Monday, July 18, 2011

An old Cap post, from 2007:

Wait, Mark Waid screwed up the continuity? That's like the Pope dicking up mass, or whatever.

From Captain America, Sentinel of Liberty #12, "Brothers in Arms" Written by Mark Waid, pencils by Dougie Braithwaite and Anthony Williams, inks by Dan Green and Scott Koblish.

For the last issue of Cap's spin-off anthology, then-current Captain America writer Mark Waid delivered a different, more updated look at the origin of Cap's first partner, Bucky. It's a pretty definitive take on the character, at least until Ed Brubaker's retroactive upgrade/revival of Bucky into "orphan trained by Green Berets to do things that symbol of liberty Cap can't."

(Incidentally, when Bucky's return was first coming out, did anyone think it was going to work? Like even a little? At the very least, I was expecting fakeout, and at worst a longbox full of suck. Brubaker totally made it work, and a round of applause for him, the art crews, and the editorial staff for not laughing him out on his ass for saying 'I wanna bring back Bucky!' And somewhere, Jason Todd/Red Hood should be crying into a pillow...heh, his stupid mask is probably watertight, so I'd love to see that.)

Previously, you could probably be forgiven if your initial impression of Bucky was 'like Captain America's Robin, only less useful.' I always wondered how come Cap gets a shield, while Bucky's out there in the battlefields of World War II with a brightly colored yet non-representational costume and not much else. Other writers, and apparently Bucky himself wondered the same thing, and now you see him packing heat all the time. I don't know if he did in the wartime stories, but I don't remember seeing him with a gun in say, the Lee/Kirby issues, although I admit he might've.
'Yeah, a gun! That'll give me the feeling of invulnerability I need!'
Waid does some nice character work for Bucky, but, and this may be harsh, it's easy when all anyone knows about him is that he died. And Cap screams his name, like a lot. The young James Buchanan Barnes' father was killed in a training incident, and Waid expands on that little nugget of continuity: he died demonstrating parachute techniques, while his son watched, which is probably why 'take your kid to work day' still hasn't caught on with the armed services. Bucky picked up a fear of heights from the incident, which should be exactly the sort of thing that makes a person, oh, not jump onto a moving drone plane full of explosives. Well, that's what makes Bucky a hero, or at least a shining example of America's never-say-die, never-think-things-through attitude. (Or is that Springfield? Eh, same difference.)

Becoming a 'mascot,' or more-or-less ward of the Army, young Bucky, needing to feel useful, worked his way into a position as the camp 'go-to guy.' Or black marketeer. Whatever. After stumbling into Cap's secret identity, Bucky blackmails him to get a job as sidekick, Bucky enjoys the work and is shiftier, more crafty then Cap; which helps to differentiate him from other kid sidekicks and give him something to do in-story that Cap couldn't. But, when asked by Cap how it felt to do a good deed, he says it feels "like I didn't get all my change. What am I, a maroon? I'm not leaving without something."
Wait, is the tide going in or coming out? Oh sh--
Bucky's war chest: I'm almost positive there's a skull in there, somewhere.
Hmm. I'm suddenly suspicious Waid stole this from Superman II. I don't know enough about the army, wartime rules, or war profiteering to say if this is on the up-and-up or not. It's not like Bucky stole his watch or anything...

You know, Bucky, I've got German cash. Big fat wad of Deutschmarks here. You've got a problem.
Also, and maybe this editorial edict has been reversed, but for a couple of years there, were swastikas and Nazi-whatnot verboten over at Marvel? Look, it's not like they were presented in a flattering light, as nine times out of ten it was mid-beatdown from Cap. (The tenth time, the Red Skull swearing vengeance.)

Bucky proves himself as a hero time and again, although I suspect from this story, had he survived and been left to his own devices, he would've ended up more like Booster Gold than Captain America. He would have wanted the fame, the glory, and then the money and the women, all of which leads to Bucky becoming a sellout and probably going out like Elvis by the 70's, which means maybe the metal arm and Soviet brainwashing weren't such a bad deal after all.

(I wish I still drew even a little, because I can picture a bloated, 70's-mustached Bucky, still in costume and domino mask, passed out drunk or dead on a giant round bed full of hookers and blow...and there go my chances of professional comics writing. Meh. Still, it would be a good What If?, a reversal of It's a Wonderful Life, where Cap sees Bucky survive the war only to slander his good name, abuse power, drugs, and himself; maybe even sell state secrets or take dives for payoffs. Kind of like that What If? where Spidey saves Gwen and then everything sucks, except decent. And yeah, I do need to finish reading Brat Pack...)

However, Mark Waid makes a big drop at the end of this story: after getting knocked unconscious by Baron Zemo, Cap and Bucky wake up tied to the drone plane; changed out of their costumes and into ordinary army uniforms. Why? Ostensibly as revenge for the bag-glued-to-his-head thing, so Cap and Bucky would die as "ciphers, unmourned and forgotten." A pretty grim assessment of our troops there, Zemo. Why did he have U.S. army uniforms lying around anyway? Dressing them up in Nazi uniforms would probably made more sense, and caused them more suffering. And looked horrible later. The real reason, though, is because in Avengers #4, when Cap's found in the block of ice, he's wearing the remnants of an Army uniform.

