Captain America: [sees the Winter Soldier unmasked] “…Bucky?”
Winter Soldier: “Who the hell is Bucky?” – Captain America: The Winter Soldier
A shadowy figure infiltrates a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility. It slips past civilians and office workers, searching for its target. An unlucky agent crosses the figure’s path and gets his neck snapped. The figure peers around a wall and sees two guards with machine guns standing in front of a heavily fortified door.
The figure tosses a flashbang grenade, blinding the guards, while rushing forward and putting a knife through the first guard’s throat. The second guard shoots but his bullets are blocked by the figure’s arm. The sleeve shreds, revealing a gleaming metal arm with a red star. The arm drives forward impossibly fast and slams the guard’s head through the metal wall. The Winter Soldier enters the room and assassinates its sole occupant, his target for this mission.
The Winter Soldier is one of Marvel’s first sidekicks. He fought in WWII, was turned into a cyborg, and became Captain America. So who is he? Where did he come from? Is he friend or foe? I’d tell you, but then I’ll have to kill you. Meh, what the hell. Let’s find out.
Young Ally: The Winter Soldier’s Backstory
Steve Rogers: “You ready to follow Captain America into the jaws of death?”
James ‘Bucky’ Barnes: “Hell, no! The little guy from Brooklyn who was too dumb not to run away from a fight. I’m following him.” – Captain America: The First Avenger
Before there was a Winter Soldier, there was Bucky Barnes, Captain America’s sidekick. Bucky debuted in Captain America Comics #1 in 1941. He was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. He was inspired by Batman’s sidekick Robin and named after one of Simon’s friends.
James “Bucky” Barnes was an army brat who met a soldier named Steve Rogers during WWII. Bucky accidentally walked into Steve’s tent one day and saw him putting on the Captain America uniform. Cap eventually gave in to Bucky’s requests to fight together and trained his buddy.
Bucky was used as propaganda to show America’s youth that they could be heroes too. But behind the scenes, Bucky was used to assassinate people for the government–something that Captain America would never agree to do.
Captain America and Bucky seemingly met their ends when spies sabotaged an experimental plane they were testing. Cap fought the spies while Bucky tried defusing the bomb. It exploded, knocking Bucky and Cap off the plane. Cap was frozen alive and Bucky was declared KIA.
The Red Room: The Winter Soldier’s History
[Bucky aims a gun at Iron Man]
Iron Man: “Manchurian Candidate, you’re killing me. We’re on a truce. Put the gun down.” – Captain America: Civil War
Bucky was one of the only superheroes who stayed dead. Fans used to say that the only comic characters to stay dead were Bucky, Jason Todd (the second Robin), and Uncle Ben. Bucky was finally resurrected in 2005, 41 years after writers killed him off
A Soviet submarine crew found Bucky drifting in the ocean. He was missing an arm and suffering from amnesia. They brought Bucky to Russia, where he was placed in a program called The Red Room. He was brainwashed to be a weapon and a cybernetic arm was grafted to his stump. The Red Room sent Bucky, code-named Winter Soldier, on the same types of assassination missions that the Americans had.
The Red Room cryogenically froze the Winter Soldier between missions to keep him at his physical prime. He was only revived to train other spies, most notably Black Widow, or to kill someone.
Captain America discovered The Winter Soldier when he assassinated the Red Skull and a hero called Nomad. Cap learned his backstory over a series of skirmishes after seeing the Soldier unmasked. He managed to break the Soviet brainwashing and help Bucky regain his memories.
Bucky kept the Winter Soldier identity and resumed his black ops career. When Steve was assassinated, Bucky took up the shield and mantle of Captain America. Most recently, Bucky helped the superhero community fight a HYDRA regime led by a traitorous Captain America. It’s a long, convoluted and kinda stupid story that none of us has time for.
Living Weapon: Winter Soldier’s Powers and Personality
[Iron Man learns that Bucky was the person who killed his parents.]
Iron Man: [restraining Bucky] “Do you even remember them?!”
Winter Soldier: “I remember all of them [his victims].”
Bucky’s training started when he was a teenager in the Army, continued through Cap’s special tutoring, and finally into the Russian cybernetic and medical enhancements. He’s a badass who spars easily with Captain America and former protege’ Black Widow. His cybernetic arm hits with superhuman strength, transmit an EMP, and appear as a normal human arm.
Bucky’s weapons experience includes knives, pistols, machine guns, and sniper rifles. During his stint as Captain America he used the famous shield made of Vibranium and Adamantium, which sounds useful for a guy who is always getting shot at.
Bucky is a ruthless antihero who believes the ends justify the means. He has a heart despite his programming and often goes out of his way to help people. He privately broods about his crimes as the Winter Soldier, but hides that behind a layer of snark in public.
The Actors who play the Winter Soldier
Bucky debuted in The Marvel Super Heroes where he was voiced by radio personality Carl Banas. Robin’s voice actor Scott Menville voiced Bucky in Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, but was replaced by Jon Curry when Bucky became the Winter Soldier. Bob Bergin and Roger Craig Smith voiced the Winter Soldier in Avengers Assemble.
Sebastian Stan plays Bucky in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This version of the character debuted in Captain America: The First Avenger as Cap’s best friend. The plane explosion was replaced by getting knocked off a train on top of a mountain.
He reappeared as the main antagonist of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Bucky became a hero in Captain America: Civil War and was frozen while scientists tried to remove his brainwashing triggers. He appeared in the post credits scene of Black Panther and was nicknamed White Wolf by the Wakandan citizens.
White Wolf aka The Winter Soldier aka Bucky next appears in Avengers: Infinity War.
Didya get all that?
A cyborg super soldier.
Jared Bounacos has written for Movie Rewind since 2017.