Despite being a relatively new storyline introduced in Captain America #1 in 2005, Bucky Barnes’ transformation into the original Winter Soldier has captured the imagination of countless fans for over a decade.
The character’s boost in popularity is in part thanks to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Sebastian Stan’s portrayal of Bucky is perhaps the most recognizable iteration of the character ever, since he first took on the character in Captain America: The First Avengers back in 2011 and his alter ego in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
In particular, his bionic prosthesis has been the object of obsession and subject of discussion. Countless fans have found creative ways to replicate the limb for their cosplay endeavors, while others pore over the most minute of details to come up with theories. It’s also sparked a lot of talk about representations of disability in mainstream media, since the prosthesis is a replacement for the arm Bucky loses when he falls to his apparent demise in World War II.
However, Bucky Barnes' body is strange for reasons far beyond his prosthetic arm.
The facts herein have been gathered from the Marvel Cinematic Univeerse and various comic book multiverses. While there is the Winter Soldier program that produces other super soldiers, our list will focus on the original iteration, both in his identity Winter Soldier and as Bucky Barnes.
As usual, the list below contains spoilers for a lot of Marvel content, including Avengers: Infinity War.
Here are 20 Weird Facts About The Winter Soldier’s Body.
20 He's Fifteen
Sebastian Stan’s portrayal of Bucky Barnes has become one of the most recognizable iterations of Captain America’s best bud. By the time principle photography began on Captain America: The First Avenger, Stan was already in his late twenties, thus solidifying the image of Bucky as a grown man.
However, in his very first appearance in the comics in 1941, Bucky is a plucky fifteen-year-old orphan who hangs around Camp Lehigh after his father passes away in military training.
The MCU shows Bucky taking Steve under his wing, but the original teenaged Bucky idolized Captain America.
After undergoing extensive training to keep up with Cap’s superhuman body, Bucky successfully becomes his sidekick, becoming a symbol to unite the youth of America.19 Cryogenic Statis
When Steve Rogers gets revived decades after he gets trapped in ice, he looks the same age as when he is during World War II thanks to the cold keeping him in a state of suspended animation. Winter Soldier gets a similar treatment, albeit intentional on HYDRA’s part.
In order to help keep their super soldier in peak condition, HYDRA puts the Winter Soldier in a state of Cryogenic Stasis between missions.
As a result, he only ages during the brief periods when he’s actively working for HYDRA.
Another part of keeping him in maximum working condition is wiping his memory after every mission. Fortunately, Bucky is eventually able to start recovering his memories even though he can still be reverted into the Winter Soldier.18 The real trigger word
Maintaining absolute control over the Winter Soldier is an integral part of HYDRA’s attempt to turn him into the ultimate human weapon. In addition to wiping out his memory every time he’s sent on a mission, HYDRA has also embedded some code words to activate the Winter Soldier program within Bucky and ensure complete compliance.
In the comics, just one word— “sputnik”—allows the speaker to trigger and control the Winter Soldier, but it’s been changed to several code words for the movies.
It may not seem like a significant change, but it does allow for one of the most chilling scenes of Capitan America: Civil War. Bucky desperately tries to escape before Zemo can finish reading the words, which hits home how traumatizing the experience is for Bucky.17 His Arm Is Probably Titanium
It’s rather well known that Bucky’s newest arm in Avengers: Infinity War is made of vibranium, courtesy of teen genius Shuri. However, there isn’t a solid canonical explanation for Bucky’s original arm.
That said, it’s most likely made of some sort of titanium alloy. Adamantium and carbonadium don’t seem to exist in the MCU, and since Cap’s shield— made of a vibranium alloy— can damage the prosthesis, it’s probably not made with vibranium either. After eliminating these metals, the most probable in-universe option is titanium alloy, which Tony Stark uses for his Iron-Man suits.
Sadly, Bucky’s brand-new vibranium arm disappears with him at the end of Infinity War when Thanos wipes out half the population of the universe.16 The Bionic Arm Is insanely Heavy
Speaking of how heavy Winter Soldier’s metal arm is, the weight also affects the way he moves and holds himself. Stan’s portrayal in the MCU seems to take into account the weight of the metal.
Upon close inspection, his posture is slightly off, suggesting that Bucky is compensating for the weight of the material with his stance.
While there don't seem to be confirmations of the bionic arm’s weight in the MCU, it’s safe to say it’s pretty damn heavy, considering it’s primarily made out of some sort of metal.
In addition, the Winter Soldier breaks the rear window of a car rather effortlessly when he flips onto it. This could hint that his body also weighs quite a bit, mostly likely due to his arm.15 Extended Reach
In Captain America Vol. 5, it’s revealed that his bionic arm can still function even when detached from his body. It’s not 100% confirmed how it’s done though.
It could be that Bucky maintains direct control of his arm thanks to some highly developed implants, or his arm can be programmed to work independently when it’s removed from him.
It’s not a feature that’s been used in the MCU yet. But perhaps it could be framed as a feature added by Shuri when she gave Bucky his new vibranium arm in Avengers: Infinity War, since not much is seen about the new prosthesis. Of course, Bucky would have to come back from his apparent passing first.14 Palm Print Sensors
Although Bucky has a high-tech bionic arm in addition to his skills, he still uses a lot of conventional weapons, including knives and firearms. In Winter Soldier #4, Bucky reveals that his arm isn’t the only gadget to receive upgrades throughout the years.
As the two near the end of their fight, Arkady of Project Zephyr attempts to attack Bucky with his own gun, but it explodes when he gets a hand on the firearm.
It turns out that the gun only works for Bucky because of its palm print sensors.
Of course, that brings into question how the palm sensors are able to recognize his left arm prosthesis, since he’s ambidextrous and is shown to use firearms with either hand. Then again, his prosthesis has muscle definition, so what’s to say his finger prints aren’t also on there?
13 Automatic Reload
At one point in the comics, the Winter Soldier becomes the leader of the Thunderbolts when he helps some criminals escape. They initially work together just to attach a S.H.I.E.L.D. base to ensure the discontinuation of the Kobik Program, but the Winter Soldier ends up keeping the team together to help him protect the earth as the Man on the Wall.
During these events, Fixer gives the bionic arm several upgrades.
One of these upgrades is the ability to reload his weapons automatically. It’s not a feature in the MCU, but it would be pretty amazing to see the upgrade in action in real time.
And yes, the bionic arm still has muscle definition after the upgrade, of course.12 Flame Thrower Arm
Another major upgrade courtesy of Fixer in the Thunderbolts comics? Flame thrower arm!
Not only can Bucky emit bolts of electricity from the palms of his cybernetic arm - he can generate a literal stream of fire from it.
Sadly, this upgrade isn’t featured in the MCU either. We’ve seen Bucky block bullets with his arm, as well as the immense strength and incredible reaction time it gives him. It would’ve been an epic sight for him to shoot fire out of his arm as well, and it would’ve given him a leg up during his fight against Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War.
In any case, Shuri’s a smart girl, so you never know what she’s hidden up Bucky’s vibranium sleeve.11 He Gets The Infinity Formula
In Fear Itself, the Marvel superheroes take on the Serpent - the Asgardian God of Fear who is set free by Sin, the daughter of the Red Skull. Bucky also assumes the identity of Captain America in this storyline. Sin is in possession of the Hammer of Skadi, and seems to end Bucky’s life in Washington, D.C. during her attempt to conquer the world.
However, Nick Fury gives him a dose of the Infinity Formula, thus reviving Bucky. He doesn’t continue being Captain America though,— he goes back to being the Winter Soldier because everyone believes he’s passed away. Thanks to the injection, Bucky gets to enjoy the life-prolonging benefits of the formula in addition to staying alive.10 Other Winter Soldiers
Bucky may be the original Winter Soldier, but he’s not the most powerful, unfortunately.
After HYDRA gets Bucky to retrieve the Super Soldier Serum from the Starks, they conduct experiments to create a new crop of Winter Soldiers. Bucky tries his hand against one of them, Josef, but is easily overpowered, even though he has an enhanced prosthetic arm.
As Bucky mentions in Captain America: Civil War, this group of new super soldiers is so skilled that they already carry out successful missions even without the serum.
The newer serum puts the new Winter Soldiers at a serious advantage, but it also amplifies their aggressiveness whereas the serum used on Bucky does not.
As a result, the new soldiers revolt against the HYDRA guards, allowing Bucky to survive.9 Sebastian Stan's Training
Before Sebastian Stan made his first appearance in Captain America: The First Avenger, he was probably best known for being Carter Baizen in Gossip Girl. The drama in the series is enough to rival that of the MCU, but it’s not a role that requires a whole ton of bulking up.
For better or for worse, there’s no Super Soldier Serum in our universe - that we know of. In order to portray the transformation from Bucky to the Winter Soldier, Stan had to train pretty hard.
In addition, Stan isn’t really known consistently as an action star, with projects like I, Tonya in between his Marvel work, so he’s had to regain his physique each time.8 He turned into a teddy bear
In the A-Babies vs. X-Babies comic, Bucky is no longer the hardened World War II veteran brainwashed into becoming a human weapon.
He’s not even human anymore— he’s now a teddy bear in this timeline!
