With Nick Fury's Infinity Formula running out and the revelation that Dum Dum has been an LMD since the 60's it almost seems as though Marvel is trying to get rid of characters with extended lifespans who weren't frozen like Steve or Bucky. What do you think is the likelihood Marvel will try to retcon Natasha's origins again in an attempt to 'streamline' everything?
Nick Fury status quo changes are a bread and butter part of Marvel Summer Events™— he is one of the few characters with enough wide and twisting roots to matter to the whole universe when he gets taken out of play. As Bendis admitted once about Secret War, maybe the original “something happens to Nick Fury” ultraminiseries:
One of the reasons I ended “Secret War” the way I did was because — and I was as guilty of this as anybody — that people would use Fury as the go-to plot starter. Nick Fury would come with a file and start the story, and it was getting lazy and ridiculous. He needed to be put out of circulation for a while, so people could come up with different takes on the status quo and his relationship with the heroes.
So, I think crossovers are always going to find ways to travel through Nick Fury. In this specific case, though, yeah, I think two characters named Nick Fury running around and one of them looking more like the movie version was a clear reason to streamline. They didn’t remove Nick Sr.’s World War II past, they just moved him off the board and into spooky moon chains.
I’m not super worried about them retconning that aspect of Natasha, either. Natasha’s current series doesn’t focus much on the flashbacks, which I think is a creative decision with the uncoinicdental side effect of making the book more approachable for those coming in from the movies. But even if Natasha was born in 1984 in the MCU, I don’t seem them forcing comic book continuity to match. Brubaker’s Captain America run, which brought the “Natasha is immortal” thing back more than any other series, is seen as a modern classic and is where they draw a lot of MCU influence from. They’ll be trying to promote those trade paperbacks, not wipe those stories out of existence.
Marvel completely overwritten Natasha’s whole backstory in the past, so I’m not convinced that they see her history as iconic or too important to change, the way they might with Steve Rogers frozen in an iceberg. Being a dancer used to be a formative influence on Natasha and a touchstone in a lot of her stories, but that was all sexist brainwashing, apparently! But if they retcon Natasha’s past to “streamline” it into MCU continuity, I think it will be to bring back the child soldier victim narrative, not to contradict anything Brubaker wrote.
Alright. All this damned complaining about “ERMAGERD MAKE A BLERK WIDER MERVIE!!!!!!111!” i’ve finally had it with. Seriously, do you guys realize how terrible of a person Black Widow is? Do you have any clue? Probably not since many of you have only seen the movies where she’s the “good guy”. A list of things Black Widow has done:
Got Hawkeye thrown in a Maximum Security prison for shits and giggles basically
Worked in SHIELD basically as an undercover spy for HYDRA
Pretended to want to be in a relationship with Tony Stark to steal his technology
Tried to trick Hawkeye into completing her assassination target when injured and he almost did if Spider Man hadn’t stopped him.
This is what i can remember as of right now, the point is Black Widow is not nearly as honorable of a person as the movies make her out to be. She is a manipulator who will stop at nothing, including manipulating and harming her teammates to get what she wants. Her only loyalties lay in herself.
I’m not saying not to make a female headed movie but why not try for Scarlet Witch? or Storm? Those both have far more honorable lives without loosing any of the inner strength they represent and have.
It sounds like you are basing half your interpretation on Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes? But haven’t seen all the episodes or something, because she threw Clint into that prison to protect him, and was also a spoilers: triple agent who was always working for SHIELD. The last thing is from an Untold Tales of Spider-Man issue, iirc, and yes, it is true Natasha did spin Clint into a super-villain career, before she defected from the KGB. The fallout is what pushed her to reform herself. It’s all there on the wiki.
But I don’t think any Natasha fan believes she’s never done bad things. The movies tell us this, over and over— a lot of fans want a Black Widow movie to see the awful crimson place she came from. Her story is about redemption and liberation and how who you choose to be means more than what you are made to do. Natasha has a supervillain skillset but heroic intentions and the tension between the two is part of why I like her. To say Natasha’s only loyalties are to herself is to ignore pretty much her entire 50 year comic history.
