Super of the Week: Black Widow

She’s the super spy that has spent much of her time in the MCU as a side character.

Natasha Romanov became a favourite since her debut in Iron Man 2. However, she served as eye candy in her earlier appearances much the chagrin of fans. With the long-awaited Black Widow film coming out in May, we thought we’d dig deeper into her comic book origins.

Her story is sad, no matter which side of the equation you look at. Natasha’s background is fascinating and it makes the audience understand the choices she makes over her time in the MCU.

In Black Widow’s biography, we’ll examine her original origin. We’ll go over the retcon version too as this is the version most people know. There will also be a look at Nat’s MCU origin too.

Background Info On Black Widow

Full Name: Natalia Alianovna Romanova

Nickname(s):

  • Nat (MCU only)
  • Auntie Nat (Barton children – MCU only)
  • The Notary (MCU only)
  • Master Assassin (MCU only)
  • Daughter of Ivan (MCU only)
  • Honey (MCU only)
  • Fräulein
  • Libechen

Alias(es):

  • Black Widow
  • Natasha Romanov
  • Tatiana Sokolova
  • Marya Konn
  • Natalie Rushman
  • Yelena Belova
  • Laura Matthers
  • Mary Farrell
  • Oktober

Comic Book Franchise: Marvel Comics

Creator(s): Stan Lee, Don Rico and Don Heck

First Appearance(s): Tales of Suspense #52 (April 1964)

Allies:

  • Avengers
  • Daredevil
  • Captain America
  • Hawkeye
  • Winter Soldier

Powers/Abilities:

  • Expert tactician
  • Hand to hand combatant and secret agent
  • Slowed aging
  • Enchanced immune system
  • Expert marksman
  • Master of various other weapons

Family:

  • No known biological family (comics only)
  • Ivan Petrovitch (adoptive father – comics only)
  • Alexei Shostakov (husband)
  • Ivan Romanoff (father – MCU only)
  • Unnamed (mother – MCU only)
  • Yelena Belova (surrogate sister – MCU only)
  • Melina Vostokoff (surrogate mother – MCU only)
  • Alexei Shostakov (surrogate father – MCU only)

Friend(s):

  • The Avengers
  • Clint Barton (best friend – MCU only)
  • Laura Barton (friend – MCU only)
  • Lila Barton (honorary niece/friend – MCU only)
  • Cooper Barton (honorary nephew/friend – MCU only)
  • Nathaniel Barton (honorary nephew/named after her – MCU only)

Team(s):

  • Avengers
  • Champions
  • Heroes for Hire
  • KGB
  • Marvel Knights
  • Mighty Avengers
  • Lady Liberators
  • Secret Avengers
  • S.H.I.E.L.D
  • Thunderbolts

BIOGRAPHY – Enter Black Widow

Original

The woman who would become Natasha Romanov was born in Stalingrad as Natalia Alianova Romanova. Little is known about her origin as there’s few details about her birth family. According to the 1970s story, Amazing Adventures, he was raised by Ivan Petrovich, who ultimately becomes her confidant and chauffeur.

Petrovich received custody of young Natasha during the Battle of Stalingrad.

As the young girl grew, she trained as a Soviet Spy.

Retcon

Her backstory was retconned where Romanov was raised in U.S.S.R’s Black Widow Ops program. In this version, Petrovich took her to Department X where a load of other orphaned girls were brainwashed and trained in the Red Room.

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During her childhood, Natasha was enhanced to the point she kept her youthful appearance. During her time as a spy, she met and later married Alexei Shostakov, the Red Guardian. The marriage did not last long and they divorced.

Marvel Cinematic Universe

Natalia Alianovna Romanoff was born in 1984 to Ivan Romanoff and an unknown woman in Stalingrad. At some point, the RGB recruited her and later she joined the Red Room Program. Upon graduation, she was sterlised and rendered unable to have children. She would go under the name Natasha, shortened by her friends to Nat.

She would become close to Melina Vostoff, Alexei Shostakov, and Yelena Belova, a group she would consider family. Melina and Alexei considered their young charges the daughters they never had.

Nat would eventually befriend Clint Barton during her time as a S.H.I.E.L.D agent. The bond between the two became so close that Natasha would become a member of Barton’s family. She became a surrogate aunt to Cooper and Lila, Clint’s eldest son and daughter. She was also one of the few people to know the existence of Clint’s family

When Clint’s wife, Laura was pregnant with their third child, they’d planned to name the baby Natasha. However, the couple discovered the baby was a boy. They named him, Nathaniel, a close male variation of Natasha.

