The star of a blockbuster film and a major player in this summer’s Original Sin crossover, Bucky Barnes, a.k.a. “The Winter Soldier,” has become one of Marvel’s most popular characters. This October, he’s getting a second shot at an ongoing series courtesy of writer Ales Kot (Zero, Secret Avengers) and artist Marco Rudy (Marvel Knights Spider-Man, New Avengers Annual), two rising stars that have done exceptional work at Marvel this year.
Spinning out of Original Sin, the new Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier title sees Captain America’s former sidekick turned assassin taking on a new, currently classified role in the Marvel universe, one that will considerably expand the scope of his adventures. “Bucky’s operating on an intergalactic stage now,” editor Wil Moss told The A.V. Club via e-mail. “The entire Marvel Universe is his playing field, from the depths of Limbo to the heights of Asgard, and everywhere in between. It’d be like if the James Bond movies suddenly had access to the characters and settings of all the other great film franchises. (You just know Bond wouldn’t have needed an entire fleet of X-wings to destroy the Death Star!)”
When it came to picking a creative team for the new series, the choice was easy. “Ales and Marco are both just brimming with talent,” Moss said. “Ales teaches a master class on 21st-century spy stories in Zero month after month, and he’s come up with a whole new spin on the genre for this new Winter Soldier series. And Marco reinvents sequential art every time he draws a page, as anyone who read the recent New Avengers Annual knows, so he was a natural pick for a book like this where there are no limits, and where every corner of the Marvel U. is going to be explored. I could not be happier with this creative team.”
The A.V. Club spoke with Kot and Rudy to hear how they’ll be approaching the writing and art, respectively, and their responses promise a series that will be delving deep into both Bucky’s character and the Marvel universe as a whole.
A.V. Club: What are the things that attract you to Bucky as a character?
Ales Kot: Sexy abs.
Killing brings trauma. Its effects on people and societies are relatively well-documented, yet we still have wars and glorify killing. My work on spy fiction in comics, beginning with Zero and continuing to Secret Avengers, interrogates the space where the trauma is repeated ad nauseam. Winter Soldier is the last part of my exploration of this, at least in comics.
Are you still thinking about sexy abs?
Bucky Barnes has undergone self-numbing amounts of traumatic experiences. He killed for the Soviets. He killed for Americans. He had people taken away from him by rather brutal means. He had his mind wiped out. Repeatedly. To top that, he’s hyper-competent when it comes to hurting people and he barely had a childhood.
So: a lot of damage. A lot of carefully developed survival mechanisms. The thing about them, though? They might have been important once, but now—well, many of them might be no longer necessary. Bucky is entering a completely new phase of his life and it is a deeply expansive one. Shedding the old and embracing the new is the core of the character and the series – traveling across galaxies as a very capable and damaged ex-mercenary, having experiences you can’t fit into your established worldview, changing in the process.
What is to be embraced? What is to be released? And what is left of the being underneath?
AVC: What are you looking forward to regarding working with Marco?
Kot: Absolutely everything. Marco is a wizard. I requested him specifically and I am delighted that we get along so well. Our visual approach is a merging of the Heavy Metal magazine aesthetic—which, for those readers who don’t know, is a very influential European comics magazine mostly focused on fantasy, sci-fi and horror—and the stories of writers such as Philip K. Dick and J.G. Ballard, plus plenty more. The first issue is named “The Transmigration of Bucky Barnes” in a direct nod to Philip K. Dick’s “The Transmigration of Timothy Archer.” And then, in the second, we go to Asgard, and the third a new planet entirely…the style will always change to suit the tone of the issue. I believe the Asgard issue should look the way the music of Blut Aus Nord feels.
Marco is a style chameleon. He can draw anything and he knows it. He is an explorer, an adventurer, he’s open to new possibilities and in-depth examination and immersion in the creative process – and so am I. Therefore we’re very well-suited for our collaboration.
AVC: How has writing Zero and Secret Avengers prepared you for working on Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier?
Kot: In Zero, I explore identity politics, war, violence, lies, nature and nurture – and more. It is a vehicle for self-exploration in that I needed to face these themes straight on, otherwise they could kill me.
