James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes, AKA the Winter Soldier, first graced the big screen in 2014 but the character has been around since the ‘40s as Bucky Barnes and the 2000s as the newer persona of the Winter Soldier. Originally a close friend of Captain America, Barnes later becomes one of his greatest enemies, and then his friend once more. Since we’re likely to see the Winter Soldier on screen again, following his cameo in Black Panther and appearance in Infinity War, here are 42 bionic Facts about Bucky Barnes and the Winter Soldier.
Bucky Barnes returns from his apparent death as the Winter Soldier and even ends up taking on the mantle of Captain America from Steve Rogers, after Rogers’ death in the Civil War storyline. Bucky initially blames Tony Stark for Rogers’ death, since Stark led the charge for the pro-registration side. Bucky steals Captain America’s shield so that it can’t be passed down to anyone else, but later finds out Rogers wanted him to take on the mantle if he passed away.
In the original comics, Bucky serves as a teen sidekick to Captain America, the Robin to Cap’s Batman. Bucky’s purpose was to serve as a more relatable character for the kids reading the comics. Since Captain America debuted during World War II, Bucky represented all of the kids whose older siblings’ or parents were fighting in the war, and they could imagine fighting alongside a superhuman version of their loved ones.
Most heroes have the one death that made them who they are or pushes them to be even better. Batman lost his parents (no Martha jokes please), Spider-Man lost Uncle Ben, etc. Bucky serves the same purpose for Captain America.
The Winter Soldier was introduced as part of a 2005 series relaunch of Captain America. Sales were inconsistent in the years leading up to the relaunch, peaking during the World War II run. For many fans and comic execs, Bucky was better off dead since he provided an important emotional purpose to Cap’s journey.
However, writer Ed Brubaker and artist Steve Epting managed to pull off the resurrection story. As one online commenter said, “It's the worst possible story idea, executed so brilliantly it doesn't matter that it's the worst possible story idea.” Brubaker says some diehard purists held onto their hate, but that the Winter Soldier was nearly universally accepted within a year.
Although the Winter Soldier eventually fought for the good guys, he spent decades as a brainwashed assassin and gun-for-hire. Bucky’s resume includes Itsu Ashkiro, who was in a relationship with Wolverine at the time. The hit was a ploy to draw Wolverine out of hiding. Ashkiro was pregnant with Wolverine’s son, Daken, at the time but the little one was cut from his mother’s womb by a passerby and whisked away to an adoptive family.
There is speculation that the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s (MCU) Winter Soldier may take on the Captain America mantle since Chris Evans’ contract is set to expire after the fourth Avengers film, while Sebastian Stan has four more films afterward. Stan has also said that he was told the Winter Soldier would “eventually” become Captain America.
Co-creator Ed Brubaker has stated Bucky’s resurrection wouldn’t have worked if they brought the character back as a happy-go-lucky sidekick. What made the resurrection compelling, according to Brubaker, is his damaged emotional state and the impact that years of brainwashing have had on him.
We can all get touchy about people putting their hands on our stuff. So why not do what Bucky did and put explosive palm sensors on your guns? That way, if someone else touches them, the guns explode.
In the films, it takes a string of random words to get Bucky in the mood to kill.
In the comics, “Sputnik” was the magic word needed to get The Winter Soldier to comply.
In Captain America Vol. 5, the Winter Soldier demonstrates that he can control his bionic arm even when it is detached from his body. He never has to worry about that itch he can’t scratch.
During his time as Captain America, Bucky gains public approval and joins the Avengers like his predecessor did.
However, he is later put on trial for crimes he committed as the Winter Soldier. America is willing to forgive him but the Russians take him back to the motherland and charge him with crimes against the state. Bucky later kills two Russian civilians and ends up in jail. However, the Black Widow breaks him out after learning that the two civilians Bucky killed were connected to supervillains.
Back in the 1940s, shoulder-length brown hair was viewed as a feminine feature. Stan Lee praised Jack Kirby for being able to create Thor with shoulder-length blonde hair and have the character taken seriously since the whole God of Thunder thing could apparently be ruined by a hairstyle. Bucky was subject to some of the same scrutiny but his masculinity is undoubtedly in check.
