Talking Comics with Tim | Jason Latour on <i>Winter Soldier</i>

Thanks to my interview with writer Jason Latour (regarding Loose Ends in mid-2011), my attention was piqued when Marvel tapped him to succeed Ed Brubaker on Winter Soldier. Latour's run begins Wednesday with Winter Soldier #15. In anticipation of that, Latour agreed to an interview in which I interrogated him about the collaborative dynamics with artist Nic Klein, Bucky Barnes coming to terms with his past, guiding a supporting cast that includes the legendary Nick Fury, and the introduction, and naming, of new characters. Also be sure to check out CBR's preview of Winter Soldier #15.

Tim O'Shea: When scripting an issue, given that you are also an artist, do you sketch out thumbnails for artist Nic Klein to consider?

Jason Latour: Not really, no. I did do one unused thumbnail, and only because Nic asked. When you’ve survived German art Thunderdome like he has, you need no man’s help. He’s like Art Beast Omega.

Yeah, being able to draw is definitely a great tool to have in a pinch. But in general I try not to do layouts because that part of drawing is largely the artist’s contribution to the story. I don’t want to encroach too heavily on that. Even if they do something I don’t agree with here or there, we’ll all be much better off with an invested collaborator. I am open to thumbnailing a book for someone else to finish, but it would have to be the understanding beforehand. I’m much more likely to do design work,  because sometimes it just dramatically improves communication.

Ever since he came back as Winter Soldier, I have found it odd that folks still sometimes call him Bucky. Do you view this trained assassin as more of James or a Bucky when you are writing him?

For me, his different aspects or relationships are sort of intertwined with his different names. I tend to think of him as whatever the context calls for. So like if it were a flashback to the Soviet days I’d write “WINTER SOLDIER sets his sights." But if he’s hanging with Cap, it’s “BUCKY takes a drink.” With Fury it’s “Kiss my grits, BARNES." It seems to follow an internal logic. I often end up going back and changing the descriptors in the script to BUCKY so that it’s not confusing.

Can you walk readers through what motivates/drives the new villain, Electric Ghost?

In this story Bucky has decided to proactively face the dangerous and ugly parts of his past that are out there waiting to meltdown. He expects to find, things he understands. Unfrozen super soldiers, immortal Nazi’s, sleeper agents, etc. But the Electric Ghost is a very subtle, and hopefully challenging, shift away from his other rogues in that she’s a threat that’s grown in the rubble of those other battles. The stones Bucky tossed into the pond as the Winter Soldier caused a lot of ripples, and she's one that’s become a full blown tidal wave. The Winter Soldier is among a number of people she could easily blame for the path she’s been put on. But we’ll discover that her motivations are a bit more complex than just revenge. She’s no one’s victim.

Describe your reaction when you were told that Nick Fury could be part of your supporting cast? What's the best part of getting to script Fury?

Well, I was thrilled. This is the guy who’s run the Marvel spy game since day one. That man finally being put out to pasture and how he carries that-- it’s become an important layer of the book. He’s a very important link to both the original Marvel comics and Bucky’s past. He was among the first characters I ever read, thanks to my dad’s old comics. So I relate him to the birth of my love of comics. My dad was facing some very serious health concerns around the time I got the gig, and it was very cool to tell him that Fury is in the story. It’s a small thing but it just felt right.

In a recent CBR interview with Nic Klein, he noted that the series has a mixture of grittiness and gadgets ("There's darkness, but there's also high tech stuff"). Which is more fun, injecting the gadgets into the gritty or vice versa?

The funnest and most difficult thing is finding the balance. But man is it great to have both options. Jack Kirby had a big hand in Bucky’s creation, and you can still feel that impression. He’s got this very earned realness, and also this connection to a world of limitless potential. You really have to credit Brubaker for seeing how well that could work in a modern Marvel U.

Being that they’re so heavily intertwined, what do you see as the big difference between Captain America and Winter Soldier as titles?

To me Captain America is the kind of character that works best when he speaks to everyone. It’s a book you read to be inspired. He’s about what it takes to defend a dream, to keep it from shattering at all costs. Winter Soldier is more about picking the pieces of that dream back up once they’re broken. Re-examining them, in the hopes of finding that belief or hope in a personal way. If Cap is about pulling yourself up by the bootstraps, Bucky is about finding the strength to pull on the boots to begin with.

Plus let’s face it, Steve’s boy-next-door thing has its charms and all, but Bucky’s a super-freak.

How challenging is it to write a character coming to terms with his past while still allowing the character (and the story) to move forward?

It’s very challenging, because it’s pretty much the question this entire story revolves around. What does it take to push forward? Prior to “Widow Hunt” Bucky had seemed to have reached a point where he'd transcended a lot of his pain and found a new purpose. But now that the dust has settled he’s found himself at what might be a new low point. So how does he find the path upward? What will that take to not just bounce back, but to become a stronger Bucky Barnes? What will it mean?

Like I said, a big part of this book is about what it takes to find a reason to pick things up and piece them back together. It might take awhile to find those reasons, and involve some difficult choices but if we’re lucky fighting those battles will get us somewhere new and exciting.

In a recent Marvel interview, you referenced Vonnegut's “Mother Night” in discussing Robards? First off, were you inspired by the late actor Jason Robards in naming the character? Secondly, any other prose novelists that are influencing your thought process on Winter Soldier?

There’s not a direct relationship to Jason Robards, other than I guess I hoped that christening him after the guy might infuse him with some of that weary charm. Break him in like a baseball glove.

As for the prose that inspired this particular book so far-- definitely Vonnegut. A touch of Philip K. Dick. Kind of discovering Jonathan Lethem lately and I’ve stuck a toe into some Robert Stone. “Pop Noir Spy Fi” is a term Clay Moore and I self applied to our first Image book, The Expatriate, and my reading list seems to be just that of late.

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