And the hours pass, and the Widow bites again. And again. And again. The odds had been a hundred-to-one against her when she started. Now they are seven-to-one.
Little Man: Stop her! Stop her! She’s only a lousy woman…
Natasha: Wrong, little man. I am the Black Widow…
Natasha: …and that’s more than enough to handle the likes of you.
Game, set, match.
Yeah, Natasha just took out literally a hundred guys. But I think this whole sequence works because it doesn’t make her invulnerable. We see her get captured at the beginning of the story, and spoilers: she needs Ben’s help to take down the last remaining bad guy. Natasha can’t fight them off by brute force, she has to use every scrap of cunning, she has to devise ways to corner them in small groups, she has to disappear when it’s convenient. Her weapons run out of gas, she has to make every shot count. But it all works because of that, because she’s taxed to the brink, because you need to be to make impossible odds count.
In short this is basically how Natasha should always be written. Not necessarily fighting off a hundred goons!! But her vulnerability should help reveal her strength, not someone else’s.
From Marvel Two-in-One #10, by Chris Claremont and Bob Brown.
“For some years now I’ve been preaching the need to have a single-access system for collecting the information - organizing it - and I finally gave it a name in 2003; it was ‘The Encyclopedia of Life’. It would be an electronic encyclopedia with one page - infinitely extensible - for each of the species, into which everything we know about that species would be collected.”
What an incredible vision! This site apparently launched in 2008, and on looking around it seems bottomless! Blogs, photos, podcasts, tutorials… and of course all the information!
When I heard about this, my first thought was that you could fit all the information about an obscure bacterium on one page, but what would you do with the page for Homo Sapiens?? Well… I like how they handled it!
Clara Bow original linen-backed photo by Irving Klaw.
Typed on reverse:
WHOOP-EE-E! Clara Bow, Paramount star enjoys a bit of exercise while between pictures. This picture was taken in her own gymnasium.
Stamped on reverse:
PLEASE CREDIT An IRVING KLAW PHOTO 212 East 14th Street New York 3. N.Y.
Blue Ribbon Comics #13, October 1984, cover by Brian Buniak and Joe Sinnott
Natasha: I can do it.
In a flash, the Widow’s moving, scrambling up the gantry towerwith a grace and ease that would have shamed Olga Korbut… remembering suddenly, absurdly, that she’d once told a man she loved that the Black Widow used to be thebest spy in the world… the best! Now was her chance to prove it.Natasha: You know I used to be the most dangerous spy in the world, Matt? Men used to tremble at my name. I didn’t like myself much back then. Then I met Hawkeye, helped the Avengers, joined SHIELD, and did a few other noble things. I liked myself better. Then I met you. Didn’t you see it happening? The liberated lady you fell in love with became your— sidekick. I used to be so darn strong, Matt—and I feel it slipping away from me.
There was actually a time when I think Matt was good for Natasha, when he offered her something she needed— a fresh start, no judgements, action and adventure and chance to do good. I can see why she fell for him, why she needed to remind herself she could love somebody and not have it all fall apart. When Conway moved her and Matt to San Francisco together, it was an era of comics that if not good were at least interesting— comics that let Natasha be heroic, compassionate, and vibrant.
Then Conway left the title and was replaced with Steve Gerber.
Gerber didn’t want to write Natasha. He liked Matt best as a loner, and so he kept coming up with increasingly humiliating ways to write her out. Natasha couldn’t find a job, became homeless, was sidelined for a whole parade of new and otherworldly women for Matt to flirt with. A running storyline, then, was Natasha’s jealousy. When Gerber wrote an earlier issue of Marvel Two-in-One (#3, starring Daredevil), Natasha appeared as a brainwashed goon for Matt to angst over. In his final humiliation, Natasha was literally wedded to a misogynist mutant ape. (For some reason, this last story was included in the recent Women of Marvel omnibus, and is why I refuse to buy a product that otherwise really gets me.) It was the nadir of Natasha, made worse by the fact that she was still, technically, co-headlining the book.
Anyway, I’m not the only one who noticed how terribly Natasha was treated under Gerber. Tony Isabella, the next Daredevil writer, immediately set out to do some rehab, letting Natasha address her diminishment and react to it. By referencing this scene in particular, Claremont is voicing his intentions, too: he wants to showcase Natasha, to show why she’s still the best in the world, and nobody’s sidekick. This isn’t as overt as his famous response to Avengers #200, but I absolutely believe this story is Claremont’s in-continuity middle finger to Natasha’s awful mishandling in the pages of Daredevil, and the way the superhero parts of women are too often reduced.
From Marvel Two-in-One #10, by Chris Claremont and Bob Brown, and Daredevil #120, by Tony Isabella and Bob Brown.
The next question usually is “have you read them all?”
Jason - Lost Cat, first 15 pages available for free here.
As you can see, Jason’s new graphic novel Lost Cat (coming in July) is presented in the same handsome hardcover format as his story collections Low Moon and Athos in America and the reprint volumes What I Did and Almost Silent. His longest, and dare we say one of his best, works to date deserves no less.
A detective story with multiple mysteries, romantic longing, and a head-spinning finale all delivered in trademark understated Jason style, it’s a thrilling, heart-tugging, satisfying read. And there’s a cute kitty cat. See for yourself with our free 15-page excerpt, and pre-order yours right here.
Ad for Baker Street by Guy Davis, 1989.
Jean Rolin - Vu sur la Mer, cover by Jacques de Loustal