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Leila Taylor (Marvel Comics) (Falcon character) with armband

Leila Taylor


“I’m sorry, T’Challa — this fox isn’t known for her tact !”
– Falcon.

Context

Ms. Taylor is a minor, nigh-obscure Captain America support character.

She first appeared in 1971, and soon became the Falcon (Sam Wilson)’s girlfriend.

Does anybody care about her ? Well, there’s writeups.org. Writeups.org always cares.

We seldom cover supporting cast, since their RPG stats are usually pointless. But writer Christopher Priest later had her move into the reckless-investigative-reporter-who-exposes-the-mcguffin niche.


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Background

  • Real Name: Leila Taylor.
  • Former Aliases: Sister Sweet.
  • Marital Status: Single.
  • Known Relatives: None, but she mentioned that she came from a large family.
  • Group Affiliation: Unspecified.
  • Base of Operations: 110th Street, Harlem, New York City.
  • Height: 5’5″ (5’9″ or so with the afro). Weight: 130 lbs.
  • Eyes: Brown Hair: Black.


Powers & Abilities

Leila’s primary asset is a set of brass ones. She afraids of little, thrives on conflict, and will get in anybody’s face without any hesitation. Her natural level of aggression is pretty dang high.

She also has street connections. Nothing major, but she knows the players and, as they said back then, hears it through the grapevine.

And she knows a surprising range of people — some good, some bad — who had ties with 1970s Black Power movements.

During the 1990s and 2000s she acquired investigative journalism skills. Their extent is unclear, as we don’t see her working.


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A ten-point agenda

Ms. Taylor’s main angle during her 1970s appearance was as a Black Power militant. These movements had acquired momentum since the end of WW2, though the assassination of Malcom X in 1965 was a setback.

Leila’s militancy isn’t super-detailed. It would have been difficult back then. Stan Lee would soon phase out the “Black Panther” name for T’Challa for a bit. And when the Captain America storylines denounced President Nixon a few years later, it had to be (slightly) veiled.

Historically, we can imagine that Ms. Taylor was with the Black Panther Party (BPP) . Mostly because it is the most recognizable name.

There were a number of similar organizing parties back then. The first that comes to mind are the Young Lords . But originally these were closer to the Puerto Rican community.

Activities

Her activities likely were typical BPP fare of the day. Most of the work was to organise against the effects of poverty, segregation, racism, police brutality, and the military draft.

And, of course, vicious infighting (both internecine and against other Black Power movements). Because it was a Left-wing party.

Parts of the activities (which I’ll oversimplify as the Huey Newton side of the BPP) were about education, poverty relief (such as free breakfasts for kids) and other community services.

The Eldridge Cleaver side was more about armed resistance against the police. This led to deadly shootouts, particularly after the assassination of Martin Luther King.

Splinter faction

This led to several terrorist factions splintering off the BPP, usually with the goal of murdering police officers.

In 1971, Ms. Taylor was seen with the People’s Militia. This is a fictional equivalent of BPP militants gone terrorist. The PM armband features a Black Power raised fist, but red.

(The actual Black Panther Party armband instead featured, well, a black panther. Amazing, I know.)


Soundtrack

I’m going to aim for 1973 rather than 1971. In part because I misremembered this album as being from 1972 (oops).

Innervisions is one of the greatest albums of the late XXth Century. It was part of Stevie Wonder’s peak era.

It’s also the point where he became far more political. Especially with the (higher) groundbreaking Living for the city.

Let’s have a live version for all the 1970s clothes and hairdos ! Also, it’s a really good performance.

Available for download on Amazon .


History

In 1971, the Falcon (Sam Wilson) was doing social work in Harlem. His office was at best dingy. There was a cat, though.

But he was good with finding jobs for the unemployed, remotivating young students, etc.. The “Newton” approach above.

Leila Taylor — more of a “Cleaver” person — visited him. She was interested in Wilson’s obvious brawn. She presumably sought to recruit him for a militia.

But Sam was instead smitten with her. Leila left out of annoyance.

She also clashed with Reverend Garcia, another Harlem community organiser. Garcia sought to improve relations with the NYPD, which Taylor entirely rejected.

Bird of prey, flying high

Ms. Taylor had second thoughts, and visited Mr. Wilson again. They ended up dating. However, Leila didn’t seem quite sure whether she was dating Sam because of their strong chemistry, or to win him over to her side.

She then took him to a clandestine People’s Militia rally.

