|James Buchanan "Bucky" Barnes
|Steve Rogers (best friend and ally), Natasha Romanoff (ally), Sam Wilson (ally), Alpine (adopted cat)
|Captain America, Captain America Movieverse (MCU), The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
|Click here for related articles on Fanlore.
Bucky Barnes, also known as the Winter Soldier or Captain America, is a Marvel Comics character. He also appears in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and appears in other Avengers/Captain America cartoon related shows.
In the original Captain America comics, Bucky Barnes is a teenager who is unofficially adopted by the U.S. Army Camp Lehigh in Virginia as their mascot after the death of his father, a soldier who died during training. The young Bucky serves alongside Steve Rogers as Captain America and as one of the Kid Commandos throughout World War II. He is ostensibly killed in an explosion when he fails to defuse a bomb during an encounter with Baron Zemo.
In The Winter Soldier arc by Ed Brubaker, it is revealed that Bucky survived the blast—but lost one of his arms as well as his memories of before the blast. He is found by a crew of a Russian patrol submarine and is brought to Moscow. He is then programmed to become a Soviet assassin for Department X under the code name 'The Winter Soldier'.
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Bucky Barnes (portrayed by Sebastian Stan) first appears in the movie Captain America: The First Avenger as Steve Rogers' best friend and ally. He is ostensibly killed near the end of the film.
He returns in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, where it is revealed that Hydra had captured him after his fall and experimented on him, brainwashing him to be a killer assassin. He is put into a state of cryofreeze every time his handlers are done with him. In CA2, he is sent after Nick Fury, and subsequently after Steve Rogers; in their second encounter, Steve realizes who the Winter Soldier really is. Steve tries to break through the Winter Soldier's brainwashing, telling him that his name is Bucky and he is Steve's friend, and ultimately, by refusing to fight him. His efforts finally seem to have some effect; the Winter Soldier saves Steve from drowning in the water after the helicarrier falls into the river. He is last seen looking at the Bucky memorial of the Captain America display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.
Although Bucky was already a popular character in the MCU fandom, in the wake of Captain America: The Winter Soldier he experienced an explosion of popularity the likes of which is still reverberating throughout Tumblr today.
This expansion of interest in Bucky's character was largely the result of his tragic Winter Soldier storyline being shown on the big screen for all to see, but was further spurred on by the general likeability and adorable dorkiness of actor Sebastian Stan. The character also has sex appeal - the Murder Strut is the particularly sexy, purposeful way that the Winter Soldier walks.
In the words of tumblr user agentcap:
"Bucky Barnes is Not a Villain 2K14"
In the wake of The Winter Soldier, a considerable amount of controversy was stirred up when several interviewers and fans unthinkingly referred to Bucky Barnes as the "villain" of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. This terminology has resulted in much of backlash from the fandom at large as well as noticeable discomfort from actor Sebastian Stan.
Much of the argument against calling Bucky a "villain" stems from the question of agency. Whereas other villainous characters (such as Loki and Grant Ward consciously chose to make harmful/evil decisions despite being repeatedly offered alternatives, Bucky was never given this choice. The only way that Hydra was able to make him commit such horrendous acts of violence and destruction was by torturing and brainwashing him to the point where he had no memories of his past life and no capacity to make his own choices. In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the first time the Winter Soldier shows any hint of questioning orders or doubting himself ("but I knew him"), he is violently mind-wiped until he has no memory of his perceived disobedience.
Bucky Barnes never made the choice to be evil, and the first conscious decision he makes as the Winter Soldier is to save Steve Rogers's life.
Sebastian Stan's protectiveness of Bucky Barnes—as well as his refusal to refer to Bucky as a villain despite prompting in many interviews—has earned him considerable praise within much of the Captain America fandom community. In response to being asked about portraying such a "villainous character", Sebastian responded that he "never approached it in the sense that 'he's a villain' or 'he should be a villainous character', but that he was a threat". He has also referred to Bucky as "a good guy doing bad things" as well as emphasizing his role as "a victim of violence; someone who is unfortunately just involved in all these inner struggles and is essentially a PTSD victim".
This perceived protectiveness of Bucky's character has resulted in a running fandom joke about Sebastian Stan's inner turmoil whenever anyone refers to Bucky Barnes as a villain - see image to the left.
The battle cry of "Bucky Barnes is a victim, not a villain" is heard so frequently and with such vehemence that it has become an integral part of the fandom surrounding Bucky as a character. In particular, this argument over terminology has flared up several times with regards to Bucky being compared to other blatantly villainous characters such as Loki and Grant Ward.
With regards to the comparison to Loki: on a gifset featuring the captain "a villain is just a victim whose story hasn't been told", tumblr user zarabithia objected to Loki and Bucky both being represented by succinctly stating that "[Loki is a] whiny spoiled brat who keeps trying to commit genocide" whereas Bucky "wasn’t a villain [...] he actually was a victim". Loki consciously decides to continue being murderous even after Thor offers him many second chances; Bucky is given no similar luxury of choice during his ordeal.
