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Fuck Yeah, Black Widow

Fallaces sunt rerum species

Здравствуйте from FYBW, your one-stop tumblr shop for Black Widow news, no-prizing, and oversaturated .gifs. Some MCU, mostly comics. Often overwritten. Always overthinking.

Black Widow created by Lee, Rico and Heck & is © Marvel Entertainment.

Whatever Happened to Yelena Belova?

Bixby: Wait…that’s it? You didn’t even tell me your name. Who are you?
Yelena: I’m the Black Widow.

Yelena Belova came into comics in 1999, after a decade of pouches and ediger, contemporary replacement heroes. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the miniseries which crashed Yelena to Natasha also returned her to the 1970 all-blacks and half-bouffant, after near to two decades of short, angular hairstyles. Yelena had her middriff bare, Yelena used rifles instead of gadgets, Yelena was very 1999. She was also post-Soviet, young and hungry. Natasha was getting older, getting old; that 1999 mini saw her pass a birthday unremarked and unremembered. It also gave her an archfoe, something she hadn’t had for a while.

Yelena Belova was all these hard worn comic book trope: the edgy nineties replacement, the dark mirror. But because she was the Black Widow, none of that was colored in binaries. Natasha didn’t want to defend her codename— she wanted to save Yelena from it. Yelena wasn’t only the villain— she was also the wronged.

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Call Me By My True Name: Russian Naming Conventions


Disclaimer:  I have been requested to write a name primer for Buckynat Week.  Take my words with a grain of salt, as I am not an expert in linguistics, I haven’t been to my home country for eight years, and this year is a special milestone that marks my having spent exactly the same amount of time in America that I have in Russia (13 years).  It would be more accurate to describe me as an immigrant rather than a Russian.

However, I do take special joy in telling everyone about Russians, whether they want to hear it or not.  The tags that result from this hobby are Ask A Russian (specifically for questions), Russian Things (volunteering information no one asked for), and the catch-all I Am Filled With Russian Feelings.

You may also notice that this primer is a very cursory overview, full of generalizations, as well as some ranting.

Anyway, let’s get to the good stuff.

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Adventures in Spanish, the comic books edition.


Not so long ago I fell in love with The Losers: I bought the comic books, watched the movie, cried about its everything, and ended up making some really cool friends (hi there, hi!). One of the characters (Carlos “Cougar” Álvarez) speaks in Spanish and there’s a particular sentence that he says in the comics that has always bothered me because it’s wrong. (And If you are one of the cool friends I’ve mentioned, you’ve already heard about that.)

I usually try not to be too bothered about inconsistent Spanish grammar when I’m reading American comic books. But lately Marvel has been putting Spanish dialogue in some of their issues and the Spanish, to be honest, is bad. Really, really bad.

(And let’s not forget the fact that most of the characters that speak Spanish are drug dealers and/or smugglers. What’s wrong with you, Marvel?)

After yelling about this on twitter for a while and getting particularly frustrated at today’s new Black Widow issue, one of my friends was like “I hope you’ll write a tumblr post about this!!!!”. So here I am, trying to be coherent while talking about some of my problems with the Spanish on Black Widow #3.


You’re going to have to do what I say, claro?

This above is a problem of context. I think the writer meant “you’re going to have to do what I say, clear?”, and “claro" is one translation of "clear", yes, but I definitely wouldn’t use it in this context.

Instead, I’d say: “you’re going to have to do what I say, entendido?” (meaning, “understood”) or, if I wanted to stick with “claro”: “you’re going to have to do what I say, está claro?”.

Is this enough to make me angry at a comic book? Probably not, but there’s more.


Para! Manos en su cabeza!

Because of the subject-verb agreement, we can know that when the guard is yelling “para!”, he means “para, tú!" (aka second person, singular: "you"). But then he says: "manos en su cabeza!”. “Su" is a possessive that’s used for third person ("his" "her" "their", in English) when the thing that’s possessed is singular (for example: "his house" = "su casa”, but “her houses” = “sus casas”). “Su" is also used as the possessive for the honorific "usted”. So the problem we have in the panel above is that the guard is using two different pronouns to address the guy he’s talking to. And that’s… not a thing you’d do. 

My solution would be to use “usted" as the subject for both sentences, as in: "Pare! Manos en su cabeza!”. But to be honest (and to make things simpler) that sounds kind of forced, so I’d also drop the whole “hands to your head” thing and just go with “manos arriba!”. 



Matador, como nos mismos.

I’m going to guess this was supposed to mean “[she’s a] killer, like ourselves”. I have many problems with this sentence, and it literally has four words and a comma, what the hell. 