And, well, I’m kinda tired of hearing the only reason I want a Black Widow film is because I don’t know anything about other Marvel heroines and probably don’t know anything about Black Widow, either. Because I’m a massive Natasha fan, I know more about her, and that is how this thing usually works. I buy Storm’s comic every month because I like Ororo, too, because I’m actually able to appreciate female characters with diverse narratives and personalities instead of forcing them into some weird mental death match where only one can be good enough. I am okay with these life choices.
Look, people decide if they want to see a film all the time based on trailers, but fans who decide they want to see a Black Widow movie based on three whole films are secretly confused and need to be argued out of it. It’s just gatekeeping in another guise.
I'm terrified Black Widow (and a few other quality books) might get cancelled. What is the best way to support them? Is ordering a print subscription on the Marvel website (where you pay for 12 issues in advance) a helpful show of good faith? Better than buying each issue from a store/online? Worse? Thanks!
The Diamond sales charts that get passed around actually don’t include the direct subscriptions from their website.(They might now that it goes through Midtown comics?) But Marvel has said over and over that they consider more than just the direct market when deciding whether or not to cancel a series. They do factor in digital sales and subscription sales, trades, and probably some other things, too, but we don’t know how.
Generally, I think if you want to help a book not get cancelled, find a way to pre-order and don’t wait for the trade. The traditional way to do this is to have a pull list at your local comic shop, or a mail-order subscription service. Pre-ordering a book shows Marvel that there is a dedicated, loyal audience— which is important in a world where sales usually drop month to month. It also helps the store you buy from know how many copies to order. (You can also pre-order through comixology, but I’m not sure those numbers go to Marvel.)
Another way to help is to talk about books you like, recommend them to friends, review them on your blog, write Marvel letters, &c &c. I know the number of Carol Danvers cosplayers at ECCC one year inspired them to keep Captain Marvel going. I’ve also heard that one fan was so angry-sad after the last Black Widow series was cancelled she started a blog purely to tell the internet how awesome Natasha was and how much she deserved another one.
So, there’s a few ideas for you, hopefully there is something there that appeals to you! But I think the fact that we’re having this conversation, anon, points to one of the ways the comics industry has screwed up. It’s not enough to buy the comics to support the books you like, you have to figure out the specific way to buy them that makes your buying count. One of the reasons comics fandom has such an arcane, insular culture is that comics themselves have such an arcane, insular purchasing model. Don’t feel bad for buying trades if that is what works best for you.
“Yes, I’d love to do a big splashy movie with a great female lead, but it has to be someone I can believe in. I would love to do a Black Widow movie. That’s perfect, I would love to do that. That character is really interesting, she doesn’t have any superpowers, she just has extraordinary skills, and the world that she comes from, being this ex-K.G.B. assassin, I find that really fascinating, yeah.”—Neil Marshall, Game of Thrones director
Is there any classic avengers stories with natasha? like the korvac saga or the kree skrull war but with her??
Natasha’s in the Korvac Saga, anon. See?
The Korvac Saga TPB cover by George Perez.
But I don’t blame anyone for not noticing. The Korvac Saga is more about Korvac than the Avengers, in my opinion. The most “classic” Avengers story that goes through Natasha is probably the Red Guardian arc, Avengers #43-44.
is it true that marvel is making a black widow movie? there's an imdb page for it so i can't help but wonder.
Marvel hasn’t announced a Black Widow movie. Anyone can make or edit an IMDB page, it isn’t proof of anything. I probably wouldn’t post so much about the lack of Black Widow movie if they were actually making one!
“Where is the Scarlett Johansson superhero movie? I don’t understand it, why is it taking so long for this? This woman clearly shows that people want to go see her in the movies. Lucy, didn’t it beat Hercules by a lot opening weekend, when it was made for a lot less? She shows that she kicks ass, she’s a great actress. Under the Skin is an incredible film, and why are we still waiting for a go-ahead on a superhero movie starring Scarlett Johansson? To me, it’s a no-brainer. You want to make money, put Scarlett Johansson in a superhero movie!”—Jessica Chastain, about “the perplexing lack of great roles for women, even when it makes financial sense”
Anderson Cooper Files a Special Report on Edmondson’s Black Widow - Nathan Edmondson discusses Black Widow’s guest stars including Anderson Cooper, who alerts the world and the Avengers to Natasha’s solo exploits.