In July 2014, Jeph Loeb—one of the executives on Agents of SHIELD—drew a comparison between Grant Ward and Buck by stating that "[The Winter Soldier] has done things that are far more heinous than anything Grant Ward has ever done as far as we know, and yet, at the end of the movie, you’re rooting for him to come back on the side of the angels". The general fan response to this sentiment was disgust and intense frustration.
Tumblr user the lady monsters succinctly dismantled this argument by commenting that:
bucky was literally a prisoner of war who was experimented on and tortured until he was unable to fight back against any orders and the minute someone showed up who started treating him like a person again, he started to revert back to his humanity and fight against his programming. ward is a grown-ass man who was treated as a person by the people on his team clearly presented with opportunities by them to make the right choices and refused to make the right choices every time. fuck grant ward
Other assorted commentary for "Bucky Barnes is Not a Villain 2K14" includes:
- "if you’ve been brainwashed, tortured and on/off frozen for 70 years without your consent i’m pretty sure that disqualifies you from being a villain" (daredeuil)
- "the year is 2063 and i will still rip off your left arm and beat you with it if you call bucky barnes a villain" (codenamewinter-archive)
- "fun fact: if you say ‘bucky barnes is a villain’ three times into a mirror then steve rogers will appear and punch you in the face" (thevvintersolder)
- "Bucky Barnes is an antagonist, not a villain. He’s there to block Cap’s way, to be an obstacle that Steve has to overcome. [...] Bucky has been literally reduced to no more than a weapon, a gun that Pierce winds up, aims, and sends off to do his dirty work. Any sense of personhood, agency or freedom was long ago stripped from him. So basically yes, Bucky Barnes is a victim, an antagonist, but not a villain." (captain-ameribun)
Common Tropes and Themes
- Winter Soldier!Bucky (aka brainwashed!Bucky): stories featuring Bucky's time as the Winter Soldier. Extremely popular after the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
- Recovering!Bucky: stories in which Bucky goes through a process of recovery after his ordeal as the Winter Soldier. These stories often explore Bucky's severe PTSD.
- Wanda Maximoff using her mind control to heal Bucky's mind and break his HYDRA protocols as an alternative to Civil War's post-credit scene where he goes back into cryo - non-canon compliant.
- Avenger!Bucky: stories in which Bucky lives with the Avengers in the Stark Tower/Stark Mansion.
- Female!Bucky: stories in which Bucky is written as a cisgender woman.
- President's Son!Bucky: As a result of the popularity of the TV series Political Animals among fans of Bucky Barnes, in which Sebastian Stan plays TJ Hammonds, the fictional gay son of the President in the series, a fair few fics with Bucky as the President's son with Steve as his bodyguard have sprung up. Helped by how he spent the majority of the show either crying, kissing boys, or both.
- Veteran!Bucky: Bucky is often portrayed as a war vet (sometimes in some kind of special forces) in modern-day AU stories to explore his trauma and recovery, explain his missing left arm, and show off his sniper skills.
- Jewish!Bucky Barnes Fandom interest in Bucky having Jewish heritage took off early in the post-TWS fandom. See: List of fanfiction with Jewish!Bucky, Archived version
With the release of Captain America: The First Avenger, the slash pairing of Bucky/Steve became popular, but it wasn't until the second film was released that its popularity skyrocketed to be one of the top MCU pairings.
Common het pairings for Bucky are with: Natasha Romanoff, Wanda Maximoff and Darcy Lewis. Other rarer het pairings include: Bucky/Jemma Simmons, Bucky/Skye, Bucky/Shuri, Bucky/Maria Hill, Bucky/Pepper Potts, and Bucky Barnes/Sarah Wilson.
Possibly the most common crossover pairing (prompted by Jenna Coleman's brief appearance as Bucky's girlfriend Connie in the first film, and her TV role as Clara Oswald, a character who canonically has avatars throughout space and time) is Bucky/Clara.
- this city bleeds its aching heart by Renne, The one where Steve and Bucky pose as a happily married couple while on a mission for SHIELD, to catch an international arms dealer hiding in a suburban neighborhood.
- See more Steve/Bucky works at their page.
- Ain't No Grave (Can Keep My Body Down) by spitandvinegar features Jewish Bucky Barnes, heroin addiction, found family in the form of adopted children, PTSD, and slow burn as Bucky relearns how to be a person after escaping Hydra.
- Anyway, Here's Wonderwall, Archived version by KiaraSayre (2014), The Winter Soldier tracks down each and every HYDRA agent that forced him to kill and watches them die. He also tries to become a well-rounded individual with interests and hobbies. The results are mixed.
- User's Guide to HYDRA's Enhanced Manpower Asset by rokhal, A classic fandom format finds a horrifyingly apt application.
