Captain America (Steve Rogers) plays many roles in the Marvel Universe. His combat skills, cunning military mind and indestructible shield make him a one man army. His leadership skills and ability to inspire others have also made him an invaluable asset to groups like the Avengers and the Invaders. Those same traits also make him a great friend and perfect person to have watching your back as part of a crime-fighting duo.
Over the years Cap has had several partners like the Falcon and Nomad, but his most famous partner has to be his original World War II-era compatriot, teenager James “Bucky” Barnes. At the end of World War II, Cap and Bucky were separated in an explosion that sent the Sentinel of Liberty into suspended animation and Bucky into the hands of a secret arm of the Soviet Union’s intelligence service who transformed him into a mind-controlled assassin known as the Winter Soldier.
Captain America was later revived by the Avengers and several years ago came face to face with his former partner, now in his Winter Soldier guise, and was able to free Bucky from his Soviet masters. The grown up Bucky was later able to repay the favor by taking over the Captain America identity when the world believed Steve Rogers dead. Bucky continued to serve as Cap after Steve was discovered to be alive. Recently though, Bucky received what appeared to be a mortal injury while fighting in Marvel’s “Fear Itself” event. His ultimate fate is currently unknown, but this July Marvel Comics launches “Captain America & Bucky” as an ongoing series by writers Ed Brubaker and Marc Andreyko and artist Chris Samnee. CBR News spoke with Andreyko about the series, which keeps the numbering of the last volume of “Captain America” and begins with issue #620.
CBR News: Marc, let’s begin with the question on the minds of Bucky fans everywhere. In “Fear Itself” #3, by writer Matt Fraction and artist Stuart Immonen, Bucky was gravely injured, and in our latest installment of CBR’s “Talk to the Hat” column Marvel SVP of Publishing Tom Brevoort discussed Bucky’s death with us. So without spoiling anything, are you able to comment on what Bucky’s apparent death means for “Captain America & Bucky?”
Well. It sure looks like he’s dead, doesn’t it? [Smiles] Next question?
Let’s move on to something you can perhaps talk a little more about then, and that’s the character of Bucky and his background. We understand this first arc explores quite a bit of Bucky’s past, correct?
Yes. Basically this first arc is a five-issue story filling in gaps in Bucky’s history that we haven’t seen before; from his early days up to his Winter Soldier days. So we’re not doing things like Baron Zemo and the plane blowing up. We’re doing interesting stuff that hasn’t been touched upon or seen before that has shaped Bucky into the guy he is today.
Thematically it’s about confronting one’s past and seeing how all the events, good, bad and indifferent, shape you into who you are and owning up to every event that has made you into the person you are today. It’s about taking stock of your life thus far and realizing how it has shaped you as a person.
What’s it been like writing Bucky? What do you find most interesting about him?
I think the way Ed brought him back totally made him one of the most fascinating characters of the Marvel Universe. I remember when I was talking to Ed back when he was first starting to do “Captain America” and he said he was going to bring Bucky back. I said, “You’re going to end your career. That’s a huge mistake.” The joke is on me, though, because I can’t imagine Bucky not being alive now. Ed brought him back in such a masterful way that it didn’t feel like a cheap stunt. It had been planned, but it felt very organic.
The whole idea of Bucky when he was the Winter Soldier having an awareness of what he was doing, but no control over his actions is very fascinating to me. So the idea of him having a career now based on a lot of atonement is an interesting one and it’s an interesting motivation.
Since the title of the series is “Captain America & Bucky,” we imagine some of the focus of the series will be on Cap himself. How much of a role does he play in the initial arc?
This is definitely a book about how Bucky’s relationship with Cap shaped him into who he is today. It’s definitely that, but this first arc is focusing more from Bucky’s point of view.
How many years does the initial story span?
It starts with the death of Bucky’s father when he was a little boy at Camp Lehigh and spans all the way through the Winter Soldier years. So depending on what timeline we’re talking about, it’s the ’30s through today.
In the portions of the story that take place during World War II will you focus on Bucky’s already established relationships with allies including Cap and the Invaders and enemies like the Red Skull, or can we expect some new characters to debut?
There are not a whole lot of new characters introduced in those segments because I think the past history is so rich that trying to shoehorn some new characters in would feel a bit awkward. There’s so much material there that’s there really no reason to gild the lily. The Invaders definitely make an appearance, and there’s some front line stuff that has not been explored yet in the history of Cap and Bucky.
What about the Cold War portions with the Winter Soldier? During his “Captain America” run Ed Brubaker has given us hints and glimpses of some of Bucky’s actions and relationships as the Winter Soldier. Will that be expanded upon or will we see all new scenes and new characters?
The stuff you’ll see in our Winter Soldier issues has not been seen yet.
