Tony: Here… let me help you… wha…? I can’t move!!
Natasha: This paralyzing gas will render you helpless just long enough, my handsome fool!
The next moment, as the sricken Stark slumps to his knees…
Natasha: If it can lift a safe… it can move a wall… ah! It is working!!
Guard: Hold it, lady! That’s a restricted area! Stop, or I’ll… holy smoke!
Natasha: Stay up there a while, little man and do not annoy me!

From Tales of Suspense #53, by Stan Lee, N. Kurok and Don Heck.

Ramrod: An’ ya can forget them Widow’s Stings lady! I don’t even feel ‘em!
Natasha: No? Then maybe
Ramrod: Hey—!
Natasha: — just maybe— you’ll feel this! See, you have to catch me before you can dismember me. Only I won’t let you catch me! Frustrating, isn’t it— for a big strong man like you?
Ramrod: Back on the oil rig, lady, we had a word for yer kinda dame!
Natasha: Tch tch, nasty nasty! You wouldn’t call me evil names, would you? I mean— I blush at such words in mixed company.
Matt: She’s absolutely right, Rammy! Now, you apologize! Better yet— just shut up and go away!
Natasha: Aw! Did wamwod twip on biwwy cwub cable?

People who think Natasha is only a troll in MCU are wrong.

From Daredevil and the Black Widow #106, by Steve Gerber and Don Heck.

The city is a bright, beaming bauble in the night… a maze of tinker-toy towers, a plaything for simple-minded giants, and made to order for the less hung-up of the superhero set… for those who bear not the whispered name and the inescapable curse of… the Black Widow!

From Amazing Adventures #8, by Roy Thomas, Don Heck & Bill Everett.

THE AVENGERS OMNIBUS VOL. 2
Written by ROY THOMAS with STAN LEE & GARY FRIEDRICH
Penciled by JOHN BUSCEMA & DON HECK with WERNER ROTH & GEORGE TUSKA
Covers by ALEX ROSS & JOHN BUSCEMA

One of the Avengers’ greatest eras has been assembled for this amazing Omnibus collection! Beginning master Avengers storyteller Roy Thomas’ run, it’s cover-to-cover watershed moments: the first appearances of Ultron and the Vision! The Black Widow’s surprise connection with the Red Guardian! Hercules’ epic battles with Sub-Mariner and Dragon Man! The Avengers vs. the Super-Adaptoid! Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch defect! The Black Panther joins the team! The Avengers fight the X-Men! An all-new Masters of Evil! The first-ever full telling of Bucky Barnes’ tragic death! A reality-bending battle between the new Avengers and the original Avengers! And more! Featuring breathtaking artwork by John Buscema and Don Heck, this Omnibus is a must-have for every Avengers fan! Collecting AVENGERS (1963) #31-58 and ANNUAL #1-2, X-MEN (1963) #45, and material from NOT BRAND ECHH (1967) #5 and #8.

This volume of Avengers contains almost the entirety of Natasha’s most significant Silver Age arc, and the conclusion of the original story of her defection from the KGB to the Avengers. The omnibus reprintings are expensive but generally high quality— something to keep an eye out for if you’re interested.

IRON MAN EPIC COLLECTION: THE GOLDEN AVENGER TPB
Written by STAN LEE with ROBERT BERNSTEIN, DON RICO, LARRY LIEBER & AL HARTLEY
Penciled by DON HECK with JACK KIRBY & STEVE DITKO
Cover by JACK KIRBY
Marvel had hit after hit in 1963, bringing new characters and fresh concepts to a public primed and ready for heroes with feet of clay. And none touched both that heroic ideal and human reality like Iron Man! A jet-setter, playboy and brilliant scientist, Tony Stark had his life changed forever when a battlefield explosion ripped into his heart — and only the amazing Iron Man armor could keep him alive! Stan Lee and Don Heck built the foundation that would turn Iron Man into a cultural icon. Now, you can experience his earliest adventures in this Epic volume collecting their complete original run. Featuring the evolution of the Iron Man armor, and the first appearances of Hawkeye and the Black Widow, they’re true classics from cover to cover! Collecting material from TALES OF SUSPENSE (1959) #39-72.

