Marvel has made it clear with their superhero filmsthat they aren’t just looking to please movie audiences with epic blockbuster action or a sprawling shared universe – they also want to keep the comic book diehards entertained with a wealth of inside jokes, easter eggs, and direct references to the source material. And Captain America: The Winter Soldier is no exception.
Captain America’s most recent outing may not be as jam-packed with easter eggs as his last one, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few worthwhile inclusions snuck into the finished film by the writers and directors. Even eagle-eyed fans are sure to have missed a few, but they are more than worth a second viewing. Needless to say, there will be plenty of spoilers in our list of Captain America: The Winter Soldier trivia, so read at your own risk.
One of the largest nods to Steve Rogers’ shift from the past to the present comes in his list of cultural events and figure he’s singled out for later investigation, glimpsed when told by Falcon (Anthony Mackie) to have a listen to Marvin Gaye’s Trouble Man. But what moviegoers may not realize is that the exact contents of the list vary from region to region.
For instance, the American cut of the film features significant events like the ‘Moon Landing,’ ‘Steve Jobs (Apple)’ and ‘Disco,’ while the Korean version references director Chan-wook Park’s Old Boy (2003) and Korean footballer Ji-Sung Park.
Secret Avenger Suit
When Captain America made his costumed debut in The Avengers, his ‘old-fashioned’ costume wasn’t a hit with every fan. With a move towards realism for The Winter Soldier, the directors turned to Cap’s Super Soldier costume – the uniform worn by Steve Rogers during the “Secret Avengers” storyline. The directors explained the shift from red, white and blue to something darker as a sign of Rogers’ changing role within S.H.I.E.L.D., and a more believable suit for his covert operations.
Who Needs a Parachute?
The first full international trailer for The Winter Soldier showed that Cap hadn’t lost his sense of humor in the time since The Avengers, referring to his relatively open social calendar given all his friends being… well, dead. While the exchange between he and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) ended with a leap from the rear of a plane, the fact that Cap found no need for a parachute proved he hadn’t lost his edge.
But devoted fans will recognize that the line is actually a direct reference to the first issue of Marvel’s Ultimates in which Cap’s distaste for parachutes is shown to go all the way back to World War II.
The ‘Lemurian Star’
The action sequence which kicks off the film shows Captain’s combat effectiveness as he takes down an entire squad of mercenaries who have taken control of a S.H.I.E.L.D. freighter. It also happens to be home to not one, but two references to the comic book source material. For starters, the gifted martial artist known as Batroc (played by UFC Champion Georges St-Pierre) is based on the comic book villain ‘Batroc the Leaper,’ with his clothing keeping the purple and gold color scheme intact.
However, the fact that the freighter is named ‘The Lemurian Star’ is also a nod to the comics that Marvel fans won’t miss. In the world of Marvel comics, the Lemurians were a race of sea-people with possible ties to the Deviants, a race created alongside the Deviants by the otherworldly beings known as Celestials. Whether this easter egg is a sign of what’s to come or a nod to fans, it shouldn’t be missed.
Alexander Pierce, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Marvel earned serious credibility for their claim that The Winter Soldier would be a political thriller more than a superhero movie when they announced that Robert Redford would play the head of S.H.I.E.L.D.. But the role of ‘Alexander Pierce’ wasn’t entirely new, even if the original character to bear that name was a very different type of soldier. Pierce was actually one of Nick Fury’s top covert agents in the comics, skilled in hand-to-hand combat to rival Widow or Hawkeye.
The Helicarrier’s New Tech
When Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) first reveals the results of Project Insight – three cutting-edge Helicarriers – to Steve Rogers, he notes the improved propulsion engines, courtesy of Stark Industries. The resemblance to Iron Man’s signature weaponry is clear, but it’s how Stark managed to come up with the new designs that is of interest to movie fans. Specifically, once he got “a closer look” at the turbines formerly used to raise the ship from ground level.
Fury is referring to Iron Man’s journey into (and out of) the Helicarrier’s massive turbine when it was attacked by a mind-controlled Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) in The Avengers. It’s hard to believe that Stark had time to think about improving the system while he was being chewed through it, but we suppose you can’t stop brilliance.
The Avengers did a good job of implying that there was more between Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) and Black Widow than a love of their country, and comic book fans know that the pair have long been romantically linked. Although the films never confirmed that they were anything more than friends, eagle-eyed fans will notice that Widow keeps Clint – or his signature weaponry, at least – close to her heart in the form of an arrow necklace.
Those who have read the comics upon which The Winter Soldier is based will know that Steve and Bucky don’t cross paths until well into the plot, but when they do, sparks fly. Their first encounter kicks off with penciller Steve Epting’s iconic image of the Winter Soldier’s metal arm slamming square into Cap’s shield with a resounding ‘KLNNG!’. As testament to just how much the studio kept to Brubaker’s original comic run, one of the very first images ever released showed a recreation of that same scene, and it remains intact in the finished film as well.
