2 years ago1,000+ Views

"My name is... Madame Natasha... but you... can call me The Black Widow!"

The work that Nathan Edmonson and Phil Noto have done with the Black Widow character have only cemented my love for her. Natasha Romanoff has a long history in the comics and a major impact in the cinematic universe. Fans adore her. The story often relies on her. And she's an essential part of the comics canon.

"Nothing serious, just feeling a little mortal these days."

Origins: Natasha first appeared in 1964. While there are several different versions of her history, it's understood that she was a KGB operative that was brainwashed by her handlers. When she realized who she was working for, she defected, and currently uses the skills she learned to try to make the world better and safer. She's been on the Avengers team, worked with Daredevil, and on her own as well.
Powers: Her physical and mental abilities were enhanced during her training in the KGB's Red Room program. Her training there mean she's an extremely skilled fighter. She also ages at a very slow rate.

"How many more jobs... How long will it take... I don't know if I can do it... Even if I could forgive myself... This is what I am now. And you'll never know who I was before."

Not every comic pulls of questions about the nature of good and evil in a compelling way, but Natasha's character development lately has been excellent in that respect. Unlike some other characters, who seem to always know what the right thing is, she asks complex questions about what "the right thing" even is, and whether or not it's even real. As always, she's more than meets the eye.
I have been very fortunate that I entered the entertainment industry at a time of great change. The studio system was dying - independent production companies were finally getting some footing - digital technology was growing as a viable alternative to film (I STILL prefer 35mm film over digital video but it's true that film is dying), and I started film school at age 37 having already had a very successful career and previous large university college experience so I was patient and ready to immerse myself into college for the sake of learning. I earned a Bachelor's degree in film production - specifically Narrative Motion Pictures with an emphasis on Direction and Writing. You had to be accepted into these specific tracks. Most everyone wants to be a director when they start film school but honestly less than 18% of the people that start finish and of those only the top 2% are accepted into director specific programs. I feel very fortunate that I was one of those 2% (not to say I didn't work my ass of for it) and as a result I spent a year learning the craft of acting from an Academy Award Winning producer/director. If you don't understand the various acting technique that actor's rely on how can you "direct" them... and BTW - the best directors are like therapists - they never tell an actor what to do or say - they gently lead them on a path by asking questions so that the actor comes to the realization of what is needed on their own. That way it is more authentic and genuine. There's commitment and ownership of the performance. The same can be said of character development and of how the best characters (on paper or in film) are complex and multi-layered. In reality we (human beings) are never so simple in our actions or their motivations. The variables are usually extremely complex... especially when questions of morality are in the forefront. Characters who show the ability to be both good and bad, light and dark are often the most compelling because they are sincerely the most life-like. I love the TV show "Justified". And not because I like seeing Deputy US Marshall Rayan Givens do his thing... Nope. The really interesting character in that show was his nemesis Boyd Crowder. A man who could be honorable, love with his complete heart, sacrifice himself for his true love, and yet was about as evil as a person could be; capable of great violence, murder, and mayhem. He did bad things but he wasn't bad... he made bad choices. But he wasn't guilty of having a bad heart. His evolution during the 6 years of the show was quite remarkable. He is a great example of "the Anti-Hero" - not really a good guy or hero - but not all bad without certain remarkable redeeming qualities. This is the same for Natasha Romanoff. She's done some seriously evil stuff. But her reasons for doing so haven't necessarily been evil. And even when she is clearly on the good-guy team - she is not above doing the dirty, nasty, not-so-nice things that sometimes the good guys find themselves forced to do. What I love about Natasha is that as you pointed out; she isn't afraid to ask the hard questions and look deeper into the reasoning behind the motivations of those around her - and even herself. She's incredibly complex and in all she's probably one of the most developed female characters in the comics and in comic films. I really enjoy the fact that there are so many layers to her. That she isn't so emotionally invincible and sure of herself or her missions to be filled with self-doubt and questions... that even though she can kill in a heartbeat she can still show remorse or fear - even if she tries to hide it behind the typical Russian stoic facade that is a common cliche of modern post-revolution Russians in their portrayal in Western stories and film. I also thing that another thing that makes her so appealing is that she's human. The circumstances that initially formed the conflict in her life were born of politics and human behaviors... not science fiction. So she's the ONE Avenger who is the easiest to relate to. She could very well be a character from a Ken Follett novel or an Ian Flemming story. She's my favorite Avenger for these reasons. She has a depth that I feel is capable of crossing over into non-fantasy stories and would still be interesting and compelling to read/watch.
BTW - Love the shot of Anderson Cooper. LOL. That's some funny stuff... when comics or artists mix reality with fantasy.
@JonPatrickHyde thank you so much for sharing! You've definitely led an amazing life thus far. I'm always grateful when you share your stories ^_^ You're definitely on to something with Natasha. The current comics are really working to explore some of those ideas- what does it mean to do terrible things for good reasons? Is it ever possible to be redeemed? And at what cost does redemption come? I especially love the ways the character is developing because it seems to challenge the cliches of the Russian femme fatale spy. Not only is she shown as having a lot of depth, but she's incredibly-self sufficient. It's actually something she struggles with, how incredibly independent she is. It's the life she's chosen for herself, but she's trying to figure out if it's the life she wants. She's not quite rejecting the the stereotypes- that could in and of itself be a cliche or archetype. It's more that the character is being depicted as having far more depth than a simple cliche could ever have. It's really wonderful. And I'm glad you liked Anderson Cooper! That's one of my favorite panels for exactly that reason ^_^