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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.


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.

4 thoughts on “Is The Winter Soldier the Best Marvel Movie Villain?

  1. Great !
    I like Ed Brubaker

  2. Well, I hated it when he did it and I still hate it now. There were three big don’ts, and as long as Marvel obeyed those don’ts, they stayed true to their origins.

    1) You can’t bring back Bucky. It destroys Captain America’s motivation. And it did. Ultimately, the goal of this was to make Bucky Captain America for a while, maybe even permanently. While fan rage killed that, it was still stupid, and two years of misery for me. It showed how shallow Marvel is, and how they hate their fans. Who cares about Ed Brubaker’s personal identification issues? They’re not important. Staying true to the rules? That’s important.

    2) You can’t bring back Norman Osborn, it ruins one of the great comic book storylines. Well, they did that too. Now the power of the death of the Green Goblin is ruined, and instead, it cheapens Gwen’s death, because in the end, they found a way to bring her back, too. It’s things like this that turn people away from the comics. Endless ressurrection may sell in the short run, but if you kill someone, they should stay dead. Period.

    “Thus do proud men die. Not on a cross of gold, but upon a stake of humble tin.”

    One of the best lines in comics. Ruined. Good writing is hard to come by. Don’t blow it up.

    3) Spidey giving up Mary Jane for Aunt May. One More Day destroyed my faith in Marvel completely. I still have a dream that one day, I will wake up from the nightmare that Joe Quesada created, to find that he was killed in a horrible accident involving a horde of badgers, a grapefuit, and some marbles. Because let me tell you, I’m not alone in my opinion here. Quite frankly, the idea that any superhero would make a deal with the devil is ridiculous, not to mention totally against the core concept of superheroics in general.

    This is why I barely read comics anymore. How can you care about characters when the writers have no respect for their readers and write solely to fuel their own egomaniacal desires? Good writing doesn’t come from a desire for profit. And sure doesn’t come from betraying the people who lovingly come back each month. I will now list ten more things these clowns have done that fed my rage over the years.

    10. Vision and Scarlet Witch’s Kids: Spidey knew about this (See above) and yet he made the deal with Mephisto anyway.

    9. Mandrill: Villain as rape-monkey. Literally. That’s what he is. And it’s in his name, too.This is so offensive I don’t even know where to start.

    8. Jason Deere: Ultron and dozens of other villains know about this guy. Why not just annihilate the Earth by killing him?

    7. Tony Stark, Puppet of Kang: Seriously? This was so bad it made my brain ache.

    6. Howard the Duck. While some fans have a soft spot for Howard, this generally made me believe that there was nothing they wouldn’t do to waste paper.

    5. Norman Osborn rapes Gwen Stacy: What? This was some of the most painful, agonizing stuff I’ve ever had to read. Joe Quesada just can’t keep rape out of his brain. He’s still playing out his sick childhood sexual fantasies. Someone should get this guy a jail cell so he doesn’t hurt people. J. Michael Strazynski quit writing Spider Man because he refused to write this awful storyline. He was right to do so.

    4. The Beyonder: He’s a god! He’s a man! He’s a cosmic cube! He’s a universe! This is idiotic! Stay away from cosmic level stories! This is why they stink!

    3. Carrion: The living clone of Professor Miles Warren? I still don’t understand how this is even possible!

    2. House of M: Nobody knows what’s going on in the Marvel Universe to this DAY since they finished House of M! Many of us aren’t even sure what it was.

    1. MPD Hulk: Giving a cheap excuse for Bruce Banner’s rage instead of letting things alone ruins Old Greenskin completely.

    There are thousands of others, but these are the ones that come to mind.

    What happened to the good old days when Stan said Excelsior at the end of every issue and people actually felt like the stories mattered?

  3. Great article. For those of us who are watching the films and are not die hard comic books readers, it is an awesome dimension for the film. I thought Captain America 2 would just be another overly done mindless violent show, and it was not. I disagree with MichaelSatran above regarding Captain America losing his motivation…he does not fight bad guys only because of Bucky. He had a predisposition for justice before he even died. I love the hope of redemption, and the potential reunion of the two best friends.

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