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The Black Widow: A Brief Comic Book History of Iron Man 2’s Femme Fatale

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Black Widow is just weeks away. It would have arrived earlier if not for Covid-19. The movie will be hitting the big screen and Disney+ in July 2021.

Scarlett Johansson reprises her role as Black Widow with Florence Pugh starring as Yelena Belova, David Harbour as Alexei Shostakov, and Rachel Weisz as Melina Vostokoff.

Anyway, this article is not about the movie. The only thing about the movie is the trailer below, enjoy!

Let’s Look At The History Of Black Widow In Comics

Apart from the return of the Armored Avenger himself, the much-awaited 2010 sequel Iron Man 2 introduced a host of new characters to the hugely popular Marvel Comics film franchise. One of these is the leather-clad, red-haired Russian spy known as the Black Widow. But is this mysterious beauty friend or foe? As far as her comic book origins go, she’s a bit of both.

From The Iron Curtain With Love

Natalia Romanova, a.k.a Natasha Romanoff, a.k.a. the Black Widow, made her comic book debut in Tales of Suspense #52 (April 1964) in a story by Marvel creator Stan Lee and artist Don Heck.

The Black Widow: A Brief Comic Book History of Iron Man 2's Femme Fatale 1
True Believers edition.
The cheaper Kindle edition.

Starting as a villainess, she was initially a KGB agent sent to seduce American industrialist Tony Stark, who is, of course, none other than the armored superhero Iron Man.

Possessing no superpowers, the Black Widow relied solely on her charms at first. She soon adopts a webbed supervillain ensemble which, appropriately enough, makes her come off as a “spider-woman” of sorts. Her suit enables her to walk on walls like an arachnid, and she is armed with a pair of bracelets that fire off energy blasts she calls her “widow’s sting.” While she can’t exactly “spin a web any size,” she can swing around via grappling hooks dubbed as her “widow’s line.”

Defection

The Black Widow forms an alliance with another costumed super-criminal, the archer known as Hawkeye, and the pair went on to menace the Golden Avenger a few times. This partnership would lead to a full-blown romance and, eventually, a change of heart for both characters.

Renouncing their evil ways, Hawkeye and the Widow eventually became members of the elite superhero team The Avengers, fighting alongside their onetime arch-foe Iron Man. Unfortunately, Natasha’s relationship with Hawkeye was not to last, and the former Soviet spy would strike out on her own for a while. But she wouldn’t be alone for long.

Team Player

Switching to her more familiar black outfit, she would work freelance for the superspy agency SHIELD and have an encounter with fellow arachnid-based hero Spider-Man before hooking up in San Francisco with a blind lawyer/costumed vigilante Matt Murdock alias Daredevil. 

As was the case with Hawkeye, Daredevil and the Widow’s crimefighting partnership also turns into a romantic one. But just like the previous relationship, this too was doomed to failure.

Black Widow in Daredevil 109
Daredevil #109

In the late-1970’s, the Black Widow becomes a member, and team leader, of the Los Angeles-based superhero group The Champions. The team also included former X-Men Iceman and the Angel, former Avenger Hercules, and the spirit of vengeance Ghost Rider. Despite its stellar line-up, the Champions didn’t last very long. Since then, Natasha has had several stints as a member of the Avengers, including a run as the leader during the mid-1990s.

The Dark Side

Every good superhero has an evil counterpart, and Natasha finds hers in the form of model/assassin Yelena Belova. Younger and much more ruthless, she had been trained by Natasha’s former superiors to take down and take over the Black Widow title from her predecessor. Not content with merely being an evil Widow, she later underwent an experimental procedure (courtesy of super terrorist groups HYDRA and AIM) that enabled her to absorb the powers of the New Avengers.

In the 2006-2007 Marvel crossover Civil War, Natasha takes the side of newly-appointed SHIELD director Tony Stark in favor of the Superhuman Registration Act. She even temporarily takes charge of the agency during the time Stark is presumed dead. She later serves as a partner to the new Captain America (and original Cap sidekick) Bucky Barnes. It has been revealed that Bucky had been Natasha’s trainer and lover during his time as the Soviet assassin Winter Soldier. Once again, romance has blossomed between Natasha and her current partner, but it remains to be seen how successful this new relationship will be.

The Black Widow On Film

Outside of the comic pages, the Black Widow’s filmed appearances have primarily been in animation. She made her television debut in the 1966 Marvel Super Heroes cartoon series, which adapted stories (and actual artwork) from the original comics. In 2006, she appeared in the two direct-to-video Ultimate Avengers animated movies voiced by actress Olivia d’Abo. The character recently turned up in an episode of the current animated TV series The Super Hero Squad Show, where she was voiced by Lena Headey (300, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles).

The summer release of Iron Man 2 in 2010 finally brings Natasha Romanoff to full life on the silver screen, as portrayed by Scarlett Johansson. The actress again reprises the role in the all-star movie version of The Avengers in 2012.

Now, in a few weeks, her first solo movie, finally. The movie takes place between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War.

After her tragic death in Avengers: Endgame, is she coming back? Anyway, if you are into action figures, check out our Marvel Legends Black Widow post.

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