Stern Talks "Captain America: Forever Allies"

During World War II, the brave fighting men of the Marvel Universe had to contend with the conventional forces of the Axis Powers as well as their elite costumed and super-powered shock troops. Fortunately, the Allies had costumed champions of their own, including Captain America, The Human Torch and Union Jack. This trio eventually banded together with several more costumed champions to form the super team that came to be known as the Invaders. The younger generation did their part as well, as seen with groups like the Young Allies, who came together when Captain America's sidekick Bucky and the Human Torch's sidekick Toro joined forces with several other non costumed teenaged adventurers
The Young Allies first full appearance was in 1941 in the debut issue of their self titled series. Since the end of World War II, a number of teams have laid claim to the Young Allies name; the most recent being a group made up of Arana, Gravity, Nomad, a new character named El Toro and Firestar. Last year, writer Roger Stern ("Captain America," "Amazing Spider-Man") and artist Paolo Rivera revisited the original Young Allies in "Young Allies Comics: 70th Anniversary Special," which was part of Marvel's 70th Anniversary celebration. The one-shot had the former Bucky and current Captain America James "Bucky" Barnes reflecting on his war time exploits with the "Young Allies" and reconnecting with the surviving members in the present day. It also revealed that the non-costumed members of the group, Pat O'Toole, Washington Carver Jones, Geoffrey Worthington Vandergill and Henry Yosef Tinklebaum were not as bumbling as their original comic book adventures made them out to be. They were, in fact, highly capable and determined young adventurers who served their country with distinction.
This August, Stern revisits both the current Captain America and the Young Allies in the four issue miniseries "Captain America: Forever Allies" , which features art work by Nick Dragotta and Marco Santucci CBR News spoke with Stern about the project.

CBR News: Roger, "Forever Allies" is your second time writing Bucky as Captain America, and you had a highly acclaimed run in the early '80s writing some of Steve Rogers' adventures as Cap. in your mind, what makes Bucky a compelling Captain America? Do you find both Bucky and Steve intriguing for the same reasons?

Roger Stern: Not exactly, though there are some similarities. What Steve Rogers and Jim Barnes have in common is that both of them are men living out of - and beyond - their time.

Where they differ is that Steve spent the second half of the 20th Century in an unbroken state of suspended animation. When he was finally found and revived by the Avengers, they became his new family. They were his support group, helping him adjust to modern life, while he continued his ongoing mission as Captain America. 
Jim, on the other hand, spent all those years as almost a zombie, brainwashed by his captors and brought out of hibernation only when they needed an assassin. Through Steve's intervention, he was eventually freed. But with the restoration of his memories, Jim has had to come to terms with all the deaths he caused as the Winter Soldier. Being Captain America is how he's been making amends.

In the "Young Allies 70th Anniversary" one-shot, you established Bucky's relationship with the surviving members of the Young Allies. What made you want to tell another story involving these characters?

First of all, it was a blast writing that Anniversary Special. I got to retool the Young Allies, to take them from being insulting caricatures and turn them into more rounded individuals. In plotting that story, I came up with more ideas than could ever have fit into twenty-two pages. So when Tom Brennan, my editor, asked me if I'd like to write a miniseries, I had to say yes. I still had more to tell.

What is it about Bucky and his association with the Young Allies that you find so interesting?

Over the years, whenever there have been stories of Bucky at war, they've mainly shown him in the company of Cap, or the Invaders, or the Liberty Legion. Even when he's been portrayed with other people his own age, they've been people with super-powers, like the Kid Commandoes.

With the exception of his buddy Toro, the other Young Allies aren't super-beings. They're ordinary Americans, young men who rose to meet the extraordinary challenges of a world at war. And in reality, there were millions just like them. Some, like Pat and Hank, were the sons of recent immigrants. Others had ancestors who went back to the Mayflower, like Geoff. And some, like Wash, were the descendants of slaves. They were all part of what Tom Brokaw called "The Greatest Generation." They made our world possible. How could they not be interesting?

Do readers need to have read the "Young Allies" one-shot to understand "Forever Allies?"