Despite her inability to have children, Nat didn’t allow this to stop her from forming romantic relationships, especially with Bruce Banner. The scientist was also infertile due to the gamma radiation in his system which allowed him to become the Hulk.

Both saw themselves as monsters. Because of this shared bond, it helped when Hulk return to his right state of mind.

The relationship later frizzled out but the pair still remained close. When Clint returns from Vormir without her since her suicide jump, Bruce is the first ask where she is.

When Bruce uses the Nano Gauntlet to snap everyone back, he tries to bring her back but is unsuccessful. This weighs down on what remains of the team.

PAST MEDIA APPEARANCES

  • Ultimate Avengers and its sequel
  • Iron Man: Rise of Technovore
  • Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher
  • The Marvel Superheroes
  • The Super Hero Squad Show
  • The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes
  • Iron Man: Armored Adventures
  • Avengers Assembled
  • Lego Marvel Super Heroes: Maximum Overload
  • Ultimate Spider-Man: Web Warriors
  • Agent Carter (see explanation below)
  • Marvel Disk Wars
  • Spider-Man
  • Lego Marvel Super Heroes – Black Panther: Trouble in Wakanda

RECENT MEDIA APPEARANCES

  • Marvel Cinematic Universe

PORTRAYALS – LIVE ACTION

  • Angie Bowie (almost played the role in an abandoned television series in 1975)
  • Bridget Regan – Agent Carter (as a precursor to Black Widow)
  • Scarlett Johansson – Marvel Cinematic Universe

PORTRAYALS – ANIMATION

  • Margaret Griffin – The Marvel Super Heroes
  • Lena Headley – The Super Hero Squad Show
  • Vanessa Marshall – The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes
  • Ashleigh Ball – Iron Man: Armored Adventures
  • Laura Bailey – Various projects
  • Clare Grant – Iron Man: Rise of Technovore
  • Jennifer Carpenter – Avengers Confidential: Black & Punisher

RECEPTION 

Natasha Romanov’s Black Widow placed 176th on Wizard magazine’s Greatest Comic Book list. IGN had the character place 74th on their own list. Black Widow appeared in the publication’s Top Avengers list, at 42nd pace. Comics Buyer’s Guide placed the Widow included on their 100 Sexiest Women in Comics list.

MCU Black Widow Trivia

  • Actress Scarlett Johansson was not the first person cast as Black Widow. Emily Blunt got the role but was forced to drop out because of a scheduling conflict.
  • Due to the tightness of the body suit during the film of the first Avengers film, Johansson couldn’t wear underwear.
  • During the filming of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Scarlett Johansson was pregnant and many of her scenes had to be altered when her pregnancy became too noticeable.
  • During the early days of Black Widow’s time in the MCU, she was eye candy for the male characters and male audience.
  • Scarlett Johansson has worked with several of her co-stars before. She’s close friends with Chris Evans whom she grow up with. She worked with Natalie Portman and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Other Boleyn Girl were they portray her sister and husband, respectively.
  • In each of her MCU appearances, Black Widow’s hair is a different shade of red. The only time her hair is not red is in Avengers: Infinity War where its blonde.
  • Of Clint’s three kids, Nat is closest to Lila and kept many of her drawings.
  • During Avengers: Endgame, Scott Lang asks if any of the Avengers present knew Quantum Physics. Nat replies that she knows enough to make conversation. This is a nod to her short-lived relationship with Bruce.
  • An alternate version of the ending of Avengers: Age of Ultron shows a visibly pregnant Johansson. The scene was never completed as it was meant to be the introduction to Captain Marvel.
  • As of Endgame and the five year time jump, Natasha is the only female leader of the Avengers.

Reactions To The MCU Black Widow

When the Natasha Romanoff Black Widow appeared in Iron Man 2, fans were far from happy. The character, who’d been a badass in the comics was nothing but arm candy amongst the mostly male cast. At this time, the writers of most of the MCU films were uncertain as how to write a female character other than the stereotypical love interest.

Nat’s portrayal in the earlier films were criticised by the fans. Thor actress Natalie Portman had the same issue with her own character of Jane Foster. She was lied to by Marvel just to get her to appear in the film. After the completion of the first Thor movie, Portman wanted out of her contract, but couldn’t because she’s signed on for at least two films.

However, in recent years, the writers have realised their realised their mistake is glamming the female characters, especially Black widow into love interests.

With the upcoming Black Widow film, it will show what Natasha was capable of during her time on the run after Captain America: Civil War. From the trailers, we see a damaged human trying to heal her.

cjhawkings

C.J. Hawkings has written for the now-defunct Entertainment website, Movie Pilot and the still functioning WhatCulture and ScreenRant. She now writes for FanSided and is loving it!

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