OMU: Black Widow -- Part One

One of my favorite characters from the Original Marvel Universe was always the Black Widow, partly for her flowing red hair and sexy black catsuit, and partly because her backstory was fascinatingly complex and intriguing. A former Soviet spy turned high-tech crimefighter, she moved in and out of other characters’ titles, appearing at times in Avengers, Champions, Daredevil, and Marvel Team-Up. She only rarely was granted solo stories. Her history was like a jigsaw puzzle, its pieces scattered all over the place. Thus, she made an attractive figure for chronological analysis. As I was constructing my Black Widow Chronology, I was excited to see several “untold tales” presenting themselves, as noted below.

The Black Widow’s backstory has unfortunately not been clearly laid out to date, stemming from an error made in her entry in the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe. It was stated that “her first major field assignment was to infiltrate Stark Industries in the United States and to assist her partner Boris Turgenov in the assassination of the defector Professor Anton Vanko.” While this was certainly her first published appearance, it had previously been established (in various comics) that she had undertaken major field assignments long before this. By the time she and Turgenov went to Stark Industries, she was a seasoned agent. This error has since been cut-and-pasted all over the Internet and a major portion of her career has therefore been obfuscated.

Note: The following timeline depicts the Original Marvel Universe (anchored to November 1961 as the first appearance of the Fantastic Four and proceeding forward from there. See previous posts for a detailed explanation of my rationale.) Some information presented on the timeline is speculative and some is based on historical accounts. See the Notes section at the end for clarifications.

Here, then, at long last – The True History of the Black Widow!

1934 – Natalia Alianovna Romanova is born in Stalingrad, U.S.S.R.

August 1942 – During the battle of Stalingrad, Natalia’s house is bombed and catches fire. Unable to escape, her mother drops Natalia off the balcony into the arms of a Russian soldier. The house collapses immediately after and all inside are killed.

Autumn 1942 – The soldier, Ivan Petrovich Bezukhov, keeps the young girl with him throughout the siege. Together they face grim conditions and experience the horrors of war firsthand. Natalia’s entire world is destroyed in fire and smoke. Ivan and the other soldiers call the girl by the nickname “Natasha.”

Winter 1943 – The German army is defeated and driven from Stalingrad. Picking through the rubble of Natasha’s home, Ivan Petrovich discovers she is descended from the Russian royal family, the Romanoffs.

Spring 1943 – Natalia Alianovna and Ivan Petrovich find themselves on the island of Madripoor, where the girl is kidnapped by Nazi agent Baron Wolfgang von Strucker. Ivan is able to rescue her with the help of Captain America and a Canadian brawler called Logan. They return to Russia.

Summer 1943 – Ivan enrolls Natasha in the Leningrad State Choreographic School, the oldest and most prestigious ballet academy in Russia. He visits her whenever he is able, depending on his service in the Soviet army.

Spring 1945 – The war ends, and Ivan Petrovich is discharged from the military. His aptitude with electronics enables him to secure a position at the Leningrad Polytechnic Institute, and he becomes even more of a father figure to Natasha. She shows tremendous promise in ballet and excels in all her subjects.

1947 – Natasha studies under the legendary ballet instructor Agrippina Vaganova, which she considers to be a great honor. She develops an especially close relationship with another teacher, the prima ballerina Oksana Bolishinko, and comes to look upon her as a mother figure. Ivan Petrovich Bezukhov marries a pretty blonde named Galina, although she and Natasha never become close.

1948 – Ivan’s son Yuri Ivanovich Bezukhov is born in Leningrad. Natasha is at first resentful but soon comes to see him as her baby brother.

1951 – Upon the death of Agrippina Vaganova, Oksana Bolishinko takes charge of the ballet school. Natasha is her top student.

1952 – Natasha competes in the Summer Olympics in Helsinki, Finland, as a member of the Soviet women’s gymnastics team. After returning from Helsinki, she falls madly in love with a brilliant college student named Andrei Rostov, and it is to him that she loses her virginity. Natasha struggles to make time in her hectic ballet schedule for their relationship.

