Black Widow: “I’ve got red in my ledger, I’d like to wipe it out.” – The Avengers
A guard is walking through a secret facility. He hears a snap after he passes a fellow guard. Turning around, he sees the other guard with a broken neck. He runs for an alarm, passing numerous corpses. He reaches for the alarm, only to feel a pair of hands around his neck. The hands twist and he falls, his fading vision showing a woman with red hair. Black Widow leaves to continue her mission.
Black Widow is Marvel’s greatest spy. Sometimes heroic and sometimes villainous, she is always dangerous. So who is she? Who trained her? How did she become an Avenger? I’d tell you, but then I’d have to kill you. Oh, what the hell. Let’s find out.
The Red Room: Black Widow’s Backstory
Black Widow: “Regimes fall every day. I tend not to weep over that, I’m Russian. Or I used to be.” – The Avengers
Black Widow first appeared in Tales of Suspense #52 in 1964. She was a Russian spy who fought Iron Man, but gradually became a hero after defecting.
Natasha Romanoff was abducted by the Russian government as a child and forced to join the Black Widow program. She was indoctrinated and trained in espionage and assassination.
Natasha was a prodigy and was transferred to the Red Room facility, where she was technologically enhanced. As a final test, she was trained by the Red Room’s greatest operative, The Winter Soldier. She survived the hellish training and experimentation, earning the name Black Widow.
She was sent to America to assassinate an operative called the Crimson Dynamo, who had defected. She was stopped by Iron Man and fled, fearing she’d be killed by her superiors for failing.
Assassin to Avenger: Black Widow’s History
Natasha: “The truth is a matter of circumstances, it’s not all things to all people all the time. And neither am I.”
Steve: “That’s a tough way to live.”
Natasha: “It’s a good way not to die, though.” – Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Black Widow returned to assassinate Iron Man, thinking it would atone for her previous failure. She found an ally in Hawkeye, a new villain with a grudge against Iron Man. They failed and she was shot by Russian spies. Hawkeye rushed her to a hospital, where he later convinced her to defect.
Black Widow became a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and later joined the Avengers. She encountered another graduate of the Red Room named Yelena, who challenged her for the name Black Widow. Natasha defeated Yelena and mentally tortured her to drive her from the spy business. The plan backfired, and Yelena became Black Widow II.
As part of the book event “Secret Empire”, Natasha led a team called The Champions against a HYDRA regime ruled by a brainwashed Captain America. As this event is ongoing, the ultimate winner is anyone’s guess.
Widow’s Bite: Black Widow’s Powers and Personality
(Tied to a chair)
Black Widow: “I’m in the middle of an interrogation and this moron is giving me everything.” – The Avengers
A spy like James Bond would kill for Black Widow’s training. She is a world class athlete who has studied numerous martial arts. She is a weapons specialist and an expert tactician. But she doesn’t come with Kung-Fu grip and batteries are not included.
The Red Room program increased Black Widow’s physical capabilities. She is as strong, fast, and as agile as an Olympic athlete. Her aging has also been slowed and her healing factor is accelerated. She can’t regrow limbs like Wolverine, but she can survive attacks that would kill normal people.
Natasha had a hellish childhood and has spent most of her life fighting monsters and villains. This has left her bitter, jaded, and willing to cross lines that the other Avengers won’t. Thor and Hulk might be the strongest, Iron Man the smartest, and Captain America the most heroic, but Black Widow is the most dangerous Avenger.
The Actors Who Play Black Widow
Black Widow made her screen debut in The Marvel Super Heroes, voiced by Peg Dixon. She was scheduled to appear in a 1970’s Daredevil TV show, but the show was never made. She was voiced by Vanessa Marshall in The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Black Widow has appeared in numerous cartoons, where she was voiced by Laura Bailey
Black Widow, voiced by Olivia d’Abo, made her film debut in the Direct-to-DVD movie Ultimate Avengers and its sequel. Jennifer Carpenter voiced her in Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher.
Let’s face it. You know Black Widow because Scarlett Johansson plays her in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Johansson has been playing Natasha for seven years across five blockbuster movies. So when is she getting her own movie? Short answer: she ain’t. Johansson says that timing is the issue, not money, despite her being a fan favorite.
Didya get all that?
A super spy amongst superheroes.
Jared Bounacos has written for Movie Rewind since 2017.