Symbols are powerful tools during war time. They must be protected and kept safe from becoming tarnished and corrupted by the bloody and often horrific violence of a conflict. During World War II, a young man named James “Bucky” Barnes became the protector one of the Marvel Universe’s most powerful living symbols, Captain America, when he took the position of Cap’s masked sidekick Bucky.
As Bucky, Barnes conducted the morally murky actions that a symbol of justice and freedom couldn’t be seen doing like assassinations. He was good at his job too. So good in fact that when the Soviet Union found his badly injured body still alive in the final days of World War II they turned him into the brainwashed, cybernetic, master assassin known as the Winter Soldier. Years later, Bucky would come face to face with his old partner who used the power of the Cosmic Cube to restore his identity. It also restored Bucky’s memory of every bloody thing he did as the Winter Soldier, which horrified him.
In writer Ed Brubaker’s acclaimed “Captain America” run Bucky began a quest to repent for his bloody past. That quest continued in February of this year when Brubaker launched an ongoing “Winter Soldier” series, and this February it will enter new phase as Jason Latour (“Loose Ends,” “Untold Tales of the Punisher MAX”) takes over writing duties on the series. Latour’s run was announced today at Marvel’s “Avengers Vs. X-Men” panel at Fan Expo Canada in Toronto and CBR News spoke with him about his plans for the series.
CBR News: Jason, you’re primarily known as an artist but in the past several months you’ve really been making a name for yourself as a writer with your work on your creator-owned 12 Gauge Comics crime series “Loose Ends” and your story in “Untold tales of the Punisher MAX” #2. How does it feel to be given the reigns of a major monthly Marvel title like “Winter Soldier?” How did this opportunity come about for you?
Jason Latour: I was surprised to get the chance, simply because I didn’t think this character would ever be in play. Brubaker’s work on this character has been great. He’s really built such a strong and compelling foundation– that when the possibility was introduced my mind went off like a nuclear test site.
As for how it came about — I’d drawn a few stories for my editor, Lauren Sankovitch, in the past and I’d made it clear I was interested in writing for hire, too. Fortunately she seemed to like my creator-owned work and when the time came to cast the book she asked me if I would be interested.
Bucky Barnes is a man of violence with a troubled past and so is the Punisher. If my research is correct that’s also the case with Sonny Gibson, one of the protagonists of “Loose Ends.” Is this a coincidence or is there just something about troubled, mortally murky protagonists that stokes the fires of your imagination?
Yeah, I’m clearly drawn to those kinds of characters. Sonny and Bucky strike a chord with me because deep down, I have some sense of what it’s like to be an optimistic, even hopeful person who’s felt beaten or worn down by the world. I’m just lucky that my experiences are more trivial, or more abstract, and I get to project those into fiction. In the case of all those characters, they’ve seen the ravages of war and even themselves played a part in causing pain, death and suffering for others. They may have done some really noble, really great things too but it’s that pain that sticks. Bucky and Sonny are kind of fighting that pain — I’d say Frank Castle probably succumbed to it, if he ever felt it at all.
Where Bucky is different is that being a superhero he’s theoretically capable of overcoming those things. If there’s no light at the end of the tunnel he can at least try to bend heaven and earth to make one. As to how successful he’ll be…
What are some of the specific elements that you find most interesting about Bucky Barnes? Which aspects of his character are you interested in exploring in this series?
At first glance Bucky is a man struggling with what seems like two very polar sides of his nature. But if you read at the great origin stuff Brubaker, [Marc] Andreyko and [Chris] Samnee did — it’s pretty clear that the makings of the Winter Soldier were there all along. He did some awful things for the Soviets, but if things play out differently who’s to say he wouldn’t have committed those atrocities for the U.S.?
So one of the things I’m seeking to delve into is — what exactly is the line? Where and when does Bucky Barnes end and the Winter Soldier begin? There may not be an answer to that question — and that possibility is a very scary thing he’ll try to face and learn to live with.
You’re taking over this series in February with issue #15, so Ed Brubaker still has several issues left in his run. I know you don’t want to spoil anything, but I understand that when your run begins Bucky is in a pretty dark place emotionally. Is that correct? What can you tell us about the Winter Soldier’s state of mind when your run begins?
A darkness has washed over The Dude — Like I said, it’s the pain that sticks. He’s done some awful things — things that he’d like to believe were independent of his control. Â But when Cap fixed his mind with the Cosmic Cube, it’s telling that he used the phrase “Remember who you are.” That didn’t just return him to “Gee wilikers, Cap, I sure like pinball” Bucky — it kept intact a lot of memories he’d rather have seen erased.
Recently his past has come home to roost — and each time he found himself asking what his role in creating the situation was. It’s made him feel very powerless. People he loves keep getting thrown into harm’s way, and he’s trying to look in the mirror and see how much of it is his old habits. Who he works for is just where he starts.
In terms of plot and themes what is your initial “Winter Soldier” story about?
I’m hesitant to put a theme in stone, because I’m still in the process of writing the book — but Bucky’s looking for hope and on some level redemption, maybe a sense of completion. Those are very subjective motivations, though — hopefully we’ll test his perception of them and just exactly what he wants as we move along.
Who are some of the supporting players and antagonists that we’ll meet in this initial story? We understand you’ll be adding to Bucky’s rogue’s gallery. What can you tell us about the new villain you’re creating?
A few members of everyone’s favorite spy organization will still be lurking around, pulling puppet strings and shooting darts in people’s necks and what not. Â Cap and Black Widow are such staples — could I get away with Razorback? Maybe flying the Helicarrier?
Chiefly it’s going to focus around a new threat and a new ally. Two people who were once caught in the Winter Soldier’s swath. Our big antagonist is a new take on Bucky’s rogues’ gallery in the sense that she’s the first indirect casualty of his actions. She’s got plans much larger than revenge, but their personal connection is going to make things very complicated for Bucky.
Going forward what types of stories are you interested in telling in “Winter Soldier?” Will we see the same sort of espionage action thrillers that moved in the shadows and embraced the fantastical elements of the Marvel Universe that have been part of Ed’s work with the character? Or are you interested in doing something different with the Winter Soldier?
It’s going to be character driven. It all begins with Bucky — he’s the anchor and the Marvel U is the great stormy sea. Who knows what’s out there? I mean, look — James Bond isn’t big enough for Bucky’s world — so I’ll be trying my best to unhinge my imagination and meet that challenge.
Finally, Marvel isn’t ready to announce the artist that you’ll be working with on “Winter Solider” yet, but would you be interested in both writing and drawing the occasional issue? Based on your previous work it feels like you’d have a flair not just for writing the character, but drawing him as well.
We haven’t discussed it as of yet, but I’d be lying if I told you I’m not interested in drawing the book. It’s likely not in the cards for the first arc, but I’ve already stowed away a few story ideas that I think I’d be really well suited to draw myself down the line. So we’ll see.â€¨
I’m really excited and creatively charged up about this book. Also given that Bucky’s like 90 years-old, I hope I can find a reason to have him say “ro-butt.” [Laughs]
Jason Latour begins writing “Winter Solider” in February with #15.