Steve Rogers, the original Captain America, was gunned down and tossed into the cold, black ocean more than a year ago, leaving his angsty former sidekick Bucky to pick up the slack. Now, as speculation runs wild that the much-hyped "Captain America # 600" will see the return of Rogers, "Bucky Cap" (as Spider-Man calls him) could soon be out of a job. But does he need to be?

Marvel's promotional efforts have teased a few different possibilities for the outcome of Cap's landmark issue. From ominous black and white icons, to images of an alternate Earth's female Bucky, to blunt painted ads blaring "The Return," Marvel has been keeping fans guessing.

More on will-he-or-won't-he info after the jump!Most fan theories insist that Steve Rogers will soon rejoin the land of the living, despite Marvel's initial promise that dead means dead. After all, "Captain America: The First Avenger" is slated to open in July of 2011, followed by an Avengers film the following summer, so Marvel's got to reestablish their icons and integrate their branding, right?

Maybe. But just because Cap has films on the way doesn't mean Steve Rogers needs to be punching Nazis in the pages of his former in-continuity title just yet, or that the mainstream Marvel universe needs to bump Bucky purely for the sake of marketing.

Yes, in two years time the movie-going public could use an accessible comic after seeing a Cap movie, but the argument that Hollywood needs to be lined up with this single source comic is a flimsy one when considering the breadth of Marvel's publishing line.

There are too many other comics more suited for a fresh audience, like the all-ages "Marvel Adventures" titles that star contemporary yet classic versions of Marvel's heroes and serve as jumping-on points for young readers unfamiliar with Steve Rogers.

Marvel's planned "Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes" animated series is also slated to drop in 2011, which in all likelihood will reach a far-wider audience than any comic book series if it takes after Nickelodeon's "Wolverine and the X-Men" or "Iron Man: Armored Adventures."

Steve Rogers is a classic character and Brubaker's take on Cap stands out as one of the most exciting runs in Cap lore. If Rogers does come back (as everyone predicts he will), it's safe to assume the creative team will handle it with flying red, white and blue colors. But Marvel should consider giving Bucky a little more time in the costume before Rogers takes back his shield. After all, there are plenty of ways to sell Steve Rogers without putting his replacement on ice... again.

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