First: “matador” is a word reserved for bullfighters and, as far as I know, ONLY bullfighters. The character that’s speaking it’s supposed to be Argentinian, and maybe they do use this word to mean “killer” or “murderer” in Argentina? (I doubt it, but if someone from Argentina wants to say their two cents, please be my guest.)

Second: okay, let’s say that we’re going to use “matador" as in "killer". The guy in the panel is referring to Natasha, who is a woman. And because in Spanish nouns have different endings depending on gender, it should read "matadora”. (Which, I’m sorry to add, sounds awful.)

Third: “como nos mismos" is a translation of "like ourselves". Only then it should be "como nostros mismos" or even "como nostros”.

(Side note: I could ignore that “nos”, even though it sounds really weird to me. I can’t ignore the rest.)


Lobo Blanco, hemos entusiasmo que esperaba.

And this one is my absolute favorite, because it doesn’t make sense at all. Sure, the “Lobo Blanco" thing does make sense, but I stared too long to "hemos entusiasmo que esperaba" and I’m still not 100% sure what the writer was trying to say. "We’ve been waiting enthusiastically" maybe? Because let me tell you something, that sentence above would literally be something like this: "have enthusiasm that waited". Right.


I’ve chosen to do this with the last Black Widow issue not because I don’t like the character or the series. Far from that: I love Natasha, and I’m looking forward to issue #4. But I’m not going to lie and say that the things I’ve pointed above don’t bother me, because they do.

There’s also the fact that this isn’t an isolated example. There was the last issue of Avengers Assemble, which was great, but had Bad Spanish. And then there’s also The Punisher #1, which I haven’t read yet but which showed some very stilted Spanish in its preview pages (and the writer is also Edmondson, so my hopes are not high at all.)

What I mean is: it’s great that Marvel wants to show more diversity in comics! That diversity is a fact IRL, and it’s about time it gets reflected in media. But, because media representation really matters, it’s frustrating that they don’t seem to bother with getting someone to go through the Spanish bits and to make sure everything is correct before they release/publish the comics.

So I’ll keep throwing my money at Marvel, yes, but I do wish they’d do better.


"I don't think you'd ever say you expect something to be 'the next Hawkeye.' It's like saying you expect something to be the next pet rock." - Axel Alonso

Hawkeye by Matt Fraction, David Aja, et al., just passed its one year anniversary and its thirteenth issue. Both of those are milestones for Hawkeye books in general – the Avenging Archer usually makes it to miniseries, or to solo endeavors that are cut short by sales or waning interest. In fact, Brian Michael Bendis cites the poor reception of 2008’s Hawkeye as one of the reasons he was allowed to kill Clint Barton during Avengers Disassembled. Heroes live and die based on their book’s sales—literally.

So what makes this iteration of the Hawkeye book different? And, more to the point, what’s to stop Marvel from launching a whole slew of books with similar concepts, backing, and fanfare?

Turns out—nothing. Over the past month and particularly at this year’s New York Comic Con, Marvel announced a new wave of books – All New Marvel Now!. Amongst the announced team books, the rebranding of current titles and the relaunch of some recently concluded were a new line of solo titles. And, much like Hawkeye, these books aren’t about Thor, Captain America, Iron Man or Wolverine (though the house staples got their regular share of news). These are series about characters who haven’t existed as purely solo characters for much of, or most of, their histories.

Does that mean they can’t succeed? She-hulk and Carol Danvers have both had multiple volumes dedicated to them, and many of those series have crossed benchmark issue numbers. Rhodey has been a popular part of the Iron Man mythos for decades, and now has his appearances in three movies backing him up. Elektra and Black Widow both come from histories and connections with various Marvel franchises—Daredevil, the Avengers, Wolverine. These characters have always been popular, and some of them have headed successful solo series before, even if they ultimately didn’t last. But if not being able to maintain a solo act over decades is the sign of a bad character, then Hawkeye would’ve been a scrapped concept long ago. But he’s still around, with the “year’s best breakout book” dedicated to him. So what’s stopping any of these others from achieving the same?

A large part of Hawkeye’s success is its artists and covers—David Aja, Matt Hollingsworth, Javier Pulido, Annie Wu and the rest of the team bring style, consistency, and great character work to the book.So what about the new contenders? 

Black Widow, the star of 2012’s Avengers movie, is getting a book with moody, artistic covers and interiors by Phil Noto. Jennifer Walters, the original She-Hulk, is focusing on the law and her personal life with fashion-forward Kevin Wada on covers and Hawkeye notable Javier Pulido on interiors. Carol Danvers, Tumblr hero and Captain Marvel, is getting a second wave with another Hawkeye alum on art—David Lopez. James Rhodes is also catching movie buzz, his series branded as Iron Patriot. And then there’s Elektra, who’s coming off a Wolverine-crossover and has Mike Del Mundo giving her an abstract and inventive art direction. Each of these books has the potential to be an artistic masterpiece. 

