Tracing the Origin of "The Winter Soldier"

Captain America: The Winter Soldier has blown the doors off theaters across the world. But it didn’t spring out of a screenwriter’s brow: A lot of it has happened before in comics, most of which has been collected in one form or another.


Warning: Spoilers ahead. But, honestly, is that necessary? says Winter Soldier earned $317.7mn abroad and $159mn domestically in the US by April 14; is there anybody who wants to see it but hasn’t yet? Well, if so, the 89% positive on indicates you’ll enjoy it whether you're spoiled or not.

First, the obvious: Winter Soldier is based on a 2005-06 storyline of the same name by writer Ed Brubaker and artists Steve Epting, Michael Lark, Michael Perkins and John Paul Leon. In that story the legendary Winter Soldier is revealed, not only to exist, but to be —

the character played by Sebastian Stan in both Captain America movies.


This is a character that Cap has mourned since 1963, so with the revelation that he has survived, Cap, Black Widow and Falcon must track down the Soldier and free him of Russian control. This gets a bit sticky because the Soldier keeps trying to kill them.

It’s an excellent espionage/noir story, and has been recently re-released in hardcover (2014) and trade paperback (2010) under the name Captain America: The Winter Soldier Ultimate Edition.


But wait — what about all that stuff with S.H.I.E.L.D. being infiltrated and destroyed from within?

Well, that’s happened, too —  just not in the same story. Actually, S.H.I.E.L.D. has turned against Nick Fury a bunch of times, which I guess is an occupational hazard in the spy biz. But several stories do stand out.

One is “Nick Fury vs S.H.I.E.L.D.,” a 1988 miniseries by writer Bob Harras and artist Paul Neary that Marvel re-released in 2011 in both hardback and trade. In it, Fury discovers that all of his closest friends and most important agents have been killed and replaced with sophisticated androids called Life Model Decoys (LMDs), who have gained sentience.

This story is famous for two things: 1) all of Fury’s supporting cast got killed off, and 2) someone later realised that killing off Fury’s entire supporting cast was a huge mistake, so in 1994 they were (mostly) revealed to still be alive. D’oh! Incidentally, this is the story that introduced S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Alexander Pierce, which is the name of a not-very-similar character played by Robert Redford in Winter Soldier.

Two more S.H.I.E.L.D. stories have even more resonance with the Winter Soldier movie.


One is Secret War (not to be confused with Secret Wars and Secret Wars II), a 2004-05 miniseries by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Gabriele Dell’Otto, in which Fury leads a team of heroes he assembles to prevent a surprise attack on the US. Since he was acting against orders and against a country ostensibly our ally, his superiors ordered that he be removed as Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and court martialed. But how do you catch a guy who knows every S.H.I.E.L.D. safehouse and secret? Fury went underground in that series, like he does at the end of the Winter Soldier movie, and remains an enigmatic “ghost in the machine” in today’s Marvel Comics.

The second story is Secret Warriors, a 2009-11 miniseries starring Fury and a hand-picked — and presumably trustworthy — group of former S.H.I.E.L.D. agents (some of them with super-powers) who investigate a mysterious organization called Leviathan, that he discovers has been secretly in charge of both S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra since their inception.

This mirrors Winter Soldier and the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show, which have revealed that Hydra has been infiltrating S.H.I.E.L.D. for 70 years, and is now on the verge of taking it over.

And while I’m at it, I might as well mention another story that’s important to understanding Fury.

In all of the above stories, Nick Fury is white, a World War II veteran who has lengthened his life through a chemical called the Infinity Formula. The black Nick Fury — the one that looks like Samuel Jackson Jr. — exists in an alternate universe appearing in Marvel’s Ultimate Comics line.

To help eliminate confusion, Marvel introduced Nick Fury Jr. in a 2012 miniseries called Battle Scars — a Fury who happens to be black (he has an African-American mother) and happens to look like Samuel L Jackson. That Fury remains a high-level S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, and if he doesn’t become director someday I will be shocked.

Gulf Times

Nicely adapted, but Cap's suit needed more skintight spandex imo.