1953 – Natalia Romanova graduates and becomes a professional ballerina in the famous Kirov Ballet company, garnering accolades for her gifted performances. She quickly becomes a source of pride to the Soviet establishment and a celebrity in the world of ballet. Meanwhile, Ivan is contacted by two men he believes to be American agents, who attempt to bribe him into defecting to the West, arguing that Stalin’s recent death heralds the end of Communism. Ivan throws the money in their faces and says he is loyal to his country, despite its flaws. In retaliation, the agents murder Ivan’s wife and abduct his son, whom Ivan eventually decides must be dead as well. In truth, the “American agents” are Soviet military intelligence, and they take Yuri to an installation in East Berlin, where he is brought up to hate his “American” captors and all they seem to represent.

1954 – Natasha’s relationship with Andrei Rostov becomes strained as he has difficulty dealing with her newfound fame. Although they had talked of marriage, Rostov insists Natasha give up the ballet to be his wife, which she is unwilling to do. Rostov becomes jealous after Natasha develops a friendship with the handsome Soviet flying ace Alexi Shostakov, who is already considered a hero to the Russian people and understands the pressures of being famous. Ultimately, Natasha breaks up with Rostov and takes Shostakov as her lover.

1955 – Natasha marries Alexi Shostakov and they become something of a celebrity couple. As Natalia Shostakova, she continues to delight audiences with the Kirov Ballet, though she remains haunted by her wartime experiences.

1957 – KGB director Ivan Serov decides that the Shostakovs would make excellent operatives. Natasha is told that her husband has been killed in an explosion caused by American sabotage. She vows to do whatever she can to honor her husband’s heroic memory. The KGB recruits her to be a spy. She retires from the ballet, bids farewell to Ivan Petrovich, and leaves Leningrad. At the KGB’s infamous Red Room training facility, Natasha meets another agent-in-training, Melina Vostokova. Although they first develop a friendly rivalry, it soon becomes clear that Melina can’t match Natasha’s natural talent. Recognizing that talent, master spy Alexi Bruskin takes Natasha under his wing and supervises her training personally. In time, Natasha receives advanced training from top agent Irma Klausvichnova.

1958 – Natasha is sent on her first espionage mission outside the U.S.S.R. She meets an operative named Danny French at Los Angeles International Airport. They break into a secret installation in Nevada called Project Four. Their mission is a success, and they steal a mysterious sphere which the scientists had been working on. Natasha is then sent to upstate New York where she lives under the alias “Nancy Rushman,” a third-grade teacher. She succeeds with every mission the KGB gives her during the three years of this mission.

November 1961 – Now a top agent, Natasha is recalled to Russia by new KGB director Vladimir Semichastny, where her service to the state is lavishly rewarded. She is given the code-name Black Widow and sent on various missions throughout the world. She usually passes as “Madam Natasha” Romanoff, the former prima ballerina and wealthy daughter of the old Russian aristocracy. As an intelligence operative, she is devastatingly effective.

November 1962 – Alexi Bruskin stages a “rescue” of Yuri Ivanovich Bezukhov and returns him to Russia, where the boy continues his education, although he is permitted no contact with his father. His belief that his mother was murdered by American spies is encouraged, and his hatred for the West grows.

December 1962 – Madam Natasha is sent to Stark Industries in New York to assassinate the defector Anton Vanko and to steal secrets from Tony Stark, which brings her into conflict with Stark’s armored bodyguard Iron Man. Although Vanko is killed, so is Natasha’s partner in the operation, KGB hitman Boris Turgenov. Fearing the wrath of the KGB, Natasha goes into hiding for a few weeks.

January 1963 – Madam Natasha returns to Stark Industries and steals a new anti-gravity ray device. Iron Man foils her plan, but she escapes again.

