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Director Joe Johnston discusses Captain America 2

Captain America: The First Avenger won’t hit theaters until later this week, but for whatever reason, the film seems to have great buzz surrounding it. The reviews aren’t even out yet (with a few exceptions), but unlike some other superhero films that were doomed form the start because they looked awful <cough>Green Lantern<cough>, there seems to be some genuine excitement for Cap. It may not do Harry Potter numbers—ok, it almost certainly won’t do Harry Potter numbers–but the buzz has been strong enough, and Marvel has been on a roll lately, so it isn’t a huge surprise to hear the film’s director Joe Johnston discuss the possibility of a sequel.

When Chris Evans was originally cast as Cap, the contract called for a nine-picture deal, which would include The Avengers films, cameos in other Marvel films and sequels to Captain America. A nine-picture deal is a massive commitment, especially for an actor that would have a lead role in as many as six of the nine films, and it became a negotiating stumbling block. Samuel L. Jackson signed a nine-picture deal to appear as Nick Fury, but most of those were cameo roles, and he has already appeared in three films in scenes that varied from one minute to no more than five. So eventually Evans agreed on a six-picture deal with the option for more, all but guaranteeing a sequel as long as the original film did even mediocre numbers.

Along with Evans, Sebastian Stan (pictured above with Evans), the actor that plays Cap’s friend and sidekick Bucky Barnes, also has a commitment for more films which could signal that his comic book alter ego of The Winter Soldier may soon be headed to the big screen. When asked about the future of Bucky Barnes, Johnston mentioned the possibility of seeing more from the character.

“We talked about ‘The Winter Soldier’ which is the continuation of what his story is. It’s basically that he is captured by the Russians and he’s brainwashed and turned into an assassin. But you know there are a thousand ways to go with that.” Johnston told ScreenRant. “I just think that it would be interesting to take a character that was in Captain America and build a story around him. Plus, I like Sebastian Stan a lot I think he would be an interesting actor to build another feature around.”

The real question is what happens next for Cap. Captain America: The First Avenger is set almost entirely during World War II. In the comics, close to the end of the war, Cap is frozen in a block of ice and thawed out decades later by The Avengers. The movie will likely allude to this in some fashion in order to get Cap to the present for his next big screen appearance in next year’s The Avengers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the next Captain America film will also be set in the present.

“Well ‘The Avengers’ will show him in present day, there’s no getting around that. But we talked about possibly doing a sequel, or the idea of doing a sequel back in the 40s. Basically make an adventure story that took place during the time that he was with his [WWII era] Avengers, you know. Because he was with them for three years and he could have done all kinds of things.” Johnston said. “But I think that what will determine the sequel is really what ‘The Avengers’ does. I haven’t seen it, I haven’t read the script, I don’t really know what the story is but it may be tough to go back to the 40s after seeing him in contemporary times — I’m not sure.”

If the character remains in the 40s, Barnes’ character will likely just remain the soldier that he already is. In one of the many retcons of Captain America over the years, the character of Bucky Barnes went from a goofy sidekick in a colorful costume that loved to punch Nazis while sporting a big smile, to war correspondent following Cap around, to a hardcore commando-like soldier, depending on when you jumped into Cap’s story. The film seems to have Barnes as a soldier first and foremost. But regardless of the continuity, with the exception of The Ultimates comic, Bucky always died during the war.

There used to be an expression regarding the death of comic book characters. When it comes to a significant death in comics, odds are that sooner or later that character will somehow cheat death and come back to life. There used to be an exception to this rule that claimed any mainstream character could return, except for Uncle Ben, Jason Todd’s Robin and Bucky Barnes. Well, Uncle Ben is still dead, at least.

In the comics, Bucky was killed towards the end of the war in the same mission that left Captain America frozen. This remained an accepted fact for decades until the character of The Winter Soldier was introduced as a sometimes bad guy that lived in a gray area. Following his presumed death, the Russians took Barnes and put him in a cryogenic sleep, continually brainwashing him and only releasing him for brief periods to complete assassination missions over the decades. As a result, he hardly aged at all but became one of the most skilled assassins in history.

Thanks to the help of Cap, Bucky inevitably regained control and took charge of his own life, and eventually became Captain America following Steve Rogers’ brief death. Assuming the next movie is set int he present, and assuming Johnston–who has a two-picture deal with Marvel is asked to return–we could see this story played out on the big screen.

“I told the Marvel guys that there is a character that I’m really interested in called ‘The Winter Soldier’” Johnston said when asked about a possible protagonist for the second film, “and that if, ‘you guys decide to make that picture I would definitely be interested.’ It’s the ‘Bucky’ Barnes story.”

But again, the movie has not even been released yet, so at the moment this is all just idle chat and supposition. But what are the internets for if not idle gossip about movies that are years away from hitting theaters?

Captain America: The First Avenger hits theaters on Friday.