Baby Steve says good night to all of his stuffed animals, but realizes that Bucky Bear is missing. It turns out Scott Summer has taken the teddy, so Steve calls in the baby Avengers to battle the baby X-Men. Bucky Bear gets bounced between the babies as they fight over his ownership, but he finally returns to tiny Cap.
Even as a superhuman baby and a stuffed toy, Steve and Bucky stick with each other until the end of the line.7 Missing In Action
A deleted scene from The Avengers features Steve watching the old World War II propaganda that he stars in as he copes with being alive without his buddies in such a foreign era.
He also goes through some files of his old acquaintances, including Peggy Carter and Howard Stark. On each file is a large stamp denoting their status, with Peggy having retired and Howard deceased.
Bucky’s file is stamped with “missing in action” in bold red letters, because his body is never found.
The file also says that he’s born in 1922, a completely different year from the ones listed in Bucky’s Smithsonian exhibit. At the museum, it says he’s born in 1916 and also in 1917.6 Zombie Winter Soldier
The Winter Soldiers appears as a zombie alongside several major Marvel characters in Marvel Zombies vs. The Army of Darkness, a crossover comic series with the Evil Dead franchise.
The story primarily follows Ash Williams as he encounters various superheroes in this alternate universe. Bucky is one of the unfortunate souls infected with the disease and turned into a zombie. Unlike the ones in other media, the zombies in this universe can talk, and Zombie Winter Soldier is seen attacking Dazzler. Plus, his distinctive bionic arm seems to stay attached to his rotting body without a problem.
In the end, Ash is able to terminate this zombified Winter Soldier by shooting his head off with his shotgun.5 He became the White Skull
In volume 4 of the What If series of comics, Steve is reimagined as Stephen Rogers, who leads the Union to victory during the American Civil War. In this alternate timeline, Bucky is Stephen’s commander in the Redlegs Regiment. However, the two are far from buddies in this version of events.
As it turns out, this Bucky is ruthless and cruel. He even tries to end Stephen’s life because Stephen disobeys his orders to hurt some children. He fails to end Stephen.
His face is destroyed when he witnesses Stephen’s transformation into Captain America, leaving only his skull intact.
Bucky then calls himself the White Skull and forms a white supremacist terrorist group named after himself.4 Failing lungs
In the Ultimate Marvel timeline, Bucky is an army press photographer who is childhood friends with Steve. This Bucky never becomes the Winter Soldier, but his life in this universe is nonetheless eventful. He ends up marrying Gail, Steve’s fiancée, since they both believe that Steve passes away during World War II.
Bucky survives World War II and lives to meet Steve when the latter is revived from suspended animation. Unfortunately, he’s diagnosed with lung cancer because of his chain-smoking during the war. On top of that, it turns out his stepson— Steve’s biological son with Gail— is Red Skull.
Maybe one day Bucky will finally have a happier, less complicated arc in one of these timelines.3 The Bucky Clause
Comic books are notorious for repeatedly eliminating and reviving characters. However, Bucky was once known as one of the few characters who would actually remain deceased in comics, alongside Uncle Ben and Jason Todd. In fact, the Winter Soldier persona wasn’t introduced in 2005, the year Bucky was finally revived.
Bucky’s transformation into the Winter Soldier obviously has a huge impact on the events of the Marvel Universe, especially because of his covert involvement in global politics. Even before he is resurrected, Bucky’s passing has deeply influenced the Marvel Universe.
In fact, Bucky’s original passing is used as an in-universe reason to justify the lack of superhero sidekicks— it’s considered highly irresponsible to risk a teenager’s life.2 One of the Legion of the Unliving
In The Avengers comics, the Grandmaster takes on both the East and West Coast Avengers. At one point, he forms a new Legion of the Unliving to fight the Avengers. Like most iterations of the Legion of the Unliving, this one included a bunch of resurrected characters, including Bucky.
This probably comes as no surprise, but Cap is one of the Avengers tasked with taking down Bucky, which he succeeds in doing. Despite all the tragic losses during the various battles, the Avengers back to life on Earth.
Bucky isn’t one of the revived heroes because of his termination in World War II, but he does get retconned later on.1 Strong But Unwieldy
Despite the enhanced strength and various bonus features it gets in the comics, the Winter Soldier’s bionic arm has its downfalls. Most noticeably, it’s still no match for someone as nimble as Spider-Man, based on the airport battle scene in Captain America: Civil War.
Since pretty much the entire limb made out of metal, it’s hard to imagine the sheer strength needed to maneuver the prosthetic arm, even with the help of a Super Soldier Serum.
Tony Stark mentions that Peter Parker catches a 3000-pound vehicle, and Peter later stops Bucky’s punch at the airport.
Even with the enhanced strength of the bionic arm and the serum, Bucky struggles in the strength department as well.
Do you know any other facts about the Winter Soldier's body? Share them in the comments!
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