The masked Militia leaders were planning riots and arsons. Wilson rushed the stage to address the crowd, and was nearly killed. Taylor saved his life by convincing the mob that she could convert him to The Cause™.

The Falcon and Captain America (Steve Rogers) soon exposed the masked People Militia’s leaders as Nazis, led by the Red Skull (Johann Shmidt).

Horrified, Leila and other militants rushed to the site of the brewing riot. They convinced everyone to stand down.

Radical roots

Though their politics remained incompatible, Wilson and Taylor were still strongly attracted toward each other.

Leila Taylor (Marvel Comics) (Falcon character) amidst a riot

They continued to date, though Leila was sliding back into seduce-him-for-the-cause mode.

Sam eventually agreed that he needed a clearer political stance. He put his partnership with Cap on hold for some months, changed his costume, and reengaged with Harlemites as a community defender.

But though he felt better, that didn’t help with Leila. Since Sam’s identity as the Falcon was a secret.

Taylor drifted away to date another radical, Rafe Michel.

Caught in a bird romance

Wilson started running into Taylor as the Falcon. At first she wasn’t entirely convinced by his new stance. But she came to find him dashing.

Leila was also part of a group of Harlemites who defended the captured Falcon by rushing Captain America (Steve Rogers/William Burnside) and Bucky (Jack Monroe).

This, of course, resulted in the traditional Silver Age  super-hero romance problem. Leila liked the flashier, fightier Falcon as he demonstrated what the more milquetoast Sam Wilson lacked.

Birds and chicks

As she tried to get closer to the Falcon, Leila was captured by the Cowled Commander (Roger Muldoon), along with Sharon Carter. But the pair was soon freed by Cap and the Falcon.

The Falcon, feeling lonely and in a funk, proposed a date to Leila. Taylor immediately ditched Michel to be with him. Though Wilson felt bad about that, he needed to talk with Taylor about his current misadventures.

This resulted in an attack by Michel and his tough Silver Skull gangsters. Mr. Wilson overcame them, though he would have been backstabbed by Michel had Taylor not warned him.

Leila was angry to see Falcon associate with Cap again. But Sam told her to put a sock on it or he’d walk. She realised she liked him enough to accept that, and they continued to date.

Yet, tension remained on the subject.

The proportional might of a falcon

Falc’s renewed focus on defending Harlem harmed the interests of underworld leader Boss Morgan. Morgan threatened to kill the Falcon and Leila if he didn’t start working for his mob. But neither considered folding.

And though Leila wasn’t pushing the point anymore, Sam still felt uncomfortable with being seen as Steve’s sidekick.

One solution was to make the Falcon more powerful. Sam and Steve (not to be confused with Sam & Dave ) convinced the Black Panther (T’Challa) to study the matter.

Afrofuturism

This also meant a free vacation for two in Wakanda, to Leila’s delight. However, having spent her whole life in Harlem, she had trouble adjusting.

Leila Taylor (Marvel Comics) (Falcon character) earliest appearance

(The early versions of Wakanda in the comics were almost entirely hidden in the jungle, showing little sign of urbanisation or infrastructure. It was a “secret country”, so to speak.)

To keep her out of his hair, the Panther assigned two aides to fly her to Nigeria and give her a tour of Lagos.

(For years, Marvel was confused as to where Wakanda was. That Lagos wasn’t too far was part of the clues that some writers thought that it was in Western Africa. Perhaps replacing a Western chunk of Niger.)

Oil money flow for Lagos then

The sprawling city was more to her liking. But Ms. Taylor ran into Stoneface, a Harlem criminal who had fled to Nigeria.

His men gunned down the Wakanda aides. Then kidnapped the beautiful Leila, whom Stoneface saw as a “real Harlem girl”.

Wakandan intelligence promptly located Stoneface. The Falcon (now equipped with wings) and the Panther defeated him. Which may have been a mercy after hours of Leila telling Stoneface where he could shove his advances and threats.

The Falcon having his new Wakandan gear, he and his lover returned to New York City.

Having the power of flight did raise the Falcon’s profile. That eased Leila’s concerns about the Falcon seeming less powerful than equivalent White heroes.

The sound of his wings

In 1975, the Falcon badly lost a fight against the Red Skull. The Skull also murdered Captain America (Roscoe). As he recovered from his wounds, Sam told Leila that he was the Falcon.

