This is Foggy Ruins of TIme, a feature that provides the cultural context behind certain comic book characters/behaviors. You know, the sort of then-topical references that have faded into the “foggy ruins of time.” To wit, twenty years from now, a college senior watching episodes of "Seinfeld" will likely miss a lot of the then-topical pop culture humor (like the very specific references in “The Understudy” to the Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding scandal).
Reader Rob H. wrote in because he wanted to see a bit about the debt that Marvel Comics owes to the TV series, Rocky and Bullwinkle.
In case you're not familiar with the program, Rocky and Bullwinkle was a cartoon variety series that aired from 1959-1964 by Jay Ward Productions...
One of the most popular characters on the show were the villainous Boris Badanov and Natasha Fatale, Russian spies who constantly clashed with our heroic moose and squirrel...
Boris and Natasha became very famous, even outside of the show, as the names "Boris and Natasha" became basically slang for spies.
Meanwhile, over in Marvel Comics, Stan Lee and Marvel Comics were making a lot of hay out of Communist villains in Marvel Comics. Lots and lots of villains were "dirty Reds," but no one seemed to fight more Communists than Iron Man, who was pretty much the symbol of American capitalism.
One plotline had the Russians sending their own version of Iron Man after Iron Man called the Crimson Dynamo. Vanko, the Russian scientist who designed the Dynamo armor, ultimately defected to the States to go work for Tony Stark. That, naturally, did not sit well with his superiors back in Russia, so in 1964's Tales of Suspense #52 (by Stan Lee, Don Rico and Don Heck), the Russians sent two new operatives after both Vanko AND Tony Stark.
Their names? Why, Boris and Natasha, of course!!
Boris ended up stealing the Crimson Dynamo armor, but then died when it short circuited. Natasha, the Black Widow, stuck around and continued to plague Iron Man. She even enlisted a carnival archer named Hawkeye to attack Iron Man. Hawkeye eventually couldn't remain a villain and he ultimately got Black Widow to become a hero, as well.
Decades later (and one cool costume change by John Romita), Black Widow is now one of Marvel's most prominent female superheroes...
And we owe it all to that Moose and Squirrel!
Thanks for the suggestion, Rob! If anyone else has a suggestion for a future edition of Foggy Ruins of Time, drop me a line at email@example.com!