The Marvel Comics History of U.S. Agent

One of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier‘s additions to the MCU is John Walker, the newly minted Captain America II. Played by Wyatt Russell, Walker has a long history in the pages of Marvel Comics. Created by the late, great Captain America writer Mark Gruenwald, Walker evokes the dark side of American nationalism. But either in spite (or because) of this, the character became quite popular. First as the replacement Cap, and then later as the U.S. Agent.

U.S. Agent, Marvel's replacement for Captain America.

Marvel Comics

In the mid 1980s, series writer Gruenwald realized that Cap’s comics needed a shot in the arm to boost sales. John Walker was more in line with the Reagan-era America exemplified in movies like Rambo, Red Dawn, and Top Gun. Suddenly, a more militant Cap was shooting machine guns on the cover and beating bad guys nearly to death. And sales went up. Here’s the comic book history of John Walker, who is truly more of an anti-hero than a hero.

Super Patriot: A Corporate Hero for a Corporate America
When John Walker first appears, he goes by the name Super Patriot.

Marvel Comics

Back in the ‘80s, Marvel Comics attempted to revitalize a lot of their classic heroes by replacing them with new characters assuming their names. James Rhodes replaced Tony Stark as Iron Man for two years; later, Eric Masterson became the new Thor. The character most in need of an update at the time was Cap, as his sales simply did not come near X-Men or Spidey levels. Enter John Walker, who would wind up becoming the all-new Cap for the Generation X. He entered the story in Captain America #323 in 1986.

Steve Rogers looking sullen as Captain America after quitting.

Marvel Comics

The character of John Walker was originally introduced as an adversary for Cap, going by the name “Super Patriot.” The backstory for Walker had him growing up in a conservative military family in Custer’s Grove, Georgia. His older brother died in Vietnam, and he sought to emulate what he perceived of as his brother’s heroism. So he enlisted as a Marine. But due to his joining during peacetime, he never got to accomplish wartime glory, leaving him a frustrated and angry young man.

Cap’s Darker Reflection
John Walker, trying on the Captain America uniform for the first time.

Marvel Comics

Walker received an honorable discharge from the military. Soon after, a friend convinced him to make contact with a mysterious “ Power Broker” who could give people super powers (for a price). Walker now had an approximation of Captain America’s powers. Super strength, agility, durability, the works. He initially attempted a professional wrestling career; ultimately, he became the corporately sponsored hero the Super Patriot. He would travel from town to town across the country to promote “American values,” and hold rallies.

Things came to a head when Super Patriot staged a fight at a rally, which could have resulted in civilian injuries. Steve Rogers confronted Walker about his recklessness, and Walker called Cap’s ways old and outdated. He believed that his more extreme methods reflected the America of the day, and that Rogers should retire and just let the Super Patriot take over. The two had a fight resulting in a stalemate, leaving Steve Rogers shaken.

A Captain America for the Reagan ’80s
The two Captain Americas come to an understanding of sorts.

Marvel Comics

For a variety of reasons, not the least of which being Steve Rogers not wanting to be an employee of the Federal Government, Rogers quit as Captain America. He soon took on a new red, white, and black costume and called himself “the Captain.” With a vacancy to fill, the government’s Commission on Superhuman Activities tapped Walker as the new Captain America. He’s even trained by the likes of Taskmaster. Although they considered Falcon, the CSA determined that America was “not ready” for a Black Captain America.

Steve Rogers takes the Captain America mantle back from Walker in issue 350 of his series.

Marvel Comics

After many disturbing incidents of excessive force, John Walker was deemed morally and mentally unfit for the role of Captain America. This was most notable after he beat a villain to death. When his family was murdered by the terrorist group the Watchdogs, Walker slaughtered them in retaliation. After a year and a half as Cap, Steve Rogers returned and took the mantle back from him. But this was not the end for Walker.

The Birth of the U.S. Agent
U.S. Agent joins the West Coast Avengers, against their will.

Marvel Comics

Even though Walker loses his Captain  title, he still continues to work for the U.S. Government. After they fake his death and change his appearance that is. He receives a new posting on the West Coast Avengers team, under the codename of U.S. Agent. Ironically, he now uses the red, white and black costume Steve Rogers wore when he was going by “the Captain.” Walker receives the task of watching over the Vision, whom the government does not trust. It is during his time as an Avenger that his mental instability is most apparent. He begins to act as if his family is still alive.

The Comics History of U.S. Agent, the Second Captain America_1

Marvel Comics

U.S. Agent butted heads with almost every member of the Avengers, especially Hawkeye. The breaking point came when he nearly killed fellow teammate Spider-Woman. After this he finally confronted his history of violence and attempted to become a better man. Although never fully trusted (or liked) by his fellow Avengers, he continued to serve with them throughout the years.

U.S. Agent as he appears in the modern Marvel Universe.

Marvel Comics

In fact, U.S. Agent has served on a half dozen Marvel teams since he first appeared, including Force Works, Omega Flight, the Secret Defenders, the Dark Avengers, the New Invaders, and most recently, a second iteration of Force Works. He even tried to claim the Captain America title again once, but Steve Rogers reminded him that he owned the copyright now. Tough luck, Walker.

Will the MCU’s John Walker reflect the history of the comics version? Certainly, a lot of the politics that informed the character back in the ’80s remain extremely timely today. It is yet to be seen, but we think the comics incarnation of the U.S. Agent is likely to inform his live-action counterpart in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier to a significant degree. Time will tell.

Featured Image: Marvel Comics

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