Archive for May, 2012
So, forgive my “mistake” yesterday regarding the original Black Widow being in Joss Whedon’s Avengers film. Of course I knew that was the case, and just used it as an excuse to showcase an otherwise obscure and offbeat character. Now, when it comes to the “real” Black Widow, her comic origin is actually pretty convoluted. The movies thankfully make it incredibly succinct. Essentially, she was a Russian spy, met Hawkeye, and had a change of loyalties. The comics had her on a nearly 8-year journey to end up on the side of the angels full-time. As such, it’s really difficult to pin down an origin issue for her, per se. Instead, We’ll be looking at the moment where Natasha Romanov emerges from her cocoon and because the Black Widow we know today. Enough mixed metaphors, let’s get on with the Secret Origin (kind of) of The Black Widow!
As our tale begins, Black Widow is observing Spider-Man swinging across the New York City skyline, as he likes to do. The Widow is apparently looking to re-invent herself as is looking to the wall-crawler for inspiration. I guess that makes sense. They’re both kind of spidery, after all. As such, she decides to learn the secret of Spidey’s powers so she can make them her own. Instead of actually going and you know doing that though, she swings into the apartment she apparently keeps for herself. It’s there where she laments on her convoluted past. This means we get a handy montage/flashback so I don’t have to explain it all to you guys!
Natasha continues to get her reminisce on, recounting her romance with Hawkeye, how Nick Fury recruited her on her first S.H.I.E.L.D. mission that ultimately resulted in the death of her husband… So um yeah, I’d probably be having a bit of an identity crisis myself. To wit: Natasha decides her jet-setting Madame Natasha persona isn’t getting her anywhere, so it’s time to focus on being the Black Widow. What better way to do that than an impromptu costume change!
And so, with an outfit from the Emma Peel catalog, Black Widow sets out to catch Spider-Man in her web. This is actually a bit odd to me. Her whole deal for hunting down Spidey is to find out his shtick, but she already seems to be aping it pretty well. In fact, she’s doing such a fine job imitating the web-head that a certain crotchety publisher makes a (chauvinistic) note about it…
Since this is a Marvel comic, and coincidence is the word of the day, it doesn’t take too long for the Widow to encounter Spidey. Not one for formal introductions, Natasha announces herself in a way only she can…
What follows is an interesting cat & mouse game between two spiders. Now, it should be noted that Spidey’s not exactly bringing his ‘A’ game here. Last issue the Kingpin knocked his keister around pretty good, and he’s having some performance issues due to grogginess. With the playing field relatively even, Spidey falls back on his other great tactic, talking. Once he finds out he’s up against the widow, he pretty much point-blank asks her why they’re fighting, seeing as she’s already teamed with the Avengers at this point. The Widow isn’t really one for giving up information like that though, so she kicks the webspinner around a bit more. Because of said grogginess, he doesn’t put up much of a fight so Black Widow ends up with one trussed up spider in no time flat.
Thinking she has the upper hand, she gloats about how the vaunted Spider-Man is such a pushover. At this moment, Spider-Man decides that maybe he shouldn’t let it get out that he’s in such a bad way, so he breaks out of the Widow’s snare and pours on the bravado. The Widow takes the bait, thinking Spider-Man has just been toying with her the whole time. Simultaneously, she realises that a hasty retreat is in order, because she’s not finding out what makes the wall-crawler tick today.
Returning to her loft, the Widow ruminates on the events of the day, and starts upon the path that makes her the prominent figure she is today…
After this, Natasha would join the Champions, eventually becoming their leader. Becoming more confident in herself and her abilities, she would be Daredevil’s partner/lover for a time. After that series of adventures, she became a full-time S.H.I.E.L.D. agent & would of course come to join the Avengers on a more permanent basis, even becoming leader of that illustrious group for a time. All in all, from KGB spy to honored member of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, ‘Tasha has certainly come a long way.
So, this week marks the debut of the Avengers movie. From all impressions it looks like it’ll be pretty great, awesome and (insert gushing adjective here). I was a little weirded out by the choices of characters to include, though. Sure, Hulk, Captain America, Iron Man & Thor I can get. Heck Hawkeye is a good fit too, but I don’t know why anyone would pick Black Widow over Ant-Man & the Wasp. I mean, the Black Widow is a character who has less than 20 appearances in her entire 70+ year history! So, in my never-ending quest to inform the public, I present to you the (balls-out crazy) origin of… The Black Widow!
