Is The Winter Soldier the Best Marvel Movie Villain?
Ed Brubaker, the writer of the Captain America comic from 2004-2012 and creator of the Winter Soldier character, talks about why this bad guy is resonating with audiences around the world.
As super-villains go, Loki is arguably the best-known Marvel movie baddie these days. But when a bunch of hardcore Marvel enthusiasts got together on a Skype group video call to discuss their take on Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier (see video below), The Winter Soldier came up as not just a favorite villain but a favorite character—period.
We called Ed Brubaker on Skype in Los Angeles for his insights on why the character he created is so much more than just another guy in a black hat.
[WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD]
The Winter Soldier is a tragic bad guy
“I think that it’s the first time there’s been a Marvel movie where you’ve really cared about the bad guy,” says Ed.
The Winter Soldier is, in fact, Bucky Barnes, the long-lost and presumed-dead sidekick of Captain America (and, in the comic, he serves for a while as Captain America himself).
Ed explains, “The Winter Soldier is a tragic character. He’s the guy who should be Captain America’s best friend, not his enemy. The story works in a way as if Darth Vader turned out to be Luke Skywalker.”
In the Skype Group Video Chat, superfan and vlogger Neil McNeil argues, “I love characters that are very questionable and characters that have a good redemption arc. So I’m gonna go with The Winter Soldier. Mostly because I love Bucky. He’s such an under-utilized character up until recently.”
Ed agrees, “He’s a super bad guy in the movie, but by the end of it, you’re hoping for him to get saved and become a hero. My goal was to take a tragic, messed-up character and have Cap try to save and redeem him.”
He is personal to the writer
Rather than just being a foil for the good guy, The Winter Solider is a complex character with a personal connection to Ed. He reminisces, “I grew up on Navy bases and we moved every couple of years. I always identified with the original Bucky Barnes character because he was an Army brat. He lived on a base and, when his dad died, the base adopted him.”
When Ed was a kid, he learned about Bucky through the old Marvel cartoons and then read the comics only to find out that Bucky had died in what was the big tragedy of Captain America’s life.
“When I was 8 or 9 years old, I went to Comic-Con and tried to find the comic issue from the late 1940s when Bucky actually died,” Ed says, “but it didn’t exist. As his death was never shown, it was possible to bring him back. The writers left the door open and I always thought it would be a great storyline if it could be done in a way that didn’t erase the tragedy that was so central to Cap.”
According to Neil, the movie “very much held on to the source material and just didn’t let it go… It expands the Marvel universe.”
He is both a classic Marvel character and a contemporary villain
Ed pitched Marvel the risky idea of bringing Bucky back as The Winter Soldier character in 2004. He fretted, “If do it right, I’ll only lose half of our audience.” But the character became a big hit and defined much of Ed’s eight-year tenure as the writer of Captain America.
As Amy Dallen of Geek and Sundry says in the Skype Group Video Chat, “We can all agree that it never should have worked – the creation of the Winter Soldier – but we’re like, ‘How did you pull that off?!? That’s SO GOOD.’”
On one level, The Winter Solider is Bucky who first appeared in the 1940s, “fought the Nazis in World War II and parachuted in behind enemy lines with Captain America.” But he’s also a modern-day creation who has roots in the Cold War, and now in post-9/11 America.
Ed looks at it another way, “The screenwriters took all of the best source material and made the movie into a really exciting thriller. To me, it’s more of a conspiracy thriller than a regular superhero movie and that puts the character in a different context.” And, in this thriller, the Winter Soldier embodies some very contemporary challenges to the world around us.
In the Skype group video call, Jonathan London, comic writer and host of Geekscape says, “If [the movie] can be as twisty and turny as Ed Brubaker’s scripts, then I’m happy.”
“The Winter Soldier is a growing character and has become a regular part of the Marvel universe: he’s in the cartoons, there are action figures, and he’s in the video games. I’ve already heard about Halloween costumes for later this year,” Ed laughs. “I won’t be surprised if I see him on Slurpee cups next.”
Learn more about the Marvel cinematic universe and its amazing characters; go watch Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, in theaters now.