In the landmark 25 th issue of "Captain America," the unthinkable happened. Steve Rogers AKA Captain America, one of the most beloved figures in the Marvel Universe, was assassinated. Now Marvel's heroes must somehow cope with the loss of the Sentinel of Liberty and move on, because Steve Rogers's greatest foe, the Red Skull, is still out there lurking in the shadows, plotting his next move. CBR News spoke with "Captain America" writer Ed Brubaker about what fans can expect from the book now that its title character is deceased.
"I think the first time it was ever discussed was in September or October of 2005," Brubaker told CBR News. "The plans we ended up doing in 'Captain America' #25 were pretty much solidified after the January 2006 summit, where we all hashed out the end of 'Civil War.'"
Death may not be forever in comic books, but Steve Rogers's run as Captain America is over at least for now as far as Brubaker is concerned. "The story is about Steve Rogers's death and what he means to all these people and what he means to the America of the Marvel Universe," Brubaker explained. "The story is about what happens in this vacuum when there isn't a Captain America and how does everybody react to that. What did Steve Rogers mean? Why was he the only Captain America that ever worked? While Steve Rogers is in the book being Captain America you can get a lot of what he means and what matters to him across in the sub-text but in the text itself it's a lot harder to get across.
"Now with him not being there, suddenly the whole book is about him and what he means to people," Brubaker continued. "It opened doors that I didn't imagine would open. There's a writer named Nat Gertler who said, 'At some point there will be another Captain America or Steve Rogers will come back but maybe there's some interesting stories to be told about nobody being Cap? And I was like, bingo! There are some interesting stories to be told and that's why I'm doing it."
The stories Brubaker has planned for "Captain America" will indeed be about nobody being Captain America. "Everybody keeps debating about who's going to be the new Captain America or things like that but I keep telling people, 'Don't be looking for anybody to put on a Captain America costume in my book any time soon.' I keep telling people that just because the Punisher puts on a new outfit that doesn't mean he's the new Captain America. There's a little character called the Winter Solider who's not going to look kindly on anyone trying to become the new Captain America."
With the title character deceased the Winter Soldier is going to become one of the stars of "Captain America" along with Sharon Carter, the Falcon and a host of other characters. "Tony Stark is in there a lot and the Red Skull and his daughter are also in the book a significant amount," Brubaker said. "The Winter Soldier takes over the book to some degree but he's splitting it with Falcon and Sharon because Sharon clearly has a pretty big arc coming. The thing you find out in the next few issues is that she knows what she did [because of a post hypnotic suggestion by Dr. Faustus, Sharon was the one who delivered the fatal shot to Captain America] but she's got a mental block preventing her from telling anybody or doing anything about it. She can't tell anybody what she did or that she's under the control of Dr. Faustus. She's going to go to some extremes because of what's going on in her head."
A lot of heroes in the Marvel Universe are going to be enduring some emotional extremes in the wake of Cap's death. "The killing of Steve Rogers is just the opening strike for the Red Skull. The impact of Cap's death is so big that it takes people's eye off the ball," Brubaker explained. "There are some scenes with Tony Stark in the next couple of issues that I'm really happy with. Bendis and I talked about how to deal with Tony following the death of Steve Rogers."
Some heroes might be looking to blame Stark for Captain America's death, and the Armored Avenger might just agree with them. "Tony was trying to get out in front of a problem and take control of it, which is his style," Brubaker said. "In doing that, he didn't pull the trigger but he ends up being somewhat responsible in his mind. I'm sure he'll blame himself for the death of Captain America."
Tony Stark is just one of the Marvel characters that the Winter Soldier is mad at. "He's also mad at Nick Fury and the Red Skull," Brubaker stated. "He beats the crap out of a Mighty Avenger in a couple of issues so that's going to be fun (laughs).
"With the Winter Soldier, Cap wanted to save him and bring him back to who he used to be so he used the Cosmic Cube to give him his memories back. Bucky then crushed the Cosmic Cube and disappeared," Brubaker continued. "Cap wants him to accept who he is and try and save himself but because Bucky's got his memories of everything he did as the Winter Soldier he's this really tortured on edge character; a sort of modern twist on the classic Marvel character. That's why I think the Winter Soldier works as a way to bring Bucky back. If he was to team up with Cap and immediately go fight crime and got over everything I think it would be wrong. He's a conflicted, weird, modern Marvel character that fits right into the Marvel U."
The Red Skull's assassination of Captain America robbed the Winter Soldier of more than his oldest and dearest friend. "That was the thing; Bucky had gotten to this point where he was starting to think, 'Maybe I should rejoin the world and find my place in it,'" Brubaker explained. "Then the Red Skull strikes and he's still on the edge; still a messed up character. He's still closer to Wolverine than Captain America as far as his edge and what he's capable of doing."
Brubaker is very happy with what he's been able to do with the Winter Soldier in "Captain America." "I always thought Bucky was such a cool character so I was able to bring him back and people who were initially against the storyline have really sort of embraced the character," Brubaker stated. "It's gotten to the point where people ask me at conventions, 'When is there going to be a Winter Soldier series? When am I going to get Winter Soldier toys?' He's become an actual Marvel character, which is cool because he's based on Bucky, so in a way I brought Bucky back but also created a new character."
