Black Widow (Чёрная вдова, 'Chyornaya vdova') (Natalia "Natasha" Alianovna Romanova, also known as Natasha Romanoff) is a fictional character in the Marvel Comics Universe. She was created by editor and plotter Stan Lee, scripter Don Rico and artist Don Heck, and first appeared in Tales of Suspense #52 (April 1964).
Natasha Romanoff is featured in the 2010 motion picture Iron Man 2, where she is played by Scarlett Johansson.
Natasha was born in Stalingrad (now Volgograd), Russia. The first and best-known Black Widow is a Soviet agent trained as a spy, martial artist, and sniper, and outfitted with an arsenal of high-tech weaponry, including a pair of wrist-mounted energy weapons dubbed her "Widow's Bite". She wears no costume during her first few appearances but simply evening wear and a veil. Romanova eventually defects to the U.S. for reasons that include her love for the reluctant-criminal turned superhero archer Hawkeye.
Romanova's parents were killed in a fire when Romanova was a child. She was saved from death herself by Ivan Petrovitch, who raised her as a surrogate father. He first appears in Marvel continuity in the Widow's 1970s Amazing Adventures feature, in which he is introduced as her chauffeur and confidant, without this back-story revealed. Romanova as a child appears in a flashback to 1941, in which Petrovitch, the superhero Captain America, and the mutant Logan who would become the superhero Wolverine, rescue her from Nazis on the fictional island principality of Madripoor.
A revised, retconned origin establishes her as being raised from early childhood by the U.S.S.R.'s "Black Widow Ops" program, rather than solely by Ivan Petrovitch. With other young female orphans, she is trained in combat and espionage at the covert "Red Room" facility. There, she is biotechnologically and psycho technologically enhanced — an accounting that provides a rationale for her unusually long and youthful lifespan. While there, she was trained by, and a lover of, the Winter Soldier. Each Black Widow is deployed with false memories to help ensure her loyalty. Romanova eventually discovers this, including the fact that she had never, as she had believed, been a ballerina. She further discovers that the Red Room is still active as "2R".
Natasha married the renowned Soviet test pilot Alexi Shostakov. When the Soviet government decided to make Alexi into their new operative, the Red Guardian, he is told that he can have no further contact with his wife. Natasha is told that he had died and is trained as a secret agent separately.
Romanova grows up to serve as a femme fatale who attempts to seduce American defense contractor Tony Stark and inevitably confronts his superhero alter ego, Iron Man. On her first mission in the United States, she and her partner Boris Turgenev are sent to America to assassinate Prof. Anton Vanko. The pair battle Iron Man, and Turgenev steals and wears the Crimson Dynamo suit. Vanko sacrifices himself to save Iron Man, killing Turgenev in the process, using an unstable experimental laser light pistol. Romanova later meets the criminal archer Hawkeye and sets him against Iron Man, and later helped Hawkeye battle Iron Man.
Romanova later attempts to defect from the Soviet Union, but is wounded by a KGB agent. The KGB brainwashes her, and with the Swordsman and the first Power Man, she battles the Avengers, a superhero team she joins as a costumed heroine herself when she eventually does successfully defect.
S.H.I.E.L.D. and Daredevil
Later still, she begins freelancing as an agent of the international espionage group S.H.I.E.L.D. She is sent on a secret S.H.I.E.L.D. mission to China by Nick Fury. There, with the Avengers, she battles Col. Ling, Gen. Brushov, and her ex-husband the Red Guardian. For a time, as historian Les Daniels noted in a contemporaneous study in 1971,
...her left-wing upbringing was put to better use, and she has lately taken to fighting realistic oppressor-of-the-people types. She helps young Puerto Ricans clean up police corruption and saves young hippies from organized crime. [...] [The splash page of Amazing Adventures #3 (Nov. 1970)] reflects the recent trend toward involving fantastic characters in contemporary social problems, a move which has gained widespread publicity for Marvel and its competitor, DC.