Our story opens in the parlor (get it) of Madame Claire Voyant. At first I thought this was a stage name for the character, but no it’s the real name of a psychic medium. I love you, Golden Age. Anyway, Claire is going to help a well-to-do family’s widow see her dead husband. They all sit around the table, seance-style when all of a sudden, the image of Satan himself appears and freaks everyone right the heck out. You see this isn’t any of Claire’s psychic chicanery, it’s ‘ol Scratch himself! Not only that, he’s there to pretty much screw with everyone in the room. As you’ll see, when the widow starts accusing Claire’s antics as a farce, Lucifer does his thing and a bunch of lives are set on an odd course.
“Does that mean presents? Oh, you said Satan, my bad.”
Of course, the Waglers don’t believe a word, which I would normally be 100% behind, but man, Satan was right there! On the way home the car hits an unexplained skid. and well, things play out as you might expect except for one small detail…
Man, Satan is a dick.
And so, the next step of Beelzebub’s wonderfully circuitous plan is unfurled. James is hell-bent (see what I did there) on getting revenge for his imagined slight, so he heads back to Claire’s home. The story doesn’t explain how James knows where she lives, or how he gets there when his only transportation has become a smoldering wreck. I am just going to chalk it up to “demonic intervention” and let it lie. Anyway, James in his oh-so stylish vertically striped pants guns Claire down in her home. Of course, it isn’t that simple…
I’m starting to think that man in red there may not be entirely a good guy.
James hoofbeats it out of there and Satan takes Claire’s corpse to h-e-double hockey sticks. When there, he places Clair on an altar and starts a “mystic rite”. He also invokes the “almighty evil”. Now I dunno, but since Satan is supposed to be the ruler of hell and all of its minions, you’d think that he himself is the almighty evil, but what do I know. Anyway, flames envelop Claire’s body as Satan commands her to rise again as…
There is something about this image that hits all the right creepy buttons for me.
So OK, let me get this straight. Satan goads a family into killing Claire so he can have her as his instrument on Earth? He should have cut out the middleman, he is freaking Satan after all. Maybe he had to do things the way he did to ensure that she’d have a proper mindset, but whatever. Anyway, Lucifer goes on a bit of a big speech about how awesome he and hell are, while giving Claire a tour. It shows some pretty graphic depictions of pain and suffering (for the Golden Age anyway), including the fate of people who commit suicide (turned into trees of suffering). He then goes on to tell the Black Widow that this is nothing in comparison to what he has in store for her. The Black Widow seems cool with that, though she does ask for permission to kill her killer. Satan is all like, of course, my dear, kill in my name!
So the scene cuts to the docks, where James is wallowing in his despair. You can’t really blame the guy, seeing as Satan completely screwed up his life. As a matter of course, the Black Widow shows up, and the results are what you may expect, that is, if you were expecting a flaming touch that equals instant death!
Luckily, they left out the panel where the Black Widow mated with him before the killing.
With that, Satan hits the “recall” button and the Black Widow returns to his side in a flash of flame. This attracts the attention of a local beat cop who finds the body of James lying on the docks. He is dead, of course, but he also has his forehead marked with a black widow insignia, adding insult to (grievous) injury. Now, cops then weren’t like cops now, so he easily puts two and two together and realizes James was killed by a person with a black widow motif. We’re left to wonder if he starts a manhunt though, because we’re brought back to hell. Here, Satan finally unveils what his actual plan for the Black Widow is, and wow, it is a doozy…
What? The only evil-doers in this story were under Satan’s influence in the first place!
So you see, the Black Widow is a hero! Um, yeah tell me another one, guys. Anyway, as I mentioned before. Claire Voyant, aka the Black Widow had a total of only five Golden Age appearances and a couple of Silver Age cameos before returning in J. Michael Straczynski’s frankly amazing The Twelve. While I really enjoyed that series, I don’t see how that merits her inclusion in the Avengers movie. Oh! A thousand pardons. I guess I was misinformed and of course the Silver-Modern Age Black Widow is in Avengers, not this one. Well, I guess that means I owe you guys another Secret Origin tomorrow!
This story originally appeared in Mystic Comics #4, July 1940. To my knowledge, it has only been reprinted in the Marvel Masterworks: Golden Age Mystic Comics – Volume 1.