Sunday, August 17, 2014

Pancakes with Bucky Bear

Sometimes, you really just need a stack of pancakes.

I'm about to make a pretty dorky confession, although considering this is a cooking blog taking inspiration from historical dolls? I figure most of you won't judge me too harshly. I participate in text based roleplay, and have been doing so on and off since I was in middle school. What this means is basically, me and a bunch of friends and acquaintances write stories together, but from the perspective of one specific character per player rather than simply writing a collaborative novel or something. It's a lot of fun, and it's a good outlet for my creative energies when I'm not feeling up to writing my own epic trilogy or penciling a comic series, which is basically all the time. I've never been good at finishing my own original fiction projects.

Since April, I've dragged out one of my favorite characters out of retirement, and he likes pancakes. A lot. To the point of where my RP gmail inbox is now trying to advertise IHOP and Denny's to me because they're having specials on pancakes. Needless to say, I've been doing a lot of thinking about pancakes lately, and after admitting this to some of my friends, they then admitted they've either been craving pancakes or have gone out and made them because of me and my character!

So, who is this character and what's that bear doing here?

I've been interested in comic books since I was about eleven years old. Originally, I was more of a DC Comics fan, which has everything to do with the fact that my gateway drug into the world of comics was the animated Teen Titans series which ran on Cartoon Network from 2003 to 2006, but in recent years? I've definitely become more of a Marvel fan. Sure, they're still a flawed company with flawed storylines and creators, but for the most part? They at least try to pretend they care about things like diversity and treating female characters with respect, which is something DC has been really stumbling with.

Anyway, even before I was a big Marvel fan, I still really enjoyed some of their characters thanks to TV series like X-Men: Evolution and movies like Iron Man and the original Spider-Man trilogy. (Or at least the first two. Spider-Man 3 was pretty horrible.) Despite all that, when people asked who my favorite Marvel character was, I've pretty much always said...

Bucky Barnes! I say "despite" because Bucky (and to a lesser extent Captain America) hasn't been a super popular character in Marvel multimedia until very recently. Bucky was originally created by Joe Simon in 1940 as the sidekick to Captain America, and was named after a high school friend of Simon's. He first appeared in Captain America #1, published by Timely Comics (the company that would become Marvel) which hit the shelves in March of 1941 and features the iconic cover art of Cap punching Hitler in the face. This was actually extremely edgy for a kid's magazine as at the time, the US was still clinging to neutrality regarding "the conflict in Europe" by its fingertips despite ferrying supplies to Great Britain, and wouldn't fully commit to the war effort until after Hitler declared war in December of 1941.

(As a side note, Cap wasn't the first Timely character to start taking on the Axis before Pearl Harbor. That honor goes to Namor the Sub-Mariner!)

Bucky was a fairly popular and prolific character for Timely through most of the 1940's, but both he and Cap lost some of their relevance (along with superhero comics in general) after the end of World War II. While characters like Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman from DC were able to survive the decline in popularity, Timely really struggled into the 1960's to keep their characters fresh and interesting. Bucky was eventually permanently killed off in the 1960's, and unlike many other characters actually stayed dead for almost fifty years, appearing only in flashbacks. There was discussion of bringing him back, but no one ever followed through on it.

Finally, in 2005, writer Ed Brubaker reintroduced the character by revealing that instead of dying in an explosion, Bucky was thrown clear and into the Arctic Ocean, where he was eventually picked up by a Russian submarine. The Russians brainwashed him and turned him into one of the world's greatest assassins, codenamed the Winter Soldier. After trying to kill Cap, Steve uses the Cosmic Cube (movie fans more or less know it as the Tesseract) to restore Bucky's memories. Shortly thereafrer, Steve is killed (it turns out he was actually sort of stuck in a different reality and was just mostly dead, oh comics) and Bucky takes up the mantle of Captain America. After staying with it for a few years, he's more or less forced to fake his death again, and readopts the identity of the Winter Soldier.

Fun fact, the codename has dual meanings and origins! It refers to both the Winter Soldier Investigation, which was a media event intended on exposing war crimes committed by American military personnel during the Vietnam War and a quote by Thomas Paine, which goes: These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. I like it a lot, because it not only calls upon Bucky's (admittedly unwilling) actions as an assassin during the Cold War and references his ability to stand up and do the right thing no matter how difficult it might be, while also calling upon a much more Captain America-y period in American history.

My reasons for getting attached to Bucky originally are pretty shallow: my favorite DC Comics character is Robin, a.k.a. Dick Grayson, another domino mask wearing sidekick who got his start in the 1940's. I don't think it's a stretch to suggest Robin inspired Joe Simon to give Cap a kid sidekick, and the characters are often paralleled in crossover events, especially within the last ten years or so. It kind of seems like DC's strategy for deciding what to do with Dick is looking at what Marvel's doing with Bucky!

