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How is the return of Bucky Barnes different in the films and comics?

With 'The Falcon and The Winter Soldier' resuming filming, we talk about Bucky Barnes' return.

By Monita MohanPublished 3 years ago 3 min read
The Winder Soldier (Courtesy: Marvel Studios)

The launch of Disney Plus, Disney’s streaming platform, has given a new lease of life to several beloved onscreen characters. Among the slate of Marvel Cinematic Universe spin-off shows, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is probably one of the most highly anticipated. Much of that comes down to the protagonists of the show, Sam Wilson, aka The Falcon, played by Anthony Mackie, and especially Bucky Barnes, the Winter Soldier, played by Sebastian Stan.

The Falcon and The Winter Soldier (Courtesy: Disney Plus)

Bucky Barnes was introduced in the MCU as Steve Rogers’ (Chris Evans) best friend and protector in Captain America: The First Avenger. After becoming Captain America, Steve single-handedly invaded the Red Skull’s facility to rescue Bucky. Only to lose him a couple of years later during a mission. Bucky didn’t capture the imagination of fans, though, till his return in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. He was the broken, brainwashed agent of Hydra, who needed rescuing once again. And only Steve could do it.

While the film lifted several elements directly from the comic book run of the same name by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting, there were some key differences between the adaptation and the source material.

Bucky’s Origin

Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes (Courtesy: Marvel Studios)

One of the biggest changes from page to screen is Bucky’s origin story. In the comics, James Buchanan "Bucky" Barnes was Captain America’s kid sidekick. Introduced in Captain America Comics #1 (March 1941), Bucky was an attempt to capitalize on the new sidekick craze spurred on by the introduction of DC Comics’ Robin, the Boy Wonder. Unlike the dashing hero of Captain America: The First Avenger, Bucky in the comics was a precocious kid with an army legacy. He stumbles upon Cap’s real identity and becomes the first avenger’s partner-in-crime. As one can imagine, their relationship was akin to father-son rather than the popular bromance it evolved into in the MCU films.

After many successful missions together, Captain America watches his kid sidekick get blown up on a plane launched by Baron Zemo. A similar scene takes place in the films with a train replacing Zemo’s plane, but in the comics, that accident sends Steve into the ice.

Bucky’s Back

The Winter Soldier (Courtesy: Marvel Studios)

Bucky remained dead till 2005 when he was resurrected as the Winter Soldier by Brubaker and Epting in their comic run. Bucky was blown off the plane and captured by the Soviets – not Hydra, like in the films – who brainwashed him into being an assassin for the KGB’s Department X.

Bucky wasn’t mind-wiped because the accident left him an amnesiac, but the Winter Soldier was ‘put on ice’ in-between missions, which slowed his aging. During his tenure with Department X, Bucky met Black Widow and the two began a relationship. Since Black Widow in the films isn’t immortal, she never knew Bucky personally; as we saw in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Widow, however, was aware of the myth surrounding the Winter Soldier. Comic book-Bucky also liberated Wolverine, an incident that could still be retroactively added to the MCU if the X-Men ever enter it.

Remember Baron Zemo? On screen, he’s the most underrated and successful MCU villain, but his connection with Bucky is transactional at best and takes place well after Bucky’s return. In the comics, Zemo not only caused Bucky’s death, but he was the tyrant who supervised Bucky’s torment in Department X.

Who the hell is Bucky?

Panel from the comics (Courtesy: Marvel)

While the iconic scene in Captain America: The Winter Soldier when Bucky retorts to an incredulous Steve ‘who the hell is Bucky?’, is taken straight from the comics, the film version has more of an impact because Steve is taken by surprise. In the comics, Bucky captures Steve’s partner Sharon Carter (Agent 13, played by Emily VanCamp in the films) but she escapes and tells Steve about his existence.

One of the biggest differences between on-screen Bucky and the comic book version is agency. The film version lacks any form of autonomy, hardly speaking because the moment he seemingly steps out of line, Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) and his goons mind-wipe and lock him away. The comic book version is much more loquacious and somewhat more confident.

Bucky’s return as the Winter Soldier and the subsequent liberation of his conditioning has become a fan-favourite moment for comic book readers and film fans alike. And Marvel continues to leverage the character’s popularity with a new comic series that released earlier this year and the upcoming television series which will hopefully spark much more screen time for the character.

Now that The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is back to filming, we can look forward to seeing this character develop further on screen.


About the Creator

Monita Mohan

When not dreaming of a one-way trip to Coruscant, I'm usually staring at a blank page, hoping my articles write themselves.


Twitter: @Monita_Mohan

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