As Marvel’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier concludes its first season on Disney Plus, I am excited to examine the stories, themes, and scenes the show pulled from the original comics to use for its narrative. Marvel movies, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe in particular, have a rich history of taking inspiration from the comics without slavishly transcribing every detail to film, and this has translated to many a memorable on-screen moment that both stands on its own and lends an extra payoff to longtime comic book readers.
From what we’ve seen of the show so far, Marvel has again mined many moments--classic, newer and otherwise--to bring a fresh dose of intrigue, plot twists, and action to the small screen Sam and Bucky inhabit. Previously unknown histories, a philosophy of anti-nationalism, and even the laying of groundwork for new characters to later appear in other shows--all are pulled from the pages of Marvel’s prodigious library of comic books, and savvy readers are always quick to call them out.
Below is a list of comic book stories, titles, and issues, much of which is accessible through the HCPL catalog! Where available, a link to an e-book version of the comic has also been provided, if that’s more your preferred reading style.
While Bucky's reemergence as the deadly Hydra agent known as the Winter Soldier was portrayed in the film Captain America: The Winter Soldier, there can be very little debate on how monumental the comic book story is for that character, both in relation to the character's previous status as a "definitively dead" character, and in the exploration of issues regarding Bucky's trauma and the agency that was taken from the character. Indeed, Bucky's struggles with what Hydra did to him are noteworthy plot points in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, as are his own questions of how worthy he is of redemption, and whether or not he can ever really think of himself as a hero. That's why the second volume of Ed Brubaker's Captain America: Winter Soldier remains important source material to the show.
At the end of Avengers: Endgame, Sam Wilson was awarded ownership of Captain America's shield by none other than Steve Rogers himself. Since The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is all about what happens after Sam accepts this monumental mantle from his friend, it clearly takes inspiration from the run of comics that featured Sam's donning of the shield, as well as the expectations and pressures that come with being the new Captain America. Rick Remender's take on an older Steve Rogers tapping his friend Sam Wilson to replace him as Captain America offers some different notes and circumstances, but is nonetheless a big inspiration for the on-screen passing of the torch.
If we know anything about Sam Wilson, it's that like Steve Rogers, he's never been afraid to do what's right, even if it means upsetting those in power. Nick Spencer knew he was creating history--and some controversy--with this change, but Captain America: Sam Wilson proved to be a noteworthy moment in the history of both the character and the mantle itself. While the legacy of the shield may be a heavy one to bear for anyone calling themselves Captain America, its complicated history and pressure take on new meaning in Sam's hands. While the action packed and amusing tone could be said to be an inspiration for the show, the social commentary present in this run could be equally as relevant.
As the Winter Soldier, Bucky performed many horrifying deeds on behalf of Hydra. They stripped him of his autonomy, his memories, and even his identity. But the programming couldn't hold forever, and some of his missions were complicated by the drum of those memories pounding at the bonds of Hydra's work to return to him. In Winter Soldier: Bitter March, Rick Remender explores a mission the Winter Soldier undertakes at the height of the Cold War, replete with counter-agents, spies, and S.H.I.E.L.D. shenanigans. It's an interesting glimpse into one of the doubtless many missions Bucky performed while under his programming, even if it focuses more on another character than on Bucky himself.
This final one may not strictly be related to The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, but is fun, and appears to show Marvel taking a similar approach as it did when it built up to the first Avengers movie. We've already seen a number of younger individuals who either have super powers or who have been linked in the comic books with the superhero team the Young Avengers, and more are on the way. One such character, Elijah Bradley--the grandson of Isaiah Bradley, a black soldier on whom the government experimented and disavowed after he took a successful version of the super soldier serum--appears in the show. Add to him the known appearances of Wanda's children, Ant-Man's daughter, the upcoming Hawkeye and Ms. Marvel shows--and that's NOT all of them--and you've got the setting up of the Young Avengers! It might be Easter eggs for the sake of Easter eggs, but it's worth including this volume of the team's first big assemblage.