While Marvel Comics’ Bucky dates back to the earliest Captain America comics in the 1940s, his second life as “The Winter Soldier” was an invention of writer Ed Brubaker and artist Steve Epting during their run on the Captain America comics in the mid-2000s. Brubaker and Epting’s work on Captain America and their depiction of Bucky — first as a brainwashed super-assassin and then as a mournful man out of time trying to make amends for his crimes — has served as the basis for numerous Marvel Cinematic Universe movies and shows, starting with Captain America: The Winter Soldier and continuing up through The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, which moves the character to the forefront of the MCU’s latest phase.

Despite all the of the attention and acclaim for the character and the new Disney+ series, Ed Brubaker says he has “mixed feelings” about The Falcon and the Winter SoldierIn his personal newsletter, Brubaker writes that while “everyone at Marvel Studios... has been nothing but kind” through the years, all he and Epting have ever gotten “for creating the Winter Soldier and his storyline is a ‘thanks’ here or there.” He says that over the years it’s “become harder and harder to live with” that state of things:

Work-for-hire work is what it is, and I'm honestly thrilled to have co-created something that's become such a big part of pop culture - or even pop subculture with all the Bucky-Steve slash fiction - and that run on Cap was one of the happiest times of my career, certainly while doing superhero comics ... But I also can't deny feeling a bit sick to my stomach sometimes when my inbox fills up with people wanting comments on the show.

Brubaker’s story is sadly a familiar one. Most work done for Marvel Comics throughout its entire history was done as “work-for-hire” — meaning all of the intellectual property created by writers and artists is fully owned by Marvel. So when the Winter Soldier becomes a TV show, Marvel doesn’t have to pay Brubaker and Epting the way, for example, J.K. Rowling gets paid any time they make a new Fantastic Beasts movie. It’s one thing to write a comic book and to be paid for your work, but it’s another when that comic becomes so popular it spawns a literal billion dollar movie and you ultimately see nothing from that.

Brubaker largely work these days in television, writing on shows like Westworld and Too Old to Die Young, and on his own creator-owned comic books where he and his collaborators fully control the copyright. In his newsletter, he admits that he has a “great life” as a writer, and that “much of it is because of Cap and the Winter Soldier bringing so many readers” to his work. As for watching The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, he says he’s “probably be waiting a while to check it out.”

Gallery — The Best Marvel Easter Eggs in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: