Out of all the Avengers and heroes in Marvel Comics, one of the most enigmatic is the Black Widow. First introduced back in 1964, Natasha Romanov, the Black Widow many people are familiar with today, started her tenure in comics as a villain. Over the course of years, her history would be further expanded upon, but conflicting stories would emerge and most of her past remains buried to this day. However, that’s one of the aspects about Black Widow that makes her such a mystifying and intriguing character.
Thanks to her exposure over in the MCU, Black Widow’s fanbase is arguably larger than it’s ever been. According to the movies, which also matches up rather nice with the source material, the only things most fans can say for certain about Black Widow is that she’s Russian, she’s one of the good guys (at least she is nowadays), and she’s got red in her ledger. Despite the good she’s done in trying to make up for sins past, her shady history leaves many to still question her loyalties. The fact that she and she can slip into any persona makes her difficult to trust. Today at CBR we’re looking at 15 dark secrets about Black Widow.
15 SHE WAS ORIGINALLY A VILLAIN
The Black Widow might be front and center as one of the Avengers, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, especially in the MCU, but her origins weren’t actually of a heroic nature. Her first appearances in comics featured her as a full-fledged villain.
On account of her Soviet training, Black Widow posed a threat to S.H.I.E.L.D and American heroes like Iron Man.
In fact, she even teamed up with Hawkeye, who in the early days was a nemesis of Iron Man, to take down the Armored Avenger and from there, she clashed with Spider-Man. After a few criminal hijinks gone awry, she and Hawkeye decided to switch over to side of good together, with Natasha defecting to the United States and Hawkeye forming an alliance with the Avengers.
14 SHE ATE SPIDER-MAN
Spider-Man and Black Widow haven’t necessarily had an adversarial relationship, but in the real world, Black Widow spiders aren’t especially known for their kindly manners. What we have here is a single photo right out of the Marvel’s What If? series and the punchline is as simple as it is brilliant: she's the Black Widow, he’s a spider…’nuff said.
If they got married, then according to Mother Nature, odds are good it wouldn’t take long for Black Widow to have a midnight snack consisting of everyone’s friendly neighborhood Spider-Man and his radioactive bones! Her emphatic “Burp!” secures the image in its glory. The background imagery is pretty wonderful too, as the audience is left wondering just what role the fireplace played in Spidey’s untimely demise.
13 SHE WAS MARRIED TO A SPY
In the comics, the Soviets forced Natasha to marry Alexi Shostakov. He would later become the Russian equivalent of Captain America, assuming the guise of the Red Guardian. However, in an effort to create their own Super Soldier Program, the KGB made Alexi to fake his death so that they might train him into their personal weapon.
This led to Natasha fully embracing her time in the secret Red Room Academy and becoming the Black Widow.
After she moved on from her first husband, Natasha had numerous failed relationships, including moving to California to be with Daredevil, contemplating marrying Hawkeye, hooking up with Hercules -- none of them worked out. In the MCU, romance and Natasha don’t go hand-in-hand, as she’s delegated to offering Captain America dating advice and stroking the Hulk’s hand.
12 SHE KILLED HER OWN BROTHER
One of the more enigmatic Marvel heroes, much of Black Widow’s life from before the Black Widow program took her is a mystery. It’s known she may be descended from the Romanov royal family, but that’s about it. The anthology series Shadows and Light revealed a bit about her family life.
In the story "Free Fall", Natasha encounters a supervillain called Vindiktor. The thing is, he claimed to be her long-lost brother. According to him, their childhood home caught on fire and while their mother saved Natasha, she didn’t save him. From that point on, he swore revenge on the sister who he thought left him to die; then she did kill him. The problem here was that the timeline didn’t exactly match up, leaving many to question the validity of his claim, especially since he was never mentioned again.
11 THERE WAS A BLACK WIDOW BEFORE NATASHA
Legacy characters, essentially heroes or villains who take on the mantle of another hero or villain, aren’t an uncommon theme in comics. When it comes to the Black Widow, she was one of the first if only because there was a Black Widow who existed long before Natasha Romanoff.
