Tales of Suspense #52, April 1964
Nicknames and Aliases
Natasha Romanoff (Anglicized name).
Powers and Abilities
Heightened (but not superhuman) physical abilities, stamina and longevity thanks to an offshoot of Captain America’s super solider serum. Black Widow is also an accomplished hand-to-hand combatant, marksman, linguist, acrobat and espionage agent.
Weaknesses and Achilles Heels
Carnies, blind lawyers.
Gadgets and Accessories
Black Widow wears a bracelet on each wrist capable of firing an electric shock up to 30,000 volts (her “Widow’s Bite”), a retractable line with grappling hook (her “Widow’s Line”), and tear gas. The bracelets also contain advanced communication equipment. Her costume is comprised of a synthetic fabric that is resistant to high heat and small arms fire. There are microscopic suction cups on her hands and feet that, when activated, allow her to cling to walls and ceilings. Black Widow also uses traditional guns and bladed weapons from time to time.
Friends and Allies
Red Guardian (Alexei Shostokov, her deceased husband), Captains America (both Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes), Nick Fury, Hawkeye, Daredevil, Wolverine, Iron Man, the Avengers, SHIELD, the Champions.
Foes and Antagonists
Crimson Dynamo, Titanium Man, Bullseye, Justin Hammer, Yelena Belova, Hydra, AIM.
Movies and Appearances
Black Widow appeared in the two Ultimate Avengers animated DVD films, voiced by Olivia D’Abo. She is also a mainstay of the two recent Avengers animated series, Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and Avengers Assemble.
She made her big screen debut in Iron Man 2, played by Scarlett Johansson, who reprised the role in The Avengers and will appear in the upcoming Captain America: The Winter Solider and Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Trained from adolescence in the arts of espionage as part of the KGB’s Black Widow program and injected with a variant of the Super Solider serum, Natasha Romanov defected to the United States, becoming an accomplished spy and superhero for the West as Black Widow.
Black Widow is thought to be a descendant of the Romanovs, Russia’s last Tsarist family.
Austin’s Analysis (Some spoilers for Captain America: Winter Soldier)
Black Widow is one of Marvel’s oldest female characters, and one who, without headlining her own book or being the mainstay of a team (like Invisible Woman or Marvel Girl) has managed to stay prominent within the Marvel Universe in one way or another since her inception. Thanks to that longevity, as well as the nature of her character (equal parts superhero and spy), Black Widow has strong connections to a variety of characters. She debuted as a Cold War era Iron Man villain, coercing the reluctant Hawkeye into helping her villainous plans (a relationship which informed the relationship between their cinematic counterparts in Avengers). Eventually, the two reformed and joined the Avengers. Given her background and training as a Russian spy, Black Widow worked closely with Nick Fury, head of SHIELD, as a freelance agent, before moving to the west coast with Daredevil (she even shared the title of his book for awhile). After her romance with Daredevil ended, she remained close friends with the beleaguered vigilante and still pops up in his book from time to time.
After leaving Daredevil, Natasha stayed on the West Coast, helping form and leading the hodgepodge Champions while romancing her teammate, Greek demigod Hercules, before returning to random espionage work and bouts with the Avengers. A Jim Lee-drawn flashback story established that she had encountered Captain America and Wolverine as a child in 1941, revealing a long running and close bond with the mysterious mutant. She grew closer to Captain America while serving as deputy leader of the Avengers under him, and even ran the team herself for a number of years (She was, unfortunately, the team’s leader when the majority of the Avengers were believed dead in the wake of the Onslaught storyline).
After Ed Brubaker, in his seminal Captain America run which serves as the inspiration for the new movie, revealed that Cap’s war-era sidekick, Bucky Barnes, had survived his apparent death and worked for decades as the brainwashed KGB assassin Winter Soldier, it only made sense to reveal a past history between the returned Bucky and Black Widow, and Natasha became a staunch ally and love interest for Bucky when he assumed the mantle of Captain America following the apparent death of the original Cap. Since then, Black Widow has maintained a high profile in the comic book Marvel Universe, thanks in part to her significant presence in the cinematic one, and she is currently headlining her own ongoing Marvel NOW series.