‘The Winter Soldier: Cold Front’ author shares inspiration for writing morally gray ‘rascal’ Bucky Barnes
The newest Marvel antihero tale from Disney Books may not be a cinematic universe story, but “The Winter Soldier: Cold Front” is packed with just as much angst, political intrigue, and Cold War-era espionage as the 2014 movie starring Sebastian Stan.
Author Mackenzi Lee, who also penned young adult books on Nebula and Gamora, and Loki, said the Ed Brubaker stories from the 2010s were the comics that got her into the Winter Soldier and Marvel Comics as a whole. To write the new Winter Soldier book, which was released on Feb. 7, she reread Brubaker’s work and other Bucky Barnes stories.
“Then I started reading as much about World War II and Cold War espionage as I could get my hands on, both fiction and nonfiction,” Lee said. “Le Carre took up a lot of space on my bookshelf in the early days of working on the Winter Soldier!”
“The Winter Soldier: Cold Front” features two perspectives — 16-year-old Bucky Barnes in 1941 and the Winter Soldier in the early 1950s. Fans know Bucky Barnes, in both the comics and the MCU films, is turned into the Winter Soldier and for years doesn’t remember who he is or where he came from. In the comics, Bucky as the Winter Soldier is a Soviet Union spy and assassin who had been injected with the Super Soldier serum and given a bionic arm.
“Bucky is 16 in this (book), and he hasn’t met Steve Rogers yet, so it’s earlier than we’ve seen him almost anywhere else,” Lee said.
In Lee’s book, teenage Bucky is an orphaned Army brat desperate to join the fight as a soldier and get out of Camp Lehigh in Virginia. When he gets a chance to fight as basically a spy-in-training for the British military, Bucky quickly learns undercover missions during wartime have much higher stakes than he ever anticipated.
“Bucky is a bit of a rascal, a bad student, a ball of energy dying to get involved in the war without any real understanding of what the means,” Lee said. “But, if you like Bucky, whether from comics or films, I think readers will find a story here they’ll enjoy.”
Flash forward to 1954 and Bucky is now the Winter Soldier going by Agent Vronsky or just “V.” It’s the early years of the Cold War and he’s the Soviet Union’s greatest and most mysterious weapon. His sole purpose, for years now, is to obey orders from the leaders of the USSR’s secret military branch. But just like the revelations he experiences in the second Captain America MCU film, the Winter Soldier meets people who start to poke holes in his medicated amnesia.
For Lee, writing this book and others “felt like getting paid to write fanfiction, which is truly the dream.”
“I love Marvel because it’s a shared tradition of stories and mythology worked on by so many different creators across so many different formats,” she said.
With “Loki: Where Mischief Lies,” “Gamora and Nebula: Sisters in Arms,” and now “The Winter Soldier: Cold Front,” Lee presents a solid foundation for each of these morally gray characters. At different points in their comic book and MCU timelines, these characters have been considered heroes, antiheroes, and even villains. But no matter what era they are in, Lee said they’re fan favorites because of their relatability.
“I think we all feel ourselves to be morally gray — if any of us were the main character of our lives, we would probably be labeled as unlikeable or antiheroes or any other synonyms for that,” she said. “We want to read about characters who, like us, sometimes make the wrong decisions or indulge their selfishness and pride and other less desirable qualities. They feel more real, and relatable that way.”
“Perfect heroes are boring,” Lee said.
“The Winter Soldier: Cold Front” by Mackenzi Lee is available now through Disney Books.