Natasha convinces her KGB superiors that she needs special resources to defeat a foe like Iron Man, and they agree to finance her plan to recruit one of the new breed of “super-villains.” While driving through New York City one evening, Natasha picks up a police broadcast concerning a masked archer who fled the scene of a jewel heist. Natasha comes upon the archer and helps him escape from the police. He is Clint Barton, who is starting his career as the costumed archer known as Hawkeye. Taking him to the laboratory-equipped mansion provided by the KGB, Natasha helps him develop some high-tech trick arrows and convinces him to attack Iron Man. However, Natasha is wounded in the ensuing fight, forcing them to cut and run. Natasha soon recovers from her injuries and begins a torrid sexual relationship with Hawkeye, ensuring that he falls hopelessly under her spell. She convinces him that she is a rogue agent trying to maintain the balance of power between East and West and that Stark’s advanced weaponry can only upset that balance, plunging the world into nuclear war. He agrees to help her.

Natasha sends Hawkeye to break into Stark Industries. While he is out, however, she is seized by Soviet agents and taken back to Russia.

February 1963 – Natasha begins training to become a masked “super-agent.” She is given a new costume that enables her to climb walls, swing on a “widow’s line,” and shock or kill opponents with an adjustable “widow’s bite” energy weapon. Her KGB handlers make it clear that if she fails again, she will be killed.

April 1963 – A desperate Black Widow returns to New York and tells Hawkeye a pack of lies, holds Stark employees Happy Hogan and Pepper Potts hostage, and draws Iron Man into battle again. Unfortunately, the Black Widow gets hurt and Hawkeye abandons the fight to rescue her.

May 1963 – The Black Widow is gunned down by Soviet agents for her repeated failures to defeat Iron Man and steal secrets from Stark Industries. Though she is badly wounded, Hawkeye rushes her to the hospital and she survives.

June 1963 – Just as she’s about to be released from the hospital, Natasha is kidnapped by Red Chinese agents and taken to China, where she is brainwashed. For the first several weeks, Natasha is kept in chains, subjected to sleep deprivation and constant verbal abuse from her cellmates. Weakened by her stay in the hospital, her resistance soon begins to crumble.

July 1963 – Natasha’s captors suddenly switch to more “lenient” treatment, but the slightest resistance warrants a return to the previous harsh treatment for a few days. Unable to withstand the round-the-clock thought control, Natasha eventually succumbs.

September 1963 – Her mental conditioning completed, the Black Widow is returned to New York to destroy the Avengers. She recruits the Swordsman and Power Man, as instructed. After a fierce battle in the remote mansion on Long Island, the Avengers overpower them and they are forced to flee.

October 1963 – The Black Widow, Swordsman, and Power Man have a rematch with Hawkeye, but Natasha finally shakes off her conditioning and defeats her two cronies. Hawkeye and Natasha are truly reunited at last. They resume their tempestuous relationship.

November 1963 – Natasha is disturbed by the rhetoric of the Sons of the Serpent. She helps the Avengers discredit the group and reveal its leader to be a Communist agent. Then, Natasha is shocked by the assassination of President Kennedy and fears the KGB may be behind it.

December 1963 – Natasha is furious when Hawkeye and the Avengers go off to fight the Living Laser in Costa Verde without her. She calls S.H.I.E.L.D. and talks to Nick Fury about working for him.

January 1964 – The Avengers object when Hawkeye puts the Black Widow up for membership. Nevertheless, she accompanies them to Transia, where they battle the alien Ixar and rescue Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. Natasha is instrumental in defeating Ixar aboard his flying saucer. Later, on her way to Avengers Mansion, Natasha is shanghaied by S.H.I.E.L.D. and taken to the Helicarrier. Natasha accepts a mission to Communist China and returns to Avengers Mansion to sever her ties with Hawkeye.

As part of her mission, the Black Widow breaks into a military base in Arizona and steals plans for a new atomic submarine. Then, she steals an experimental rocket plane from General “Thunderbolt” Ross in New Mexico. She returns to Red China to a secret weapons R&D installation in the western deserts. There, she is shown their secret weapon, the Psychotron. However, the Reds know she is a double agent and throw her into the machine and turn it on. She manages to resist its effects, but her escape attempt fails.

