Saluting Captain America: The Life Story of Bucky Barnes

Every day we celebrate Captain America’s 75th anniversary by looking deep into the Marvel Unlimited archives and going through some of Steve Rogers’ most thrilling adventures. Happy diamond anniversary Sentinel of Liberty!

Writer Ed Brubaker revolutionized the character of James “Bucky” Barnes during his long tenure crafting the adventures of Captain America. He not only brought him back to the land of the living, but also introduced another tragic character into the Marvel Universe looking for redemption. In order to continue building him up, Brubaker eventually looked back at Bucky’s past in greater detail in the pages of CAPTAIN AMERICA AND BUCKY #620624 with co-writer Marc Andreyko and artist Chris Samnee.

The old story—recounted by Steve Rogers himself in CAPTAIN AMERICA #109—goes that young Camp Lehigh mascot Bucky Barnes ran into Rogers’ tent as he changed into his Cap duds and asked to be his partner, but that would be a pretty irresponsible beginning to a kid’s military career. In a story related by Bucky to his sister Becca, James remembers his early days trying to keep his anger in check after his mother died. He lived with his dad and sister at Camp Lehigh, but after his father died in an accident, she went off to boarding school and he stuck around the base.

After getting into a series of brawls, Bucky meets Major Phillips, who puts him on a mysterious special assignment that includes heading over to England to train with the S.A.S. in all manner of battle skills. Soon enough he discovers the true purpose: to become Captain America’s partner.

Officially offered the job—and costume—by Cap himself, the two become fast friends, even brothers, as they ferret out threats to the United States at home. During a mission to save a group of soldiers on a train station, Bucky kills his first man and deals with it the best he can, but it leaves an impression on the youngster.Saluting Captain America: The Life Story of Bucky Barnes

Other stories revolve around Bucky dealing with his human status among his fellow Invaders. Feeling less than equal to the Super Soldier, android, Sea King and mutant fireball, he still perseveres in an effort to save his teammates from a Nazi scientist, earning Namor’s respect in the process.

#623 features a moving tale focusing on Bucky and Toro’s discovery of a concentration camp while saving an American spy and the horrors therein that many soldiers didn’t know about during the conflict. He promises to return, but doesn’t have time before Zemo’s plane exploded.

The rage Barnes feels about what he saw reflects the feelings he has about his Winter Soldier days which he recounts in #624, but also some of the more positive elements like meeting the Black Widow and starting to remember who he truly is under all that Soviet programming and memory loss.

The next arc focuses on another Bucky, Fred Davis who served with William Naslund after Cap and Bucky disappeared. Though he didn’t get frozen in ice and turned into a weapon, Fred’s life proves less than stellar as no one believes he waged war as a hero. It doesn’t help that a robot tries to kill him during CAPTAIN AMERICA AND BUCKY #625628, but the true Captain America and original Human Torch appear to help save his skin. In other words: Buckys don’t exactly lead the most glorious lives!

Cap Declassified

The title formerly known as CAPTAIN AMERICA changed to CAPTAIN AMERICA AND BUCKY until #629 when writer Cullen Bunn took over and brought in other heroes like Hawkeye, Iron Man, Namor, and Black Widow. At the same time Ed Brubaker continued on in a newly launched CAPTAIN AMERICA series with artists like Steve McNiven, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Alan Davis, Patch Zircher, Mike Deodato, Scot Eaton, and Butch Guice. Brubaker’s run on the title ends with #19, but we’ll get to that one soon.

Next, Peggy Carter and Howard Stark team up in the 1950’s to track down a potential alien threat in OPERATION SIN by Kathryn Immonen and Rich Ellis.