Over his Cap outfit, and his shield on his chest.

In Waid's version, without his shield, Cap goes after Bucky to stop the drone plane. And although the story ends with the last instant of Bucky's life (pre-Brubaker) frozen in time, the drone plane would explode, and Cap would be dumped into the ocean and frozen. Minus his shield, and without his brightly colored costume, which showed poking through the tattered army uniform, I doubt the Eskimos would've fished him out and started worshipping him. Or that the Avengers would've stopped chasing the Sub-Mariner, in order to pull Cap into the sub.
Well, no wonder you fell off the drone Cap, with your shield on your chest...
(with Captain America uniform)
IRON MAN: There's a man outside, in a brightly colored costume!
GIANT-MAN: Let's bring it in!
THOR: Aye, verily!
Putting these two panels together is like watching El Mariachi and Desperado back to back: the same story, but with better production values and prettier actors, minus a certain charm.
(without Cap uniform)
IRON MAN: There's a man outside, in a soldier's uniform. Huh.
WASP: Gross! Don't bring a corpse in here! This sub smells like an oil can full of sweat already!
THOR: Forsooth, by Odin's troth!

Admittedly, Cap's revival has been ret-conned quite a bit, too: I tried re-reading 'Ice' a while back, and the Jae Lee art is pretty but the story doesn't make a lick of sense. And despite what you may occasionally see the *cough* sidebar...Cap was frozen with his mask off. (I knew I should'a bought that Faceoff two pack!) Also, not unlike other seminal events like Batman's parents getting shot, Bucky's death has been shown and re shown, from multiple angles, and any discrepancies could be written off to viewer error. After all, after getting thrown off a plane and frozen for...however many years he was frozen now, I can see how Cap's recollection might vary. In fact, a little later we'll look at how Cap doesn't remember much about WWII, except that Bucky blew up and he's sad.

Regardless, Waid screwed up, although I bet he noticed eventually, but I don't know if it was ever pointed out or brought up. To drop another Simpsons reference, I feel like Milhouse protesting to Bart that Santa's Little Helper did eat his fish: "You tried to say I never had a goldfish, but then why did I have the bowl, Bart? Why did I have the bowl?"

Man, feeling like Milhouse is never a good sign. Let's just say this was a good Bucky story, and maybe even set up him as being able to do things Cap, as a big patriotic symbol, couldn' steal Nazi uniforms, knife a sentry in the back, blow up a sub...
Cap's foiled Zemo's plans dozens of times, and made out with his wife, but it does kind of pale to the sack on the head.
Waid's story also makes a little more sense as far as the drone plane: supposedly, Zemo was going to send the stolen drone plane sent back to Hitler (apparently directly to Hitler, based on all the accounts I remember) where it would be reverse-engineered so Nazi Germany could produce enough drones to bomb England and America. A pretty optimistic plan, since I'm don't think they would've been able to produce enough planes or bombs at that point in the war; but I've never played Axis & Allies, so what do I know?

The drone was launched from an English airfield, supposedly towards Germany, yet Cap ends up dumped in the North Atlantic, which doesn't seem quite right, but I'm not going to Mapquest it right now either. Say either it launched over the ocean and blew up before turning back, or that Cap and Bucky knocked it off course. But the bomb on the drone also varies: sometimes it's internal, like a part of the drone's engine, and sometimes it's a big lump of dynamite Bucky finds right before it goes off.

Killing Cap and Bucky would not only be a feather in Zemo's sack, but it would also be a huge propaganda victory for the Nazis. Hitler would probably want to publicize, if not desecrate the corpses; but it wouldn't work if they were dressed as garden-variety G.I.'s. Sending Cap's shield back only makes sense if the Germans planned on reverse-engineering the metal; but since Zemo's their best scientist, it makes more sense for him to keep it; but then Cap wouldn't have it in Avengers #4.

There's probably more, but I'd have to really dig for it now. I may or may not be out for the rest of the week, so have fun, and keep your sidekick in check, for god's sake...
'Heh...all for Bucky, all for Bucky...'

Hell, before I forget: the Captain America and Avengers panels, the first is from Avengers #4, "Captain America joins the Avengers!" Written by Stan Lee, art by Jack Kirby. And it's damn expensive, so I just have it reprinted in Avengers Masterworks. The second is from Captain America #251, "The Mercenary and the Madman!" Written by Roger Stern, pencils by John Byrne, inks by Joe Rubinstein. Scanning out of a big thick trade is a pain, but Captain America: War & Remembrance is very much the first Cap trade you should buy. Or a Mark Waid one.

1 comment:

Dale Bagwell said...

Really good article Goo. Waid was obviously on to something by fleshing out Bucky. Too bad(or good) that Brubaker got the final say concerning Bucky...for now anyway.