February 1964 – Natasha is held prisoner at the weapons base until Hawkeye and Hercules come to the rescue. Unfortunately, they are defeated by the Red Guardian. Natasha is shocked to learn that he is her husband, Alexi Shostakov, whom she thought dead these past seven years. The Black Widow passes a sophisticated lie-detector test and convinces her captors that she is a loyal Communist agent. However, the Avengers come to the rescue and Natasha seizes her chance to destroy the Psychotron. The Red Guardian is shot protecting her and mortally wounded. Natasha is badly wounded as well. The Red Guardian is killed when the base explodes, but the Avengers fly Natasha to a military hospital in Hawaii, where the doctors are able to save her life.

March 1964 – Natasha is finally released from the hospital in Hawaii and returns to New York, having decided to give up her identity as the Black Widow. She and Hawkeye enjoy a wonderful night on the town with Hercules and the Scarlet Witch.

April 1964 – Natasha moves into the penthouse apartment on the 22nd floor of the Mammon Towers in Manhattan. She hires a Puerto Rican woman named Maria as her housekeeper. However, Natasha and Hawkeye soon have an argument, and she decides to take an extended vacation to California.

After a couple of weeks, Natasha returns to New York to find the Avengers apparently murdered, and the Black Panther is the prime suspect. He clears his name and rescues the Avengers from the real culprit, a costumed maniac calling himself the Grim Reaper. Hawkeye and Natasha are reunited and reconciled. They attempt to rekindle their romance, but his feelings for her have since cooled.

July 1964 – Feeling neglected by Hawkeye, Natasha accepts a new assignment from S.H.I.E.L.D. and becomes the Black Widow again. She begins extensive S.H.I.E.L.D. field agent training. Under the auspices of S.H.I.E.L.D., Natasha is once again free to leave the country, and she begins to enjoy a lavish lifestyle as a member of the “jet-set,” making friends with people like Roman Polanski and Jackie Kennedy.

September 1964 – The Black Widow continues high-level S.H.I.E.L.D. training, working directly with Nick Fury. S.H.I.E.L.D. also replaces her Soviet-made wrist devices with more advanced versions.

The Black Widow is sent on a mission for S.H.I.E.L.D. to a small island in the Caribbean, where she infiltrates a high-tech facility that is producing killer androids for the Mad Thinker. Although Natasha sneaks into the main control room and gets the drop on the Thinker, she is overpowered by his android henchmen, gassed into unconsciousness, and taken prisoner. The Mad Thinker and his latest allies, the Puppet Master and Egghead, are hatching an elaborate scheme, and they transport Natasha to another facility in New York. Hawkeye, now using the identity of Goliath, comes to the rescue. After two days, the Black Widow and Goliath return to Avengers Mansion and meet Clint’s estranged brother Barney Barton. As the Avengers leave on a mission, Natasha goes to check in at S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters.

October 1964 – After completing a couple routine missions for S.H.I.E.L.D., Natasha receives word that Ivan Petrovich Bezukhov has been arrested by the KGB in retaliation for her defection to the West. Against Nick Fury’s orders, the Black Widow slips behind the Iron Curtain and rescues Ivan. They return to New York and Natasha, disgusted with the world of espionage, resigns from S.H.I.E.L.D. However, Nick Fury agrees to grant Ivan defector status and sets him up with papers under the name “John Peterson.”

Natasha then goes to Avengers Mansion to finally break off her relationship with Clint Barton. Happy to be reunited at last, Ivan agrees to work as Natasha’s chauffeur and bodyguard and moves into her posh penthouse apartment. He decides to drop his surname and merely go by the name Ivan Petrovich.

Natasha redesigns her costume, adopting a simple black leather catsuit, and tackles Spider-Man to test out her improvements.

About a week later, the Black Widow assists her housekeeper’s son with setting up a free-breakfast program in Spanish Harlem, despite interference from a crooked politician and his cronies.

