Rodney Barnes details Blackheart and Falcon’s battle for Chicago!

Masquerading as the mayor of Chicago, the demon called Blackheart has declared The Falcon public enemy number one.

On December 13, writer Rodney Barnes and artist Joshua Cassara present FALCON #3! With Sam Wilson on his heels—and his young partner, Rayshaun Lucas, unable to handle the fight alone—how will the Windy City fare?

We caught up with Rodney to find out more.

Marvel.com: Blackheart’s been knocking around for a little while—do you have a favorite appearance?

Rodney Barnes: His first, in DAREDEVIL #270, which, from my hazy recollection, saw Spider-Man and Daredevil fighting Blackheart. There was something dope about heroes associated primarily with foes of a similar strength-level then fighting a demon. Plus the kid version of me thought the name “Blackheart” sounded cool.

Marvel.com: What made him stand out in your eyes?

Rodney Barnes: His look and size were just brutal. Everything about him screamed evil. He can’t be reasoned with and every appearance he made in a storyline confirmed that.

Marvel.com: So what made him the perfect villain for this storyline?

Rodney Barnes: Returning Sam to the street after his high-profile adventures of late had to have meaning. I wanted him to wrestle with his inner demons, but have it play out in a unpredictable way. Blackheart fit the bill because he stands above Sam’s power level, but not so much so that he doesn’t still have to scheme and manipulate to achieve his goals. That meant at some point he’d have match wits with Sam. And there, our hero has the advantage.

Marvel.com: How does he get under Sam’s skin? Does Sam have what it’ll take to battle such a supernatural powerhouse?

Rodney Barnes: Sam has been wrestling with doubts and regrets from both his past and recent events. Demons exploit those dynamics in people and Blackheart continues in this tradition. I believe Sam is bigger than his regrets, but defeating the son of the devil is no simple task.

Marvel.com: How has working with Joshua Cassara been on this story? What do you see as his greatest strengths?

Rodney Barnes: Josh’s art is incredible! I love his ability to go from the gritty urban environment to space, Hell, and everyplace in between. I’m grateful to have him as a partner in this. Plus he put me in a fight scene in issue #3, so he’s earned free dinners for life!

Marvel.com: Last question…might we see Blackheart’s dad anytime soon?

Rodney Barnes: Yes, you’ll see Dad pretty early on, as well as a few other evil devil baddies. Let’s just say one of them doesn’t like being shown up by Sam. There’ll be hell to pay!

FALCON #3, by Rodney Barnes and artist Joshua Cassara, drops on December 13!

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Writer Rodney Barnes puts Sam Wilson’s protégé to the test!

Rayshaun Lucas has already survived a trial by fire, having flourished, unexpectedly, during the harrowing events of Secret Empire.

How will he fare, however, with a trial by hellfire? In FALCON #2, he might find out.

On November 8, writer Rodney Barnes and artist Joshua Cassara line Falcon and Patriot up against the son of Mephisto, Blackheart.

We spoke to Rodney about the duo’s relationship, their new role in Chicago, and how they’ll handle the demon’s power.

Marvel.com: Describe the relationship between Falcon and Patriot—Sam and Shaun. How do they view one another?

Rodney Barnes: Sam embraces the role of mentor and Shaun has an awareness that he has a long way to go in regards to becoming an Avenger. But there’s a friendship under it all that my run looks to ground. Oftentimes these relationships feel one sided—the heavy telling the underling what to do and the latter doing that without question. That doesn’t describe this relationship.

Shaun isn’t afraid to disagree or speak his mind. That doesn’t mean he’s right [Laughs], but he certainly doesn’t act as the silent student. The principle that glues their relationship is honor. They believe the same things but come from two different places when expressing those beliefs. But in the end they end up side by side.

Marvel.com: How does Shaun feel about being a costumed hero?

Rodney Barnes: Great question. Shaun tends to see the bright lights first. But he’s learning that the concept of being a hero can be bigger than just the task laid before him. As he goes deeper into that idea, he’ll get better at the hero game.