In Secret Avengers, I make fun of that self-exploration and explore the absurd parts of it more. I still use the stories to explore the themes and their implications seriously, but then I sometimes push towards absurdism because the comic invites it.
Both of these comics are ways of coping with the world we build, with the identities we build, and making some sense of it. Recently I arrived to the conclusion that I know nothing. I am very happy with it.
Winter Soldier takes both approaches and merges them. What happens when – and after – you finally realize you know nothing?
AVC: What are some of the themes you’re planning to explore in Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier?
Kot: Besides the ones I already named—fluid identity and fluid gender. Many worlds theory, maybe. Feminism. Taoism. Pacifism. Nature and the systems we impose on it. Life in space. Empathy. Power unrestrained and power controlled. The Randian belief in the vampire self/20th century capitalism, what it brings, what can come after. Did I mention empathy? I know I did. I’ll mention it again.
AVC: What are some of the goals for the artwork on this series?
Marco Rudy: I am always studying, always trying to push me to learn new ways of telling a story, making it compelling, but using non-conventional ways to convey what is going on. The goal is to keep doing that, make our Winter Soldier as striking as it can be, both visually and in the way of storytelling. And through that, evolve as a storyteller, as well.
AVC: What are some of the inspirations for the visuals?
Rudy: For this book, we’re going for a lot of pulp sci-fi visuals, still keeping the experimentation I am (now) known for, but having Philip K. Dick in mind, Isaac Asimov, and the like. The magazine Heavy Metal in some of its “out there” approach to some of the stories comes to mind as a huge influence. There’s more in the way of inspiration: Al Williamson’s space pulp visuals and my usual go-to, Mr. Jim Steranko, play a role in my approach to this book. Combine this with what I usually try to do, in layouts and color work versus black-and-white, and you get an idea on what you may find here.
AVC: You experiment with each new project, how are you planning on pushing yourself with Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier?
Rudy: Keep doing that. I will be coloring this book as well. I want to have the same vibe as another Heavy Metal story, I’m trying new things, like gouache, coffee and acrylics, as well as combining what I have learned with watercolors, inks and whatever I use to play that day. The storytelling will be different, but at the same time, it has to be pleasant to follow. I still want you to look at the page, find all the hints the layout is giving you, then look at the sequence overall and see the underlying story the layouts alone tell you. So I’m studying even more ways to make this successful. Some times less means more; taking David Mazzuchelli’s Asterios Polyp as an example, there are situations in which a single small panel can work as a whole page or you can have a whole sequence of events hinted in an elaborate set of layouts. I’ll eventually try to add music to storytelling in comics. (Laughs.)
AVC: Is there anything you’re hoping you get the opportunity to draw at some point on this book?
Rudy: There are quite a few. Two of them I asked for and I got a positive from Ales, so those I wont reveal as it’s a pretty kickass surprise. But on to the question, well, since we’ll be spacefaring, space visuals will be awesome to draw. Everyone knows how much of a Silver Surfer fan I am, if I can’t get to draw him space-surfing, we have jetpacks and Bucky has a ship, so…
I want to visit Titan, draw Ikaris, Makkari, Sersi, The Eternals, man! And from what I know, Barnes is going to be doing his thing all over the place, so, awesome!
At the same time we’re talking about a very acrobatic, very physical character—he was once Captain America, so the possibilities of showing Barnes doing his thing with flair fill me with excitement. I want to show it all, acrobatic killings, combat prowess, stealth maneuvers, Assassin’s Creed and Splinter Cell meets Captain America and classic pulp heroes. Expect that, and more.
Also, we have a very interesting supporting cast, of which I’m only going to talk about Daisy Johnson, a.k.a. “Quake.” She takes center stage in this book and it’s finally a female character to draw for me. Been asking to draw female-focused stories for a while now, and here is the chance. Expect her to be quite the badass in this book, she will be every bit the equal of Barnes, and then some, adding to her tactic and combat prowess, her superpower and more. The dynamic between these two will be interesting to explore. Man I went away from the question almost altogether here, I’m hoping to draw:
- Shi’ar (people, known characters, civilizations)
- Namor (Imperius Rex!)
- Natalia Romanova
- Kree Empire (same as with the Shi’ar)
- Nick Fury
- Contessa Valentina de Fontaine
- Power Pack (hey, why not)
And much, much more!