Okay, I've got two questions: Was Natasha raised in the Red Room or did they train her there after she accepted Bucky's miracle drug to save Ivan? And, did Ivan know what they were doing to her? Thanks for your time! :)
I cover this in more detail in my Secret Origins series, which has three parts: one, two, three. I also have a tag for origin stuff you might want to look through.
Basically, though, the “Natasha was raised an orphan the Red Room” idea comes from a series that decided everything we ever knew about Natasha’s history was wrong, and ran with it.
Anyway, after that story got published, it was really easy to be confused about her history, which is a big side effect of rewriting a character’s entire past. So Marvel published another miniseries, Black Widow: Deadly Origin, in part to clarify a new official version of her origin. In that series, she enters the Red Room in her twenties, as the price for saving Ivan. That is the “real” continuity as it currently stands! But stories can change.
As for Ivan— he knew enough that he didn’t want Natasha to enter the Red Room, even at the cost of her life, and I think it makes sense that they pursued him because he had some connection with Soviet intelligence. While Natasha was there, they were kept separate, but she still tried to confide in him. What he knows exactly is up to how the reader wants to shade it. But no one knows the everything of the Red Room.
Has Natasha ever worked together with Black Panther?
The closest I can think of off the top of my head is Avengers #111-112, when Natasha guest stars for a while with an Avengers lineup T’Challa is part of. #112 focuses on the two of them in parallel character arcs, but they do not directly interact much.
Natasha also shows up in Black Panther during the Civil War crossover event, but that’s a pretty standard “cameo appearance character gets hosed to demonstrate how badass our book’s protagonist is” one-off. T’Challa is also weirdly sexist! Civil War, man.
Natasha: Don’t make me have to— T’Challa: I would never fight a woman. I have people for that.
The best team up between Natasha and Black Panther is imo Klaws of the Panther #4, which features Shuri in the Black Panther role. Shuri recruits Natasha for her infiltration skills, but Natasha also helps Shuri confront her fears and guilt and anger. The writing is very old school exposition-y, but I’m a sucker for this kind of team-up story.
Shuri: I’m afraid I’m going to lose myself in it. That the person I want to be will be subsumed and only the killer will remain. Natasha: …Of all the weapons ever made, the most powerful by far is compassion. But you have to have compassion for yourself before you can have it for anyone else.
Natasha is, ofc, sometimes better at giving advice than applying it to herself. This is the final issue of a 4 issue miniseries, but it’s easy enough to follow as a single story.
Panels from Black Panther #23 and Klaws of the Panther #4.
Whenever I see people talk about women led films, it's always about white women. Hunger Games, Divergent, etc etc etc. Do you think Marvel will ever gives us something not revolving around a white woman is am I asking for too much?
I don’t think Marvel will even make a film about a white woman, anon, but I do not think you are asking for too much.
To be fair, Catwoman and Elektra were terribly written movies. Catwoman's plot was completely stupid. I firmly believe that a female superhero movie given the same level of writing and the same budget that Iron Man was given would be be a spectacular success. Unfortunately, because they greenlit shitty movies with otherwise good female leads they now have an excuse to say 'well it doesn't sell' when the truth is they bombed because they were bad movies, not because of the leads.
I agree but I don’t think that’s the whole of it. I’ve been running a Black Widow blog too long to not think there aren’t weird double standards female leads get pulled to. Like, Catwoman and Elektra were bad and it was easy to see that they were bad, that the marketing served them up poorly and played up the action and sexy fights specifically to drag men into it. But there’s a reason there’s a perceived dichotomy between sex appeal and character depth and lots of bad lines in a trailer drove moviegoers away from Elektra but Daredevil did okay enough to get the spin-off. There’s a reason the the Globe and Mailevaluated Johansson’s performance in the Avengers explicitly as a “token sexy female” stocktype and felt comfortable reviewing her literally in terms of his own fourteen year old boy lust. (“A pale pink at best” he says, on a scale of his hormonal reds.)
