I recently read an interview of Mark Waid and Chris Samnee in which they said that Both Natasha and Bucky have had a crush on Steve Rogers. Is this true? Have there been instances in the comics relating to this?

Natasha did have a crush on Steve Rogers back in 1990s Avengers comics. And reader, I really hated it:

Natasha: Why do you insist on keeping your fellow Avengers in the dark? As chairman, I should be angry with you…but oddly, when I see you lying like that, I find it quite impossible. look at you— exactly the same as you were when I first laid eyes on you long ago— another world, really— in Madripoor. You are a very handsome young man, Steve Rogers… And for the first time, perhaps, I’m allowing myself to see that…

So, look. Steve Rogers is objectively hot. We’ve already seen that Natasha has had a long-time thing for Clint, and given that he and Steve look exactly the same, it makes sense that she’d also find Steve attractive. My problem isn’t even that Natasha’s one-sided crush is introduced via her recollections of first meeting Steve as a six year old, which is creepy and objectively not hot.

But this plotline was part of Bob Harras’s Avengers run, which should have been a great period for Natasha on the Avengers, but wasn’t. Like this text references, Natasha was the leader of the Avengers at the time, so it should have been great to see her making tough decisions and developing as a leader. Instead, she acts as Steve’s sidekick almost the entire time, being weirdly deferential despite technically outranking him. Like, she can’t get mad at him as a leader because he’s too pretty here, which isn’t usually something Natasha suffers from even when surrounded by very pretty men.

Probably the best example of this weird lowkey OOCness for Natasha through this entire era is when the Avengers fight over the use of lethal force, and Natasha unblinkingly takes Steve’s “no-killing” sides, when Natasha has been okay with using lethal force in basically every other appearance. She fought with Daredevil about this during their partnership, so this was basically worse than 1970s Daredevil in terms of giving Natasha a credible PoV. That’s not good kids.

Imo, the attraction of a Steve/Natasha relationship should be them both overcoming drastically different points of view and learning to work together and appreciate the other’s perspective. They should challenge each other. But when the idea was developed in canon, it was “Natasha goes along with everything Steve says because Steve is Always Right.” Thankfully, this was all dropped completely when a new writer came on the Captain America book and no one mentioned it again. That writer was actually Mark Waid! CBR did a retrospective of the dropped plotline a while ago if you are curious.

As for Bucky’s crush on Steve, that’s always been much more IC and well-attested to. Here’s some panels from Samnee:

Bucky: For the rest of my training, I couldn’t stop thinking about this ‘Captain America’— whoever her was. And I kept goin’ back every night to see more newsreels… studying his every move.


Panels from Avengers #382 and Captain America & Bucky #620.

Nazi Steve: It’s good to have friends. People you can count on— even when the chips are down. Especially then. Natasha Romanov— the Black Widow— is a sort of friend. Not the kind you trust— but the kind you sometimes need.

Whatever you say, Nazi Steve.

From Captain America: Steve Rogers #7, by Nick Spencer and Jesús Saiz.

Steve: I’ve never understood it. I don’t get it.
Natasha: Then you have not tried.
Steve: Natasha, I’m a kid from the Lower East Side who grew up in poverty. It’s a form of elitist entertainment reserved for the wealthy.
Natasha: Pfft.
Steve: …Did you just ’pfft’ me?
Natasha: I did, yes.
Steve: Natasha—
Natasha: It’s art, Steve, and art is for everyone. But more than that, it is about the pursuit of beauty… the aspiration that within us all, we are each capable of achieving a moment of perfection… the right movement, in the right manner, at the right moment.

From Captain America: Sam Wilson #7, by Greg Rucka and Mike Perkins.

Sin: So I propose a prisoner swap… I’ll give you these two, and you give me Bucky.
Towers: What is she saying?
Steve: She’s a lying psychopath, Towers.
Bucky: Damn it.
Sin: I’ll be accepting delivery until sunset… at the Statue of Liberty. And I don’t want to see anybody by Bucky.

