First, I want to plug this "We Love the Women Fandom Hates" project, because it coincides nicely with the goals of this blog. If I’d found out about it earlier I’d probably be spamming tumblr with Sharon Carter appreciation. Next time, fandom, next time!!
This time, I want to talk about Thunderbolts #9.
In 1996, Marvel moved all the Cool Kids to a special table inside Franklin Richards head. The Fantastic Four, the X-men, Avengers Classic— they were all sent to this pocket dimension of blockbuster Loeb/Liefeld creative teams. The rest of the Marvel Universe thought they’d all died, perished in some climatic battle, the sort that must happen every other week when the sliding timescale kicks into play. It was called Heroes Reborn, and it was kind of like the DC reboot except they cancelled it after a year. For a while, there were two Marvel universes: the one with the FF, the X-men, and the Avengers Classic™, and the one with everyone else.
The most successful book coming out of this whole event-stimulated reshuffling was Thunderbolts (which, it seems, has yet to escape event-stimulated reshuffling.) Since the big time hero teams were missing presumed dead, it only made sense that Marvel would come up with an XTREEM new team to take their place. That was the Thunderbolts, and they showed up in Hulk before getting their very own ongoing. They were a brand new team of brand new heroes, and were promoted that way.
Spoilers: they were actually the Masters of Evil.
One of the most frequently asked of frequently asked questions is how Natasha’s name works. Is it Natasha or Natalia? Romanoff or Romanova? Which is her real name?
The tricky bit is this: Natalia and Natasha are both forms of the Russian name Наталья. The Natalia/Natasha equivalency doesn’t exist in English, leading to tail-chasing confusion about which is real and which is fake. Natasha is a diminutive form of Natalia, the same way Bill is a nickname for William. “Natalia” is not more authentic or more Russian, it’s just more formal. “Natasha Romanoff” is not an alias the way “Nadine Roman” or “Nancy Rushman” are.
The Romanoff/Romanova issue is just a question of transliteration. The Russian surname is Рома́нов, which has been written Romanoff or Romanov depending on the decade. In Russian, women’s last names take feminine endings to match their grammatical gender— Ivan Belov becomes Yelena Belova, Aleksandr Belinsky becomes Aleksandra Belinskaya. But the feminine endings often get dropped in English translation, e.g. Nastia Liukin, and not Nastia Liukina.
I want to make it out that there isn’t really a standard, “correct” way to translate a Russian name into English. Sometimes the patronymic is dropped, sometimes it isn’t. Immigrant women use the feminine form, or they don’t. It’s a matter of preference, and can also be generational.
I also want to emphasize that comics have never been able to make up their mind.