I mean, I don’t think a female led action movie is an impossible mountain. Hunger Games exists and has millions and millions of dollars in the bank. Lucy just hit #1 at the box office based solely on trailers that played up Johansson’s Black Widow action-cred. It could sell, we’ve already been selling it, people are thirsty for this. We’re in such a fucked up situation we’ve convinced ourselves that a movie about a white lady beating people up would be an important feminist triumph.
But these blockbuster action films are traditionally laser targeted at men and boys aged 18 to 39 and Disney bought Marvel so it could sell toys to boys. Women make up almost half the audience of these Marvel movies but like, none of the lead roles, a fifth of the cast and a fraction of the merchandise. And the the problem isn’t just that there aren’t many Black Widow action figures, is that we tell girls and boys they need to play with separate toys, and we tell boys they don’t need a Black Widow to complete the set. Like, it’s that kind of marketing thought that makes “female led vigilante films” a category in the first place, and doesn’t make room for other contexts. It feeds back into itself, like a snake eating its own tail, and meanwhile we just get thirsty.
Broken record blogging: the reason there hasn’t been a Black Widow movie is because the Black Widow movie in development was cancelled. It was cancelled because Elektra bombed and Ultraviolet bombed and Catwoman bombed and the studio decided female vigilante films were hard sells and that it wasn’t worth the risk. The time wasn’t right. It hasn’t been right since.
It isn’t because her comic book story isn’t thick enough. Wanted was a six issue mini. Scott Lang has never titled a book and has a fraction of Natasha’s appearances. It’s not because spies and superheroes are out of joint and don’t mix and don’t sell. They made Winter Soldier, and the Captain America sequel didn’t need to be a riff on 70s espionage flicks. It’s not because she doesn’t have powers. Batman is the most popular hero on the planet. It’s not because she’s too obscure, because Guardians of the Galaxy just happened and Blade was the spiritual beginning of this generation of superhero films. It’s not because her costume doesn’t have a mask, cracked, because did you even think that one out? True story, Natasha is super easy to adapt to film, and that is why she’s been in three films and counting.
But the reason she doesn’t have her own movie is because she’s a woman. Because the movie she did have was cancelled because women vigilantes are box office poison, or used to be, and no one wants to test the theory.
I don’t want a Black Widow movie because she’s a woman, because she’s the only female superhero I can name. Me, I want to see the darker and more ordinary shadows of the Marvel Universe, I want to see Winter Soldier pushed further and superhero franchises pushed out of their origin-story formula. I want redemption and I want the stakes to hurt and it exhausts me to pretend her gender is the only remarkable thing about her because Natasha is my favorite superhero ever and that is why I want a Black Widow movie.
But the reason she doesn’t have a movie already is because she’s a woman. If powers were the problem they’d make Captain Marvel, maybe, if we needed a household name to fly they’d have Wonder Woman done by now, tried and tried again the same way Superman has been. But they haven’t.
It’s not as simple as sexism, because sexism isn’t simple. These films are pitched and calibrated to demographics that don’t buy girl-shaped action figures; we live in a world where female characters are spoken of gender first. We read women into a separate category, evaluate them as “females”, and find ways out of them we don’t look for in our default male protagonists. They have to be better than good to deserve their own stories, as though stories are medals to be hung around necks, the finish line and not the race. We make big long lists of “reasons they haven’t made a Black Widow movie or any superhero film that happens to star a woman” and we point to those already overcome obstacles, whisper, “but Ant-Man was a founding Avenger" and insist gender really has nothing to do with it.
Hello! It's a shame that marjorie liu didn't get the chance to write an arc where Natasha was Laura's mentor. There will never be enough narratives where Natasha influences teenage heroines (if there's any). I love your blog btw!
You and me both, anon. Christos Gage has said that Laura was training with Natasha between appearances in Avengers Academy, so we can imagine. Natasha did make a cameo in X-23 #20 to set up her planned arc, and it will hopefully make a nice prologue to October’s Black Widow issue:
If you’d like to read another story where Natasha influences a teenage heroine, I recommend Nomad: Girl Without a World #1-4 and the backup story in Captain America #611-614, Underneath the Skin. But I agree, it’s never enough!
