I remember that night so clearly! We drove miles into the Nevada desert, parked and changed into the commando clothes Danny’d brought with him— then we continued on foot— until we reached a secret commercial instaliation. I stared at the map in wonder— I’d never come so close to actual espionage before— he tried to kiss me, then— I had to push him away
Natasha: Don’t— don’t ever do that again! Don’t ever touch me!
Danny: Sure, sister. Some other time— another place.
He was still laughing when we heard the sound— a sudden footstep. Danny swung the flashlight beam in a cutting arc— the light struck the man full in the face, blinding him. He was a tall man, beefy! I notice that his uniform was not that of your government— and then I attacked! I was in a rage over Danny’s casual treatment of me. I’m afraid I wasn’t gentle.
I wrestle sometimes with Natasha’s codename. “She’s called the Black Widow!” is so often presented as a serious fan argument for her perpetual sexual availability. But Natasha’s callsign is a deep and bitter irony: she dove into espionage headfirst to honor the memory of her dead husband, a memory that was a lie she believed honestly. Her life is threaded through with a string of great loves that ended tragically. She is, in a sense, a reverse refrigerator, in that the men she’s been involved with tend to die to give her depth and color.
This has always been something that appealed to me about Natasha. The reversal of the tropes, the way her grief is both her compassion and primary weapon. She is a widow many times over, and she’s turned a nasty codename she did not choose into a banner to fight in front of.
We have a popular image of spies as sexual conquistadors, but Natasha Romanov has never been James Bond. Instead her continuity is chock full of scenes like this one: harassment Mr. Bond never had to deal with. She is a woman in a man’s world, especially when we consider she’s been doing this since the 40s. Men call her a whore because they’ve nothing else to call her, they imagine she might trade sexual favors for information because that’s the only currency they can see her in.
Natasha has said, over and over, that she does not like to use herself as sexual bait. She is fiercely protective of her own intimacy, both because it is a key to her survival, and because it is something her murky world has constantly tried to rob her of. I do not know why people confuse hypothetical sex Natasha does not enjoy for reasons she does not dictate for a kind of liberation. But I do know that a big part of her heroic freedom, for me, is her ability to choose her own partners for her own reasons— damn the mission, damn the KGB, full speed ahead.
From Daredevil #90, by Gerry Conway and Gene Colan.