Was Thanos Right? It was a joke, then a meme, then shorthand for those who look to play devil’s advocate with villains. And now, thanks to The Flag-Smashers of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, the meme is real — and really dangerous.
Spoilers for Falcon and the Winter Soldier Episode 1 are ahead.
In the first episode, Sam Wilson learns of a new section of people who believe that things were better during the Blip, and true peace can only be found by tearing down borders. This belief isn’t new, and neither is the group’s name: the Flag-Smashers.
Flag-Smasher is a classic comics villain best known for facing off against Captain America in Marvel Comics starting in 1985. In a way, Flag-Smasher is the Man-Bat to Captain America’s Batman. Where the entire mythos surrounding Captain America is focused on nationalism and the symbols we use to represent hope and patriotism, Flag-Smasher’s mission is to erase all semblances of nationalism to create a world with no borders united as one human race.
In terms of evil plans, “world peace” isn’t a terrible one. But the methods used to achieve it — such as “establishing a terrorist organization” and “holding a passenger plane hostage,” to name a couple — aren’t the best.
In Captain America #322, Steve Rogers ends up rescuing Flag Smasher after a conflict, dragging him across the Swiss Alps in an adorable shield saucer sled. It gives him ample time to defend his patriotic brand.
In The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Flag-Smasher grows up from just a single shadowy figure pulling the strings behind a terrorist organization, to being the very organization itself.
In a world where Anonymous and other internet movements can spontaneously form globally, the Flag-Smashers are shadowy figures themselves. In the premiere episode, Sam’s new friend Joaquin participates in a heist flash mob before trying to apprehend the head Flag-Smasher.
But is that the real head Flag-Smasher?
In the comics, the first Flag-Smasher was named Karl Morgenthau. He was the son of a Swiss diplomat who died in a riot at an embassy, which convinced Karl that the entire concept of different countries needed ousting, even if that means creating a little anarchy along the way.
There’s speculation that the young girl from the Superbowl trailer in the same mask we see Joaquin wear may in fact be none other than a gender-swapped Flag-Smasher named Karli, perhaps the daughter of a diplomat who died at the hands of Bucky in order to get him invested in the fight.
In a way, gender-swapping Flag-Smasher makes a lot of sense. After all, this is a villain who was initially created to be the antithesis of Captain America. And what’s the opposite of a patriotic old white man? An anarchist young multiracial girl. Whether she’s just a member of the collective Flag-Smashers or the brains behind it all, her presence will certainly provide some stark contrast to show the void Captain America left in the lives of his friends and his country.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is now streaming on Disney+.