THE BLACK WIDOW
Welcome to part 3 of my report on the Black Widow and another apology from me. This was supposed to be the last segment on the Black Widow covering her history. Part 1 dealt with the upcoming BLACK WIDOW movie and part 2 dealt with her origins. This last part was supposed to be it. However, in dealing with a character that has a 56-year history – yes my people, the Black Widow has been around for 56 years – trying to cover her history became a much larger endeavor than I expected. Not only that but she has kept busy for those 56 years. It wasn’t like she went off on a retreat or sabbatical for some time. No, she was an active part of the Marvel Universe for 56 years. A list of the roles she has played include:
- Secret Agent
- Super Secret Agent
- Wannabe Avenger
- S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent
- Solo Super-Hero
- Team-up with Daredevil
- Leader of the Champions
And all that only takes us up to 1975. That is a lot of ground to cover and I’m afraid it is too much to do in one post. Hell, it is too much to do in two posts. I’m going to have to cover the history of the Black Widow in three parts:
THE SILVER AGE (1964-1986)
THE BRONZE AGE (1987-2012)
THE MODERN AGE (2013- to now)
So once again I must apologize. My report on the Black Widow is now five parts this being the first part of her history and next week being the second. I realize this seems as if I do not know what I am doing and I have to say in all honesty – I really don’t know what I am doing but since you all love me I figure I’m forgiven.
So let’s get started and take a look at the Black Widow’s looong and very interesting – I would dare say enticing – career as a Marvel Comics character. So buckle up your seatbelts gang. As always we’re in for a helluva ride! YAHOO!!
THE SILVER AGE (1964-1986)
We are introduced to Soviet Agent Natasha Romanoff in TALES OF SUSPENSE #52 (April 1964) when she is ordered to assist Boris Turgenov in the assassination of the defector Professor Anton Vanko. Infiltrating Stark Industries, Natasha attempts to manipulate Tony Stark and winds up confronting Iron Man. Turgenov steals the Crimson Dynamo armor and the two of them fight Iron Man. Using an unstable experimental laser pistol Vanko sacrifices himself to save Iron Man.
A short while later Natasha seduces Hawkeye and sets him against Iron Man. Not only do they clash with Iron Man but they also wind up fighting Spider-Man. Having failed in her missions Natasha is recalled to Russia where she is given a mask and costume that allows her to scale walls and shoot web lines. Returning as a costumed super secret agent the new Black Widow again teams with Hawkeye and they almost succeed in beating Iron Man. But when she is injured Hawkeye backs off in order to get her to safety.
Natasha has begun falling in love with Hawkeye and this has weakened her loyalty to her country. She begins trying to defect. When her masters find out they have her gunned down. This is what causes Hawkeye to go straight and join the Avengers.
The Red Room kidnaps her from her hospital bed and brain washes her into serving them again. Teaming up with the Swordsman and Power Man they fight the Avengers – which now includes Hawkeye. With Hawkeye’s help she overcomes her psychological conditioning and successfully breaks her ties with her former masters and defects. She goes on to have adventures with Spider-Man, Hawkeye, Daredevil, and then joins the Avengers.
However, Nick Fury recruits her as a freelance agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. She is sent on a secret mission to Red China where she, along side the Avengers, battles Colonel Ling and her ex-husband who is now the Red Guardian. The Black Widow is injured again and the Red Guardian is seemingly killed.
After recovering from her injuries Natasha decided to give up super-spying and super-heroics. This put a strain on her romance with Hawkeye because his being an Avenger made him too busy to see her.
Fed up with being ignored Natasha accepted another assignment for S.H.I.E.L.D. This time she stopped the villain Egghead from using an orbital satellite to blackmail the world. She gets captured and Hawkeye uses Henry Pym’s growth formula to become the new Goliath and save her. Shortly after this she ends her relationship with Hawkeye/Goliath.
There is an interesting point I’d like to emphasize. The Black Widow getting gunned down is what spurs Hawkeye on to become an Avenger and now her being captured is what makes him the new Goliath. While it is true that the Black Widow herself has not really contributed much to the Marvel Universe at this point she has been a major catalyst in the life of Hawkeye – who is a major player in the Marvel Universe. Fortunately as time passes she stops being a catalyst for other heroes, and a damsel in distress, and is allowed to shine.