A day or two later, on Halloween, Natasha is tricked by the Enchantress, who is posing as the Valkyrie, into joining an all-female group called the Liberators and attacking the male Avengers. After a fight at the Halloween parade in Rutland, Vermont, the Enchantress is unmasked, and the Black Widow and the Avengers return to New York.

November 1964 – Natasha continues her jet-set lifestyle as Ivan settles in to life in the United States. She continues intensive training while considering how to approach her new career as a crime-fighter.

December 1964 – The Black Widow fights a few small-time crooks in New York City while honing her crime-fighting skills. Then, on Christmas Eve, Ivan rescues a young man from a suicide attempt and brings him to the penthouse. The kid tells them of how he fell in with a minor crook who called himself the Astrologer and fled when the gang planned to rob the city’s main blood bank for an extortion scheme. The Astrologer’s goons attack, and during the fight the kid sacrifices himself to save the Black Widow. Natasha is distraught over the young stranger’s death.

A few days later, Natasha and Ivan join the police stakeout on the hospital the Astrologer’s gang is planning to hit. However, the gang changes their plan and kidnaps a noted blood specialist, to hold for ransom. The gang steals the hospital’s helicopter and, in a moment of self-doubt, Natasha allows them to escape. She spends the night brooding, even stopping off at Avengers Mansion. However, she can’t bring herself to talk to Clint Barton again and slips out unnoticed. The next evening, Ivan gets a tip on the gang’s whereabouts, and the Black Widow goes into action once more. In a fight on the city’s docks, Natasha and the Astrologer fall into the Hudson River. The Astrologer tries to shoot her with his energy blaster, but being under water makes the weapon misfire. The Astrologer is injured and drowns, while Ivan manages to fish the stunned Widow out of the river. Afraid that she’s somehow “cursed,” Natasha has a miserable New Year’s Eve.

January 1965 – The Black Widow is lured to a remote hunting lodge in upstate New York, where she finds Ivan being held prisoner by a bizarrely-costumed man calling himself the Watchlord. Possessing the power to psionically transmute inanimate objects, he traps the Widow as well and sets fire to the lodge. Natasha and Ivan escape and track the villain and his henchmen through the woods to prevent him from blowing up a nearby lodge owned by the Soviet embassy. The Watchlord tries to kill the Widow by causing a huge boulder to fall on her, but she evades it. However, the resulting avalanche crushes the Watchlord. Natasha ponders whether this is another example of the “curse” she fears is following her.

February 1965 – While on her way to a financial consultation, Natasha and Ivan see a helicopter crash into the Hudson River, taking Daredevil with it. Natasha dives into the murky waters to rescue him. A few hours later, the Black Widow goes into action again as the criminal mastermind known as the Owl tries to rob the Federal Reserve Bank. Daredevil arrives and they team up to defeat the Owl and his gang. Natasha is miffed when Daredevil makes no mention of her having saved his life earlier, since she was convinced he must have seen her face. However, at the conclusion of the battle, Daredevil collapses into unconsciousness.

A few days later, Ivan is kidnapped by the Scorpion, and the Black Widow uses a miniature tracking device to locate him. However, she loses her battle with the Scorpion and is used as bait to lure Daredevil into a fight atop a skyscraper construction site. During the ensuing struggle, the Scorpion appears to fall to his death, and the night watchman accuses the Black Widow of murder. The police arrive and attempt to arrest the Black Widow, but she flees. Daredevil goes after her and brings her in, confidant that she will be exonerated. Natasha reluctantly agrees to surrender, and she is taken into police custody. The next morning, attorney Matt Murdock offers his services to Natasha, and she hires him on Daredevil’s recommendation even though he’s blind.

March 1965 – After she’s spent two weeks in jail, Natasha’s murder trial begins, having been pushed through the court system by the strangely overeager district attorney Franklin P. Nelson. As the trial progresses, Natasha becomes increasingly afraid that she’s being railroaded. One night, however, a fight in the city morgue between Daredevil and Mister Hyde leads to an explosion that levels the building, and no trace can subsequently be found of the Scorpion’s body. Following this turn of events, Murdock moves that the case be dismissed, and, inexplicably, D.A. Nelson agrees. Natasha is set free, and disgusted with the American legal system, she leaves for an extended vacation in Switzerland.

