With the upcoming Captain America: Civil War, there has been a lot of focus around Bucky Barnes, the Winter Soldier. From the trailers we have seen thus far, Bucky seems to be one of the focal points in the Steve Rogers/Tony Stark rift.
Looking at many articles and fan art regarding the Winter Solider, there always seems to be a comparison with Jason Todd, the second Robin and the current Red Hood in the DC Universe. Based on the ruthlessness we’ve seen from the Winter Soldier in the MCU thus far, those comparisons are understandable. However, when looking at the characters in their original medium, comics, it becomes apparent that the better comparison would be between Bucky Barnes and the ORIGINAL Robin, Dick Grayson, not Jason Todd. Here’s why:
Both Dick and Bucky were orphaned at a young age. Dick’s parents were killed by mob boss Tony Zucco during a circus performance while Bucky’s father was killed during combat training before World War II. Before either of them were able to grow “chips on their shoulders” from these experiences, they were both taken in by their respective mentors. And even before their deaths, Dick and Bucky’s parents were good people and were raising their children to be good people as well.
For Dick, being trained by Bruce and eventually bringing Zucco to justice granted him the closure he needed. While he still missed his parents, he was able to move on, and throughout his career, he even became one of the “beacons of light” to help Batman maintain some sense of humanity.
By becoming Cap’s partner, Bucky was able to become the soldier his father never had the chance to become, not only honoring him but representing his country as well. Thanks to Steve’s guidance, he was able to gain the maturity and discipline needed to take on that type of responsibility.
By the time Batman had met Jason Todd, it was already too late. Their first encounter was Jason stealing the tires from the Batmobile. Unlike his relationship with Dick and Cap’s relationship with Bucky, Batman had to keep Jason on a short leash. Several times, Batman had to stop Jason from taking it too far when fighting criminals and it was Jason’s brash and defiant attitude that led to his eventual death at the hands of the Joker. For those who don’t already know, in the “Death in the Family” storyline, Bruce and Jason are able to track down Jason’s biological mother, who was working for the Joker. Defying Batman’s orders, Jason reveals his identity to his mother, who then betrays him to the Joker. The Joker then beats Jason with a crowbar and locks him and his mother in a warehouse laced with explosives. By the time Batman is able to arrive, it is too late. Had Jason been willing to trust his mentor and work as a team, like Dick and Batman or Bucky and Cap, they would have been able to defeat the Joker.
As time passed, Dick Grayson eventually grew out of his role as the “Boy Wonder.” He was even leading his own team with the Teen Titans. While Dick’s new identity as Nightwing arose from his desire to become his own man, instead of merely Batman’s sidekick, his growth into this new role was positive. Dick’s desire to strike out on his own was in part due to Batman’s inability to trust anyone, including Dick. Thus, Dick’s identity as Nightwing was arguably an improvement on the already positive things Batman had taught him. Dick still respects and values all that Batman taught him and as Nightwing, Dick utilizes those skills and values in addition to his willingness to trust other heroes in a way that has made him one of the most popular heroes in the DC Universe. In spite of his trust issues, Batman is proud of the hero and man Dick has become.
While this is only an assumption, reading various Cap/Bucky stories shows that their relationship was very similar to Batman and Dick. Had things been different at the end of World War II and Bucky was not “killed” by Baron Zemo, I feel that Bucky would have taken a similar path and become his own hero. While it took decades, Bucky has finally able to do this in his role as a reformed Winter Soldier. His quest for redemption to both the world and his partner has definitely made Captain America proud.
In 2005, when Bucky was found alive as the assassin the Winter Soldier, it is revealed that he was brainwashed by the Russians and has no memory of his former life. Using the Cosmic Cube (the Tesseract), Cap was able to restore Bucky’s memories. Once he remembered all that he did, he didn’t blame Cap for not being able to save him. He knows it wasn’t Cap’s fault. Bucky felt like he had let Cap down and for years since has done everything to abate his actions as the Soldier. This willingness to understand and need for justice, not vengeance is more of a trait we would see from Dick Grayson, not Jason Todd.
When Jason was resurrected via the Lazarus Pit (or by Super-Boy Prime depending on the story you are reading), vengeance was the only thing on his mind. But it wasn’t only Joker’s death that Jason sought. He also wanted to kill Batman for failing to protect Jason and other innocents by allowing the Joker to live. Jason’s unending anger over his death and the way he perceived Batman as a failure are the reasons Jason took on the identity of the Red Hood. Jason struck out at Batman by taking on an identity from his worst enemy’s past. Even when Jason finally returned to the life of a hero, he retained the identity of the Red Hood to continue to snub his former mentor.
When Dick and Bucky took over the roles of Batman and Cap respectively, it was out of a sense of duty and loyalty to their partners. They both realized that the world needed a Batman and Captain America because of what each represented. For Gotham, Batman showed the citizens that they didn’t need to be afraid. For America, Cap stood for the freedoms that the country was founded upon. Both Dick and Bucky fulfilled the responsibilities as best they could until their mentors were able to retake their mantles.
In the “Battle for the Cowl” storyline following Final Crisis, Jason took on the mantle of Batman. However, unlike Dick or Bucky, Jason didn’t attempt to seamlessly step into the role of his mentor. He stepped into the role of Batman with the intent of changing Batman’s role in a fundamental way. He believed that the world needed a Batman that would kill, but of course, he was wrong, because Batman is a symbol for so much more than “take out all the bad guys in any way possible.” Because of his perversion of Batman’s identity, Dick Grayson defeated Jason and took up the mantle of the Bat until Bruce’s return.
Even today, Batman and Nightwing argue (I know he’s not Nightwing right now, but he will be again eventually). Winter Soldier and Cap argue. That’s what brothers (in arms) do. No matter how they may disagree, they always respect, support, and protect one another.
Sadly, this is not the relationship Jason has with Batman, or almost anyone for that matter. Even today, after all Batman and Jason have been through, most notably the “Death of the Family” storyline, we are still left with the impression that Jason could snap at any moment and his need for vengeance could result in the death of either Batman, another member of the Bat-Family, or even Jason himself.
So what do you think? Do you feel that Winter Soldier is more like Robin 1 or Robin 2? Will he get jealous there was no “Ameri-cave”? Let me know on Twitter or sound off in the comments below.