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57 Black Widow Greatest
The killer Spy. Avenger. This is what people know about Black Widow. But like any comic character with decades of history, Natasha Romanoff is much more complex than a few words can describe.
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Natasha has had a difficult comic path, but her core values — compassion and loyalty to friends — have helped creators stay relevant and beloved over the years. as
In theaters, the writers and artists behind some of Natasha’s greatest stories reveal what helped shape the character’s evolution throughout her 57-year comic book history.
As a would-be Russian spy who served primarily as Iron Man’s antagonist. In the first iterations of Natasha, her image was similar to the one that was presented to the world in the 2010s.
She was a femme fatale, a sexy, slippery spy with dark motivations and little regard for true loyalty.
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While Black Widow was an intriguing character, she never really had a safe home in the comic book world. While superheroes like Captain America, Iron Man, and Spider-Man had clear arcs and detailed stories, Natasha had a more nebulous trajectory. In the 1970s
Which lasted only eight issues — it is revealed that Ivan Petrovich took custody of Natasha after she was orphaned, helping her prepare to serve her country. In the 2004 series by Richard K. Morgan, Bill Sienkiewicz, and Goran Parlov, Natasha’s story was turned into a more simplified state and her origins established. She survived the Red Room, a training facility where she and other orphans were brainwashed, taught espionage and skills like ballet, and “enhanced” with biotechnology.
This origin is the closest the Marvel Cinematic Universe has decided to use as a road map for Natasha in the MCU: a spy indoctrinated by the Red Room who goes to SHIELD and tries to change the red in her book by becoming a member of the Avengers and a robot in the name of the greater good .
, the long-awaited solo film, opens in theaters on July 9, 11 years after Natasha was first seen on screen and a year and a half after a global pandemic brought the world to a standstill. It finally lifts the curtain on the super-spy’s life and illuminates her fundamentals: her espionage, her compassion, her personal relationships and her loyalty.
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But before and during all of this, countless creators introduced Black Widow to comic book readers.
When writer Devin Grayson and artist J.G. In the late 90s, Jones was commissioned by Marvel Knights to create a Natasha story for a limited series titled
(from which she was eventually written out because the writers who took over the series felt Daredevil worked better as a solo character), as well as a 1990 solo graphic novel titled
, Black Widow never had a chance to be in the spotlight. Instead, she appeared whenever it seemed convenient, appearing in other heroes’ books and appearing in anything from a freelance agent to a member of the Avengers and the Champions.
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“I usually start new projects by reading everything I can get my hands on and finding through lines to play. In Natasha’s case, I took her background as a Soviet-trained intelligence agent now living in the States, a former ballerina, and a woman who spent a significant amount of time working alongside and in the shadows of people who thought they were super. heroes,” Grayson says. She says she knew “very little” about Black Widow when she was commissioned to write it.
“It seemed to me that navigating a world with such a complex, nuanced and changing past meant that you needed an enormous amount of strength and determination to maintain any sense of personal history and self-identity.”
This was the catalyst for the creation of Elena Belova, the iconic Black Widow who has been a part of Natasha’s past since Grayson and Jones created the character in 1999.
“It will take an enormous amount of strength and determination for Natasha to retain any sense of personal history and self-identity”
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“Back in 1999, I realized that we were moving away from the Soviet-era politics that gave rise to Black Widow, and so probably Natasha’s age was really worth considering,” says Grayson. “
It’s a story about Nat’s birthday and her thoughts about her own death. Natasha is a woman with a past – she has a lot of experience and knowledge. As a culture, we tend to celebrate youthful determination, but I feel Natasha embodies qualities that are perhaps even more commendable: discrimination, dedication, and survival. I created Elena in part to emphasize these contrasting sides of Natasha’s character.”
Although Black Widow is generally synonymous with Natasha due to her prominence, the title is technically a mantle—like Captain America, the name is given to anyone skilled enough to assume it. In Natasha’s case, Black Widow is more than just a mantle: it’s a classification of dozens of superspies trained in the Red Room.
To tell Natasha’s story as clearly as possible, Grayson decided to focus on the legacy of what it means to be a widow.
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Introduces Elena as a young Russian spy who interrupts Natasha in the middle of a mission by claiming she is the new Black Widow,” Grayson explains. “Elena is young, ambitious and loyal to the Russian government, and she beat Nat’s marks during training at the Red Room in Moscow. Both Widows are tasked with retrieving samples of a newly developed biotoxin from the Middle East, but the conflict in the story is between the two of them and what it takes to wear the Widow’s mantle.”
After the release of Grayson and Jones, Natasha continued to make frequent appearances in various compilation books, but a solo series was still elusive until 2004, when
— Morgan’s retcon of Natasha’s past — published. By then, Marjorie Liu and Daniel Acuña had teamed up to create
However, in 2011, Natasha was on the verge of becoming a household name outside of the comic book industry.
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, and Marvel decided to capitalize on the interest of one of the first female Avengers by giving her two miniseries:
Paul Cornell, Tom Rennie, and John Paul Leon. Both series leaned heavily toward the spy side of Natasha’s story, a narrative choice that made sense at the time, given that in
, Natasha doesn’t show much of her superhero side, instead posing as a sultry undercover agent for most of the film. So when Liu and Acuña got together to break their Natasha story, they leaned toward what the world saw.
Functions as a thriller that draws on Natasha’s deep past to unravel the mysteries of why she ran away, pursued by a ruthless killer who has targeted her with very specific personal tactics and who will stop at nothing to end her life. Acuña, who drew all five issues of the series, says he wanted to “show Natasha as a strong, imposing character, a femme fatale,” while also trying to “make the story feel like a classic film noir.”
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“In the stories I’ve drawn, Natasha has to face the demons of her past in a story full of violence and emotion. At the end, we reach a moment of catharsis and a new start for her,” says Acuña.
It’s the kind of story that feels like a story from the 70s or 80s, it showed who Natasha really was, providing a framework that helped the world understand a character that was still shrouded in mystery. And despite the fact that the book was almost a direct result of the debut of the character in
“I was just trying to do my own version of Natasha, but a lot of people told me that she reminded them of Scarlett, so watching her must have influenced me subconsciously,” Acuña admits. “And honestly, I’m not surprised it happened because she’s perfect as Natasha/Black Widow.”
By 2016, times had changed — both in comics and in pop culture. Black Widow has become increasingly prominent in the Marvel Universe; in the movies, she opened up to her teammates
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In the world of comics, Natasha finally began to pay more attention. Phil Noto and Nathan Edmonson made their debuts
Series in 2014 as part of Marvel Now!, a 2012 branding initiative that relaunched several series with all-new creative teams and fresh stories. Noto and Edmonson’s run helped bring Natasha back to what Grayson first embodied in her
Series: return to quieter, more
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