The Winter Soldier Explained is an article targeted at fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (“MCU”) who were introduced to the character in the movies (and the streaming TV series) and would like to know a little more about the Winter Soldier’s origins.
Like most MCU characters, the Winter Soldier was introduced in a Marvel comic book. In this instance, a 2004 relaunch of the Captain America title. Those familiar with the movies will be aware that the Winter Soldier is really Bucky Barnes, Captain America’s best friend and colleague. In the comics, Bucky was first seen in Captain America #1 (cover dated March 1941), and presented as Captain America’s teen sidekick. Sidekicks were of course, a popular superhero trope back in the 1940s.
As the popularity of superheroes waned in the post-war years, Captain America and Bucky would also sporadically appear in the 1950s. However, in the early 1960s, the fate of Cap and Bucky would be retconned and this retroactive continuity provided the storylines that were adapted in the Captain America movies in the MCU.
In The Avengers #4, it was revealed that Captain America and Bucky both went missing at the end of World War II. The frozen body of Captain America was found and subsequently revived by the Avengers, whereas it was commonly accepted that Bucky had died in the same incident that ended with Captain American going into the ice.
In 2004, writer Ed Brubaker (with artist Steve Epting) reintroduced Bucky to the Marvel Universe as the Winter Soldier. A brain-washed Soviet assassin who had been put into cold storage (literally) when the USSR collapsed, to be re-activated by a Russian oligarch into direct conflict with Captain America in a sensational 12-issue storyline that revitalised the Captain America franchise.
This 12-issue run is an easy and entertaining read and also guest-stars Nick Fury, Sharon Carter, Iron Man and the Falcon. The storyline certainly stands out for its tight pacing and strong characterisations. One of the best Marvel Comics storylines of the last 20 years for sure.
The Captain America : The Winter Soldier movie based its premise on the work of Brubaker and Epting with specific changes fashioned to dovetail into the MCU narrative setup with HYDRA etc. Fundamentally, though the inner turmoil that Captain America had to endure in this storyline remains the same.
Superhero comics are chock full of the resurrection trope but the return of Bucky as the Winter Soldier was probably one of the most original and intriguing in comic book history. Hopefully, the Winter Soldier Explained will inspire you to examine the character more in the comic books, while you are enjoying The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Disney+ streaming TV series.
Images from Marvel Unlimited.
… still there’s more …