Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Better Know A Hero: Black Widow

2 Guys Buying Comics has been apprised of the fact that a good portion of our visitors are just getting back into comics. We now present the sixth installation of our "weekly" feature, Better Know A Hero.

Name: Black Widow

Also Known As: Tasha, Widow, Red

Alter Ego: Natasha Romanova, though this is another character where it's not so much a secret identity as a name. Also, she's surprisingly forthright about being, you know, a spy. Especially since Marvel can't really play up the whole Cold War thing anymore.

Origin: Well, it's pretty simple compared to most other heroes. She's basically an orphan (which comes as a surprise to no one) whose parents were killed in a fire when she was young. From there, a dude named Ivan Petrovich raised her, and she found her way into the Soviet spy program where she was trained to be, er, a spy.

(Side Note: Yes, I'm aware that they retconned her origin a while back to make her basically a Russian female version of Wolverine, complete with implanted memories and all that. For obvious reasons, we're ignoring that and sticking with the garden-variety "hot Russian superspy" story, because really --- if it ain't broke, don't fix it.)

(Additional Side Note: I'm also aware that Marvel tried to sorta reboot the Widow role with the blonde Yelena Belova. Seeing as how the New Avengers melted her face off early on and she became a Super-Adaptoid, but then HYDRA blew her up, we're ignoring her too. It's for the best.)

(Son of Side Note: If you're keeping count at home, Black Widow is roughly the 43,557th superhero character whose origin includes the loss of parents at an early age.)

Powers: None per se, thought she's wicked good at acrobatics, combat, marksmanship, and has those delicious little "Widow's Bite" bracelets she wears that can really ruin your day by blasting 30,000 volts worth of energy holes in your face.

How's The Costume?: I must say, if you're going to be a hot Russian superspy (Hi, Googlers!) called the Black Widow, a black leather catsuit is probably exactly the right costume for me you. It should be pointed out, though, that in her initial appearances she didn't really have a costume, it was more of a "Rich Civilian Evening Wear" get-up. Because she was, um, a spy, and trying to hook up with Tony Stark.

Home Cookin': One of the Marvel characters who has a really good reason to not be stuck in New York, she's now typically depicted in... New York. Stupid Marvel.

Chillin' At The Crib: Early on, she actually lived in San Francisco with Petrovich, where she had a lovely house with a garden and everything. During a lot of the 80s you could find her at a variety of safehouses around the world, or in Avengers Mansion, or in L.A. when she was gettin' her Champions on.

Can She Fight?: Yeah, but be careful. She's not all about the direct confrontation, Black Widow typically relies more on sneak attacks, sniper rifles, and the occasional martial arts throwdown rather than throwing skyscrapers at Galactus. She works best as a complementary team member, not your first draft pick if, say, Dormammu shows up in a bad mood.

Allies: Most of the Marvel Universe seems to agree that it's better to have her on your side than against you. She's been an Avenger, a West Coast Avenger, and is now a Mighty Avenger, though I have a feeling she'll probably leave the "Mighty" part off her resume when all is said and done. Also back in the day had a relationship with Hawkeye which was highly entertaining.

(Side Note: which is, of course, why in the Ultimate Universe Marvel thought it would be a good idea for Ultimate Hawkeye to shoot a crippled, traitorous, nasty Ultimate Black Widow through her Ultimate Neck with an Ultimate Arrow. Good times!)

She moved to L.A. and was a member of the Champions as well, and was romantically involved with Hercules, about which the less said the better.

Also shared a relationship (and more -- bow-chicka-bow-bow!) with Daredevil for a long time, and still carries a quasi-torch for DD if recent Daredevil comics are to be believed. In fact, in Essential Avengers Vol. 5, there's a DD/Widow reprint that shows Hawkeye and Daredevil dropping in on Tasha at the same time -- wacky Three's Company-like hijinks ensue!

Enemies: Before she turned the corner for good, she was dedicated to undermining the corrupt capitalist pig-dogs of the U.S. like Tony Stark. Nowadays she fights whoever she's given orders to by, um, Tony Stark. Huh.

