With Natasha Romanoff getting her very own film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, now is a good time to run through some little-known facts about Black Widow in Marvel Comics. For instance, did you know Natasha Romanoff was not the first character to use the "Black Widow" moniker in Marvel Comics? And that Natasha Romanoff isn't her real name? What about the fact she actually does have some superhuman abilities?
Black Widow's backstory encompasses a thousand comic book appearances and more than 50 years of publication history. Here are some things you may not know about the Red Room-trained superspy.
Natasha Romanoff Was Not The First Black Widow In Marvel Comics
You'd be forgiven for assuming Natasha Romanoff was the first Black Widow to grace the pages of Marvel Comics - she was introduced way back in 1964, after all - but you would be wrong for doing so. The first Black Widow was actually introduced to readers in 1940's Mystic Comics #4 when Marvel Comics was known as Timely Comics.
This Black Widow had very little in common with the Black Widow we know and love today outside of the catchy moniker. Her name was Claire Voyant (get it?) and she was a medium who was granted powers by Satan himself to harvest souls on Earth. After a few scant appearances, she was shelved for good in the early 1940s, only to be revived for Marvel's The Twelve limited series that ran from 2008-2012.
More than anything, Claire Voyant is a fun trivia fact for Marvel fans to bring out at parties.
Black Widow's Real Name Isn't Natasha Romanoff
Scarlett Johansson has spent the past decade making Natasha Romanoff a household name thanks to her work in various Marvel Cinematic Universe films, from 2010's Iron Man 2 up through 2020's Black Widow. And while Marvel Comics' version of the character is happy to go by the same name, and usually does, Natasha Romanoff isn't her real name.
Weirdly enough, Natasha's birth name is Natalia Romanova, which is just close enough to Natasha Romanoff to drive you a little bit nuts every time you read one or the other throughout the character's hundreds upon hundreds of appearances in Marvel Comics.
Perhaps poking fun at this minuscule name change, writer Richard K. Morgan had the Widow adopt the fake identity of Nadine Roman during the opening panels of 2004's Black Widow #2 in order to extract some information.
She Has Been Romantically Entangled With Numerous Marvel Superheroes
Thanks to the soap opera-esque nature of comic books, characters rarely stay in meaningful relationships for any lengthy period of time. And when they do end up staying in a committed relationship or even getting married, the powers that be generally end up splitting them apart to drum up controversy (hello, Spider-Man: One More Day) and keep people reading. And when you're a female superhero that Marvel doesn't know what to do with for a good chunk of your publication history, you end up getting into relationships with other superheroes.
Black Widow's first superhero relationship was with Clint Barton's Hawkeye - back when he was wearing a costume with an H on his mask. The two eventually broke it off and Natasha ended up with Matt Murdock's Daredevil for a spell. As Daredevil fans know, Matt Murdock doesn't get to be happy for long, and the pair split, which left the Widow without a superhero boyfriend.
Later, Bucky Barnes was dusted off and brought into the 21st century in the Captain America comics of the mid-2000s, and he and BW rekindled their romance from their days in the Red Room for a hot minute. To be fair, both Hawkeye and the Winter Soldier still harbor feelings for Natasha, proven by their reluctant teaming up to find her in the 2018 "Red Ledger" storyline from Tales of Suspense #100-104.
Romanoff Began Her Marvel Career As An Iron Man Villain
Natasha Romanoff got her start in the MCU in the same way she got her start in Marvel Comics: as a supporting character in an Iron Man story. Yes, the Black Widow's first appearance was as a villain to old shell head in 1964's Tales of Suspense #52. In fact, the cover boasts "Introducing: the gorgeous new menace of... The Black Widow!" And if you didn't catch the drift from the cover, the first page exclaims, "Introducing the breath-taking beauty of the mysterious Black Widow!"
This Stan Lee-penned version of Black Widow bears little resemblance to the character she would become in the decades following. She calls herself Madame Natasha, says things like "comrade leader" and "brutish oaf," and is generally just another in a long line of forgettable C-tier Marvel villains.
However, she still came across as a well-trained and manipulative Russian spy, so the seeds of her character are certainly there for the planting.