If The Shield Fits…
Many casual movie fans who weren’t aware of the Winter Soldier’s true identity before entering the theater were likely confused at a few points in the story, but Bucky Barnes’ role in the comics was far more than a villain. Casting aside his brainwashing and embracing the man he used to be (something also alluded to in the film’s final post-credits scene), Barnes would go on to become a force for good alongside his old friend Steve.
In fact, Barnes would eventually take up the red, white and blue shield as Captain America himself – a fact first alluded to in the movie when Barnes wields the iconic weapon in combat against its rightful owner. With Chris Evans stepping away from acting in the years to come, and Sebastian Stan signed for seven more Marvel movies, it’s possible this quick reference could be a certified foreshadow of things to come.
It’s strange to think that Paul Newman and Robert Redford are often seen as two sides of the same coin, despite only starring opposite one another in Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid (1969) and The Sting (1973). Besides establishing the two as certified leading men, the films began a friendship that would last until Newman’s death in 2008. Never one to forget his partner in crime, a glimpse into the refrigerator of Pierce reveals a jar of ‘Newman’s Own’ sauce – the charitable food company founded by Newman in 1982.
The return of (Swiss) scientist Arnim Zola (Toby Jones) may not have been in exactly the way comic book fans had hoped, but it did manage to keep some semblance of his comic book incarnation intact. With Zola’s brain and face generally set into a mechanized suit when doing battle with Captain America, it’s no coincidence he’s depicted as essentially the same when facing off against Cap and Widow.
Shall We Play a Game?
After Widow cues up the computer in the basement of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s defunct New Jersey base (and informing us all of how ‘yes’ is spelled) she questions whether Steve Rogers would “like to play a game?” Movie buffs of the 1980s will immediately recognize the line as taken from the film WarGames (1983), where Matthew Broderick also converses with an intelligent supercomputer. Impressively, Rogers understood the joke, meaning global thermonuclear war has been on his mind for some time.
Marvel had weathered a few attacks in the past of not giving proper credit to the creators and writers of the comics being adapted. But that is most certainly not the case with The Winter Soldier. When directors Joe and Anthony Russo first signed on for the film, one of their first orders of business was a face-to-face meeting with Ed Brubaker, the author of the original “Winter Soldier” comic book series.
But their reverence didn’t stop there, as viewers will notice a goatee’d, bespectacled technician brainwashing the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) in the bowels of S.H.I.E.L.D.. That’s Brubaker, in the flesh, getting a chance to see his creation brought to life from the front row.
Director on the Set
Directors Anthony and Joe Russo didn’t limit their work to that done behind the camera, but in front of the lens as well. Viewers will notice that the doctor coming to Widow’s aid in Nick Fury’s underground “cave” is none other than Joe Russo himself. We’re still waiting to see if his brother Anthony managed to do the same at another point in the film.
As evidence of just how successfully HYDRA has infiltrated the American government, Senator Stern (Garry Shandling) makes a second appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, after previously attempting to acquire the Iron Man armor from Tony Stark in Iron Man 2, and being forced to pin a medal to Stark’s chest in the closing scenes. Now, his antagonizing makes a bit more sense.
It’s unclear if Stern’s whisper of ‘Hail HYDRA’ is a sign that he is one of the group’s longtime members, or simply one that has been brought into the fold (since it seems a bit on-the-nose for such a secretive organization). Hopefully it’s the latter, but either way, fans now know that it wasn’t the US Army seeking to use “the Iron Man weapon” for their purposes, but rather the remnant’s of Red Skull’s forces.
Sits Well, Drops Names
When Agent Sitwell (Maximiliano Hernandez) is being given a (brief) rooftop interrogation by Cap, Falcon and Widow, he reveals HYDRA’s plan to target and eliminate all men and women who could one day pose a threat to their organization. Among the likes of Tony Stark and Bruce Banner, Sitwell also refers to Stephen Strange. The name drop sticks out like a sore thumb to anyone even remotely familiar with the comics, as Doctor Strange is a pivotal character in Marvel’s supernatural realm.
Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige has maintained that Doctor Strange is one of his personal top priorities, but we would recommend fans don’t put too much into this mention, and take it as the continuing promise to get to the ‘Sorcerer Supreme’ adapted that it likely is.
Stephen Strange isn’t the only character alluded to in Sitwell’s rambling, making mention of “a valedictorian in Iowa City” and a man located in Cairo, Egypt. It could be assumed that these are mentioned to show that S.H.I.E.L.D. (and HYDRA) have eyes around the globe, but Marvel fans know that whatever the context, mentioning Cairo alongside the heroes of the comic book universe points to only one man: Moon Knight.