However, some months later, Sam went through a major shock. His “Snap” Wilson past and personality accidentally resurfaced. Co-Director Cochren of S.H.I.E.L.D. made the situation worse by keeping Leila in the dark.

However, Nick Fury eventually barged in, ordered Cochren to apologise to Taylor, and had S.H.I.E.L.D. lawyers back Wilson. When Sam was judged for his crimes as “Snap”, this allowed the Falcon to go free on parole, under S.H.I.E.L.D. supervision.

Though that was less than ideal from Taylor’s PoV, it also meant that Wilson was now earning a S.H.I.E.L.D. pay. This allowed the couple to move to a nicer apartment and buy some welcome creature comforts.

As a result, Leila pivoted toward a more domestic lifestyle.

Mad world

In 1976, Leila Taylor was kidnapped by the Night People of Zero Street, to lure the Falcon in. Sam Wilson rushed to her rescue, but he also was captured.

They were both thoroughly brainwashed into joining the Night People, as “Sister Sweet” and “Brother Superhero”.

Captain America (Steve Rogers) and Texas Jack (Jack Muldoon) then came in. The Night People, starting with their two newest members, were evacuated to Earth

The Falcon’s brainwashing was accidentally undone during a fight with Agron. S.H.I.E.L.D. psychiatrists then cured Leila of the Night People’s shock treatment.

Wilson for Congress

In 1982, Leila provided emotional support to Sam’s sister Sarah Casper, whose son Jim had been gravely wounded.

This incident spurred Sam into running for Congress. However, the press dredged up his “Snap” Wilson past as a hatchet job.

This caused considerable distress for Sam, Sarah and Leila. The stress threatened to have Sam revert to being “Snap”, though he eventually beat that.

Sarah also reluctantly told Leila about Sam’s past traumas and the death of their parents.

#BlackGirlMagic

Leila and Sam parted in unrevealed circumstances, perhaps during the late 1980s. But they remained on good terms.

Ms. Taylor returned to community activism. She also developed ties with Joseph “Robbie” Robertson of the Daily Bugle as a freelance reporter.

Over the years, wildcat journalism took an increasing share of her time. One imagines that she also took j-school classes. Perhaps a JRN major at Stony Brook U  ?

She still lived in Harlem, and moved in with one Norman.

Cuba, quiero bailar la salsa

In 2004, Leila was in Cuba. She was investigating the Rivas cartel’s labs there.

This Columbian mob had strong ties with both U.S. intelligence and the Castro regime. They also were behind a significant part of the drugs sold in Harlem.

Leila had connections with Black mobsters in Miami – who also used to know Sam back during his “Snap” days. They, in turn, had Cuban connections who’d help her investigate.

She also knew a doctor in Miami, who used to run a free clinic in Harlem.

However, the information she was investigating had been purposefully leaked by S.H.I.E.L.D.. They were attempting to force into the open a rogue Naval Intelligence asset, the “Anti-Cap”. This man was a superhuman operative wearing a Captain America costume.

Cloak and dagger

Breaking into a Rivas building, Leila found what seemed to be U.S. Naval Intelligence research facilities. And something that seemed to be a weaponised virus. She tried to smuggle it back to the US.

However, she was intercepted by the Coast Guard. Ms. Taylor was then sent directly to the Guantánamo Bay prison camp. She was now an “enemy combatant” without a legal status, rights or representation.

Both the Falcon and Captain America (Steve Rogers) had been briefed about the “Anti-Cap” op by S.H.I.E.L.D.. But neither expected Leila to be the one working the leaked info all the way back to Cuba. Sam learned of this when Joe Robertson called him.

Improvising, Sam raided Guantánamo Bay, snatching Leila and flying her out. The “Anti-Cap” intercepted them, but the exes teamed up to narrowly escape.

From there they narrowly made it to their Miami underworld contacts, and exfiltrated.

Threats

However, Naval Intelligence now had second thoughts about the partnership with S.H.I.E.L.D.. They wanted to recover both the “Anti-Cap” and what Leila had stolen from their labs. Cap and the Falcon refused to go along, triggering a crisis.

This meant that Ms. Taylor was again under threat, from both Naval Intelligence and the Rivas cartel. Mr. Wilson thus visited her to get her under protection.

However, the Scarlet Witch (Wanda Maximoff)’s magic had been subtly harming the Avengers.

In Sam’s case, it had been increasingly reverting him to his “Snap” personality. He thus manhandled and humiliated Norman, and scared Leila.

