Markley’s Fevered Brain: Widow. Black Widow

Wayne Markley

Wayne Markley


by Wayne Markley

With Marvel’s newest movie being the Black Widow, Marvel has been publishing a number of collections of this former villain turned hero to tie into the film. I am going to look at a number of the recent Black Widow collections as well as a bit of the character’s history. She first appeared in the pages of the Iron Man story in Tales of Suspense as a dress wearing femme fatale with a pill box hat on the top of her head, who was a Russian spy. She looked like any character you would see on television up to the mid to late 1960s. Outside of the red hair she barely resembled the Black Widow we know today from the comics or from the films. Thankfully we have books showing the complete evolution of the character in both behavior and appearance. A quick historical note. Marvel first used the name Black Widow in 1940 in issues of Mystic Comics for a character called Black Widow who was also known as Claire Voyant, an anti-hero who killed evil doers so she could take their souls to Satan. Obviously this character never went far or caught on, yet it is another case of Stan Lee using a Golden Age character’s name for a modern hero (as he did with Ka-Zar, Vision, Human Torch, etc.).

Black Widow Epic Collection: Beware the Black Widow

Black Widow Epic Collection: Beware the Black Widow


First up we have the Black Widow Epic Collection: Beware the Black Widow. This massive collection of 408 pages of stories from 1964 through 1971 that show the evolution of the character. Her earliest appearances were in Tales of Suspense #52-53, where she teamed up with Hawkeye (also some of his earliest approaches). Natalia “Natasha” Alianovna Romamova aka Natasha Romanoff was originally a classic early 1960s Russian femme fatale. She was a spy who posed as a high society debutant to get secrets from Tony Stark. Her cohort, Clint Barton, AKA Hawkeye, was madly in love with her. Originally created by Stan Lee (with a script by Don Rico) and Don Heck she proved so popular she appeared in five issues of TOS in the 1964-1965. Because of her popularity Stan turned her from a villain to a hero and she started hanging out with the Avengers. Stan would explain how she was used by the Russians and how her beloved husband was killed by the evil Russians, and she saw the error of her ways and wanted to help America. (Remember this was at the height of the Cold War). She appeared regularly in Avengers #29-#44, and a number of issues after that. This collection reprints the sections of the Avengers with the Black Widow appearances not the complete stories from these issues of the Avengers. From there she next appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #86 where Stan completely changed the character by dropping the 1960s look and gave her the black jumpsuit we have all come to know. (No doubt influenced by the popularity of Mrs. Peel on TVs Avengers show at the time.) Now Natasha was a wealthy Russian widow who was living in New York and wanted to help people. Lee followed up her Spider-Man appearance with her own series in Amazing Adventures# 1-8 where she shared the book with the Inhumans. (There were two ten page stories per issue). The stories in Amazing were all very urban with the Widow helping underprivileged youth and fighting criminal gangs. Next she popped up in Daredevil #81 where she saves DD from the shadows and teases a future romance. All of these stories are in this collection, are a nice read ,and give you a really good overview of the development of the character who really does change dramatically from her first appearance to her guest-starring in Daredevil. (She would later co-star in Daredevil and the title was changed to Daredevil/Black Widow for a number of years, but those stories come after the timeframe reprinted in this collection.) What struck me while reading this collection is how many boyfriends she had over the run of these early stories. The art varies with the early art by Don Heck being so so, to some great art by Johnny Romita and Gene Colan, inked by Bill Everett in the later run. This is a really enjoyable read and it is fascinating how much the character evolved over time.

Black Widow: Widowmaker

Black Widow: Widowmaker


Black Widow: Widowmaker is another massive collection of seven stories (miniseries and a few one-shots) totaling over 400 pages and tell a lot of Natasha’s background and really fleshes out her upbringing in Russia and the concept of the Red Room where women were trained from a young age to be spies. Writers include Marjorie Liu, Duane Swierczynski, Jim McCann and others. Artists include John Paul Leon, Tom Raney, Daniel Acuna, and others. While this is not a sequential collection like the Epic volume is, there is a ton of material here, all of which is action packed and is a very good read in terms of explaining who the Black Widow is and explaining her background and why she is who she is and setting up the character you would know in the movies. Plus many of these stories co-star Hawkeye and Mockingbird.

Black Widow by Waid and Samnee: The Complete Collection

Black Widow by Waid and Samnee: The Complete Collection


Black Widow by (Mark) Waid and (Chris) Samnee: The Complete Collection TPB collects the complete 12 issues series from 2016. Waid and Samnee together are, to me, the modern version of Lee/Kirby, two creators who just work so well together it is seamless. With this series they once again change the Black Widow character as S.H.I.E.L.D. turns on her and she becomes public enemy number one. This reads much more like a James Bond novel that the traditional superhero fare but it is terrific. This book is pitch perfect in every way and if you just want to read one collection of the Widow, this is the one to read.

Web of Black Widow

Web of Black Widow


Web of Black Widow is the newest miniseries featuring Natasha Romanoff. This one was written by Jody Houser and drawn by Stephen Mooney. This was a short five issue run that was very, very good. This is a pure spy story that leaves the Widow doubting everyone she knows and trusting no one. This is a short 112 pages, but boy is it a great read. This might be better than the Waid/Samnee collection, which says a lot.

I should mention in passing in 1999 Marvel introduced a new Black Widow, a blond named Yelena Belova. For a short time she was the Black Widow having come from the same Red Room in Russia that Natasha came from. I mention this because eventually the two Widows confront each other and Yelena Belova does appear in the movie as a major character.

That is all for this time. I hope you enjoyed it and go out and try some of these books. The Black Widow in an interesting character as she may have evolved more than any other Marvel character and, at the same time, was such a reflection of the times the stories were first published. I would love to know if you have read any of these collections and what were your thoughts. I can be reached at MFBWAY@AOL.COM or on Facebook at Wayne Markley. All of the words and thoughts here are mine and mine alone. Really. They do not reflect the thoughts of Westfield Comics or their employees. As always…

Thank you.

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