If you go all the way back to the ‘40s, that is where you’ll come across the original Black Widow.
The original Black Widow was Claire Voyant. Unlike many female characters at the time, Claire Voyant wasn’t taken as a joke, but was a very serious character that was totally okay with murder. Eventually, like most things, the original Black Widow was lost to time and obscurity, leaving room for Natasha to become the Black Widow we know and love today.
10 SHE'S BIOLOGICALLY ENHANCED
You may not realize it, but Black Widow is very much a superhero like Captain America, in that she’s biologically enhanced. Natasha Romanov is not your average human. She was given a serum akin to the Super Soldier serum that was administered to Steve Rogers, back when she was a part of the Black Widow Program. Because of this, Natasha Romanoff ages significantly slower than practically anyone and she’s resistant to most diseases. Additionally, she has the same super-human strength and agility Captain America does.
If that wasn’t enough, she’s outfitted herself with plenty of technological enhancements to give her an even greater edge on the field of battle. The Black Widow Program broke her down and rebuilt her into a near perfect living weapon. On top of that, Bucky Barnes, after he became the Winter Soldier, provided Natasha additional training.
9 SHE TRIED TO KILL IRON MAN
In the MCU, it’s made readily apparent that Black Widow and Hawkeye have a lengthy history together. In the comics, that is also true, but only because Black Widow and Hawkeye worked together as supervillains when they tried to assassinate Iron Man. Hawkeye had tried alone to take own Tony Stark, but to no avail. The same went for Black Widow.
So, being the expert manipulator that she was, Black Widow romanced Hawkeye and convinced him to help her kill Iron Man.
This was even after she had already manipulated Iron Man into a relationship with her. Talk about a love triangle. Anyway, she was able to get what she wanted rom Stark, i.e. top-secret Stark-Tech, but then her cover was blown. Moving on to Hawkeye, the duo attacked Iron Man and lost, and after several more defeats, they turned themselves in to S.H.I.E.L.D., and started working for Nick Fury.
8 THE MARVEL SWIMSUIT SPECIAL
Nowadays, we live in a very socially conscience society. Marvel has tried hard to make everyone feel included and not step on anyone’s toes. Yet back in the ‘90s, it was like the Wild West where everyone was concerned about only one thing: making money. Enter the Marvel Swimsuit Special. They were a shameless attempt to sell comics to promiscuous teenage boys.
The Swimsuits didn’t include any stories or anything with plot; they just unabashedly featured splash pages of fan-favorite heroes in scantily clad swimsuits. It wasn’t just female heroes like She-Hulk that were included, but even male heroes like Namor and Wolverine were found in suggestive poses. Black Widow was also included, but Marvel would probably be happier if you forgot there were pictures of the super-spy enjoying the sun a bit too much.
7 SHE WAS BORN IN 1928
The Black Widow from the comic books is an entirely different creature than the one people know in the MCU. One such example of this revolves around when Natasha was born. In the movies, it’s implied she was born in the '80s. However, comic book readers know that the Black Widow is rather unique and has lived for nearly a century. Natasha is one of the few heroes in comic books with a clear birthdate; it’s important to her backstory.
She was born in 1928 and lost her parents during an attack on Stalingrad amidst WWII.
Soviet soldiers found her and put the young Natasha into a secret USSR sleeper agent program. Trained along with a team of elite female agents, Natasha was brainwashed and continually refined to eventually become a ruthless killing machine. That’s where she earned the name the Black Widow.
6 SHE'S A FAILED FASHION DESIGNER
After she reformed her ways and decided to become a good guy, Black Widow ended up dating Daredevil. Even though they had their own comic and made for a pretty great couple, writers thought Daredevil was better off alone than with a partner who was better at fighting crime than he was. While Natasha worked as Matt Murdock’s “sidekick”, she tried to create a secret identity for herself. It was a hot mess. Unlike something practical, like Daredevil’s lawyer persona, she accidentally became a failed fashion designer.
