The entire contents of this article could be considered spoilers for The First Avenger: Captain America and a possible sequel. That said, if you’re aware of the last few years worth of events in the Captain America comics this will not be a spoiler. Or a surprise.
For decades the maxim was that the only two comic book characters who stayed dead were Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben and Captain America’s original sidekick, Bucky Barnes. Then Captain America comic writer Ed Brubaker did what no one else had dared to do – he resurrected Bucky. As a cybernetically enhanced Soviet sleeper agent. And while that sounds awful it in fact wasn’t, and the new iteration of Bucky, called the Winter Soldier, became very popular with fans. After the death of Steve Rogers, Bucky actually became the new Captain America for a couple of years.
Sources inside the The First Avenger: Captain America production are now telling me that the Captain America movie continuity is being developed to leave the door open for the Winter Soldier to appear, should there be a sequel. Bucky will be seemingly killed when Cap is frozen in ice, as he was in the original post-WWII Captain America stories, but he’ll take on some serious injuries along the way, allowing him to show up again in the future with a cyborg arm.
Previous thinking at Marvel Studios had Bucky surviving the war and meeting Cap in the modern day as an old man, which is how it happened in the Ultimate universe, a rebooted version of Marvel continuity that’s been influential on some of Marvel’s approach about the movies (that’s where Samuel L Jackson as Nick Fury comes from, as well as SHIELD being behind the Avengers). I’ve actually heard some contradictory versions of what happens to Bucky, which leads me to believe that there’s been some back and forth on the issue (I’ve also heard that, as of a couple of weeks ago, the script for The First Avenger: Captain America was anything but locked down), but my source feels fairly certain that right now The Winter Soldier is being, if not planned, left available.
It makes a lot of sense to me. Captain America’s rogue’s gallery isn’t the fullest in comic book lore. I mean, I’d love to see Batroc the Leaper make an appearance in a big budget movie, but outside of a couple of Nazi-connected characters – like Baron Zemo or The Hate-Monger (who is actually Adolph Hitler! – most of Cap’s foes don’t measure up. He has a villain called Gamecock, for the love of Christ. In the comics The Winter Soldier first appeared as a brainwashed villain but soon got control of himself and tried to make up for his past actions, which could be a great storyline in the movies. Hell, while we’re fanwanking down here, this could be a terrific two-part story for Captain America 2 and 3.
If you’re not up to date with the current Captain America comics, here’s a collection that covers the opening of the Winter Soldier story and should get you up to speed.