“Every single Marvel Studios movie has centered around a presumably straight, white, male protagonist, even if white women (mostly love interests) and men of color (support roles) have played roles in the film. The franchise is a box office juggernaut and has a ton of movies on this list, but we’ve gotten two to three movies about each of the men on the Avengers and there’s yet to be a film about Black Widow. Both of Marvel’s ensemble films—The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy—trimmed down the superhero teams for their film adaptations, and the women characters, save for one, were the first to be cut. Most moviegoers will never know that women of color and LGBTQ characters were cut from Guardians of the Galaxy, but audiences will get to relate to the talking raccoon and the talking tree.”—Marissa Lee, Where’s the Diversity, Hollywood? Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blockbusters Overwhelmingly White, Male
With Bobbi in the MCU hopefully we finally get some decent interaction between them, either in the comics or the movies. I'm not even picky. I just want them to interact more.
Yes, I agree! I’d love to see more of Bobbi, anywhere, really. I think they’ll both show up in the next few issues of Hawkeye, Our Series of Perpetual Delays, based on the cover for issue #21. Whether they will actually interact is something else.
Does Natasha have any female friends that she works or hangs out with?
Natasha’s had several friendships stop and start— historically Marvel has had a problem keeping a female lead book going long enough to develop and sustain friendships beyond one issue or run. And for whatever reason, comics tend to remember Natasha’s romantic entanglements with men more than her connections with other women. Her two-second, after the fact affair with Hercules is what Champions flashbacks always show, not the friendship she made with Darkstar, a fellow Soviet defector.
So, let’s see: the first Marvel Knights series had Natasha develop a deep friendship with Dagger that’s not been referenced since. In the second volume she worked with Helen Kim, a non-costumed SHIELD agent who disappeared after that series was axed at issue #6. Marjorie Liu planned on bringing Natasha in to be a mentor in X-23, but the book was cancelled before she could write that arc. (Liu also pitched a series about Laura, Natasha, Elektra and Mystique that never got picked up.)
Natasha and Sharon Carter had a few team-ups that spun out of Brubaker’s Captain America run, including Captain America and the Secret Avengers by kellysue, but Sharon is dead now and no one outside of Steve’s book seems to have noticed. Natasha was a complicated influence on Rikki Barnes in Nomad: Girl Without a World and the associated backups, but Rikki’s dead now too.
Natasha: Why didn’t you call me yourself? I found out from cage. Angela: I didn’t want to impose— you’ve already helped me— Natasha: Hurting the Chaeyi? No imposition at all. Angela: You’re right, Natasha— I didn’t think I’m sorry. Natasha: Don’t let it happen again.
Natasha was a huge encouragement to Angela Del Toro when she was starting out her hero career in tamorapierce's White Tiger mini, but Angela’s fallen into comicbook limbo. A+X #2 showed Natasha making a connection with Rogue and implied the two now hang out regularly, but like everything else it’s never left that issue. (I guess Rogue’s been dead recently, too.) Natasha took Crystal of the Inhumans to a superhero theme night at a pizza buffet/all-male revue once during the nineties, but, okay, I can see why that’s never been revisited.
The central premise of the current Black Widow series is that Natasha doesn’t let herself take days off. She takes extracurricular missions, instead. And one of the major consequences in this story is the isolation that she creates for herself, and how that lonliness frays her. Natasha keeps parts of herself compartmentalized; she can be a difficult person to know. But she is also nosy and meddling and driven to help people who tug at her.
Natasha’s major SHIELD contact right now is Maria Hill, and they share a subtle, professional relationship that is one of the highlights of the current book for me.
Natasha: And you think I can succeed where you failed? Maria: I am not paid for uncertainty, agent. Do your thing.
In the wider MU, Natasha shares a developing friendship with Spider-Woman, Jessica Drew. This started in Avengers Assemble, has been nodded to once in the main Avengers title, and is now a key component of the ongoing Secret Avengers series.
Jessica: Can we do this every month, until, like, the next major catastrophe happens and everyone has to go beat up some aliens somewhere again? Natasha: We can do this even twice every month. Wars never last. It’s going to be back to business as usual. Then we get more massages.
I’m not totally thrilled with Jessica’s characterization in that book, but I am totally thrilled to see a friendship like this survive more than one author. Maybe we’ll see Natasha pop up in Jessica’s just-announced book, eventually.
Panels from White Tiger #6, Black Widow #5 and Secret Avengers #1.