In a meta twist, Bucky was killed again during the “Fear Itself” storyline. This time Bucky was actually killed by the daughter of the Red Skull, Skadi. Bucky was then brought back to life by the Infinity Formula, an experimental drug created by S.H.I.E.L.D to slow aging.
After his resurrection, Bucky goes back to being the Winter Soldier.
At one point in the comics, the original Captain America and Bucky are both considered dead by the public. So President Truman does what any president would, and hires replacements. Fred Davis becomes the new Bucky. Another replacement came later in the form of Jack Monroe, who served as the sidekick to a history teacher who was obsessed with Captain America.
In the Marvel universe, Bucky may just be a nickname stemming from the middle name of Buchanan. However, creator Joe Simon got the name from a high school friend, Bucky Pierson.
The name “James Buchanan” comes from the 15th President of the United States.
Winter Soldier co-creator Ed Brubaker was a fan of Captain America as a child and Bucky in particular. Brubaker was dismayed that Bucky’s death was rarely mentioned in any subsequent comics, despite the impact it had on Captain America. As a child, he wrote his own fan-fiction—no romantic couplings involved—where Bucky was captured by Russians, thereby planting the seeds for one of the biggest creations in his career.
While training with the Russians as the Winter Soldier, Bucky would meet fellow Russian Natasha Romanoff AKA Black Widow.
Romanoff was part of a different program initially but did train under Bucky at one point. They had a brief relationship during their Soviet days and also reconnected after they both defected to the US with clean slates.
Stan Lee was never a fan of teenage sidekicks, describing them as his “pet peeve.” Like many of us, Lee was bothered by all the legal and ethical issues that come with sending a teenager out to fight crime in Gotham’s streets or in war-torn Europe.
Some fans speculate that Lee’s dislike of teenage sidekicks as a whole is what led to Bucky’s quick “death” in the original comics.
Although the films portray Bucky and Cap as childhood friends, the two didn’t meet until they were both in the military in the comics. Bucky befriended Rogers, not knowing at the time that Rogers was Captain America. Bucky uncovers the truth—no pun intended—when he accidentally walks in on Rogers changing.
Bucky’s dad was teaching soldiers how to jump out of a helicopter when a parachute accident took his life. That memory stuck with Bucky, resulting in the trained killer’s fear of heights.
At one point in the comics, the Soviets set Bucky’s cross-hairs on his replacement. Jack Monroe, the replacement Bucky appointed by President Truman, ends up getting killed by the man he replaced.
In the Ultimate comics, Bucky was the adult sidekick to Captain America. Bucky lived through the war in this world as a photographer, believing that Captain America died during it. Bucky moves on, marrying Rogers’s widow. Things start to take a turn for the worst when he’s diagnosed with lung cancer, due to chain smoking during the war. Oh, and his illegitimate son turns out to be the Red Skull.
So you create a character during World War II and have him fight Nazis. What do you do when World War II ends and sales start plummeting? You make him fight communism. In the ‘50s, Cap and Bucky were rebranded as heroes fighting communism and bringing American values to the rest of the world.
Bucky’s original comic book death came in the form of a plane explosion that sent him plummeting away from Captain America. Villain Baron Zemo strapped both heroes to a booby-trapped plane, sending Captain America into his deep freeze and sending Bucky into the arms of the Soviets. Russian General Vasily Karpov found Bucky’s three-limbed body with their patrol submarine and quickly gave him a bionic arm and some brainwashing to turn him into the Winter Soldier.
Bucky nearly fell victim to brainwashing before he became the Winter Soldier. In a ‘70s comic, Bucky avoids getting brainwashed by the Red Skull and subsequently sets up his own team of heroes to fight communists. His gang included The Whizzer, Miss America, and Red Raven.
Bucky looks to have aged just as well as Cap did. If you have a cryogenic chamber, you can age just as well as he does. Since the Soviets used Bucky as a tool, they made sure to put their tool back in the toolbox between missions, shaving years off by keeping Bucky in cryostasis when he wasn’t murdering people.
Actor Sebastian Stan actually auditioned for the role of Captain America, but Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige and producer Stephen Broussard decided to talk to Stan about another role. The two Marvel execs went over Bucky’s storyline and trajectory, selling Stan on the role.