The Black Widow goes solo! Natasha decides to assert her independence. She designs a sleeker, slimmer, all-black costume and adds an electric “widow’s bite” to her bracelets. To test herself she goes after Spider-Man and although Spidey wins she does hold her own against Marvel’s number one hero. She is ready to operate on her own – not as Hawkeye’s sidekick, or an Avenger, or as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
In 1970 Marvel Comics debuted AMAZING ADVENTURES #1. It was a shared book featuring the adventures of the Inhumans in the first part and the adventures of the Black Widow in the second part.
In the 60s Marvel had great success with their shared comics. Tales of Suspense gave us Iron Man and Captain America. Tales to Astonish gave us Sub-Mariner and the Hulk. Strange Tales gave us Nick Fury and Doctor Strange. They attempted to recapture that magic with Amazing Adventures.
Now the significance of this is not just that the Black Widow got her own on-going comic strip. The major historical significance is that she is the first female super-hero in Marvel Comics to get her own strip. This puts the Black Widow up there with the likes of Wonder Woman. It doesn’t matter how long the strip lasted. It doesn’t matter how successful it was. What matters is that our girl Natasha was the first! We may all now stand and give applause!
The 1970s saw comic super-heroes getting involved with social problems. So our super spy found herself dealing with Puerto Ricans cleaning up police corruption and saving hippies from organized crime. Not exactly the kind of stories we would expect from the Black Widow. Maybe that is why her strip did not last too long.
After her solo strip was cancelled she began a romance and association with Daredevil. She and Daredevil became partners and lovers. He moved with her to San Francisco and his comic even became known as DAREDEVIL AND THE BLACK WIDOW. I have to admit I really enjoyed this comic but unfortunately it did not last long.
Taking Daredevil out of New York is kind of like taking Batman out of Gotham. Also, the Black Widow’s fiery independence does not go well towards her being a sidekick. Look at her and Hawkeye. They break up, Daredevil returns to New York and Natasha remains in San Francisco.
While on an assignment with S.H.I.E.L.D. she is captured and tortured by HYDRA and this causes her to regress to an old cover identity of schoolteacher Nancy Rushman. Damn! How many times is this going to happen to her? Spider-Man, Nick Fury, and Shang Chi restore her identity before they take on Madame Viper, Boomerang, and Silver Samurai to save the day.
After successfully foiling the machinations of the Olympian God Pluto the Black Widow, Hercules, the Ghost Rider, Iceman, and the Angel decide to band together as the Champions – a kind of poor man’s Avengers. During this time our Natasha has a brief flirtation with Hercules. Despite the fact that the Champions go on to add Black Goliath, Darkstar, and Jack of Hearts to their ranks they are ultimately done in by . . . bankruptcy. This goes to show you the power of the all-mighty dollar. It can even defeat super-heroes.
After this setback the Black Widow decides to operate on her own and free-lances as an agent for a while.
An old enemy Damon Dran wanted to lure Natasha to his island where an army of female commandos would kill her. He then planned on sending a fake Black Widow to assassinate Nick Fury. However, the Black Widow defeats his army and gets Fury to bomb Dran’s island. There is a lot to be said about superior firepower.
The Black Widow tries to prevent the Hand from stealing and resurrecting their master warrior Kirigi. Unfortunately she gets killed. However, Stone of the Chaste revives her and they join forces with Daredevil to stop the Hand from resurrecting Elektra. They fail – a fact she keeps from Daredevil.
It is interesting to note that although the Black Widow and Daredevil are no longer an item, they are still very much involved in each other’s lives – to this day! Most folks think that the most important man in the life of the Black Widow was Hawkeye. Most people also think that the most important woman in the life of Daredevil was Elektra. I happen to think it is each other!
By the way, Frank Miller gave the Black Widow a new look – hubba hubba!
Natasha discovers her husband Alexi is alive. Russian agents blackmail her into service. But when she finishes the tasks they give her she learns that Alexi is actually an android Life Model Decoy. She then defeats the Russians and destroys the android.
The Black Widow teams up with Iron Man to prevent someone called Oktober from starting World War II by launching missiles. The missiles do get launched but Iron Man stops them from detonating. It then turns out that Oktober was actually Natasha under some old KGB programming that had been dormant but asserted itself.
I have now figured out why she is called the Black Widow. She has been brainwashed and mentally manipulated so many times that her mind is a crazy web of bad wiring. Sheesh!
That is it for this time gang. That pretty much covers the Silver Age of the Black Widow. Next time we’ll look at her Bronze Age appearances. Until then mi gente. Hasta la vista! Andale, andale, pronto!