During her romantic involvement with Matt Murdock in San Francisco, California, she operates as an independent superhero alongside Murdock's alter ego, Daredevil. There she tries unsuccessfully to find a new career for herself as a fashion designer. Eventually, her relationship with Murdock stagnates, and after briefly working with Avengers finally breaks up with Murdock. She later returns to his life just as he begins dating another woman, Heather Glenn, prompting her to leave New York.
After being poisoned by members of the Hand, Natasha denied medical aid and fought her way past S.H.I.E.L.D agents in a bid to seek out Matt. Her body briefly succumbed to the poison, but she was revived by Stone, a pupil of Matt's mentor Stick. Natasha found that Matt had been going through personal hardships in light of his one true love, Elektra's reappearance, apparent betrayal, surprising redemption, and recent murder. She also reconciled with Foggy, and learned from him that Matt's relationship with his fiance Heather had degenerated into a bitter, almost misogynistic power struggle stemming from Matt's depression over Elektra's death. Natasha and Foggy arranged for the two to break up, sending forged farewell letters to both parties.
Despite helping Matt to overcome the Hand and revive Elektra, Natasha realized that Matt still only thought of her in platonic terms, despite how much they loved the other, and elected to restrain herself from any advances.
After their breakup, the Widow moves to Los Angeles and becomes leader of the newly created and short-lived super team known as The Champions, consisting of her, Ghost Rider (Johnny Blaze), Hercules (with whom she has a brief romance), and former X-Men Angel and Iceman.
Her friends often call her "Natasha", the informal version of "Natalia". She has sometimes chosen the last-name alias "Romanoff" — evidently as a private joke on those who are not aware that Russian family names use different endings for males and females. She has been hinted to be a descendant of the destroyed Romanov royal family and a relation to Nicholas II of Russia.
Natasha crosses Daredevil's (Matt Murdock) path again when he attempts to slay an infant he believes to be the Anti-Christ. After Daredevil's one-time love, Karen Page, dies protecting the child, Natasha reconciles with Murdock, revealing she still loves him, but noting that he is too full of anger to commit to a relationship with her.
Natasha later becomes aware of Yelena Belova, a young woman who is the second Black Widow, who had also been trained at the Red Room. Yelena, obsessed with being the sole Black Widow, encounters Natasha while each attempts to retrieve the "Endless Fury" bioweapon, which explodes near them. Natasha later has herself and Yelena trade appearances through plastic surgery. Natasha later discovers that dozens of other women had been trained as Black Widows, and all are now being hunted down and killed. While investigating the murders, freelance agents Max Hunter and a female known only as Kestrel are hired to kill Natasha; during their pursuit of her, they gun down Natasha's old friend Phillip Dexter. In retaliation, Natasha kills Hunter and publicly humiliates Kestrel. With information gleaned from Kestrel, Natasha finds and kills the mastermind of the Black Widow murders: an aging CEO who intended to use part of their genetic structure to create a new chemical weapon.
During the Superhero Civil War, Natasha becomes a supporter of the Superhuman Registration Act and a member of the taskforce led by Iron Man. Afterward, the registered Natasha joins the reconstituted Avengers. When S.H.I.E.L.D. director Tony Stark is presumed killed and deputy director Maria Hill incapacitated, Natasha assumes temporary command of S.H.I.E.L.D. as the highest-ranking agent present.
Later, Tony Stark assigns Natasha to convey the late Captain America's shield to a secure location, but is intercepted by her former lover, Bucky Barnes, the Winter Soldier, who steals the shield. Natasha and the Falcon then rescue Barnes from the Red Skull's minions, and bring him to the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, where Stark convinces Bucky to become the new Captain America. Afterward, Natasha accompanies Bucky as his partner for a brief time until she is called back by S.H.I.E.L.D. She later rejoins him and Falcon for the final confrontation with the Red Skull, helping to rescue Sharon Carter. She and Bucky have restarted their relationship. She later plays an important role in the capture of Hercules. However due to her respect of the Greek god, she let him go. Soon Natasha, along with the rest of the Avengers, gets involved in the current Skrull invasion. Afterwards, she stayed as Bucky's partner. She also assists former director Maria Hill in delivering a special form of data to Bucky.
