by a “gang” who only want their voices to be heard. They outsmart the Secret Service because they know the neighborhood best. I guess. When Falcon tracks them down, he finds the culprits having a civilized discussion with non-facist, competent, fictional Reagan. Rather than a psycho holding a gun to the POTUS’ head making unreasonable demands, they’re getting through to fictional Reagan with words. Falcon has a chat with the guys and they all agree to turn themselves in! BOOM! POW!
The second comic series that really got me was Christopher Priest’s run on Black Panther. Initially, it was pencilled by Mark Texeira—once again, an artist I dig. They’d revamped Panther to be not only super-cool, they also inserted him in a place he hadn’t spent much time in as a character. He was always a monarch, sure, but there’s a socio-political and economic aspect to that role which had gone well and good unexplored. Priest went all-in for several issues, featuring plenty of political intrigue as well as action. Panther interfaced with other world leaders and monarchs such as Victor von Doom and Namor the Sub-Mariner. He wasn’t afraid to maim or kill as needed to protect his country. Panther also foiled international plots against Wakanda (and the world) while maintaining diplomatic ties with the United States via Everett K. Ross. Priest introduced the Dora Milaje and several other aspects of the Panther mythos that proved popular (and logical) enough to have survived as part of the movies being produced today. His run on Black Panther changed the character forever and for the better by thinking of Panther as less a super-hero and more a Wakandan cultural creation. Huzzah!
Both of these comics reminded me to take as much advantage of the world around me as possible, to mix in situations that were both relatable and interesting to me. Having someone with unusual abilities or in situations beyond the norm didn’t mean they needed to be set in worlds that I’d never experienced.
That connection, by the way? James Owsley is Christopher Priest’s birth name. He changed it in 1993. WHUT?
Born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts, Errick Nunnally served one tour in the Marine Corps before deciding art school would be a safer—and more natural—pursuit. He strives to develop his strengths in storytelling and remains permanently distracted by art, comics, science fiction, history, and horror. Trained as a graphic designer, he has earned a black belt in Krav Maga with Muay Thai kickboxing after dark. Errick’s successes include: the novel, Blood For The Sun; an upcoming novel with ChiZine Publications; a comic strip collection, Lost in Transition; and first prize in one hamburger contest. The following are short stories and their respective anthologies: Welcome to the D.I.V. (Wicked Witches); Harold At The Halfcourt (Inner Demons Out); The Last Apology (A Dark World of Spirits and The Fey); You Call This An Apocalypse? (After The Fall); Recovery (Winter Animals: stories to benefit PROTECT.ORG); A Hundred Pearls: PROTECTORS 2 (stories to benefit PROTECT.ORG) and The Elevation of Oliver Black (Distant Dying Ember). He also has two lovely children and one beautiful wife.