No, "Forever Allies" is more of an indirect sequel. There are elements of the story that spin out of last summer's Special, but everything you need to know about the Young Allies is right there in the miniseries.

What can you tell us about the tone of the miniseries?

It opens with a troubling mystery and leads to a desperate chase. With an emphasis on high adventure. Along the way, there are Zoot Suit Riots, mysterious ancient temples and an aerial dogfight over Hollywood. Think of it as a wild ride across eight decades and two continents...not counting any that might be sunken.

From the solicitation info, it sounds as though "Forever Allies" will be told in a unique way, involving both the past and the present. So, does the story unfold chronologically with each issue covering a particular type period, or does the bulk of the story take place in the present with occasional flashbacks to the past?

It's divided up, with a little of both in each issue. We open with Barnes as Bucky during the war, and then cut to him in the present day. That's where Jim encounters an individual from his past, which leads him into an investigation that involves the last unresolved case of the Young Allies. And that in turn takes the reader back in time to witness that case. Throughout the miniseries, there are cuts to incidents in different times.

In terms of plot and theme, does "Forever Allies" involve the final Parisian adventure of the Young Allies that you showed in the one-shot?

No, the Paris adventure was the last one that all six Allies shared. This unresolved case is set on the wartime home front, before they went overseas.

Who are the adversaries and what are the obstacles you're putting in your protagonist's way in "Captain America: Forever Allies?"

Since the solicitations for the second issue just came out, it's no longer a secret that Jim's main adversary is the notorious war criminal and former Invaders villain, Lady Lotus. But there's a lot more to her than has previously been revealed. And as far as obstacles go...is the power of the gods enough?

Now that Toro is back from the dead will he play a role in this series?

No, as "Forever Allies" opens, Jim has not yet learned of Toro's resurrection. But the Black Widow has a role in the story - she and Jim have a relationship, after all. And there's a fellow by the name of Texas Jack Muldoon, who keeps turning up. The Falcon just might make an appearance, as well.

This book features two different artists, Marco Santucci and Nick Dragotta, and it sounds like each is penciling a different time period. What led to this approach to telling the story?

That was all Tom Brennan's doing. He thought that Nick would do a bang-up job on the war years scenes, and that Marco's more illustrative style would nicely fit with the current look of the latter day Cap. Gotta love that Brennan, he was right on both counts.

But to be more accurate, the book features three artists. We got Lee Weeks to draw our covers. Imagine four new movie posters for the latest Captain America blockbuster - that's what Lee is creating for us. It's all exciting, beautiful work. I'd love to work with these guys again - individually or together.

Over the past couple of years, you've revisited both Spider-Man and Captain America, two characters you had highly acclaimed runs with in the past.

Yeah, and - this is eerie timing - just the other day I learned that "Captain America: War & Remembrance," the collection of Cap stories by John Byrne and me, is going to be released in a new Premiere Hardcover edition in about six months. It's part of the September Advance Solicitations, but I believe it's slated to go on sale December 1. Hey, just in time for Christmas.

In addition, the most recent Spider-Man stories I wrote for Lee Weeks are also coming out in a hardcover edition that also collects the Spider-Man/Juggernaut stories that John Romita Jr and I produced, way back in "Amazing Spider-Man" #229-230. That book goes on sale August 4.

Is there any more Spider-Man or Cap work in your future? Are there any other Marvel characters that you're hoping to revisit soon?

Every decade or so, I get lucky and Marvel lets me write a Cap or a Spider-Man story. I don't currently have any Cap projects on my plate after "Forever Allies," but given the opportunity...well, I never say never.I've already plotted another Spider-Man story for Roberto De La Torre to draw; he's working on that story between his "Daredevil" assignments. I'll be scripting that once he's finished. And there's the possibility of my writing some more Spider-stories in the future.

As far as other Marvel characters go? If I got the opportunity, I would love to write Machine Man. Jack Kirby was way ahead of his time with the original "Machine Man" series, and I think the rest of the world may finally be catching up to him. Machine Man is the ideal character for the 21st Century.

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