Sure, some of our childhood favorites have fallen into obscurity over the years, but some licenses have been reborn, bigger – and better – than ever. Let’s take a look at who’s on top of the Property Ladder.
For years, the unwritten rule in comics was “No one stays dead except for Bucky, Jason Todd and Uncle Ben.” In 2012, both Bucky and the former Robin star in their own ongoing series, leaving good old Uncle Ben the lone member in Dead is Dead club. Not content with a phenomenal comic resurrection, Bucky will once again leap to the big screen in 2014 as the titular villain in Captain America: Winter Soldier. But just who is the Winter Soldier?
Originally a co-star in the Captain America comics from the 1940’s, James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes was Cap’s kid sidekick (because bright-eyed kids are awesome soldiers). The two starred in the pulps for a few years until Captain America disappeared from the newsstands after World War II. Bucky has since then been retconned to have quite the badass on the field, routinely doing some of the wetwork Captain America couldn’t be seen doing. A few years later, Cap returned to the fledgling Marvel Universe in the pages of The Avengers. Bucky? Not so much.
See, before he got the aforementioned “Bucky was a total badass” retcon, he was retconned to death… Literally. He and Cap’s final mission was to stop an experimental Nazi plane (retconned again later to be Baron Zemo’s). Sadly, Bucky was trapped on the aircraft when it exploded and both he and Cap were presumed dead. Unlike Cap in Avengers, Bucky’s body was never recovered. That was the story for decades until Ed Brubaker took over Captain America in 2005.
In one of his first stories on the title, Brubaker introduced the Winter Soldier, an assassin whose very existence was considered to be a myth by many in the intelligence community. He’d show up on the grid every few years to take out a high profile target and disappear back into the shadows. But how could it be the same man? These hits had been going on for decades. When he came face to face with the killer after an attack on the city of Philadelphia, Captain America recognized the assassin as his dead partner.
After the explosion that left him and Cap on ice, Bucky’s body was discovered by a Russian general the Invaders had dealt with. He wasn’t terribly thrilled with his experience with the costumed heroes, so he did what anyone would do in his situation: he gave him a robotic arm to replace the one that blew up and forcibly reprogrammed the young man to be a mindless soviet killing machine. Department X handled all of the programming and Bucky was kept in cryogenic stasis and only allowed out on missions. Once the target was eliminated, it was back in the tube, thus explaining why he hadn’t aged much when Cap saw him.
Like so many soviet programs, the Winter Soldier was eventually forgotten until the Red Skull bought him at what was essentially a Russian military garage sale. To most, he was just the Winter Soldier (which would make him a bargain to even the most frugal of super villains), but he recognized him as Bucky and figured he’d be the perfect tool in his ongoing war with Captain America. Unfortunately for the Skull, part of his plan also involved a cosmic cube. Once Cap got his hands on it, he was able to use its power to make the Winter Soldier remember who is really was. He still had his memories as the Winter Soldier, too, so that wasn’t the greatest thing for him, but still… He’s not an assassin anymore, so that’s something. He teleported away immediately and fell off the grid, leaving Cap on the hunt.
Bucky found Nick Fury and got himself a new arm and all kinds of knowhow with regards to the Red Skull and his partner Alexander Lukin (they were sharing a brain by this point, thanks again to the Cosmic Cube), but before they could put them away, the superhero Civil War happened and Captain America was assassinated. Don’t worry; he got better. But before he got better, the mantle of Captain America was passed down to his former partner who reluctantly accepted the role. Bucky would be Captain America even after Steve Rogers returned from his super groovy journey through time (I’m not going to lie; I still don’t really understand what happened in Reborn.) all the way up to the months leading into Fear Itself.
After it was made public that new the Captain America is the same guy that blew up Philadelphia (thanks to the Red Skull’s bats—crazy daughter, Sin), Bucky stood trial for his crimes and was eventually cleared of all wrongdoing thanks to the whole mind control thing. Unfortunately, the Russians had already found him guilty of crimes over there, so he was sent off to a Russian gulag. Since he’s awesome, it didn’t stick. He escaped and was rescued by the original Captain America just in time to suit up to fight against the Norse god of fear in Fear Itself. A few pages later, he was killed in a death scene that was as shocking as it was meaningless… Or so we thought.
In one of the Fear Itself epilogue books a scant 3 months after he died (Thor wouldn’t even stay dead for an entire issue of his own book), Bucky was revealed to in fact be alive thanks to Nick Fury. Officially, he’s still a dead man, so he’s once again taken the on the Winter Soldier mantle and now (with help from his super spy girlfriend the Black Widow) he’s trying to right the wrongs of his past life. Most recently, he’s been entangled in a plot involving more sleeper agents like him that were sold on the black market. One in particular has a serious axe to grind. Bucky’s adventures continue monthly in the pages of Winter Soldier written by Ed Brubaker.
For years we thought Bucky would never be back. We certainly never would have imagined that his return would be one of the greatest in the history of the medium. His arc has been phenomenal and the worst thing about his “death” in Fear Itself was that his journey was cut short. Luckily, the powers that be felt the same way and he can continue his path to redemption. The potential for the Captain America sequel is kind of ridiculous. The source material surrounding the Winter Soldier is perfect. If Marvel Studios does this story justice, it will be jaw-dropping. Sebastian Stan brought a lot of weight to his supporting role as Bucky in the original. His turn to the dark side will be heavy for sure.
Filed Under: Property Ladder