April 1965 – While skiing in the Swiss Alps, Natasha meets a fellow Russian, who claims to have discovered a cure for blindness. She calls Matt Murdock, whom she has felt strangely attracted to since her trial, and invites him to join her at the chalet. Matt arrives the next day, and he and Natasha have such a good time that they end up in bed together that night. Later, after having mind-blowing sex, Natasha discovers that Matt is Daredevil when he slips out to track down a mysterious villain who had been blackmailing Franklin Nelson. The Black Widow follows Daredevil, and together they battle the blackmailer, who is revealed to be a robot from the distant future that was impersonating the Russian scientist. The villain is ultimately defeated by more time-traveling robots. Exhausted and thoroughly confused, the Black Widow and Daredevil return to the chalet, where they spend the next couple weeks getting to know each other.

May 1965 – Natasha and Matt spend several days in London, England, before deciding to head home to New York City. However, their transatlantic flight is hijacked by the Gladiator and some goons he hired in London. Matt is able to use the confusion to cover his change into Daredevil, and together he and the Black Widow defeat the villains and foil their plot. The plane lands safely in New York, and Daredevil is able to keep his secret identity intact. However, while leaving the airport, Matt runs into his old flame Karen Page. She throws herself at him and they kiss passionately. Natasha realizes that her relationship with Matt isn’t going anywhere after all. In the weeks that follow, Matt and Karen get engaged, only to suddenly call it off again. Ivan convinces Natasha that she owes it to herself to give Murdock another chance, so she and Matt start dating.

September 1965 – Natasha decides to move to San Francisco, and Matt agrees to go with her, wanting a change of scene. Over the next week or so, Natasha, Ivan, and Matt move across the country and settle into their new townhouse in San Francisco. Natasha plans to become a fashion designer to supplement her dwindling savings. Unexpectedly, Danny French turns up looking for Natasha while she’s out. When Ivan tells her about it, she becomes worried.

October 1965 – Natasha is distracted trying to track down Danny French to see what he wants after all these years. She finally meets up with him to talk about Project Four. Matt heads back to New York briefly when the Hulk is brought to trial. After Matt returns to California, Natasha confides in him about the Project Four mission, then helps him defeat Electro and Killgrave, the Purple Man. They are attacked by Mister Fear and his fear ray, but Daredevil defeats him. Meanwhile, Natasha and Danny French are kidnapped by Damon Dran, the man who originally financed the Project Four experiment. Dran uses the power of the Project Four energy sphere to become the Indestructible Man, but Danny French’s heroic sacrifice defeats him before he can destroy San Francisco. Dran is left horribly disfigured and is taken into custody.

November 1965 – The mutated creature called the Man-Bull attacks the Black Widow and Daredevil. Although he is ultimately defeated, both heroes are badly injured. Natasha is nearly gored by his horns and must be hospitalized.

December 1965 – Natasha recovers from her injuries by taking it easy at the townhouse. She takes the time to work on her fashion designs and do some networking in the local fashion industry.


1934 – This assumes Natasha was about 8 years old in the flashback in Daredevil #88. Any younger and you really limit the story potential of her relationship with Ivan during the siege of Stalingrad.

1942 – The date of the Nazi siege of Stalingrad. Ivan Petrovich’s name has always been a bit of an enigma, since it was never made clear whether “Petrovich” was supposed to be his patronymic (which Russians use in lieu of a middle name) or his last name. Finally, during the 1990s, Bob Harras settled the issue by revealing his last name to be “Bezukhov.” Although I consider stories of that time to be non-canonical (occurring in the Second Marvel Universe), I’m willing to accept occasional pieces of information such as this.

Spring 1943 – Chris Claremont set the story in Uncanny X-Men #268 in 1941, but that doesn’t make any sense. It fits in nicely here, though.