Symbol: The obvious choice in this case, the trademark red hourglass is also the right choice. Extra props for (usually) having the symbol elegantly understated on the belt buckle rather than splashed gaudily across the uniform, although in many depictions the symbol doesn't appear anywhere at all. (Ignore my crappy photoshoppery here.)

Family Matters: None to speak of in the origin that matters, although I seem to recall that she may have a child flitting about somewhere.

Might Be Cool To: Go clubbin' with. Infiltrate enemy organizations. Introduce her to the girl that broke your heart in high school with the phrase, "Yeah, I traded up."

Under No Circumstances: Suggest having Daredevil, Hercules, and Hawkeye over for an evening of drinks and Monopoly. Or Jenga.

Annual Performance Review: Well, she was pro-registration, though we never once even saw a glimpse of what might be her motivation for joining Iron Man's side --- in fact, you could make the case that having defected from the rigid, tightly controlled oppressive Soviet Union she'd be dedicated to preventing such a thing from happening here, and it might have even made a compelling story to see her wrestle with that idea versus her patriotism towards her adopted country and friends, but that's why I'm not writing Marvel comics, I guess. Anyway, she's a Mighty Avenger now.
What Makes Her So Special, Anyway?: While early on Tasha would swoon over any dude in a costume, in the 80s she developed a take-no-prisoners, tough-as-nails personality which I quite liked. Her loyalties have been divided in the past, and there are hints that at any moment something from her past could come back to bite her.

She's also a perfect Avenger --- not overpowered, just a person with some special skills that works well as a team member.

Plus, let's face it: hot redheaded leather-clad Russian superspies are undeniably cool, and comics need at least one of them in every universe.

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10 Comments:

Blogger Johnny B said...

(Additional Side Note: I'm also aware that Marvel tried to sorta reboot the Widow role with the blonde Yelena Belova. Seeing as how those stories sucked and the New Avengers melted her face off early on and she became a Super-Adaptoid, but then HYDRA blew her up, we're ignoring her too. It's for the best.)

I disagree. Very much so.

8:18 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Johnny: Fair enough.

8:50 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

UPDATE: Johnny's comment made me think a bit, and in retrospect, "those stories sucked" probably isn't as accurate as "those stories were boring and pointless", so I've edited the post to take out the "sucked" line, as it's a bit harsh for how I really feel.

Oh, emotional Internet hyperbole, ye are a bitch goddess! And thanks. :-)

8:55 PM  
Blogger Johnny B said...

That's nice, but I still disagree.

I liked that character, and I liked those miniseries. Just wanted to provide an opposing viewpoint.

And by the way, she wasn't created to replace Natasha as a Marvel comics character as to demonstrate that the Soviets had other Black Widows while Ms. Romanoff was off fighting Ultron with the Avengers...

10:05 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Johnny: 10-4.

I think (based on your post) that we can at least agree that the whole Super-Adaptoid/HYRDA nonsense was complete insanity.

10:27 PM  
Blogger Johnny B said...

Yeah, I'll agree with you on THAT!

5:42 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

The Marvel Knights Black Widow series were very good, but the fact that Marvel took them out back and shot them in New Avengers kinda tarred them.

You also left out that she actually led the Avengers, granted she led them to their "deaths" during the Onslaught debacle, it might be wise to forget that part.

1:04 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

Hey, did you read this week's Captain America? Apparently she's back to being a cold-war era super-spy and she hooked up with Winter Soldier back in the day. When did she get the "Nick Fury" treatment?

1:25 PM  
Blogger Don Hudson said...

I have loved comics for years and years, and I have never seen that Black Widow cover before. Nice find! As for a different BW, There was an attempt at a different costume in the mid-nineties. A Mini-series told the story and gave her the costume. The storyline was disavowed 3 months later. For me, that was the end of Marvel continuity as I knew it.

11:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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4:21 PM  

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