The thing of it is, lightning doesn’t strike twice. Some people are still baffled by Hawkeye’s success, even if they can map out why it occurred. Hawkeye is not what people expected it to be. It’s design and character-focused, quiet and offbeat. Its covers have attracted more conversation than any in Hawkeye’s considerable history. Its creative team engages with its fans and have a fan following unto themselves. Hawkeye just had an appearance in a major movie, he’s got toys and TV appearances and Marvel’s backing. Take it or leave it, like it or hate it, Hawkeye has captured attention. And maybe that’s why the book is still around, thirteen issues and going strong.

This has been a roundabout way of saying that these other solos, these other characters, have all the same elements and all the same chances of success. They have interesting, attention-grabbing covers. They have writers who care about the characters they are writing, and have interesting concepts for them. They have interiors by artists with distinctive styles and a wealth of potential. And, they’re launching as part of Marvel’s line-wide initiative, which is a treatment Hawkeye didn’t get.

If Hawkeye changed something in comics, or brought something back, or just brought people’s attention to something that was always there… it was character, and concept. Easy-to-access but not dumbed-down stories that can be read and enjoyed for themselves and not how they fit into Marvel’s grander designs. Hawkeye is easy, it’s fun, and it’s good. And nothing makes me happier than seeing people get into the wild, wide world of cape comics through this book and this character.

But you know what would be even better? If there were a dozen books like that. If the characters headlining those books weren’t all just blonde men with blue eyes. If women with all kinds of skills—secret agent, assassin, lawyer, pilot—and men from all kinds of backgrounds could have an equal shot at books that last, that are read, and that are loved. I want a million Hawkeyes out there, so anyone can find the fun, beautiful book that sticks with them and makes them love this medium as much as I do. And I want that to come through diversity, ingenuity, and care.

Marvel doesn’t always have a great track record with diversity. Just a few years ago, they cancelled all of their female-led books, and just over this year they’ve ended multiple series headlined by women. But they’ve also launched a good number, and no less than four are launching with new #1’s in 2014. I want to see those books do well. I want to see a POC-led book do well, and POC and women-led teams doing just as good as those led by Captain America and Cyclops.

So here’s the question—did you like Hawkeye? Did you expect to? Do you want to read more books like it? Axel Alonso thinks Hawkeye is an anomaly, a “pet rock.” If that’s what you want in your comics, show him. Buy new books when they come out, give Marvel feedback about what you did and didn’t like.

And maybe, this time next year, we’ll be celebrating the start of the second year of Black Widow, and shelves full of pet rocks and diversity. 

I’m going to tell you why Black Widow doesn’t have her own film.

You can’t blame Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man. Mostly, because then you just wind up arguing with fans who are really excited about a movie with their fav and not, you know, rich movie executives who are actually in charge of making these decisions. Fan on fan violence is why no one should go to comic book messageboards!

But you also shouldn’t blame Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man because those are the wrong movies. Catwoman, Elektra, and most of all Ultraviolet— those are why Natasha doesn’t have her own film.

She did, once. They announced a Black Widow movie before the first Iron Man came out. Solid Snake was involved. There was a director and script attatched. This should tell you something.

First, that everyone who says Natasha doesn’t have a movie because there’s no story there is speaking some straight-up bullshit. People who say they’d never try it because no one’s heard of Black Widow are also wrong. (The recognizability argument is a huge red herring— the Blade trilogy opened the way for the current wave of vigilante films, and Iron Man was no household name pre-RDJ.) The truth is, Natasha is extremely well-suited to film. The pitch is easy and understandable. “It’s James Bond meets Spider-man!” Her look is easy to translate, her powers don’t require a huge special effects budget, and her origin story is self-contained. (The continuity is complicated, but it slims down nicely.) Look: they stuck her in the MCU films basically the first chance they got.

Look: Captain America 2 is adapting a comic book arc that takes a bunch of the themes Natasha had first and then respinning them with extra manpain. There’s no reason a Black Widow film couldn’t work. Except one.

I think if you want a Black Widow film you should be rooting hard for Guardians of the Galaxy to do well, because that will encourage the big rich studio people to take more risks. But they are taking a different kind of risk with Guardians and Ant-Man. Those films are risky because the concepts are strange, because of talking raccoons and because size change powers still just evokes Honey I Shrunk the Kids and the name Ant-Man evokes ridicule.

Natasha’s film was cancelled, not because of its own flaws, but because of other films. Ultraviolet tanked, so did Elektra, so did Catwoman, so they didn’t want to make any more films starring women. Not then. And apparently not now. This isn’t my conspiracy theory, this is what the director actually said.

The reason there is no Black Widow film is because she’s a woman. Don’t forget that.