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.
So I’ve decided fandom will forever be confused about Natasha’s name. Not, uh, coincidentally, comics writers have been confused about it for even longer.
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 all kinds of tail-chasing confusion re: which is real and which is fake. Natasha is a diminutive form of Natalia the same way Bill is for William. “Natalia” is not more authentic or more Russian, it’s just a bit more formal. And “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 is written as Romanoff or Romanov depending on your history book. Traditionally, Russian ladies 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, not Nastia Liukina. It’s a matter of preference.
If that’s too confusing, don’t worry, until about 1998 the comics had no idea what they were doing either.