Falcon And The Winter Soldier: How Did John Walker's Tenure As Cap Play Out In The Comics?
The Shield is a heavy burden.
Falcon And The Winter Soldier took a surprisingly dark turn in episode 4, 'The Whole World Is Watching'. New Captain America John Walker, in retaliation for the death of his partner, Lemar Hoskins, beats one of the Flag-Smashers to death with his shield in front of a crowd of horrified onlookers. After tarnishing the legacy of the shield, Walker's tenure as Cap is unlikely to have a happy ending.
John Walker also enjoyed a brief run as Captain America in the comics. Here's a quick rundown of how it went.
John Walker's comic backstory had him serving in the army as a way to honour the memory of his brother, Mike, who was killed in action during the Vietnam War. Unfortunately, Walker served during peacetime, leaving him unable to attain the level of hero he had desired to be.
After being honourably discharged from the army, Walker and his army buddies Lemar Hoskins, Jerome Johnson, and Hector Lennox gained Super-human strength from the villain known as the Power Broker. With his new abilities, Walker began a wrestling career under the name Super-Patriot. working alongside his former comrades, dubbed the BUCkies. Over time, he comes to see himself as a better representation of American values than Steve Rogers, and comes to despise Captain America, plotting to have Super-Patriot usurp him as the nation's symbol. Steve Rogers repeatedly refuses Walker's challenges, until Walker eventually attacks him. Unfortunately for Walker's ambitions, the fight ends in a draw.
Sometime after this, Walker, as Super Patriot, thwarts a terrorist plot to detonate a Nuclear Bomb in Washington. The act of heroism grants him instant fame, and in a television interview, Walker proclaims himself to be 'the future of America'.
Gaining the mantle of Cap
When Steve Rogers gives up the mantle of Captain America to avoid having to fall in line with the Commission on Superhuman Activities and have the symbol of Cap tied to a political agenda, the government offers the position to Walker, considered a hero after his actions in Washington. Walker is at first reluctant to give up his Super Patriot identity in favour of the symbol he was so eager to usurp, however his love for his country ultimately leads him to accept the offer.
"Ma'm, if Uncle Sam wanted me to be Mickey Mouse, I'd do it."
Walker is forced to let go of two of the BUCkies, Johnson and Lennox, as they fail government background checks. Hoskins is allowed to stay on as Walker's sidekick, eventually taking up the codename Battlestar. After some training, the pair undertake their first successful mission against the Watchdogs militia group.
Despite his earlier disdain for Steve Rogers, John Walker eventually finds himself attempting to match Steve's ethics. This is made difficult due to Walker's lack of emotional control, and relative inexperience with his super strength. After one mission, Walker is left horrified after he accidentally beats Professor Power to death.
Things take a turn for the worse for Walker at a press conference organised to officially introduce him as the new Captain America. Jealous at Walker's success, Lennox and Johnson, now going by Left-Winger and Right-Winger, crash the conference, revealing Walker's full name and birthplace on live television. This leads to the Watchdogs locating and murdering Walker's parents, sending Walker into a near mental breakdown. Worse, Walker is scolded by the Commission for mistakes made in the field, and is unable to attend his parents' funerals due to his responsibilities as Cap.
Walker goes on a rampage, killing as many Watchdogs as he can get his hands on. When he eventually tracks down Left-Winger and Right-Winger, he beats them both to near death and leaves them to die in an explosion.
Giving up the Mantle
Following his rampage, things continue to go downhill for Walker. He is captured by the villain Flag-Smasher, and needs to be rescued by Steve Rogers and Battlestar. Next, he is lured into a trap by the Red Skull, and forced into a fight with Rogers. Walker is defeated and knocked unconscious, but wakes and comes to his senses in time to help Rogers defeat Red Skull.
Walker and Rogers deliver a joint report to the Commission, after which they opt to return the Captain America title to Rogers. Rogers refuses at first, but Walker, having realised that his mental state leaves him unsuitable to continue as Cap, and developed greater respect for how big a burden the mantle really was, urged him to reconsider. At a press conference to announce Rogers' return, the army fakes Walker's assasination so that he can assume a new identity and have the space to get the help he needs.
Walker later re-emerged under the codename U.S Agent, with the character often acting as an anti-hero. And despite their early confrontations, Walker, for the most part, maintains his new respect for Steve Rogers.
So, while things are looking pretty bad for the MCU's John Walker right now, the comics prove that the character is not entirely beyond redemption. We'll just have to wait and see how the final two episodes of Falcon And The Winter Soldier unfold.