In 2005, comic-book writer Ed Brubaker’s "Winter Soldier" story arc revived a Greatest Generation icon for a post-9/11 world—and in the process re-imagined Captain America as equal parts superhero and spy.
This new Steve Rogers was a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, foiling not against costumed supervillains’ world-domination schemes but rather assassination attempts and ruthless corporate intrigue. Brubaker’s grittier, stealthier vision of Captain America, created with artists Steve Epting and Michael Lark, provided the source material for this weekend’s No. 1 box-office hit, Captain America: The Winter Solider. Last week, Brubaker talked with me about his inspirations for his Captain America run, the political atmosphere that influenced his story, his fascination with spy fiction, and his big-screen cameo as a scientist tending to the Soldier himself.
Spoilers for both the The Winter Soldier comic and film to follow.
It's been almost a decade since you launched your run on Captain America with “The Winter Soldier.” What were your ideas for pursuing that story? What did you want to do with Steve Rogers?
My whole approach to the book centered around exploring Steve as a tragic character, carrying the weight of being Captain America, which I think would feel like a burden sometimes, but that's who he is. So as part of that tragedy, I wanted to bring back Bucky as a villain that would link Steve to his own past, give him a new tragedy to struggle with, and out of that, explore a different man out of time, Bucky Barnes, who had become something he would have hated.