Here’s a new paperback reprinting early Tales of Suspense stories. The “Epic Collections” seem to be a replacement for the discontinued “Essential Marvel” line. This volume contains all of Natasha’s early supervillain adventures, so it’s a nice buy for a completist. The Sting of the Widow hardcover skips from Natasha’s first appearance here to Amazing Spider-Man #86, missing a lot of stories and character development. My personal favorite Soviet spy Natasha story, Tales of Suspense #53, is rarely collected except in big volumes like this one.

Natasha: No matter what you do to me! I’m through serving your evil schemes!
Khrushchev: I thought you might react that way! And so, I took the liberty of bringing your parents here! If you have no fear for yourself, surely you don’t want the state to treat them as parents of a— traitor!
Natasha: Mother! Father! Oh, no!
Father: Do not fear for us, my daughter! Do what you feel is right!
Natasha: But I could not let any harm befall my parents! And so…

Natasha: And the warmth of my parents— my… parents… makes up for… no… no, that’s not right…

The classic Black Widow children’s story is Daredevil #88: in the hollows of Stalingrad, 1943, a soldier looking for his dead sister finds an orphan girl in the ruins. But before that issue, when she was bad Natasha had these nameless parents, that her masters threatened to keep her stick straight. This 1965 scene was the first hint at Natasha’s inevitable defection. Strangely, she never thought of her parents again, even after she left the Soviets for keeps. Even though at one point they’d been all that was keeping her for leaving. Then her backstory became something else, and it was easy to drift over this panel. Maybe Natasha had been lying about her change of heart, and about her parents. She’d lied to Hawkeye before.

Several retcons later, Paul Cornell and John Paul Leon wrapped it back into Natasha’s tangled history. Her parents weren’t real, but she thought they were, for a while. Notice how bit from Black Widow: Deadly Origins #2 clearly references Tales of Suspense #64.

From Tales of Suspense #64 by Stan Lee and Don Heck & Black Widow: Deadly Origin #2 by Paul Cornell and John Paul Leon.

Natasha: There is no danger… not to any but the Avengers!! The Swordsman and Power Man are my allies… as you shall be, also!
Clint: You mean… you’ve joined forces with them… against the Avengers?
Natasha: No… they have joined the Black Widow!!

So Newsarama put up a slideshow of an all-female Avengers line-up. It’s worth checking out if you’re into that sort of thing, but all I could think was, hey, Natasha was never brainwashed by the Swordsman.

From Avengers #29, by Stan Lee and Don Heck.

Clint Barton again. Fate plays tricks with me. I used to love that man— when he was only an adroit archer. He’s changed… and so have I. Perhaps that’s why I’ve come here— to see my past, and to realize that it can never be reclaimed. For good or bad, I am what I am, and I must live with it… until I die!

MOMENTS IN MALE OBJECTIFICATION— Natasha sneaks into Avengers mansion, to watch Clint Barton lounge casually in his boob window.

From Amazing Adventures #7, by Gerry Conway and Don Heck.

Since there’s been a lot of talk lately about how women are drawn in superhero comics, anatomy, costume design, and the ongoing case of the disappearing spines, I thought I’d show you how Natasha used to be drawn, in panels dated 1970-73.

Note with wonder and amazement the fully functional all-the-way-up-thank-you zipper, the lack of gratuitous, lovingly detailed asscrack, and the sheer possibility of this anatomy. These panels aren’t perfect, or free from exaggeration or awkwardness (what illustrated story of adult human beings dressed in really tight pyjamas and swinging from rooftops is?) but they are typical.

One of the most bizzarre claims I hear about superhero comics is that objectification is an inherent part of the genre, like powers or capes or everyone in Gotham being too stupid to figure out that Bruce Wayne is Batman. While sexism has always been a part of the superhero stuff, it’s hardly been a constant. The Liefeldian nipple-guard aesthetic couldn’t have survived under the strictest days of the Comics Code, when Marvel editorial had Jim Steranko actually erase the cleavage lines from his pencils. I’m not dreaming of a return to a rigid house style, or a return to Bronze Age dialogue, but man, I’d love it if artists today all suddenly, collectively realized that the zipper on Natasha’s costume goes up all the way.

There’s nothing about the way she’s “always” been drawn that says that they couldn’t.

Panels by John Buscema, Don Heck, and Gene Colan.