From there on

Leila Taylor hasn’t been seen since. She’s presumably still working as a Harlem community organiser and freelance investigative journalist.


Description

Ms. Taylor was 23 during the early 1970s. She was but a few years older during the 2000s — see our article on ageing in comics.

She usually sported an afro, large golden hoop earrings, and tight 1970s street clothes. She didn’t seem to favour any particular colours beyond lighter tones.

Other aspects

She usually talked in 1970s jive, with an obvious Black New Yorker accent. Well, the vintage whitebread Marvel Comics attempt at rendering such (“Sweet Christmas !”). But it gets the general idea across.

Her attractiveness is oft-commented upon. She’s starlet-like.

During the early 1970s she was carefully growing her ‘fro. By 1974, she had hit the halfway point on the Angela Davis  Afro Scale. Then she kept it at or under that volume.

During the 2000s her hair had been straightened. She wore it in a short curly bob.


Personality

Ms. Taylor is brash, abrasive, angry and confrontational. She has the proportional diplomatic ability of a tonne of pig iron scrap.

Her tooth-and-nails fight for African-American dignity is her whole life. She can take a break from time to time to recharge, but she’ll soon want back in.

She despises the NYPD, especially White officers. And will make that damn clear if she has to interact with one. Collaborating with The Man™ in any capacity is entirely off the menu, and said refusal will likely involve prejudiced insults.

Other traits

Leila finds physical action, such as witnessing a street fight, exciting. Big hard muscular men who are expert fighters turn her on.

She loved having Sam take over the rooftop express  using his grapple line. And she always wanted to accompany him to see him fight.

She’s a big city girl. If she’s away from bustling streets and stuff happening for more than a few hours, she’ll get terribly bored. And thus even more of a pain in the arse.

Leila *hates* being ignored. She spent her entire childhood feeling overlooked among her brothers and sisters. Any situation evolking that feeling makes her angry.

She gotta have it

By the second half of the 1970s, Leila decides to take a long break from hardcore militancy and focus on her life with Sam.

She presumably still was politically active in Harlem. But she knew that their relationship was a once-in-a-lifetime shot at happiness and self-care.

During this time, she greatly cooled down. She also enjoyed experiences she’d never been able to afford before. Good food was pretty high on that list, and she started teaching herself to cook.

On the other hand, the worry that the Falcon would get wounded or killed during his adventures was getting to her. She and Sharon Carter supported each other, but this shared anxiety was hard on their nerves.

2000s

By the 2000s, Leila seems to have found a better balance in her life as she matures. But we don’t see that much of her.

Metaleila

During the bulk of her 1970s material, Leila Taylor’s role is half supporting cast, half meta-fictional.

She’s a signal that Captain America writers heard the concerns about :

  1. One of their main Black heroes looking like the sidekick of a White dude. Leila also serves to spur storylines establishing Falcon as a partner, not a sidekick.
  2. One of their main Black heroes not being distinctive/impressive enough in terms of looks and powers. And thus being overshadowed.
  3. One of their main Black heroes being out of touch with real-world political evolutions. And being too easily denounced as an Uncle Tom by those wishing to see a more independent super-hero.

Quotes

“I’m gettin’ tired of watchin’ the dust settle ! Where’s the rustling, hustling, bustling ? The *action* ?”


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

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Leila Taylor

Dex: 02 Str: 02 Bod: 02 Motivation: Seeking Justice
Int: 03 Wil: 03 Min: 04 Occupation: Organiser /Journalist
Inf: 03 Aur: 03 Spi: 04 Wealth: 003
Init: 008 HP: 005

Skills:
Artist (Writer): 03, Detective (Legwork): 04

Advantages:
None demonstrated.

Connections:
Street (Low), Falcon (Low), Joe Robertson (High).

Drawbacks:
MIA toward being loud-mouthed and high-strung.


Design Notes

Leila has had contacts with both Peggy and Sharon Carter. It’s not a formal Connection, but they went along well and they’d recognise each other.

She also knew that Steve Rogers was Captain America, and that among S.H.I.E.L.D. Nick Fury and Gabe Jones could be more or less trusted.

Skills are arbitrary since we never see her working.

Leila’s fearlessness is an attitude. When things become genuinely dangerous she’ll run on adrenaline, but past that she can’t do that much and she knows it. Thus, no Iron Nerves.

Still, her MIN has been highballed by one, to match her 2000s performance.

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: Marvel Comics.

Writeup completed on the 1st of February, 2020.

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