EXCLUSIVE: Ed Brubaker's "Winter Soldier" Farewell

Today at Fan Expo Toronto, Marvel Comics broke the news that starting with February's issue #15, the "Winter Soldier" ongoing will welcome new writer Jason Latour. Of course, this leaves many fans wondering where writer Ed Brubaker is going. The co-creator of the revived Bucky Barnes' current costumed identity, Brubaker has recently been discussing his plan to shift to creator-owned comics and Hollywood work, and as the writer tells CBR News, the super soldier comic just found its moment for his exit alongside his career changes.

"Well, originally, the book was going to end around #14 or #15, because sales weren't as good as we'd hoped they'd be," the writer explained. "I'd been planning for that end for about three or four months. Then I guess sales stabilized, and the Cap movie [sequel] was announced, and everyone really likes the book and likes the character, so they want to keep it going. But in the meantime, I'd taken on outside comic work that was making my schedule harder and harder to keep up with, and so when Tom [Brevoort] told me they were keeping it going instead, I just felt like I needed to let it go. I struggled with it, and Tom and I discussed several possibilities of me staying, some of which I can't really discuss openly, because they concern internal workings of the company, but in no way was this an easy decision, and I feel bad if my readers think I'm bailing, because that wasn't the case."

However, his final issue with the character has not been changed from where he originally planned on wrapping his story. "The end of issue #14 would have been the end of the book, as it is. It's not a cliff-hanger, but it was left open-ended with the hope that eventually I'd come back and tell more Bucky tales. And I still do hope to do that, down the line, when my schedule clears up more."

In the meantime, "Winter Soldier" readers can still look forward to his final two arcs which continue the "Broken Arrow" theme of the Black Widow's reverting to her brainwashed espionage origins. "One of the reasons I thought she and Bucky made sense together was that they both have that brainwashed aspect, and I also thought it was a clever way to integrate her preexisting continuity as the femme fatale/fake ballerina," he explained. "I really wanted to touch on that stuff. I read the Richard K. Morgan/Bill Sienkiewicz series in trade and thought, 'That's really smart.'

"This was a place where I knew the second and third arcs would end up being more about Black Widow because she's somebody Bucky cares about. And if you read my 'Daredevil' run, you know that basically anything Matt Murdock cared about was ripped from his hands. I only have one speed, and it's 'Destroy'!"

For his last run with the Marvel Universe for the foreseeable future, the writer stuck to the organic story development that's served him well over the past eight years on "Captain America." "It's a bit of a high wire act. I know where each story is going to end, but I'm never 100% sure how it gets to that ending," Brubaker said. "The end of the next issue is a real kicker. I don't want to reveal that moment, but it leads into the next story in a big way. That's an old comics trick -- you end one arc with the beginning of the next. That way nobody can leave. Again, it's like what Bendis and I did with our 'Daredevil' hand-off. Nobody could possibly leave that book after his story.

"In the third arc, I really wanted to start bringing more of the Marvel Universe to the story. Some people obviously know that Bucky is still alive, and I also wanted to bring in some people with a connection to Natasha. That's why you've seen solicits for Hawkeye and Wolverine showing up in the next arc. I wanted to expand Bucky's connection on the Marvel Universe. This story is a little bit about dealing with his past but also about facing down the present at the same time. Every story can't be about some old Soviet plot hanging out there. Iron Man exists in this world. He had to be able to stop some of this already."

Brubaker expressed gratitude that his run on the series has featured the work of so many of his past collaborators on Marvel comics. "I've been really lucky with a lot of the guys I've worked with between [Steve] Epting, [Michael] Lark and Sean [Phillips]. Those are the guys I've done the most comic book work with, and Butch Guice is getting up there on that list, too. It's very convenient to work with guys where you know what you're going to get. I wanted Epting to draw 'Winter Soldier' originally, but it turned out 'Fantastic Four' was a little more important to Marvel. [Laughs] Originally, years ago when we first talked about launching this book, it was going to be what Steve did after 'Fantastic Four,' but he ended up staying on. And it worked out really well, because Butch has always wanted to do a Steranko-like 'S.H.I.E.L.D.' book anyway. That's why he does all those crazy montage things in the series. You go, 'That could have totally stepped out of a 1968 comic.'

