For the main character of Captain America: The Winter Soldier we’ll spend two different pages, like we did with Chris Genovese/D’Amico for Kick-Ass. Sebastian Stan will return in the movie as James “Bucky” Barnes, Steve Rogers‘ best friend from the times of the war. In Captain America: The First Avenger Bucky acted as some sort of big brother to Steve, protecting him from bullies; he then became a hero during the war, was kidnapped by Nazis, and freed by his friend, who had become Captain America. He then apparently dies during a mission. His file is seen in The Avengers, but, oddly enough, he’s reported as “Missing In Action”, maybe implying that S.H.I.E.L.D. knows he’s still alive… Anyway, in the comics Bucky has never acted as Steve Rogers’ big brother, quite the opposite, considering that he appears much younger in his first issues, in a relationship similar to the Batman & Robin one. Let’s see together.
Surely James Buchanan Barnes was born in a patriotic family: named after the 15th President of the United States of America, he was the son of private George M. Barnes, soldier in the US Army, and his wife Winifred, nurse. Born in 1925 in Shelbybille, Indiana, he soon became an orphan: Winifred died of some illness when he was still a child, and George was killed in a parachuting incident in Camp Lehigh while training (thus starting in the boy a paralyzing fear of heights). Rebecca, his younger sister, was sent to boarding school, but young James, already just as a patriot as his father was, managed to convince the officers of Camp Lehigh to let him stay there as a ward of the state. Only twelve years old, he soon became the mascot of the other soldiers, but, when he was sixteen, he had become some sort of a delinquent, often starting brawls in the camp. Major Samson decided to have some discipline taught to the boy, and sent him to Britain, where he was trained by William Essart Fairbairn and Colonel Rex Applegate to become a perfect, capable and reliable soldier. Back to the US, Barnes met a young and naive private, Steve Rogers, and he befriended him. One night, entering Rogers’ tent, James found him changing into his masked identity, Captain America, the hero the boy had been reading about on newspapers since his first appearance. Swearing to keep his secret, James accompanied Captain America in his first mission against the Red Skull, a Nazi mastermind, and freed many war prisoners with the hero. James decided to become Steve’s sidekick, and underwent an intensive training to be worthy of the position. When he was ready, he asked permission to the officers in charge, who saw in him the perfect American response to the Nazi Hitler Youth: James would have soon been known in the entire world as Bucky, Captain America’s brave sidekick.
Actually, it was later revealed that all the incidental stumbling upon Rogers and his secret identity was part of a plan conceived by Samson and some other officers to fool both the public opinion and Captain America with a friendly origin story for their agent. Bucky was meant to be Cap’s sidekick not only to present a true American boy to the Germans, but also to accomplish the missions too morally questionable to be assigned to a living symbol like Captain America. In a way or the other, Bucky and Cap became true friends while fighting the Nazis all over the world, and they faced many fearful villains, such as Master Man, the assassin Rathcone, scientist Arnim Zola and many others. The duo became part of the American super team known as The Invaders, and Bucky alone founded the Sentinels of Liberty, a fan club for endorsing patriotism and supporting the American policy during the war; the military saw potential in the Sentinels and turned them into the Young Allies, a group formed by the young sidekicks of the greatest American superheroes (the teenager team also succeeded where the adults failed, and beat the crap out of Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and Hideki Tojo while they were on a reunion all together). Fighting at the side of heroes such as the Human Torch, Sub-Mariner, Nick Fury and the Howling Commandos, Bucky grew up quite fast, and the secret missions he received from the high ranks accelerated the process. In the last days of the war, when Bucky was by now a war hero who dreamt about becoming rich and famous once peace came back, Baron Zemo launched a final attack to the Allies, during which his Humanoid defeated and abducted both Cap and Bucky. The two woke up on a secret island, with the Baron using an experimental drone he had stolen to attack America: the two heroes freed themselves, and got on a plane trying to stop the drone from reaching New York City. Despite his fear of heights, Bucky jumped on the drone, trying to disarm the bomb on it, and Cap followed him: time wasn’t on their side, and they only managed to change the bomb’s course. Bucky threw his friend and comrade off the drone, into the Arctic Sea below, but wasn’t unable to jump himself since his arm was trapped into the drone’s mechanism. The bomb exploded, and Bucky was believed to have died a hero’s death.
James Barnes is a teenager who’s been forced to grow up much sooner than normal, by personal tragedies, by war, by his superior officers’ schemes. He only found real friendship with Captain America, who’s become his mentor and the older brother he never had. An extremely proficient soldier despite his young age, Bucky is an expert marksman and martial artist, and he’s able to use virtually any weapon in the US Army’s arsenal; he’s also a master tactician and an intel expert. His bulletproof costume protects him in battle, while his skills make him a formidable ally and a fearsome enemy, despite being still a kid. With more violence kept inside than meets the eye, Bucky is a loyal friend to Cap, but also the pragmatical and ruthless soldier his mentor will never be.