John Walker is the new Captain America. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier ended its first episode with a shocking reveal that the U.S. government has decided to instate its own pick to take up the mantle of the country’s most revered hero. But, for many viewers, this person who now wears the armor and carries the shield is a total mystery. He came out of nowhere and seems to be a complete enigma. Which begs the question: who is John Walker and why has he been picked to be the new Captain America?
In the comics, the character of John Walker was actually introduced as a supervillain. His name was Super-Patriot and he was essentially crafted to be a twisted mirror version of everything Cap stood for. Writer Mark Gruenwald has said that he wanted to flip the foundations of Steve Rogers’s upbringing and beliefs in order to create what essentially amounts to an “evil” take on Cap. Where Steve Rogers was a poor city kid from the north, John Walker was a middle-class southern boy. Where Steve Rogers held very lofty and idealistic goals, Walker would be very pragmatic and grounded with his ideals.
Although the character began life as an antagonist to Captain America, John Walker would eventually take on the identity of the hero himself after Steve Rogers decided to quit. However, Walker’s demeanor and methods were often much darker or at least morally grey when compared to the altruistic Steve Rogers. Walker’s Cap was more violent and willing to use lethal methods to carry out his missions. Over time, readers actually came to enjoy this version of the character so much that some didn’t even want Steve Rogers to ever return.
But, superheroes always return to some recognizable status quo and Steve Rogers did reclaim the mantle of Captain America. John Walker would then become branded as U.S. Agent, a more jingoistic and complicated operative for the United States government. Depending on who is writing him at the time, Walker has been portrayed as someone who can be xenophobic, prone to nationalistic zealotry, and willing to do anything if it is in what he believes is the best interests of the country. Basically, he is a perfect agent to be manipulated for the whims of the military powers-that-be of America.
How much of this will end up informing the John Walker we see in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier? Will this new Captain America end up being an outright villain? Or is he simply a malleable soldier who is being controlled by far more malevolent characters? We know that Baron Zemo will be appearing in the series at some point. Does he have some kind of sway over Walker? And will we see Walker make the transition from Captain America to U.S. Agent? He could be set up for any number of upcoming Marvel projects like Secret Invasion or Armor Wars. And with Wyatt Russell playing the character, we know that Marvel has another good actor added to their stable of performers.
Whatever the case may end up being, John Walker is now going to show us a very different take on Captain America. And if the Marvel Cinematic Universe follows the comics, it is likely going to be a fairly dark one.