WARNING: The following contains spoilers for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Episode 6, “One World, One People,” now streaming on Disney+.
Sharon Carter was forced to go rogue on The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, but she also had a similar experience in the comics. See how she went rogue back then (but how she avoided taking quite as much of a heel turn as she did on the TV series).
Knowledge Waits is a feature where I just share some bit of comic book history that interests me.
THE “DEATH” OF SHARON CARTER
One of the complaints that people often have about the fate of female supporting characters in comics is that so often, since the main superheroes are almost always men, then their love interests are typically women, and so since you can’t kill off the main character, you instead inflict misery upon their love interests, meaning that women get a disproportionate amount of cruel endings in the comics. Gail Simone reflected on it first with her Women in Refrigerators website (referencing Kyle Rayner’s first girlfriend, who was murdered and stuffed into a refrigerator).
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Sharon Carter’s initial departure from Captain America’s comic book had a lot in common with that sort of deal. Sharon, you see, had already pretty much been written out of the series when Jack Kirby took over Captain America and basically wiped out everyone from the book’s supporting cast outside of Cap and Falcon (and Falcon’s longtime girlfriend, Leila Taylor). Kirby’s Cap run was really like it existed in its own little Kirby-verse. There were no interactions with the rest of the Marvel Universe (no Avengers, no Nick Fury, nothing giving off the hint that it was part of a shared universe.)
When Kirby left the book, the incoming writers also didn’t bring Sharon Carter back, so Roger McKenzie presumably had the idea of just writing her out of the book, and, like how these things went back then, that typically meant killing her off. In 1979’s Captain America #231 (by McKenzie, Sal Buscema and Don Perlin), we learn that Sharon attended a neo-Nazi rally as a S.H.I.E.L.D. liaison with the police and somehow was mind-controlled into following the neo-Nazis. In the next issue (by McKenzie, Jim Shooter, Buscema and Perlin), we see Sharon fight against Cap now wearing a fiery swastika armband. In #233 (by McKenzie, Buscema and Perlin), the neo-Nazis all kill themselves by setting themselves on fire. Sharon is with them, but we don’t see if she actually was one of those who killed themselves. It seems likely, but we don’t actually get confirmation until the storyline is over and a CBS news crew shows Cap footage they shot of the scene in Captain America #237, by Chris Claremont, McKenzie, Buscema and Perlin.
That Sharon Carter, Cap’s main love interest in the comics at the time, was killed off off-panel while wearing a swastika was always a bit of a strange decision.
SHARON CARTER IS BACK…AND HER HAIR IS SUPER TEASED
Sharon remained dead for over 200 issues before Mark Waid and Ron Garney took over the title with 1995’s Captain America #445. After a fill-in issue featuring a presumed dead Captain America’s funeral, Waid and Garney (and inker Scott Koblish) had Captain America brought back from certain death by the Red Skull and working with the Red Skull is…a very much alive Sharon Carter?!
Waid cleverly takes advantage of the circumstances of Sharon’s “death” to have Sharon mock Captain America (and through Cap, the readers to a certain extent) for possibly believing that a videotape of her death was enough to prove that she was dead. Instead, Sharon was working undercover and she was then left out to dry.
This is very much the scenario that Sharon found herself in on The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, only the difference is that the Sharon of the Disney+ series seems to have made a total heel turn, while the Sharon in the comics never quite broke all the way bad, but she clearly came pretty darn close, as we see when she gives Cap a recap of what she had been up to during the time that she was believed to be dead…
During her mercenary days, she found herself caught up in Kubekult to see what its deal was, and when she saw what the Red Skull’s plan was — to resurrect Captain America to then force Captain America to defeat the Cosmic Cube, which was ruled by the consciousness of Adolf Hitler. Skull to take control of the Cube for himself — she felt that it made sense to go along with it so that she could stop both the Skull and Hitler and, of course, also help save the life of her old boyfriend.
After both the Skull and Hitler were defeated, Sharon remained a recurring cast member in the Waid/Garney Captain America run. Her time on the run has definitely left her jaded, just like the Sharon of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and she often mocks Cap for his dedication to the American flag, especially when he is branded a traitor and exiled from the United States (Sharon teams up with Cap to then clear his name).
In the final issue of the original Waid/Garney run, Captain America #354 (by Waid, Garney and Koblish), Sharon appears to be willing to share some intelligence she stole from Captain America — a microchip containing all of the information on Cap’s mind — to the ruler of the small Asian nation of Tap-Kawi. Cap shows up and stops the trade, but not because he actually thinks Sharon had betrayed him, but because he thinks she needs his help. We learn that Sharon had spent some time on a Tap-Kawi prison camp after she was burned by S.H.I.E.L.D, and Cap helps free the prisoners and in the end. While Sharon wouldn’t come out from the cold with him, she does give him the chip and she and Cap salute each other as the issue ends.
Sharon, later on, returned to S.H.I.E.L.D. and even became the director temporarily (during one of the times that Nick Fury was thought to be dead), but while she did a lot of rogue things like the Marvel Cinematic Universe Sharon Carter, she never quite broke all the way bad. But at the same time, perhaps there are twists still coming for the MCU Sharon?
If anyone has an idea for an interesting piece of comic book history, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org!
KEEP READING: Why the Falcon’s First Solo Flight Couldn’t Happen in a Captain America Comic
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