Norman Osborn discovered Yelena Belova breaking into an abandoned S.H.I.E.L.D. facility, and offered her the position of field leader of the new Thunderbolts. On her first mission, she and Ant-Man take control of Air Force One with the Goblin, Doc Samson, and the new President aboard. It was suggested she faked her apparent death (as the Adaptoid) but it is never explained how.
A conversation with the Ghost implies that Yelena is working as a mole for someone else and that she may even be someone else disguised as Yelena. She is later seen talking privately through a comm-link to Nick Fury.
Osborn orders Yelena to lead the current Thunderbolts to kill former Thunderbolt, Songbird. Fury orders "Yelena" to rescue and retrieve Songbird, for the information she might possess about Osborn and his operations. Yelena finds Songbird, and reveals to her that she was really Natasha Romanova in disguise. She tries delivering Songbird to Fury, but the Thunderbolts have also followed them. The trio are captured as Osborn reveals he had been impersonating Fury in messages all along to set Natasha up in order to strengthen the Thunderbolts and lead him to Fury. She and Songbird are brought to be executed but manage to escape when Ant-Man, Headsmen and Paladin turn on the rest of the Thunderbolts and let them go.
At the start of the Heroic Age, Natasha is recruited by Steve Rogers into a new black-ops wing of the Avengers, dubbed the Secret Avengers. She travels to Dubai with her new teammate, Valkyrie, where they steal a dangerous artifact which the Beast then studies, noting that it seems like a distant cousin of the Serpent Crown. In the story "Coppelia," she encounters a teenage clone of herself, code named "Tiny Dancer," whom she rescued from an arms dealer.
Powers and abilities
The Black Widow is a world class athlete and gymnast, expert martial artist (including karate, judo, aikido, savate, various styles of kung fu, and boxing), markswoman, and weapons specialist as well as having extensive espionage training. She is also an accomplished ballerina.
The Black Widow uses a variety of equipment invented by Soviet scientists and technicians, with later improvements by S.H.I.E.L.D. scientists and technicians. She usually wears distinctively shaped bracelets which fire the "Widow's Bite" energy blasts, as well as "Widow's line" grappling hooks, tear gas pellets, along with a new element introduced during her onging series during the "Kiss or Kill" arc called the "Widow's Kiss"; an aerosol instant knock-out gas she has modified.[volume & issue needed] She wears a belt of metallic discs, some with disc-charges containing plastic explosives, others have been shown to be compartments to house other equipment. Her costume consists of synthetic stretch fabric equipped with micro-suction cups on fingers and feet, enabling her to adhere to walls and ceilings. In the 2006 "Homecoming" mini-series, she commented that she did not wish to use weaponry belonging to her traditional costume any more and was seen using knives, unarmed combat, and various firearms. While in disguise as Yelena Bolova when infiltrating the then Osborn-sanctioned Thunderbolts during "Dark Reign" she used a specialed multin-lense Goggle/head-carapace that demonstrated various technical abilities enhancing vision and communication. Later, she has used a modified gun based on her Widow's Bite wrist cartridge, during her adventures alongside the new Captain America.
The Black Widow has been enhanced by biotechnology that makes her body resistant to aging and disease and heals at an above human rate; as well as psychological conditioning that suppresses her memory of true events as opposed to implanted ones of the past without the aid of specially designed system suppressant drugs, attempts to do so result in extreme biological reactions, indicated as vomiting and black-outs.
Within 2010's Black Widow: Deadly Origin miniseries another level to the Biotechnology that Natasha has been subjected to were "nanites", designed to be passed from her body with even the slightest touch. These nanites were apart of something called the "Icepick Protocol" and when activated could incite someone to homicidal rage. A counter form of these were also introduced to her body so as she could neutralize the activated nanites in another.
The current version of the Black Widow, as seen yesterday at Toronto Comic Con.
Black Widow ©2011 Marvel Characters, Inc.
Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson version) ©2011 Marvel Studios, and Paramount Pictures Corporation.