Bucky Barnes has been a sidekick, a secret agent, a sentinel of liberty, and a soldier – but now, he’s a space hero.
Earlier this month Marvel announced Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier by Ales Kot and Marco Rudy, which will see the one-time kid commando head out into space but taking his signature spy/thriller vibe with him. Set to launch this October as part of Marvel’s “Avengers NOW!” initiative, Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier will spin out of the finale of Original Sin and see Barnes take on a new, more cosmic role in the Marvel Universe. In an interview with AV Club, series editor Wil Moss said the character would be “operating on an intergalactic scale” traversing outer space and other dimensions. No pressure, right?
Newsarama talked with Kot by phone just after the announcement of Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier, and what we learned was that the European writer has ideas for the series as far out as the locales promised for the character.
Newsarama: Ales, what do you have in store for readers with Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier?
Ales Kot: Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier is my third way of exploring themes similar to those of Zero and Secret Avengers. This series dives into spy thriller fiction, at least on the surface, and explores war, violence, the cycles that come with them, as well as nature and nurture and how they affect us. Zero went at it from a tragedy angle, and Secret Avengers takes a farcical one; I went for a more absurd, elaborately ridiculous feel, because I don’t want to do the same thing twice and because it felt right.
Both Zero and Secret Avengers feel successful, not just commercially, but as something I’m happy with artistically. I always want to achieve both. When Marvel’s Will Moss came to me with an offer to do Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier, I initially had no interest as I felt I would just be digging back into a lot of the same things I did with the previous two series.I didn’t want my work to cannibalize itself for a paycheck, even though the money is nice.
I stepped back and asked myself if there was a new angle to this. Then the realization came: something that starts in a similar mode but goes someplace completely different. Our storyis essentially about a protagonist who is very affected by the cycles of war and violence, has been mind-wiped repeatedly, got turned into a killer, and didn’t have his own agency for a while. Eventually he got out of that because he has incredible survival instincts, but just because you’re a survivor doesn’t mean you’re necessary a living, functioning human being. So with Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier, I settled on exploring the notion of what happens after you survive something like Bucky has. How do you explore what’s after, especially in something as deep and vast and mind-expanding as the Marvel Universe?
Nrama: How do you view Bucky Barnes, Ales?
Kot: Bucky is someone who’s essentially been viewed as a sort of tool, as someone who is almost a blunt instrument; you point him in a direction and he does a job. He served in the U.S. military as a teenager, he worked for the Russians and didn’t have his own mind, and he eventually came out the other side and into Captain America stuff and eventually got out of that. Then he went through even more traumatic stuff. Bucky’s already dealt with some of his past; the last arc of the previous Winter Soldier seriesby Jason Latour and Nic Klein is very interesting and layered. It also set gave Bucky a chance to create a new mindset.
I can’t wallow in the same things over and over again and expect different results each time. So Bucky's faced his past, and ended up in a place where he makes a jump into the future and sees what happens next. At the beginning of this new series, he’s taken on a massive new responsibility I can’t really elaborate on due to the spoiler-y nature of it; what I can say is that Bucky’s new job puts him on many different planets and in many different locales in the first issue alone.
When you have so many different conflicting agendas over the years, you get into a mess.The series is perhaps about getting out of that mess, or maybe even better, staying within it and figuring out what's next -- and not necessary knowing what’s waiting for next but making that next step anyway. Bucky steps out into almost the void, and what awaits him on the other side is, in a sense of how the comic will feel, cosmic awe.
My core interest lies in making a series I would want to read; to make something that would blow my mind on every page, not just when I was 11 but also today. That goes hand-in-hand in working closely with Marco Rudy, and then with Marvel to find the most interesting, mind-bending places in the Marvel U and send Bucky there and see how it changes him. The first issue is named “The Transmigration of Bucky Barnes,” a nod to Philip K. Dick’s Transmigration of Timothy Archer. The cover to Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #1 – what does it remind you of?
Nrama: The head transformation scene in the original Total Recall.
Kot: Before Marco came back with that cover, I didn’t have the story name nor a completely clear idea of what I wanted to do. I mean, I did, but I was hitting a point where I no longer felt like it all worked. When that cover came in, I totally saw Total Recall – which is based on a Philip K. Dick story – and then the gears started turning and everything clicked. I am very open to collaborating with artists and letting them inform the process.
Nrama: Speaking of this not being a solo project, Bucky Barnes has few friends, and even those he seems to keep at arm’s length. In the AV Club announcement interview, Marco mentioned the Secret Warriors alum of Daisy Johnson would be a part of this. What’s her role, and are there any others coming in?