After that, though, this was a pretty clear example of damsel-and-black-dude-in-distress to provide moral quandary for Our Valiant Hero. It’s not so much that these two got captured, that bothered me, because peril is usual in superhero comics, for superheroes, but they didn’t serve much purpose in this arc outside of being hostages. Now, in the wider context of Brubaker’s run, this evens out quite a bit, but in the even wider context of supporting character tropes and Marvel’s failure to keep anyone but white guys in something besides the sidekick role, it’s almost always a bit uncomfortable for me to see. Biases, I guess.

I see Brubaker’s Captain America run at the top of so many “must read” lists for Natasha, and it always confuses me— not that I don’t like it, but for the whole of her appearances there she has very little in the way of motivation beyond Bucky, compared to Sharon Carter of this same volume and compared to the Natasha of Daredevil v2. This has more to do with Captain America never being her “main” title, which was Mighty Avengers, then Thunderbolts, then Black Widow, then Secret Avengers, than anything, really, and I think her portrayal in Brubaker’s stuff worked fine in that context.

But giving it that context was why I started writing up these analyses, as much for my own sake as any one else’s.

From Captain America #614, by Ed Brubaker and Butch Guice.

Steve: Clint… what do you want me to say? It’s Bucky Barnes. And what they did to him, the Russians, that wasn’t his fault.
Clint: Damn it… Look, at least tell me he didn’t whack JFK or anything.
Natasha: Don’t be ridiculous, that was the C.I.A.
Tony: Kennedy was a skrull.

This was a joke.

From Captain America #611, by Ed Brubaker and Daniel Acuña.

Clint: You knew— you all knew about this Winter Soldier thing and just never bothered to tell any of us?!
Tony: You were told what you needed to know.
Clint: I don’t wanna hear that. Especially not from you… you’re the one who gave him the damn shield in the first place.
Natasha: Actually, James stole the shield. Tony just gave him the uniform.
Clint: I know everything amuses you, ‘Tasha… but this isn’t a joke.
Steve: I asked him to save Bucky, Clint. That’s why Tony gave him the mantle while I was gone.

This scene is interesting for two reasons: one, Clint implicitly knew about the whole Winter Soldier shebang back in issue #46. “I know that Sam and Natalia and even Clint Barton are all right… they aren’t my memories. Not really.” But I guess Clint is #1 in the Dial an Angry Dude Superhero Phonebook.

Two, Clint accuses Natasha of not being serious enough, of thinking everything is amusing. This is explicitly contrary to most of her late 90s/early 2000s Marvel Knights era characterization, which drilled in that she found nothing funny and made zero jokes. Since the trend has been to give her a dry, sometimes extremely black, sense of humor, which is the line of thought I prefer. I’m not sure that she’s making a joke, here, though— not only did Bucky steal the shield from her, but while these dudes are all arguing who handed him over the mantle, they’re obscuring the fact that in the end Captain America was something Bucky decided to be. Other people helped him along the way, but Bucky made himself. And that’s what stealing the shield was meant to be symbolic of.

From Captain America #611, by Ed Brubaker and Daniel Acuña.

Natasha: So what does it mean, Steve? Wasn’t James born in Indiana?
Steve: Yeah… but the note is addressed to Bucky.

Zemo sneaks into bathrooms and writes love notes in lipstick. ♥

The “Bucky was born in Indiana” thing is Official Handbook to the Marvel Universe sort of trivia, but it proves that Natasha’s either been snooping around in files or Bucky has told her even the mundane bits of his life. If you look at their conversations, they talk about pretty boring things, a lot of the time. (In Black Widow #1, they have a conversation about Bucky’s grandmother.)

You know, when magenta-socked supervillains aren’t writing things on the wall.

From Captain America #609, by Ed Brubaker and Butch Guice.