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Monday, January 20, 2014 

Nashua Telegraph's unintelligible take on Black Widow

The Nashua Telegraph wrote about the history of Natasha Romanoff, but their descriptions of a few elements are so insulting, one can only wonder how these people call themselves fans. First, they bring up a Golden Age precursor and say:
The first Black Widow – yes, there have been more than one – was a character named Claire Voyant, who debuted in “Mystic Comics” No. 4 in summer 1940. That precedes Wonder Woman, and possibly all other costumed superheroines.

(Most “mystery women” in those days operated in evening gowns, high heels and domino masks. Seriously.)

Claire didn’t last long – only five appearances – possibly because she wasn’t a very nice person. Believe it or not, this Black Widow worked for Satan, killing evildoers on Earth and delivering their souls to Hell. That isn’t a terribly admirable profession, although the result is bad guys getting just deserts.
If her quarry were Nazis, murderers and rapists, why wouldn't it be admirable to wipe out repulsive scum like those? What if the real reason the tale didn't last so long was because sales weren't topping the charts? The series was an anthology that only lasted 10 issues during 1940-42, so that might explain something.

But, I guess that's all we need to know about where the writer stands on the Punisher and Wolverine. As for the Golden Age Black Widow's personality, which he's not clear about, if it wasn't very appealing, why doesn't he just say so? Or does he think it's all synonymous with the profession and nothing else? Next, what does he say about the modern Black Widow:
“Mystic” was a title from Timely Comics, the predecessor to today’s Marvel Comics, where the next – and current – Black Widow took her first bow in an Iron Man story in 1964. She was still pretty unrecognizable – but still not a very nice person.

For one thing, she was a Soviet spy. Moreover, she was what’s referred to as a “honey trap.” Far from her current status as a black-ops agent, Black Widow was originally a femme fatale, complete with black evening gown, white opera gloves, furs, veil and a beauty mark, right where Marilyn Monroe’s was.

Her Soviet masters sent her over here to seduce Tony Stark – not much of a challenge in those days – to steal weapons-systems plans.

I have to digress for a moment to put things in context. Comics in those days were all written and drawn by older men who lived in or around New York City. So perhaps that explains why Black Widow seems to have walked out of a 1950s movie and why her name was so dumb.

Did I mention her name? It was Natasha Romanoff. Natasha was possibly the best-known female Russian name in America thanks to Natasha Fatale in “The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show,” which premiered in 1959. And Romanoff was perhaps the best-known Russian surname, given that it was the family name of the last czar of Russia, Nicholas II, who was executed in the Russian Revolution.
Something wrong with giving a girl a name that long preceded a cartoon series? And what's so "dumb" about her official name, her codename, or both? I'm sure there's plenty of people in Europe and America who'd argue otherwise, and no doubt the name Natasha was common in the USA long before pioneer TV animator Jay Ward's famous cartoon came along. What was he expecting, that Stan Lee name her Katrina?

The assertion comics in the olden days were all written and illustrated by "older" men is stupid, because Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were around 18 when they created Superman. So was Bob Kane when he co-created Batman, and Stan Lee was the same age when he made his first contributions too. Jack Kirby and Joe Simon were in their early 20s. If you knew where to look, I'm sure there were enough guys in their 20s who made significant contributions during the Silver Age too, like Sal Buscema and John Romita Sr. There weren't that many women writing and illustrating, true, but Ramona Fradon was one significant lady artist at the time, and if any of the writers/artists were old, is that a problem? The question is just whether, even at an older age, they can still turn out some fun.

Some way to make people appreciate the Black Widow's history by dragging childish views about personal names into the mix and suggesting 1950s movies were all lame. Towards the end of the article, the writer says:
I think it’s a shame there is no Black Widow movie on the current marvel films roster, as I think the character has enormous potential – especially as played by Johansson, who has enormous range as an actress. Black Widow can keep a toe in a lot of different sandboxes, from espionage to romance to comedy to action, just like James Bond. That means ticket sales, baby!
Not so fast. It all depends on how well the screenplay is written. We've already seen how far the Elektra and Catwoman movies got (and back in 1996, Barb Wire), so if there is a Black Widow movie project in the works, it shouldn't be rushed into production on the assumption everybody will fight to get tickets into the auditorium. For all we know, they might not, and it's not because it has a lady lead, but because the stories could turn out awful. Quality can't be hurried, and only by crafting a screenplay with care will a Black Widow movie be worth visiting the theater for.

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Another moonbat article from Andrew "Captain Comics" Smith. Smith is beyond parody now. I love how he puts in the lines "older men," as if to imply that Stan Lee was "sexist" for giving her the codename Black Widow and for drawing her name from Rocky and Bullwinkle. Apparently he neglects to mention her character development and how she became a long-time Avenger. And she's had her own series before, so this is nothing new, something else Smith doesn't bother to mention.

I wouldn't mind seeing a Black Widow movie, either, but like you said the script has to be good and it shouldn't be rushed, because otherwise we'd have another "Barb Wire" (although that movie is worth seeing just for a young and still hot Pamela Anderson), Elektra and/or Catwoman on our hands.

Comics in the 1960's were generally read by kids about 7-12 years old. (Although Marvel probably attracted some teenagers.) There was no need for subtlety, and a lot of characters, including Natasha Romanoff, were broad stereotypes. So what? Most of the kids reading Tales of Suspense in 1964 wouldn't know the difference. And "Black Widow" is an often-used nickname for a femme fatale, because it is obviously appropriate. Marvel's Natasha was similar to the one in the Bullwinkle cartoons, and both were similar to Eva Gabor's character in "Artists and Models." And they all had some similarity to Will Eisner's P'Gell, who was a parody of the femmes fatale in film noir movies. Captain America and Bucky were similar to Batman and Robin, and the X-Men were similar to the Doom Patrol. There are only a certain number of possible variations on one premise.

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