- Genderswap Bucky, Gemma Arterton as a female!Bucky by jetsamj
- "why are u sleeping on a fucking wall bucky" I think the title is self-explanatory by zealouscorgi
- How They Make You a Weapon by luckyraeve and monicawoe (fancomic)
- Bucky Barnes and They call him the Winter Soldier. by alicexz
- Recapitulation, an artbook by Kaitlin Wadley
- Winter Soldier by 疾速k
- Bucky Barnes by robinberz (2022)
- Problem, by Talitha. Bucky Barnes is a goddamned problem! STRUTH.
- Time, by lim: vid that explores time from The Winter Soldier's perspective.
- The Star Spangled Banner, by camunki; minor key Star Spangled Banner
- Put On Your War Paint
- he's got the rhythm.
- I've Turned into a Monster
- Bad Moon Rising
- Run Boy Run
- Watch me corrode
- Дело №17
- Kill the S O U N D, a Winter Soldier/Bucky vid.
- With The Lights Out, It's Less Dangerous
- Bucky Barnes "Winter soldier" || Survivor
- The Winter Soldier - Blood Runs Red by TopScreen
- Star Spangled Man (Steve's not the only one that wears a star) by Knotta Hooker, song cover by RionSanura
- i've been thinking about bucky's robot arm a lot, Archived version meta/headcanon by therealdeepsix
- Stop Taking Bucky's Arm: Bodily autonomy and re-traumatizing events in MCU fandom meta about disability and identity by chaoticallyclev
- Winter Soldier Observation on CA:TWS by amuseoffyre and wintercyan
- Why I'm Worried About Bucky Barnes by Shanology (published before the release of Civil War)
- Is It Realistic For Bucky To Be a Sergeant? by hansbekhart
- The Body of Bucky Barnes: A Massage Therapist's Analysis by stele3
- Bucky In the Army [Dead link] by fidelioscabinet
- Bucky Barnes & Arnie Roth Combo by superhumandisasters
- "Bucky Barnes Is Not Canonically Jewish" by arsenicjade
- Here to Talk About Jewish!Bucky by cptsrogerx
- Pain, Personhood, and Parity: The Depiction of Bucky Barnes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe by Sara Elle
- The Child-Like Mindset of the Winter Soldier by msbeeinmybonnet
- The Nature of the Relationship Between the Winter Soldier and Alexander Pierce by msbeeinmybonnet
- Bucky's Apartment: A Completely Unnecessary Psycho(over)analysis by cake-writes
- Bucky as the Damsel in Distress by buckydaily, mackievanstan, and sweethoneysempai (sweet-stug-life)
- A Hero's Progress: Bucky and the Theory of Tragedy by meta-buck
- The Ableist Treatment of Bucky Barnes in Civil War by postmodernmulticoloredcloak
- Bucky's Arm Headcanon by wintercyan: meta on how Bucky's arm responds to his emotional state
- The Life and Times of Sergeant James 'Bucky' Barnes by laporcupina: meta on Bucky's role as sergeant and battlefield relationship with Steve Rogers
- 'Til the End of the Timeline Chapter 4: Say My Name by mandarou: the historical and etymological context of Bucky's name
- 'Til the End of the Timeline Chapter 5: Sergeant James Barnes: Howling Commando by mandarou: analysis of Bucky's Howling Commandos uniform
- 'Til the End of the Timeline Chapter 6: Bucky's Arsenal WWII Edition by mandarou
- 'Til the End of the Timeline Chapter 7: Bucky's Arsenal Winter Soldier Edition by mandarou
- Bucky Might Initially Have Been a Disposable Guinea Pig for Zola by postmodernmulticoloredcloak
- The "Milk Scene" in CATWS: Bucky as Female and Child-Coded by postmodernmulticoloredcloak
- Bucky's Bleeding Ears in CATFA: Bucky Was Used as a Lab Rat by ink-phoenix
- Bucky Could Have Become a Villain But Chose Not To by verysharpteeth
Additional Fan Art
Winter Knight, fan art by artist alby_mangroves
Cover art by Luckyraeve, created for the story How They Make you a Weapon
July 5th, 1939 by alby_mangroves, part of the artist's Brooklyn Sketchbook project
Archives and Communities
Published Commentary/Further Reading
- The MCU Is Still Failing Bucky (By Making Everyone The Same As Him) by Kylie Boersma for ScreenRant
- The Story Behind Bucky's Ground-breaking Reinvention as the Winter Soldier by Abraham Reisman for Vulture
- The Feminization of Bucky Barnes by the staff of "Women Write About Comics"
- Avengers #56
- Captain America (v.5) #45. Marvel Comics.
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier: Sebastian Stan "Bucky Barnes" Official Movie Interview
- Sebastian Stan and his Bucky Barnes Feelings [Dead link]
- a villain is just a victim whose story hasn't been told, Archived version
- The difference here being that Grant Ward CHOSE to do them.
- The difference here being that Grant Ward CHOSE to do them.
- daredeuil: if you've... [Dead link]
- codenamewinter-archive: the year is...
- thevvintersolder: fun fact
- The Captain Ameri-bun! Oh Bucky Barnes is a villain, is he? [Dead link]