Kot: Daisy works with Bucky, but I can’t really say anything past that. They’ll be working together closely. I want the gender balance to be present here.
There’s a planet we’ll be introducing called Mer'z'Bow that’ll be a large part of the series. On that planet we’ll meet one character I’m especially excited for: a princess who doesn’t want to be a princess. She doesn’t see the point in monarchy, but not everyone agrees with her. The hive mind of her people gives us a lot of interesting possibilities. I’m very excited to see what Marco does with Mer'z'Bow visually.
One of the main visual influences on this series are Heavy Metal magazine comics. The only Marvel comic to get close to that in recent memory is Uncanny X-Force.
Nrama: For the most part, in previous stories Bucky has inherited the adversaries of his former partner Captain America. What will Bucky be up against here?
Kot: I can give you some hints. Before I get to that – we're doing something different with the format here. Every issue of Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier will be self-contained, and that harkens back to what I’m doing on Zero at least until #15. In that series, each issue is a different mission, drawn by a different artist. What I wanted to do with this series is take that approach but adapt it to the new situation. Marco is incredibly versatile, and he can change his style not just with each issue but even each page if he wants to.
In the first four to five issues there will be a larger problem that’s emerging, but I can say the biggest adversary for Bucky in this series is essentially Bucky himself. His past and his dealing with people from that past, all the killing he’s done, all of that must leave marks; it’s a kind of ‘Ghosts of Christmas Past’ for Bucky. Crossbones will also make an appearance, and we’ll see a rather large, greedy conspiracy in the midst of it all. In the second issue we’re going to Asgard, so that gives us a chance to have a lot of fun with any elements of Norse mythology that I feel like dragging up and throwing at Marco. There’s no limit but our imaginations, which is exactly what I want when making any sort of art.
One beautiful thing about comics is that it’s an art that you can consume while sitting on the toilet. [laughs] It’s the best of both worlds, because you can really look at comic anywhere, you can read them at many different levels. For instance, there’s so many different ways to read something like Elektra: Assassin; you can skim on the surface and be really impressed by the fluidity of it and the way the action movies, or you can dive deeply in -- spending 20 minutes on each page, for example – and feel the world come alive around you. And I want us to create a truly immersive experience. For a living room, or an art gallery – or a toilet.
Nrama: In some ways, Bucky has fallen under the shadow of Captain America – so for you, writing this, how are you working to differentiate the two playing fields without completely disconnecting it?
Kot: Steve Rogers usually refuses to kill; then someone like Bucky or Wolverine steps in and tortures and/or kills a person for information. That’s sort of the core difference between Steve and Bucky; Bucky’s more unhinged, and his ethical compact is much less formed. Then again, when Steve Rogers just steps aside...that raises interesting questions as well, doesn't it? Anyway – what Bucky does in these scenarios goes back to his past, and how he's coping with it.
Nrama: You’ve really stressed to me how important Marco is to the formula of this book. Artists seem to be a key part of your work as evidenced by Zero, so for this title how is having Marco Rudy aboard helping the whole package?
Kot: Marco is incredibly versatile, a style chameleon -- he’s able to take a look at a page, a scene, an issue, and look at it from a rather evolved, unified sense. He looks at the text and the subtext and considers and feels a.) how can I depict that perfectly through art without putting any sort of limitation on myself, then b.) how can I make it clear for the reader, and then c.) how can I make it really mind-blowing – not like any page seen in comics before? Anyway, that’s my limited understanding of how Marco does what he does, and why.
I love to experiment and I love to push myself into new things. That mindset is something we share, and it is something I actively desire and search for in my collaborators. It's a certain dream of a common language.
When I look at Marco's work, I see daring, bravery, and a true understanding of the elements of comic storytelling and history.
Nrama: Last question – what’s something about Bucky that hits home for you that you think most people don’t realize that’ll you’ll be taking advantage of in this series?
Kot: The previous Winter Soldier stories were usually very dark, both in the stories and the color palette. We do play with dark themes and darkness is inherent to the character, but we spin further. Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier travels across the universe. There’s a sense of keen exploration people have -- I believe intrinsically – that is sometimes forgotten. But when you’re walking down the street at night or waking up in the morning, or just having lunch, or making love, or reading, or writing, or doing all these different things -- you might just realize that life is incredibly weird and beautiful and there are so many occurrences you might feel you can’t even begin to explain nor understand yet, but you can dive in and see what happens next.
Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldieris about that dive into the awe of the unknown.