Marvel.com: How does it affect Shaun to face “everyday” criminals in Chicago? People who aren’t super villains or Hydra agents.

Rodney Barnes: His desire to join this fight came from wanting to help the gang situation and stop violence in the street. So he has an emotional connection to the task at hand; were it a daily patrol-type scenario, then yes, Patriot might push back [in frustration]. The parallel to your question in the opposite direction would be, “What happens when I think I’m fighting gangs and a demon pops up?”

Marvel.com: How does Joshua Cassara’s artwork help illuminate Patriot coming to grips with this new life?

Rodney Barnes: Josh extends the boundaries. The seamless transitions between the streets and dark realms ground the believability factor. Shaun’s never dealt with anything like this, so whereas Sam can just dive in, Shaun has to digest the reality before him. Josh brings that reality to life beautifully.

Marvel.com: How does Sam approach the duo’s new demonic enemy?

Rodney Barnes: Sam’s father, having been a religious leader, plays a role. But that said, he’s seen it all: gods, aliens, and monsters.

The biggest vulnerability for Sam will be that Blackheart can play on Sam’s doubts of late—Steve, his role in the riot, his mentorship of Shaun. He’s a demon, so anything will be fair game. That said, Sam doesn’t back down—regardless of what gets put before him.

Marvel.com: How does Blackheart prey on the relationship between Falcon and Patriot?

Rodney Barnes: Well, Sam doesn’t know Blackheart’s role in this from the start. Once he does, it starts to make sense. But Sam’s doubt takes his eye off of Shaun’s training, so there might be moments where the student’s doubts start to fester. But being a hero comes from an intrinsic place, so Shaun will have to find it within himself to stay the course. Which I believe he will.

Shaun’s tougher than he knows. But aren’t we all?

Rodney Barnes and artist Joshua Cassara’s FALCON #2 tests the team-up on November 8!

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Sam Wilson takes flight in his new ongoing series with writer Rodney Barnes!

Sam Wilson’s time as Captain America may be over, but he doesn’t intend to stop protecting the country and the world. After helping end the threat of Hydra dominance in Secret Empire, Sam has decided that he needs to embrace the identity of The Falcon once again.

And on October 11, he returns to the skies with Marvel Legacy in FALCON #1! Written by Rodney Barnes with art by Joshua Cassara, Sam Wilson engages enemies on the global stage and in quiet in Chicago back alleys alike.

Barnes took a few minutes away from writing the new series to tell us about the return of The Falcon.

Marvel.com: What’s it like kicking off the FALCON ongoing series on the back of the character becoming more high profile than ever before?

Rodney Barnes: It’s exciting, anxiety-creating, and an honor all at once! I grew up reading the Falcon when he teamed with Captain America so being a part of his adventures at this point in time ticks off a bucket list endeavor for me.

Marvel.com: How would you describe the essence of Sam Wilson?

Rodney Barnes: He’s a leader and a patriot; those two aspects of him must be omnipresent in any storyline. He’s confident, but realistic in regards to the task at hand.

The work comes in making sure there’s a human being behind the mask and not a “perfect” person. We all have flaws, but super heroes operate from a higher place so finding balance will always be the key.

Marvel.com: What role does Falcon play in the Marvel Universe as this story begins?

Rodney Barnes: This goes back to your first question. He’s at the highest profile of his career. Having been Captain America, leader of the Avengers, and having been front and center during the events of Secret Empire, the whole world has an awareness of him. He’s no longer the sidekick I knew as a kid.

Although he’s viewed as a prime time player by his peers and the public, in his own mind Sam doesn’t want the everyday problems of everyday people to get lost in the shuffle of the higher profile events he’s now associated with.

Marvel.com: Where do we find Sam’s state of mind at the start of this book?

Rodney Barnes: Sam feels a need to reconnect with the issues that moved him to become a super hero in the first place. He wanted to help people, so he’s taking a grassroots approach to doing just that. The new costume acts as a symbol of that desire. It’s a new look—not identifiable with the hats he’s worn as of late. He’s proud of his time as Captain America, but it felt like an act of duty as much as a goal he sought after. He’s most comfortable as The Falcon and reconnecting with his former persona feels like coming home.