A former mercenary transformed into the Egyptian Moon-god’s physical avatar, Marc Spector would go on to become a vengeful spirit, referred to many within the comic book community as ‘Batman… with issues.’ There were rumors some years ago that a Moon Knight TV series was being developed, so it’s possible that this could simply be a vague reference to a character fans were already robbed of. But with Doctor Strange mentioned in the same breath, it could certainly be more.
Stan Lee Cameo
As Marvel fans have come to expect, comic book creator Stan Lee once again makes a cameo appearance as a night security guard at the Smithsonian who is only hours away from looking for a new job. It could be argued that given the fame and influence of the comic book characters he created, there may one day be a wing-sized exhibit at the Smithsonian dedicated to Lee himself. So hopefully allowing Captain America to steal his suit (back) can be forgiven.
There was a time when it seemed like the Russo brothers may not be the only Community alums involved with the Captain America franchise. But even if Alison Brie fell out of contention for the role of Agent 13, that didn’t mean the directors couldn’t include at least some of their usual cohorts – namely Danny Pudi, Community‘s Abed Nadir who appears as a S.H.I.E.L.D. tech prior to Cap’s assault on the organization’s hub (D.C. Pierson, the Apple Store employee has also appeared in both credited and uncredited roles on the NBC series as well).
With Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) explicitly stated to be a target of HYDRA, it’s no surprise to see him targeted by Project Insight’s weapons system. But when ‘Anthony Stark’ is found, an image is displayed of what appear to be Stark Tower in downtown New York City, still sporting the ‘A’ from the aftermath of The Avengers‘ Chitauri invasion.
But according to the directors, this is not Stark Tower being shown, but the fully-fledged Avengers Tower from the comic books. We don’t know who would be living in it at the time of the film to make it live up to its name, but this is technically the first fans have seen of the location on film.
It was heavily implied that Captain America’s allies would become foes when Frank Grillo was cast as Brock Rumlow a.k.a. Crossbones, a hired gun in the comic canon. Although moviegoers never got to see Crossbones’ signature mask or contract killing on display in The Winter Soldier, the directors left the doors wide open for future appearances.
Specifically, the film left Rumlow with significant facial scarring, and one heck of a grudge. Much focus is placed on the crossed straps alluding to his ‘crossbones’ moniker, and it’s possible that the scars will necessitate his signature mask, should Rumlow surface in future films.
Fan speculation spun out of control when the word broke that Emily VanCamp had landed the role of Agent 13, the longtime professional and romantic partner to Captain America. While her role was kept to a minimum in The Winter Soldier, Widow made a point of telling Steve Rogers her real name: Sharon. But what wasn’t revealed was that she is, in fact, Sharon Carter – niece of Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell).
It’s easy to see why learning that his neighbor and potential love interest is the niece of his former love might be something Cap needs time to digest – but it’s certainly something that he’ll have to deal with, sooner or later. Especially if Agent 13 starts leaping into battle alongside he and the rest of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s top agents.
Ezekiel 25: 17
Nick Fury’s death may all been a distraction, but it was also a brilliant opportunity to pay homage to one of Samuel L. Jackson’s most iconic roles. So when Steve Rogers is shown visiting the “grave” of Fury, his headstone bears a single epitaph: “‘The path of the righteous man,’ – Ezekiel 25:17.”
Jackson fans will recognize the passage as the same one spoken by Jules Winnfield, the hired gun featured in Pulp Fiction (1994). It’s one reference that may go largely unnoticed by the uninitiated, but is impossible to miss for fans of that actor’s eclectic resume.
Wolfgang von Strucker
The first half of Winter Soldier‘s mid- and post-credits sequences is not just a pleasure for fans of the Captain America comics, but may have massive implications for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The scene shows that the death of HYDRA’s head still has only resulted in two more taking its place; specifically, the work conducted under the leadership of Baron Wolfgang von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann).
How large a role Strucker will play in the future films is unclear, but an actor of Kretschmann’s talent is sure to be sought after for more than a mid-credits scene. And even if Strucker is absent from sequels, his experiments certainly won’t be…
Also revealed in the film’s post-credits sequence is a direct tie-in to The Avengers: Age of Ultron, with the first appearances of both the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). The two characters will be playing a significant role in at least one Avengers film, but the reality-bending powers exhibited by Scarlet Witch in both the comics and the brief scene hold serious ramifications for all realms of the movie universe.
Hopefully the troubled siblings will gain a better hold on their mental health before they’re entrusted with the responsibility of saving the day, but we’re just as interested to see how they’ll escape from Strucker’s grip. For a full analysis of the ramifications of these short sequences, be sure to read through our Winter Soldier end credits scene explanation.
Those are all the easter eggs, bits of comic book trivia, and subtle references fans can look out for on repeat viewings, but if you have any that have been missed, please share them in the comments.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.