And so the Black Widow, a master assassin and one of the deadliest agents in the KGB, was reduced to griping about fashion. She really seemed to enjoy the job, but she still bombed spectacularly. Maybe you should stick to being a secret agent, Natasha.
5 SHE'S STATISTICALLY THE MOST HATED AVENGER
These days, especially where the Marvel Cinematic Universe is concerned, Black Window maintains a fairly vocal and sturdy fanbase. On the flipside, there also seems to be a sect of individuals who can’t stand her.
There was a study by social media analysts BrandWatch in 2015 where they discovered Black Widow was the "most hated" Avenger.
Apparently, out of every hero in the MCU up to that point, Natasha was the one with the most negative comments on Twitter. That said, the results came from a sample size of only 900,000 tweets, which sounds like a lot, but is really a tiny amount when compared to all the tweets out there. Additionally, the study was only looking at negative tweets about Black Widow, and didn’t focus on positive mentions.
4 SHE FAILED TO CREATE AN AVENGERS TEAM
Back during the ‘90s, the Marvel Universe went through some dramatic changes. It was during this period, at least for a short while, that Black Widow was the only official member of the Avengers around, which by proxy making her the team leader. After Onslaught reared his ugly head and killed the rest of the Avengers and the Fantastic Four, the world was a darker place.
Of course that didn’t mean superheroes were no longer needed; they were needed like never before. The task of recruiting a new team to execute missions fell on Natasha’s shoulders. Inexplicably, she failed. To add insult to injury, Natasha was sued by the Mary Stark Foundation for infringing upon the Avenger logo by attempting to use it with a new team. It was a stressful time for the Black Widow.
3 SHE INVADED THE UNITED STATES
The Ultimates series gets a lot of flack for the way fan-favorite characters were depicted. Aside from masterminding the death of Hawkeye’s family and killing Clint’s son as the superhero held him, Black Widow’s betrayal of the team didn’t stop there. She went and betrayed not only the Avengers, but also America.
Natasha assisted with invasion of the U.S.A., having plotted and infiltrated the Avengers team from the beginning.
Things started when Natasha Romanova and Tony Stark became a couple; they seemed right for one another. But before the two could get married, her betrayal came in an explosive reveal when Black Widow used her newfound intimacy to kill Jarvis, hold Tony hostage, and use his tech to help invade Manhattan. When Tony is shocked, Romanova smirks, “Oh, please. The Russian spy? Yeah, I can see why you’d think I’d be the last person to betray America’s defense force.”
2 SHE TRIED TO STEAL SPIDER-MAN'S TECH
Though Spider-Man and Black Widow are friends these days, there was a time when that wasn’t the case. Black Widow primarily existed in Iron Man and Avengers comics up to this point, but it made sense that she, with her arachnid-themed name, would eventually cross paths with the wall-crawler. In The Amazing Spider-Man #86, the two heroes met, and fought, for the first time.
Natasha found herself impressed with Spider-Man’s abilities and wanted to learn the secret behind his famed powers. She thought she could trap him and steal whatever technology he possessed and add it to her own arsenal. Though groggy from suffering from the flu, Spider-Man is able to best her in combat, forcing Natasha to run for the figurative hills. Why she needed Spider-Man’s tech is bizarre, considering she already had an incredible array of armaments at her disposal.
1 SHE MADE A VIDEO WITH IRON MAN
Marvel’s Ultimate Comics line featured a darker, cynical, and more grounded approach to the Marvel stories everyone thought they knew. In this world, heroes swore, people died miserable deaths, and superheroes had affairs with one another. This included Tony Stark and Natasha making a personal video. Outside of comics, Marvel has the tendency to try and reflect aspects of the real word, and in an era where celebrity sex tapes were a thing, the writers figured what couple would probably be more comfortable with such an act that Black Widow and Iron Man?
True to real life, the tape was leaked to the press.
Once it was released, it threw off the team dynamic. Just weeks earlier, Hawkeye had killed Natasha, who had been responsible for killing Hawkeye’s family.