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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.

MMMOBW 6: To Avenge the Avengers

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.

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MMMOBW 5: Natasha’s Last Word

Look within yourself for that peace before you look for it in someone else. Because you’ll only be setting that someone else up to disappoint you.

Hi, I’m going to be talking about Kevin Smith’s run on Daredevil. So, if you don’t want to read about slut-shaming, go, scroll past in peace.

I want to talk about Smith’s Daredevil because it’s important. It was a relaunch that relaunched, emblematic of the late-nineties sea change. Now, I’m not an expert on Kevin Smith, but I’ve seen Dogma like seven times on cable reruns and I feel pretty confident pinpointing two of his favorite themes as sex and Catholicism. Guardian Devil is about both. I sort of like to call it Faith and Fridges.

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MMMOBW 4: Natasha Becomes Leader of the Champions

I’ve seen it said more than once that Storm taking over as leader of the X-men in 1980’s Uncanny X-men #139 was the first time a Marvel superheroine found herself HBIC. Not to deny one iota of Ororo’s awesomeness (that is not something we do around here) but— false. Natasha was leading the Champions in 1975, which I am pretty sure is the “first” where Marvel continuity is concerned. (Saturn Girl at the Distinguished Competition was heading the Legion in the sixties. Would that we all could inhabit the distant future!!) But the Champions themselves exist as sort of a well-loved punchline: something Spider-man can make quips about as he bemoans his place on the Avengers. “At least it’s not the Champions.”

It was a weird line-up. Black Widow, Hercules, Iceman, Angel, Ghost Rider, and later the new Russian defector Darkstar and Black Goliath, sorta. It was obviously a hodge podge catchall for those characters with some popularity who no longer had a place on a regular title. But that became its raison d’etre, in the still-socially-relevant seventies. In 1975, at Marvel, the only team a woman could lead was a team of outcasts, but she did it by design.

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MMMOBW 3: Natasha Walks Out of a Refrigerator

Natasha sits, naked in a meat locker, her breath fogging up in the cold. 'Tired of all these games?' Imus asks.  'Hardly, Imus,' Natasha responds.  'This is the first time in days I've been able to relax.  My only complaint is these restraints.  I'd like them a little tighter please.'
My only complaint is these restraints. I’d like them a little tighter, please.

In 1999, Gail Simone, with the help of a few other fans, compiled a list of female characters who had been raped, killed, tortured, depowered as a plot device within superhero comics. She called it, “women in refrigerators.” You see: violence against women is far more likely to have a sexual context than the gobs and gobs of violence against men in superhero comics. Sometimes it’s even drawn to titillate— I’m reminded of Ultimate Wasp’s cannibalized corpse, her still-perky breasts.

Women in refrigerators is a memification of the superheroic glass ceiling. With one obvious exception, the most a superheroine can hope for, thanks to factors of history, is the upper B-list. Any reader will tell you: that’s where comic book characters go to die. Characters who are well-liked but don’t sell comics on a regular basis are the perfect crossover-fodder, see also the curse of the Giffen League. That’s why, when it comes to summer blockbuster finale deaths, Steve Rogers became a saint and Janet Van Dyne (my personal top Avengers leader) became an afterthought. Basically, Women in Refrigerators is a memetic way of saying that women will be harmed in service to a male-driven narrative far more often than a female-driven narrative will throw dudes under the bus.

I repeat what you probably already know because Marjorie Liu decided to put Natasha in a refrigerator. And she didn’t go halfsies: she put Natasha naked tied-up in the hands of the enemy. Inside a refrigerator.

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MMMOBW 2: The Widow Smiles

Woman 1: Christine, look— it’s the Black Widow!
Woman 2: It’s her, all right— Madame Natasha! Now there’s a woman with her own mind— definitely the Gloria Steinem of the jump-suit set!
Narration: And for the first time in many days— the Widow smiles.

Superhero comics had an uneasy relationship with second-wave feminism. During the controversial Diana Prince era Wonder Woman ran a special “Women’s Lib” issue where Wondie infamously declared, “In most cases, I don’t even like women…?” Avengers #83 introduced the Lady Liberators, an all-female team fighting for equal treatment, who were really just brainwashed by the Enchantress who was angry her boyfriend left her.

But at the same time, the very first issue of Ms. magazine showed Diana looming giant and inescapable over the American landscape. Wonder Woman for President.

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MMMOBW 1: Natasha dissolves the UN Charter

So recently I read a nice collection of Memorable Moments of Marvel Women. The write-ups are definitely worth a read, but from my totally-biased lifeguard throne I’m gonna have to call a “where’s Natasha?” partyfoul. I’ll assume this was an omission of ignorance rather than a refusal to admit her copious awesome, because the one disease I can cure and the other I will never understand.

In that spirit I have decided to start a new feautre, Memorable Moments of Black Widow in which I highlight historic moments of Natasha’s superhero career and then blather on about them with my usual teal deer panache. First up is a trip to X-men of the early 90s.

Description: A series of brightly colored blocky panels.  Black Widow is addressing the UN Security council, and hundreds of people are looking on, including most of the West Coast Avengers.
Natasha: Distinguised ladies and gentlemen of the general assembly. As chairperson of the Avengers, I have been asked to order immediate and complete withdrawl of our active roster from the nation of Genosha. I have also been instructed to formally apologize for ignoring the United Nations sanctions placed upon our membership— which would have barred us from an active role in the cessation of hostilities between human and mutate forces of that country. In effect we have been ordered to turn our backs on the citizens of Genosha… to turn a deaf ear to the cries of its children… and blind eye to the continuing slaughter of the entire race. I am hear to tell you the Avengers will not— we cannot— take part in the politics— one could even say the cowardice— that appears to have gripped the hand of this august assemblage.

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