The Winter Soldier was one of the characters that assisted Wolverine in the recent "Fallen Son: The Death of Captain America-Wolverine" special. The "Fallen Son" specials compliment the story of Cap's death but they are not required reading for readers of "Captain America." "I think the events of Captain America actually affect that story more,' Brubaker said. "Most of 'Fallen Son' takes place in between issues #25 and #26 of Cap that's why they delayed issue #26.
"It was interesting because when I wrote issue #25 of Cap it was like last summer," Brubaker continued. "I kept thinking, 'They're going to make a big deal out of this eventually.' But they were so caught up in finishing 'Civil War' that people weren't paying attention to it. It was Jeph Loeb who actually said, 'Shouldn't we make a big deal out of this?' And thank God for Jeph Loeb because they ended up making a big deal out of it. But they bumped back issue #26 to make room for these 'Fallen Son' specials."
When "Captain America" #26 hits stores a week of story time has passed since the Sentinel of Liberty's assassination. "Issue #26 opens the night after the public funeral of Captain America," Brubaker explained. "So you don't see that. The opening scene is Sharon Carter and a friend from S.H.I.E.L.D. on their way to a little bar where the superheroes are getting together out of costume to have a private wake for Captain America. Rick Jones is there and the whole gamut of Marvel Characters out of costume are there. That whole issue is different characters reacting to issue #25.
"For the next four or five issues each story is told with a series of small chapters with Mike Perkins and Steve Epting each doing about half the art of each issue," Brubaker said. "We're trying to get further and further ahead so Epting can do longer runs on the book. Steve spent so long working on issue #25, to have him not be part of every issue that comes out after just seemed crazy because he needs to benefit from it."
In future issues, the readers of "Captain America" will see how the Red Skull will try to benefit from Captain America's death. "He's thickening his plot. The Red Skull is a schemer," Brubaker stated. "He doesn't walk into a bank and start shooting people; he's a master manipulator.
"We talked about this at the last summit and what people don't seem to get about the Red Skull, is that of all the villains he's the worst one. He's got no excuse he's just out and out evil. He hates the entire world. It's not that he loved Fascism. He just felt Fascism suited his needs Magneto, Dr. Doom and just about all the other villains have some essence of humanity to them or some essence of tragedy that made them who they are. They have a motive for things. There's no one as fucked up as the Red Skull. He would love nothing more than to see the entire world in shambles at his feet."
To achieve the destruction and decimation that he holds so dear, the Skull's current end game involves the smashing of a world power. "The end result that he's looking for right now is the utter downfall of the American Capitalist system, which is why him and General Lukin have sort of come to a peaceful pact, as they share one mind," Brubaker explained. "They both want one thing, the ultimate destruction of the Capitalist system that America runs. They're now in charge of one of the most powerful corporations in the world, so they've got a good way into capitalism."
One of the allies the Red Skull and Lukin have recruited is Arnim Zola. Long time Cap fans know that the Nazi biochemist once cloned Captain America's body and used it to house the Red Skull's consciousness, but Brubaker cautions readers against thinking that they'll be seeing Steve Rogers return as a clone. "I wouldn't grasp on to any clone theories. I hated that idea," Brubaker said. "I think up to about issue #350 Mark Gruenwald's run was so good other than a few things here and there that never sat right with me. I loved the whole Super-Patriot becomes Captain America storyline. I thought it was so cool but I really disliked when they brought the Red Skull back in Captain America's body; the clone of Steve Rogers. The Red Skull as a clone of Captain America just didn't work for me. I just prefer a more twisted version of the Red Skull. I prefer the Red Skull as a guy wearing a mask. So I wanted to get back to that but also having him kind of hide in plain sight. That's why the 'Skull-becomes-General-Lukin' story started."
While Brubaker confirmed that Arnim Zola wasn't brewing up any more clones of Captain America for the Red Skull, but he had to remain a little cryptic about what the criminal biochemist's actual mission was. "You get some sense of what Arnim Zola is up to in the next three issues," Brubaker stated. "It has to do with the three 'Civil War' issues where the Skull meets Faustus, Dr. Doom and Arnim Zola. Each of these men has a piece to the Red Skull's plot. He makes a deal with Dr. Doom to give him information about his own potential future and that's a storyline that I'll hopefully get to (laughs)."
Recently, readers got a glimpse of another one of the Red Skull's schemes when Marvel unveiled the cover of Captain America #28, which featured the new Serpent Squad. "I never liked the Serpent Society, too many characters, but I always thought the Serpent Squad was really cool, Brubaker said. "I liked the idea of the small sort of strike team of Viper, and Cobra and Eel. I liked that the characters were lead by a woman. I thought the Red Skull's daughter's name is Sin and the idea of Sin is so biblically connected with the Serpent in the Garden it fits to have Sin with the Serpents. We created a new Viper though, because obviously she couldn't order around Madame Hydra. I always thought that it was kind of bogus that Madame Hydra killed the original Viper and took his name. Madame Hydra is such her own character that she doesn't need multiple names. So that storyline is coming up and it's going to help lead some people down the right paths they need to go on to get some answers."
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