Aside from being able to move his bionic arm when it’s not attached to his body, Bucky got another gift courtesy of The Fixer. What can make a bionic arm more dangerous? How about a blast of fire? Now he’s just compensating for something.
The name “Winter Soldier,” aside from just sounding cool, originated from the Vietnam War. The Winter Soldier Hearings provided a platform for Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) to share details on war crimes. Writer Thomas Paine also uses “summer soldier” to refer to soldiers who desert their duties and some believe Winter Soldier is a reference to Paine’s words in The American Crisis.
In the comics, Nick Fury says the name was a reference to the cryostasis Bucky stayed in between missions.
Brubaker also adds that the Russians picked the name since the Winter Soldier was used as an assassin during the Cold War.
In the comics, Bucky knows over five languages, including Spanish, Japanese, German, and obviously, Russian.
One of the first villains that Bucky faced was a man named Agent Axis, an experiment created by merging men from Germany, Italy, and Japan together. A bit on the nose, but you get the idea. To defeat Agent Axis and rescue a doctor that Agent Axis wanted to kill, Bucky formed his own team: The Kid Commandos. The team included Toro, Golden Girl and the Human Top, and was quickly disbanded following Agent Axis’s defeat. Bucky went off to Europe to join Cap and the rest of the team remained in America.
Bucky reunited with Toro in Poland, on the eve of his 18th birthday. Toro decided to throw a surprise birthday party but the party wasn’t a good idea in Nazi-infested Poland. The party blew their cover and Bucky spent his 18th birthday fighting Master Man and Warrior Woman.
Bucky doesn’t know his exact kill count as the Winter Soldier, but he is credited with over 100 assassinations of government officials. These kills range from America to Algeria.
Winter Soldier co-creator Ed Brubaker has a cameo appearance as one of Bucky’s Hydra handlers in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Despite becoming a good guy eventually, Bucky never actually reconciled with Captain America prior to Cap’s (temporary) death in Civil War. At one point, Bucky is mourning his friend by getting acquainted with a bottle. While drinking, he overhears a group of people mocking Cap’s death. Bucky then proceeded to defend his friend’s honor, and take every single person mocking him out.
Brubaker’s Winter Soldier introduced some darker seeds into the story of teen sidekick Bucky Barnes. Flashbacks reveal that Bucky’s age was used as a tool to lull enemies into a false sense of security: Bucky was trained to do the dirty work that the public didn’t think Rogers was capable of, such as garroting or stabbing a bad guy.
Although Bucky may not have the same recognition that Captain America does to the general public, he has still appeared in numerous superhero teams. In the ‘60s, The Invaders premiered, featuring characters that fought against the Axis in World War II. The team featured Cap, Bucky, Namor, The Human Torch (a different version of the character), and Toro.
Bucky’s arm was originally branded with a red star to mark his Soviet programming. After breaking away from the Soviet brainwashing, Bucky gets the star repainted to resemble Captain America’s shield.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier led to a surge in Bucky’s popularity, leading to more appearances in other characters’ titles. Bucky’s appearance in Planet Hulk even features a backstory inspired by the films, where Bucky and Cap were childhood friends.
Bucky dreamed of traveling the world, but his dream was cut short by his involvement in World War II and decades of Soviet brainwashing. The Grand Canyon was a particularly important goal on Bucky’s bucket list. In Man Out of Time, Steve Rogers actually travels to The Grand Canyon and draws a portrait of Bucky, and then holds it up to the canyon so his friend can see the view. Is someone cutting onions?
Comic books are infamous for killing off important characters like Captain America in dramatic fashion and having them come back somehow, whether it was time travel or some other convoluted way.
This led to the informal “Bucky Clause,” a rule stating that no characters can stay dead, except Uncle Ben, Jason Todd (the second Robin) and Bucky. However, Todd and Bucky were both resurrected with new personas in the 2000s, the Red Hood and the Winter Soldier.
After his dad passed away, Bucky spends a lot of time hanging around Camp Lehigh. Over time, the camp takes him in as their unofficial mascot, leading to his meeting with Steve Rogers.
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