Marvel.com: What can you tell readers about his new partner The Patriot?

Rodney Barnes: He’s a fun character. Having written the story where he began his career—SECRET EMPIRE: BRAVE NEW WORLD #2—Patriot captures the mindset of a current day hero. He’s motivated by the same desire to help people as any other super hero, but he sees the world from today’s fast paced, optimistic, millennial mindset. He’s not only learning to be a hero—he’s growing up at the same time. And his points of view are being tested by the trials and tribulations of the heroes’ journey.

Marvel.com: Your opening arc pits Wilson against Blackheart. What made Blackheart an appealing choice for this storyline?

Rodney Barnes: It felt different. I knew I wanted to discuss gangs and issues of race and culture, but I didn’t want to be predictable by telling a one dimensional story. Blackheart acted as the right choice because, while he’s not someone like Mephisto, he’s still more powerful than those trying to stop him.

He’s second tier on the dark magic totem pole, so he fit the role of antagonist I needed for the story I wanted to tell. Blackheart’s presence gives me the opportunity to blend genres—I’m not just telling a story of current social ills. I’m not straying so far from the Marvel Universe that the story becomes medicine.

Marvel.com: How would you describe the tone of the book? And how does artist Joshua Cassara help create that feeling?

Rodney Barnes: The tone feels both grounded and mystical. We’re operating in the hard scrabble streets of the South Side of Chicago. Then again, we’re in hell. So it’s not something I’ve ever seen before.

I can’t say enough about Josh. He’s fantastic! He blends worlds better than I could’ve ever imagined. He’s been the perfect collaborator. I’ve never worked on an ongoing comic before but I can’t think of a better partner in this venture. I had the pleasure of meeting him at San Diego Comic Con and we had a blast talking about all of the visual possibilities of our journey with Falcon. It’s been a highlight of this experience for me. I love the guy.

Marvel.com: Lastly, what would you say directly to fans to persuade them to pick up this title? What makes FALCON a can’t-miss?

Rodney Barnes: This adventure will be one of the most personal in the history of The Falcon. He’ll have to battle a demon set on conquering mankind as well as the demons that have haunted his own psyche. If you’ve ever wanted to see the Falcon tested beyond anything he’s ever faced, this book’s for you!

FALCON #1, by Rodney Barnes and artist Joshua Cassara, takes off on October 11!

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Sam Wilson soars again thanks to Rodney Barnes and Joshua Cassara!

While the events of SECRET EMPIRE have not been kind to Sam Wilson, this Fall the hero will return to his roots as he leaves behind the shield and returns to his original moniker, the Falcon!

Rodney Barnes, the award-winning television writer who has worked on “The Boondocks,” “Everybody Hates Chris” and “Those Who Can’t,” will team with Joshua Cassara (SECRET EMPIRE: UPRISING) to bring the former Captain America back down to street level – and take him to places he hasn’t seen before.

We caught up with Barnes and Cassara to find out what they have in store for the high-flying Avenger!

Marvel.com: Rodney, this is your first regular series for Marvel, but I understand you’ve been a fan for a while. What are some of your first memories of discovering the Marvel Universe? What are some of your favorite storylines?

Rodney Barnes: My mother was an elementary school teacher when I was a kid. She’d do her lesson plans at the public library in Annapolis, Maryland, and I’d go with her. I must’ve been eight or nine at the time, and I recall this area where they’d keep comic books. I clearly remember reaching in this huge box and pulling out the Neal Adams issues of the AVENGERS. I was hooked. I loved the Jim Starlin’s WARLOCK and CAPTAIN MARVEL books (early Thanos was great!). Marshall Rodgers’ DOCTOR STRANGE, Miller’s run on DAREDEVIL, Claremont/Byrne/Cockrum’s X-MEN, Barry Windsor-Smith’s “Red Nails” stories in CONAN … [laughs] I could go on forever. 

Marvel.com: How did you end up working for Marvel?

