Can you explain Natasha’s relationship with the Punisher? I know they teamed up a bunch of times, but were they ever romantic or no?

No, they’ve never been romantic, and I don’t think sexual tension has ever even been hinted at between them.  Which is kind of nice, really.

Natasha and Frank have teamed up on a few occasions: Punisher/Black Widow: Spinning Doomsday’s Web, Marvel Knights v2, and that Nathan Edmondson crossover maybe if you squint. But they’re antagonistic just as often:  Rucka’s Punisher/War Zone, and most recently Secret Empire.

Edmondson, who wrote them both, summarized their relationship like this: 

Their motivations and internal dialogue and moral codes are very different, though they both are on similar paths, though they wouldn’t admit it.  They both might travel from point a to point b, too, but how they make that journey is very different.  Black Widow sees Punisher as someone unfocused, uncontrolled, and purposeless; but Punisher would see Black Widow as an emotionally-driven “corporate gal” in a sense.  They don’t have time or use or patience for one another, really. 

I’m confused about Natasha’s backstory. In some versions, it says she’s the only one to reach the rank of “Black Widow.” In some, they say she’s the BEST in the black widow program, hence not the only one. Do we know which one is canon, or does it just depend on the comic run? I saw a post about Bucky moping about Natasha losing her memories of him, and he makes it sound like she was the only one ever.

tashabucky:

bolshoiromanova:

Originally in the 60′s, Nat was the only agent identified by the codename Black Widow. It was only when Yelena came onto the scene in 1999 that the idea of more that one Black Widow came into continuity. Richard Morgan expanded on this even more in like 2005, when the Red Room retcon was introduced and Nat found out there were like 27 other Black Widows including her:

image

Since then, it’s mostly told that although Nat wasn’t the only Black Widow who was deployed and used by the Soviets, she was the BEST of them. Some stories imply that only the top of the Red Room class gets to claim the title of Black Widow, but it honestly depends on the story.

In the MCU it gets a little more interesting, as multiple offhand remarks point to the idea that only ONE operative gets to claim the title/graduate at a time, as all the other girls do not survive the training. We see Dottie forced to kill other girls on Agent Carter, and there’s also the caption on this tweet:

image

Then we have the cut scene from the Civil War novelization in which Nat tells Steve how the Red Room dropped her and the other girls in Siberia with only enough supplies for one of them to survive. So in the MCU it seems like the Red Room girls are pitted against each other until only one is left, and that girl is able to claim the title of Black Widow.

@fuckyeahblackwidow would you have anything to add to this???

This is accurate. The introduction of Yelena Belova certainly seemed to imply that Black Widow was an honorary title given to a top female agent, something of a legend in the intelligence comittee. Yelena wanted to establish her claim on the title by besting Natasha, which implies that Yelena, at least, believed there could be only one.

But Yelena’s perspective is warped, and she’s regarded by her superiors as completely disposable. Black Widow isn’t really a title or codename, but a replacable pawn. This is a repeating theme with Soviet superheroes: Red Guardian and Crimson Dynamo were long established as faceless legacies before the idea of a second Black Widow was introduced.

This was also the theme Morgan was drawing upon when he retconned 27 Black Widow operatives into existence— the theme was more about collective identity and the manufacture of these women agents than it was a Hunger Games redux. To quote Morgan, who laid a lot of the plot beats for Natasha’s MCU background: “The other thing, the idea of a whole line of Black Widows instead of just one, well that just seemed to me an obvious extension of Soviet collectivist thinking – there’s no way a society organised along those lines is going to have the same individualist bias that informs the superhero ethos. So a single mighty superspy just didn’t ring true culturally. A programme that churned them out like tanks, on the other hand – well, for me, that fitted in perfectly with the idea of old style industrial Socialism.”

So, the idea of there being only one Black Widow is sort of where Yelena went wrong, or, alternatively, can be read as an element of her post-Soviet origin point. But the MCU is a different beast, and I can see how there only being one Black Widow at a time appeals to that universe’s more streamlined continuity, and there aren’t as many explicitly Soviet elements in Natasha’s movie backstory.

Black Widow… there’s stuff coming up. I don’t think you’ll hear about it at this convention, but we have a lot coming up.

Nick Lowe, when asked about upcoming Black Widow plans at the SDCC Next Big Thing panel.

i’ve loved your recommended reading list and this may be a bit of a long shot but do you know of any titles that focus on or highlight natasha’s past as a dancer as a particular thematic thread? thank you!

There aren’t many of them. Natasha’s past as a dancer was first mentioned in a super off-hand way in an old Daredevil issue, and has likewise been built up mostly through lines of dialogue.  

There are two short stories (like, not even a full issue long) that you might want to look at, if you’re up for tracking them down:

Captain America: Sam Wilson #7 (2015)
Solo Avengers #7 (1988)

— and maybe Black Widow #16 (2015) if you squint

And then there are a few longer stories that deal with the ballet idea but in the context that her dance training was just brainwashing:

Winter Soldier #6-9
— Black Widow: Homecoming
#1-6

I’m sorry I don’t have better recommendations for you!

are you happy natasha is finally receiving an actually important arc in a mainstream marvel event? i feel like shes been playing background fighting person ever since age of ultron.

Not really, because I think her arc has been pretty stupid.

I haven’t really wanted her to have a ~major role~ in events because it’s become increasingly clear that events are where sense-making characterization goes to die. The real event payoff is the status quo afterwards, and we haven’t seen what that means for Natasha yet, so I can’t judge.

ICEMAN #6
SINA GRACE (W) • ROBERT GILL (A)
Cover by KEVIN WADA
CHAMPIONS REASSEMBLED Part 1
ICEMAN, one of the most powerful mutants within the Marvel Universe, discovers his powers and his outlook on life evolving. He needs to lead the charge with a team who stand proudly by his side in the war to “protect those who can’t protect themselves.” Hercules, Ghost Rider, Black Widow, Darkstar, and Angel re-unite with Marvel’s fearless frozen fighter setting ICEMAN on an all-new path. As more unexpected enemies emerge, can Bobby mature into the warrior he’s destined to become? Hope he survives the experience!

Is there a definitive answer to did they or didn’t they when it comes to Tony Stark? Some panels imply yes and some no. Their earlier meetings seem to point more towards he never trusted her enough to sleep with her, but well, it IS Tony.

I talked about this when Newsarama was speculating that she might be his mother. In the original scenes of Tony and Natasha’s first meeting, sex was never implied— their one dinner date was just a distraction for her partner to sneak into Stark Industries. Deadly Origin, which was released to cash in on Natasha’s appearance in Iron Man 2, absolutely seems to retcon things so that Tony and Natasha had a much longer affair, which would imply they probably had slept together, but it isn’t explictly shown. I prefer the original verson, myself.

Tony and Natasha definitely did sleep together in a bad 90s Iron Man comic, though.

Natasha: For that, capitalist dog, you shall feel the Widow’s bite.
Tony: Mmn. Don’t mind if I do.


Panel from Iron Man #317.