Much of Bucky’s past is related to real world events like World War II and the Cold War. Will real world history and historical figures be part of this storyline and the series moving forward?
We’ve talked about it to a degree, but we certainly wouldn’t want to cheapen real world history by having super heroes show up at things like the Nuremberg Trials. You definitely want to address those issues in a way that works within the confines of a universe where super heroes exist and doesn’t cheapen the sacrifices that people really made.
So it’s a fine line. It’s a challenge, and it’s a challenge I enjoy because I think for some people seeing the events of history that we deal with in comic book form might make them go research the real events. That might be a springboard into discovering a little bit of history, which is how comic books worked for me when I was a kid. I remember reading “The Invaders” comic and then going and researching the Time Life World War II books and that sort of thing. So we want to honor history and we don’t want to cheapen it or make it gimmicky.
Good art makes you want to investigate. It makes you want to know more. That makes it more than escapist entertainment. Not that there’s not a place for escapist entertainment, but when you can put a little medicine in there with the sugar it’s always a more satisfying trip for the reader and for the creator, because it makes us have to do our due diligence and make sure that we know what we’re talking about. A lot of times I discover things that I didn’t know when doing research, which is always a great thing.
Can you tell us where you’re taking “Captain America and Bucky” after the initial arc? Will you continue to explore the title characters’ pasts? Or will the action move to the present day?
We’re probably doing a little bit of both. Right now it’s a little early to say. We have a bunch of ideas on where we’d like to take the book next, but we’re still fitting things in to what’s going on in the Marvel Universe. So things haven’t been nailed down yet, but we do have a good idea of where we’re going.
So it’s fair to say that “Captain America & Bucky” is a book where the characters’ pasts and presents are of equal importance?
Oh yeah. This isn’t simply going to be the flashback book. It’s very important for both Ed and I to do a book that, when we tell stories in the past, those stories are relevant to the storylines of today. Whether it’s a direct narrative line, a thing that happened in the past that continues today or it’s a more thematic line. This is not simply “This is Your Life, Bucky” the comic book. The past and the present will always complement each other in this series.
Speaking of complementing, it looks like you and Ed have found the perfect artist to complement your scripts in Chris Samnee.
I just got six more pages of inks from Chris in my e-mail this morning and this is a Chris Samnee no one has seen before. This stuff is incredible. It’s like he’s channeling Darwyn Cooke, Milton Caniff and Jack Kirby. I can’t wait for people to see it because every page I get is just a beautiful work of art. This guy has more talent in his pinky than most people have in their entire bodies. I’m thrilled to be working with him. Working with Ed Brubaker is a dream come true because getting to work with friends who are talented is always a joy. And that experience is even better because Chris has just been hitting this out of the park.
I don’t know if you saw the thumbnails you guys ran when the book was announced, but I thought we could do a book from the thumbnails. His thumbnail sketches are more beautiful than most books’ finished pencils. Every day when I get finished inks from him I just want to cry. It’s absolutely gorgeous, stunning stuff. This book is really going to make him a huge superstar and hopefully after that happens he’ll still return my phone calls. [Laughs]
“Captain America & Bucky” is your return to Marvel after a several year absence. It sounds like you’re enjoying yourself quite a bit. Can we expect to see some more Marvel books in your future?
I haven’t been avoiding Marvel. It was just a matter of scheduling and finding the right project. Then when Ed Brubaker approached me and said, “Hey you want to come on board and co-write this book with me?” I said of course. I’ve been friends with Ed for over a decade and I’m a big fan of his work. So it’s a nice place to come back into, especially since it’s a Captain America book that’s launching the same time as the movie is coming out. That certainly doesn’t suck either. [Laughs]
And I would love to do some more Marvel books. I think we’re basically going to see how the book is received. The market is really tight right now as everyone knows. So I think everyone is kind of looking for more work, but my experience thus far with Tom Brevoort and our main editor Lauren Sankovitch and everyone else at Marvel has been fantastic. It’s been a real breath of fresh air for my mainstream comics work. So I’d definitely love to do more with them.
I grew up as a Marvel kid. I learned to read from Spider-Man comics. Being able to come back to Marvel and work with one of the big iconic characters is a joy. I’d love to do more for them. I have such affection for that universe that there are no characters too big or too small for me in the Marvel Universe. I have interest in all of them, whether it’s someone like a Doctor Strange or a Cloak and Dagger or Spider-Man and the Hulk. There’s something interesting in each and every one of those characters, which is why I think they reverberate so much; even today when you look at how the movies connect with people. There’s a humanity to the characters there and when I was a kid growing up reading the Marvel books I could always imagine myself being one of the Marvel characters. I think that tether to the average person is something that’s made Marvel so durable and so resonant for so many years.
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