Rodney Barnes: I was working on season two of “Vinyl” for HBO when midpoint we were cancelled, and I needed a gig. My agent told me about a Marvel series that was looking for a writer at my level. I had two shows and a movie in development at the time, but I’d wanted to work for the company so badly that I took the interview and fell in love with the show’s creators. So, I sort of abandoned my development and went on to have one of the best creative experiences to date. The entire experience from top to bottom was incredible; great, talented folks that loved working in the Marvel universe. Once I was hired, I made it known that I was interested in writing comics and the universe came together and here we are.

Marvel.com: Joshua, how did you end up working on the Falcon?

Joshua Cassara: I had been working some SECRET EMPIRE stuff when my editor Tom [Brevoort] had approached me with this.  Of course under super-duper, double secrecy, he filled me in on the project and that I’d be pairing up with Rodney on FALCON.  That’s when I was introduced to our editor, Charles Beacham, who is helming this ship.   

Marvel.com: What was the draw for the two of you to work on the new FALCON series?

Rodney Barnes: Reading the Captain America stories where Falcon was his sidekick and enjoyed them. But since it was Cap’s book, Sam typically acquiesced to him. So even as a kid, I hoped that if I ever got the opportunity to write a story for him, I’d venture into uncharted waters.

Joshua Cassara: It’s exciting to a part of launching the solo Falcon book.  He definitely deserves his own series, especially following the events of SECRET EMPIRE and his run as CAPTAIN AMERICA. It’s been a long time coming.

Also, I was really happy to be partnered up with Rodney on this adventure. His take on where Sam is now and where he’s going is something totally new for Falcon, and will be awesome for me to create visually.  

Marvel.com: Sam’s been through hell recently; taking over the mantle of Captain America didn’t work out so well for him, given the guy who handed him the shield, his best friend, turned out to be a sleeper agent. What’s his state of mind as the series begins?

Rodney Barnes: Uncertain. He blames himself for not seeing sooner Cap’s true self. This has sent him on a journey of self exploration. It’s my hope that when he comes out on the other side he’s stronger and more focused.  

Marvel.com: During Secret Empire Sam seemed to give up his costumed identity. Rodney, can you talk about why he returns to being a costumed hero?

Rodney Barnes: The symbolism. After Hydra, the world has been thrown into a meat grinder. History was rewritten and the symbols we held dear were replaced with Hydra propaganda. Sam wants to reestablish the importance of hope via symbolism. His costume is a step in that direction. 

Marvel.com: You introduced the new Patriot in SECRET EMPIRE: BRAVE NEW WORLD. What role will he play in the new series?

Rodney Barnes: Rayshaun helps to balance Sam’s perspective. He’s pretty hard on himself at this point and Shaun helps him get out of his feelings. 

Marvel.com: What villains can we expect to see plaguing Falcon and Patriot? 

Rodney Barnes: The first arc they’re battling Blackheart. If they make it past him I think it’s safe to say that the demons father won’t be too happy about that. Then literally — excuse the pun because I can’t help myself — they’ll have hell to pay! Sorry [laughs].

Marvel.com: Joshua, what have been your favorite moments to draw so far in FALCON? Has there been anything so far that Rodney has challenged you to do that’s been especially fun?

Joshua Cassara: I’m early on in this series, setting up our hero’s return to the street level.  So portraying the chaos and grit of a city that’s mired in turmoil is always a blast. That sounds terrible, doesn’t it? 

But the real fun and challenge I’m looking forward to is the turn towards the mystical elements that we’re heading towards. It’s something I’ve never really explored before art-wise, and I only wish I could draw faster so I can get there as quick as possible! 

Marvel.com: When you’re drawing something street-level, what kind of research do you do for the comic, to ensure you capture the setting?

Joshua Cassara: Well, obviously, the internet is your biggest friend in searching for reference images of all kinds. Especially searching for things that might be unique to Chicago since this is where our story takes place. But I will also incorporate personal experience I’ve had or witnessed in other big cities. Or even some settings or portrayals I’ve seen in a movie.  It’s an amalgam of them all and I make it my own.  

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