Captain America is legitimately my favorite Marvel character. Steve Rogers' dedication to defending "truth, justice, and the American way" has always been an inspiration to me. That being said, even America's Star Spangled Man With a Plan can't wield the shield forever. Sooner or later, he's going to need a replacement. However, comic fans hotly debate over just who that replacement should be. Some favor Sam Wilson, (the current holder of the Captain America title in the comics), who was formerly known as Falcon, while the rest root for Cap's closest ally, James Buchanan "Bucky" Barnes, to take up the mantle in the films as he did for a short time in the comics following Steve's apparent death in the Civil War storyline. Fellow creator Trevor Norkey and I decided that we would have a friendly contest to determine who should receive the title upon Cap's retirement or death. Trevor will be representing Falcon, while I am leading Team Bucky. You can check out Trevor's incredibly well-written piece on that here! But what makes Bucky a better candidate to succeed Steve than Falcon? Let's look at the facts.
1) Bucky is much older than Falcon and has more combat experience
Sure, about 90% of Bucky's combat experience came about as a result of being the Winter Soldier, but even before HYDRA brainwashed Bucky, he was already a well-fought army veteran. And after becoming the Winter Soldier, he was credited with two dozen assassinations over a fifty year period. Which for a 96 year old who's only aged a few years since WWII, is a pretty solid record. And speaking of WWII, that segues nicely into my next point.
2) Bucky sacrificed himself to save Steve during WWII
We all know that Bucky went missing and was presumed dead when the above scene took place. What actually happened was that he survived, was discovered by HYDRA, and turned into the Winter Soldier. Now why does that make Bucky more worthy to be Cap's successor than Falcon? Oh, I don't know, maybe it has something to do with the fact that right before his thousand foot drop, he saved Steve's life. That's right; an unfortunate HYDRA soldier was about to shoot Captain America, but Bucky got to the soldier first. And so the Star Spangled Man With a Plan was saved by his best friend from Brooklyn.
3) Bucky was a protector figure for Steve
Ever since the death of Steve's parents, Bucky has acted as kind of a "big brother" to Steve, helping him cope with losing both parents and fighting off bullies whenever he got into a tussle with someone twice his size. But even when he became the Winter Soldier, the catchphrase from their youth snapped Bucky out of his HYDRA-induced trance and he once again became Cap's protector, as demonstrated by the fact that the Winter Soldier pulls an unconscious Steve out of the Potomac before wandering off to resolve his past.
4) Bucky is proof that tragedy is not final
Bucky's narrative arc, from being Cap's childhood best friend all the way to his tenure as the Winter Soldier, is proof that even from the most tragic of circumstances, a hero can rise. The above shot was placed in Captain America: The Winter Soldier for a reason: it's called foreshadowing, kids. The filmmakers intentionally stuck this shot in the movie to prove that Bucky, and not Falcon, would succeed Captain America. And the filmmakers and fans aren't the only ones demanding that Bucky take over the shield. As a matter of fact...
5) He was directly appointed as Cap's successor by both Cap himself and the Avengers
It's true. Following Steve's presumed assassination in the Civil War storyline, Bucky is appointed by the Avengers to succeed the role of Captain America. A few years later, it is revealed that Steve in fact survived, and he resumes his role for several more years. Finally deciding to hang up his shield for good, he asks his best friend Bucky to replace him so that there will always be a Captain America. At first, Bucky is resistant to the idea, but ultimately agrees and actively takes up the shield as Captain America once again.