I've always had a soft spot for sidekicks, and between that and my passion for learning more about World War II, Bucky's been a pretty obvious choice for favorite character of mine even before I knew much about him as a character. After I got to know him more, there was pretty much no going back. I really like characters who have strong quasi familial ties to a close friend (Bucky and Steve often refer to each other as the brother they never had) and Bucky and Natasha Romanoff's relationship is pretty much the only romantic relationship I've ever really cared about in comics. More personally, as someone who's struggled a lot with accepting and moving on from parts of their past, it's nice to have a fictional character going through similar issues to relate to.

... Not that I'm actually a recovering brainwashed assassin, or anything even close to that, but having a hard time forgiving yourself isn't always a trait that's handled well or often in media, so it's nice to have at least one fictional character I can kinda gel with.

This has kind of snowballed to the point of where he's the character I pick up comics for, just like Dick was back when I was reading DC titles. If Bucky's in an issue or tagging along in a storyline, I will pick it up and read it. If not, my interest is pretty limited unless one of my other favorites (Natasha, Sam Wilson, Rogue...) is starring in it. I was over the moon Bucky was being brought into the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Captain America: The First Avenger, because I was really worried he'd be edited out of a Captain America film entirely for the same reasons DC Comics has avoided adding Robin to the newer films. No one cares about teenage sidekicks, right?

Still, he remained a relatively obscure character until Captain America: The Winter Soldier came out, and let me just say the noise I made when I first heard that's officially what the sequel was called? Was embarrassing. I'm used to liking under the radar characters who often get left out of video games, TV shows and movies (Cassandra Cain, Stephanie Brown, Helena Bertinelli, notice a pattern here, comics fans?), so the fact that my favorite character was the title character in the sequel kind of killed me. It was everything I could have hoped for and I may have seen it seven times in theaters and you really need to watch it if you haven't already.

Bucky Bear comes from A-Babies vs. X-Babies, an officially licensed comic quasi parodying the Avengers vs. X-Men storyline from 2012. In it, the baby Captain America has a beloved stuffed bear named Bucky, who's dressed like his comic book counterpart and is kidnapped by Cyclops. I got mine from Stitchy Button on Etsy, but unfortunately, she doesn't mass produce them anymore. You can still custom order one, though!

I can actually only think of one specific panel where Bucky mentions pancakes, but it's something people have kind of taken and run with, and that includes me. Thus this post.

Anyway, now you'll never have to ask the question "Who the hell is Bucky?" again, badumching. Comic book history is actually one of the thing I'm dorkiest about, and as you can see, I can go on and on and on about it.

Back to the food.

I got this recipe from the same friend who gave me the push to give the pretzel recipe a try because she's made the bagels by the same blogger successfully so many times. It's from Pennies and Pancakes, and can be found here! Jessi said it was her favorite recipe for pancakes, and since I trust her judgment on food, I decided yes, this would be what would help me get over my pancakes cravings.

You start by combining whole wheat flour, baking powder, sugar and salt, and then adding milk, eggs, oil, and vanilla, mixing it all together with a whisk. Two tablespoons of vinegar should also be added right before you're ready to cook them.

I used our trusty Griddler, but a frying pan works too. I rubbed down the plates with butter first, and then suuuuper carefully poured on my pancakes, because I've actually literally never made pancakes before and had relatively limited confidence in my ability to do them well, which is usually how I approach new cooking projects. Maybe it's an attempt not to disappoint myself by failing.

Pancakes can be flipped when the wet tops get nice and bubbly, looking "like a crumpet" according to my mother. I don't know if I've ever had or seen a crumpet before, but the other way you can tell is if you can get your spatula under it without ripping the pancake in half or having it stick to the griddle. Then, you just need some basic coordination to flip it, and you're good to go.

You can also see me modeling my new Black Widow jacket, proving once again that I'm not just a nerd about American Girl.

Pancake recipes never make as many pancakes as you hope they will when you're trying to feed a large crowd, but since it was just me and my brother eating them, it actually made a pretty decent amount. Maybe two dozen or so that were about five inches across?

And let me tell you, these were pretty great! My old dining hall used to make good whole wheat pancakes, and these reminded me of them, with just enough vanilla in them to be flavorful and different. They definitely easily can have things added to them - I was tempted to throw in some chocolate chips or blueberries, but decided against it. They didn't take too long to make, either, and require minimal clean up, which is always good. For anyone put off by whole wheat flour (or if you don't have any on you), you can easily substitute with white flour, but the texture isn't overwhelmingly gritty, and I actually kind of like having a little more grain to my pancake.

(That said, Jim Gaffigan is really right about pancakes setting a low standard for the rest of the day in terms of ever changing out of pajamas. I had a very lazy weekend.)

If you're looking for something a little different than Bisquick, this is definitely the recipe to use! My pancake itch has definitely been scratched, and yours will be, too.

And besides recipe recommendations, I can also give a couple good Bucky related comic book recs, if anyone's interested!

... I'll see myself out.

Maybe someday we'll investigate the history of pancakes, and not cartoon bears...


  1. Great looking pancakes and thanks for the comic book history! It isn't something I know a lot about and it is always interesting to get the origin of various stories.

  2. I'm glad you enjoyed it! I'm always happy to talk comics with people. :D