Summer 1943 – Only the best for Natasha! The location of her ballet school was never revealed in any canonical story, but common sense suggests Leningrad and the best ballet school in all the Soviet Union.

Spring 1945 – It was established in The Champions that Ivan was an electronics whiz. Where else would he get a job? Again, common sense suggests this famous landmark.

1947 – Agrippina Vaganova was a real person, Russia’s premiere ballet teacher. Oksana Bolishinko was introduced in Solo Avengers #7. Ivan’s wife was never named, but “Galina” is pretty and seems to suit her. So I went ahead and named her for my own convenience.

1948 – Erroneously called “Yuri Petrovich” in the comics, this would be his true name. He, of course, grew up to be the fourth Crimson Dynamo. The relationship between Natasha and young Yuri—not to mention Galina—has never been explored, and would make a great little character study.

1952 – Natasha mentions having made the Olympic gymnastics team in Daredevil #104. Andrei Rostov makes his one and only appearance in Marvel Two-in-One #10.

1953 – Revealed in a flashback in Champions #10. Ivan mentions Stalin’s death to his wife before sending her into hiding with their son. The flashback also reveals that the family had a dog named Lenya.

1957 – Ivan Serov was a real person, head of the KGB at the time. Melina Vostokova was introduced in the Black Widow stories in Marvel Fanfare; Alexi Bruskin was introduced in The Champions. Irma Klausvichnova was introduced in the Black Widow story in Bizarre Adventures #25.

1958 – These are Natasha’s actual early missions, revealed in Daredevil #88-91 and Marvel Team-Up #82-85. By all accounts, she was a roaring success in the espionage game. Her years as “Nancy Rushman” are especially interesting to me, and hold the promise of several exciting Cold War era espionage thrillers that would make Sydney Bristow look like a piker.

November 1961 – Vladimir Semichastny was a real person, head of the KGB at the time.

December 1962 – Here is where we first meet Natasha, in Tales of Suspense #52.

January 1963 – A great deal happens behind the scenes concerning the Black Widow and her partnership with Hawkeye, between Tales of Suspense #57 and 64. Also, watch for an upcoming post dealing with sex in the Original Marvel Universe.

Summer 1963 – I read up on Chinese brainwashing techniques of the period, and they weren’t pretty. This period of Natasha’s life would make for harrowing reading if told in detail.

November 1963 – This answers my initial research question (where were the Marvel superheroes when President Kennedy was assassinated) as far as the Black Widow is concerned. Naturally she would look for a KGB angle.

April 1964 – Natasha’s apartment and housekeeper are actually introduced later in her solo stories in Amazing Adventures, but this is when she first moves in.

July 1964 – Natasha is seen messing around with a Roman Polanski type in Amazing Adventures #2. Clearly, names were changed to protect the not-so-innocent. She mentions knowing Jackie Kennedy in the previous issue.

September 1964 – Natasha is captured in Captain Marvel #12. The Mad Thinker is not revealed as her captor until her next appearance.

October 1964 – This is my favorite Untold Tale of the Original Marvel Universe concerning the Black Widow. How and when Ivan came to America was never revealed in any canonical story. It would make a thrilling tale of espionage, loyalty, and danger. “John Peterson” is, of course, a literal translation of “Ivan Petrovich,” and this also explains the confusion over Ivan’s last name. This marks an important turning point in Natasha’s life, and it’s a shame the story was never properly told. But here it is, equal parts speculation and common sense.

December 1964 – The Christmas Eve story in Amazing Adventures #5 was one of the best Black Widow stories ever published. I first read it in the oversized Giant Superhero Holiday Grab-Bag from 1974. Kudos to Roy Thomas, Gene Colan, and Bill Everett.

April-May 1965 – Natasha’s sexual relationship with Matt Murdock was, of course, glossed over in the original comics.

December 1965 – This takes us up to Daredevil #96.

OMU Note: The Black Widow’s final canonical appearance was in Avengers #339.

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