"I always like to have artist approval and to know who I'm working with. You can't always get it, and sometimes you have to work with someone new. But my scripts for new artists always end up being so much longer. Scripts I write for Sean now are like written in shorthand."

Even though he'll be leaving the characters' comics adventures behind for now, the writer stated that he hopes to be more involved in the upcoming "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" film than he was able to be for the first Marvel Studios Cap pic. "I'm not sure what I can say about it. I've heard from friends of the directors, and I've talked with Kevin Feige about meeting with them at some point. I know the screenwriters, so I'm a little bit in the loop. But not a lot of people knew what the name of the movie was going to be, so I wasn't offended when I found out about it the same way everyone else did. I was walking back to my hotel [in San Diego] when I started getting texts from people and thought, 'I guess two days after the Eisners is a little late to congratulate me, but okay.' And then someone mentioned the movie, and I was like 'What?!?' So I was a little surprised," he laughed.

"It's pretty exciting that this character I established by bringing Bucky back and giving him a new identity is getting out there," the writer added. "I have all the episodes of the 'Avengers' cartoon with the Winter Solider in it saved on my DVR at this point. I have all the statues and action figures. It's just bizarre. I remember in my first issue of 'Batman,' I created a new villain and nobody used him forever. Then at one point, he showed up in two issues of some other series, and I was so thrilled that someone else was doing my character. So now to see Winter Soldier have toys or when Bendis was in Florida, he sent me a picture from the toy store that had a display of all the Cap movie figures and he was in there -- I was like, 'He's not even in the movie!' -- it's crazy."

Brubaker also expressed confidence in how the character will translate to the big screen. "I got to meet the guy who played Bucky in the first movie, and he knew all about the Winter Soldier. He said, 'I guess I have you to thank if they make any more of these.' That was pretty amazing," Brubaker said. "The thing I think is great about Marvel having their own movie studio is that they're up on everything that's happening in the comics, and they're using that to make a movie universe. Good on them for signing on Joss Whedon to be involved with all of that. It's like someone finally figured out a way to use Joss to make billions of dollars.

"I hope to know more things soon about the movie that I won't be able to talk about. People thought it was a slight that I didn't get a cameo in 'Captain America' like JMS, Walt Simonson and Stan Lee got put in 'Thor.' They were actually trying to fly me to London to be on set for a week at Marvel's expense, but my dad was on his death bed at the time. I didn't want to be on a movie set in London when my dad died. They were going all out to get me there, though, and Marvel has been really cool with me on the movies. And Chris Evans -- who did an amazing job as Captain America -- was out there giving interviews. I saw where he'd quote interviews with me! I was like, 'Wait...this guy didn't just read a few comics. He really did his research and read everything I was saying about the character.' It's pretty amazing."

Until the next Cap movie rolls into theaters, readers still have the final arcs of "The Winter Soldier" as well as his farewell issue of "Captain America" to look out for, though Brubaker said that he's not quite ready to assess his legacy with the Star Spangled Avenger. "I'm probably still too close. I mean, Bucky and Steve are my Marvel characters, in the same way Ultimate Spider-man and Luke Cage are Bendis's. They're the people I see that universe through the eyes of. And other than a few times here or there, I'm pretty much the only person to really write Bucky until now. If anything, it feels like I'm not really ready to say goodbye, and I'm nervous about other people writing him, but I always knew it would happen eventually. I have faith that Lauren [Sankovitch] and Tom get the character. I've heard the new team's plans, and they're good ones, so I hope all our readers will stick around and give them a shot.

"And like I said, hopefully I'll get to come back and do more Bucky stories down the line."

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