Throughout the history of the Marvel Comics Universe, the apparent death and the later return of Captain America has inspired many individuals. At the end of World War II the villainous Baron Heinrich Zemo placed Steve Rogers, the original Cap, and his teen sidekick Bucky in a trap that lead to an explosion and their apparent deaths. In the 1950s, a man was so inspired by Cap’s exploits that he took steps to become him, even changing his facial features and a undergoing a dangerous super soldier procedure to be like his idol before going mad. Steve Rogers tenure as Captain America even inspired people with less than noble intentions – like Baron Helmut Zemo, son of Heinrich, who took up the family business of super villainy back in 1973's "Captain America" #168, after he learned that the original Captain America had not died in the explosion orchestrated by his father at the end of World War II.
In the months ahead all three of these men will play large roles in the “Captain America” ongoing series. Bucky Barnes is currently the title character of “Captain America” and in the series current arc “Two Americas”, by writer Ed Brubaker and artist Luke Ross, Bucky must confront the Cap of the ‘50s. Then in May’s “Captain America” #606, by Brubaker and the series' new penciler Butch Guice, Helmut Zemo makes his return to the pages of “Captain America”, and he’s gunning for the new Sentinel of Liberty. CBR News spoke with Editor Tom Brevoort about the future of the series throughout Marvel's "Heroic Age" and landed an EXCLUSIVE first look at Luke Ross' art from next week's "Captain America" #604.
CBR News: The violent and insane Cap of the '50s was introduced in a storyline in the '70s and believed dead until Ed Brubaker brought him back in his epic "Death of Captain America" trilogy. Now the character figures prominently in the current "Two Americas" arc. What made you guys want to revive the character and focus on him now? And in your opinion is the '50s Cap a villain, or more of a tragic figure wrestling with mental illness?
Tom Brevoort: Ed always loved the 1950s Cap, as the story that introduced him was one of the first comics Brubaker had read as a child. And I too have a real love for that story and its tragic antagonist who despite his desire to follow in Cap's footsteps became twisted and perverted into the very sort of evil he was created to fight. I think he's a very tragic character and in many ways a real parallel with Bucky, who himself has a sordid history of misdeeds committed while not in full possession of his faculties, and who also would have grown up during the same time-period. If circumstances were different, I think that the '50s Cap and Bucky would have a lot of common ground to talk about – which is what makes them such perfect adversaries.
There are two chapters left in "Two Americas." Any hints or teases as to what fans can expect from the penultimate and final chapters of the story?
A runaway train ride, a fatal showdown and a deadly choice that will chart Captain America's course for the next year or so. And "Nomad" back-ups.
In May, "Captain America" enters the Marvel Universe’s new "Heroic Age," and from what we know so far, it's clear that the title character is still Bucky Barnes. Now that the "Captain America: Reborn" mini-series is over and Steve Rogers has returned, will Steve have a role to play in the series? Or will he be occupied with activities in another Marvel book?
I'm sure we'll see Steve in the book on a regular basis, but Bucky will still be Captain America and will still be headlining the series.
The villain in the first Heroic Age issue is Baron Helmut Zemo, a character that hasn't been part of Captain America's Rogues' Gallery for some time. Why did you and Ed want to bring him back to the pages of Cap?
Well, Zemo is a quintessential Captain America villain who hasn't appeared in the series for something like a decade or more. And even more importantly, he's a terrific opposite number for Bucky as Cap. Zemo is the second generation of villain to carry that name, to have taken over the mantle, so in that respect he's got a similarity to Bucky. More importantly, his beloved father's one true claim to fame after all these years was that he was the one to end the life of Captain America's sidekick. So now that Bucky has returned and has taken up the job of being Captain America, this drives Zemo absolutely to the brink. It's a cosmic injustice that needs to be righted – his family's honor will not be besmirched.
Speaking of that, when we last saw Helmut at the end of the "Zemo: Born Better" mini-series by Fabian Nicieza and Tom Grummett , he seemed to be finished with his family's legacy and ready to do something "new" for the world. So what can you tell me about Helmut's motivations in this story? Will they be addressed right away, or will they be a mystery for a while?
They'll come out over the course of the story, and we'll see what he's been up to since we last saw him in Fabian's story. But the big change that drives him isn't something that he did, but rather Bucky's return from seeming death. Once he becomes aware that the man currently serving as Captain America is the man his father was supposed to have slain, Zemo takes up the cause with incredible vigor.
How big is this storyline with Zemo? Is is just one arc, or is it the catalyst for a larger storyline featuring the character?
It's a tremendous catalyst for the next year's worth of Cap stories, and a Cap event that we hope can have the same kinds of reverberations that "The Death of Captain America" had. Bucky has one telling weak spot, and Zemo is going to hit him right where he lives.
The supporting cast of Captain America has grown quite large in recent years. We've got The Falcon, Black Widow, Sharon Carter, and now Steve is back. Will Cap's supporting cast shrink in the Heroic Age? Or will it get larger?
It'll mostly remain the same, or even perhaps shrink a little bit. We'll continue to see the Falcon and the Black Widow on a regular basis, but Sharon probably won't be around unless Steve is, and Steve won't necessarily be in every issue. By that same token, we're also looking to flesh out the world around Bucky Barnes a little bit. Ever since he came back from the dead, Bucky has in a sense been running full steam ahead to try to avoid having to find a proper place for himself in the world. Taking on the mantle of Captain America was a part of that – while Bucky was filling Steve's shoes, he didn't really have the time to slow down and figure out his place in the world. But now Steve is back, the heroes are back on top, and there's no longer any excuse for Bucky not to take a long, hard look at himself and figure out where he goes from here. He's still Captain America, but that's going to have to stop being a crutch for him – he's going to have to face up to his past and forge a road towards the future.
The months ahead will feature art by Luke Ross and Butch Guice. What can people expect from their work?
Guice in particular, I think, is going to bring a wicked-cool modern Steranko flavor to his Cap work. Not in the sense of aping the approaches and compositions that Steranko pioneered 40 years ago, but by incorporating that kind of cinematic pop-art influenced visuals and storytelling into his pages. It ought to look pretty swank.
How will the Heroic Age effect the tone, scope, and scale of Captain America's adventures? What types of tales can readers look forward to in the month's ahead?
The "Heroic Age" will change the tenor of the landscape in which Cap's adventures take place, but his life is about to get anything but easier as a result. If anything, the stakes will be higher, and more personal for Bucky. And we'll still be telling the same kinds of high-octane espionage action-adventure stories we've been doing since this run began.
"Captain America" #604, the penultimate chapter of "Two Americas" will hit comic shops on March 24.