In this edition of Avengers Spotlight, we’ll be taking a look at a lady that goes by many names: Natalia Romanova, Natalie Rushman, Laura Matthers, Oktober, Yelena Belova, Natasha Romanoff. No matter which alias she goes by, she is still The Black Widow.
Editor and plotter Stan Lee, scripter Don Rico, and artist Don Heck created the Black Widow. Her first appearance in the Marvel Universe was in ‘Tales of Suspense’ #52 from 1964. Back then she appeared as a non-costumed Soviet spy who battled Iron Man. After having a brief partnership with Hawkeye, professionally and romantically, as villains, Natasha defected to the United States after appearing in ‘The Avengers’ #29 in 1966, where she became a recurring ally and eventually official member of the superhero team.
Born in Stalingrad, Russia, Natasha Romanoff started off as a Soviet agent trained as a spy, martial artist, sniper, gymnast, and ballerina. Her parents were killed in a fire when she was very young and the USSR’s Black Widow Ops program and Ivan Petrovitch raised her. Along with other female orphans, she was biotechnologically and psycho-technologically enhanced so that she aged slowly, possessed an enhanced immune system, and had false memories implanted in her brain to insure her loyalty.
When she grew up, she was on a mission as a femme fatale to seduce American defense contractor Tony Stark and assassinate Professor Anton Vanko. After many battles with Stark’s superhero alter ego, Iron Man, Romanoff tried to defect from the Soviet Union to the US, but she was intercepted by a KGB agent that brainwashed her. She teamed with the Swordsman and the first Power Man to fight the Avengers, who unbrainwash her during the course of their struggles and invite her to officially become the 16th member of the team.
The first time that Romanoff donned her trademark skintight costume was in ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ #86 in 1970. From that point forward, she began freelancing as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., working closely with Nick Fury and going on various espionage missions to stop the plans of practically every evil organization in Marvel history.
Later, Natasha becomes aware of Yelena Belova, another Black Widow who was also trained in the Black Widow Ops program. Yelena was obsessed with being the sole Black Widow, but in a battle between the two Widows, Natasha came out on top, causing Yelena to doubt herself and retire to Cuba, where she became a businesswoman and model. Eventually, Belova would be lured back into action, but that’s another story for another time.
Currently, Natasha Romanoff is a part of the black-ops division of the Avengers called the Secret Avengers, who handle the more hush-hush problems that the Avengers encounter.
Shining Moment on the Page
The Black Widow had quite a storied romance with the Daredevil, Matt Murdoch, but personally, I always liked her with James ‘Bucky’ Barnes. The former Captain America sidekick and the former Soviet spy have a history from when Bucky was the Winter Soldier. They paired up again after the assassination of Steve Rogers when Bucky took over the mantle of Captain America. After the events of the Skrull invasion, Natasha became Bucky’s partner, along with the Falcon, as well as his lover.
Sure, I could’ve picked some grand, badass moment where The Black Widow saves the day, but what can I say? I’m sort of a hopeless romantic. Not to mention, the way that Ed Brubaker wrote those two together was pretty awesome. One minute they’d be fighting the Red Skull’s minions, and the next they’d be making out. Even the most dangerous people in the world look for love sometimes. As cool as Daredevil is, I think The Winter Soldier is the right man for The Black Widow.
Shining Moment on the Screen
Natasha Romanoff has appeared as various incarnations on the screen. She’s appeared in the direct to video ‘Ultimate Avengers’ movies, ‘The Super Hero Squad Show’, and Disney XD’s ‘The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes’. However, in my book, none of these appearances top the character’s appearance in ‘Iron Man 2’. Played by the gorgeous Scarlett Johansson, Natasha comes to life in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to back up Sam Jackson’s Nick Fury and Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson while they deal with Tony Stark. The scene when we see her and Happy Hogan break into the white-walled facility and she just takes down every single guard in her way is just amazing in every way. I cannot wait to see all the butts that will be kicked in ‘The Avengers’ courtesy of The Black Widow on May 4th.
This wraps up our spotlight on Marvel’s top super spy. To find out more about the other Avengers you’ll be seeing on the big screen in a few weeks, read my other Avengers Spotlights on Nick Fury, Hawkeye, Maria Hill, and Agent Coulson.
Stay tuned because the big boys of Marvel will be spotlighted very soon.