Your Feminist Avengers Post 1: The Black Widow

I feel kind of like this today:

Then again, this is pretty much every day. 😉


An interesting choice was made when the Black Widow was chosen to represent women in The Avengers. I cannot deny that the Black Widow has a long and distinguished Marvel history. Well, a long history, anyway. Would you recognize the Black Widow if she looked like this?

Because originally she did. She was conceived as a femme fatale working for a certain Eastern European government. Back in those days, Hawkeye was her dupe, and the two of them attempted to wrest information out of Iron Man.

Thanks to the phenomena of Steed and Peel’s Avengers, however, Natasha received a makeover.

Much more mod. Of course, there’s also this look from the 80s, but we don’t talk about this one much…

The Black Widow has gotten around. Starting off as an Iron Man villain courtesy of the Cold War, she morphed into the savvy martial arts using vigilante partner/girl friend of Daredevil, Man Without Fear , and quite frankly, was one of the reasons I read Daredevil as a girl. Hey, anyone who dressed as Mrs. Peel had to be as cool as Mrs. Peel.

She was pretty cool. Penitent Russian spy who could beat up the baddies regularly, yeah, that was cool. She has also done stints in the Defenders, the Champions, and the Thunderbolts as well as the Avengers.

What is intriguing is the transformation of the Black Widow from seductress to super spy. It’s interesting that she uses her feminine wiles in The Avengers movie to get information from Loki, and also from Loki, she gets called nasty, pejorative things based solely on gender, but overall, this character’s trajectory has been a steady progression away from using sex as a weapon. Yeah, I can say that with a straight face, even though she’s wearing that costume.

Was she a good choice for the only female representative in the Avengers? Canonically, no. I loves me some Black Widow, make no mistake, but in terms of Avengers history, she was preceded by the Wasp (who often doesn’t get the love she deserves) and the Scarlet Witch (another of my favorite heroines, for very different reasons than BW). She even has 70s contemporaries that could have been relevant choices: Moondragon, Hell-cat, and Ms. Marvel.

Of course, of all these choices, the Black Widow makes the most sense, given her agenting ties to SHIELD, an organization she was also involved with.

Still, what would it be like if other Avenging women were considered? Who would be a good choice? I’ll be talking about the history of these other five choices in subsequent articles this summer.

Author: Catherine Schaff-Stump

Catherine Schaff-Stump writes fiction for children and young adults. Her most recent book, The Vessel of Ra, is the first book in the Klaereon Scroll series. She is currently working on its sequel, as well as penning the middle grade adventures of Abigail Rath, monster hunter.

9 thoughts on “Your Feminist Avengers Post 1: The Black Widow”

  1. They probably included Natasha because she was easily introduced in the Iron Man films. I sort of dislike this tendency to dismiss back stories in favor of “he/she is a SHIELD agent.” I understand the need for shortcuts to half a century of continuity, but she and Hawkeye both have far more interesting backgrounds in the comics.

    I always liked Wanda, AKA Scarlet Witch, even though she’s easily the most inconsistently written of all the Marvel heroes. Depending on the writer, her powers fluctuate between trifling and godlike, their nature bounces between magical and science-oriented, and her origin gets more convoluted by the decade. I suppose that fits, though, for a character that manipulates chaos.

    I would like to see Jan, though I suspect she’s been omitted from movies for a couple of reasons. First, it’s hard to not think “Tinkerbell” and that might be a rough tonal fit. Second, she’s inextricably tied to Hank Pym, and I think they may be scared to include him due to his reputation. One writer in one panel of one misguided issue chose to have him slap his wife, and now he’s forever known as “the wifebeater.” Kind of unfortunate.

    Photon/Captain Marvel would be great as well. Probably too obscure, though.

  2. I’m gonna talk about all the Jan and Wanda baggage in separate entries.

    However, the potential with Jan to make a statement about battered women is kinda cool. I don’t expect that the movie makers will go there, anymore than I expect a Tony Stark alcoholism story, although I would be delighted if they did either.


  3. I’m pretty sure that the reason they didn’t go with the Wasp is, as mentioned, because she’s tied in with Ant-Man and they haven’t introduced him into the universe properly yet. That, and they may have realized that bringing in Hank would have made three smart white guys (along with Bruce and Tony) sitting around a room being smart guys, and they already had all of that they needed.

    I desperately want to see a Hawkeye and Mockingbird movie based even loosely on the Hawkeye miniseries by Gruenwald, the one where they meet and fight Crossfire and supervillain jugglers.

    I’m all in favor of them introducing Carol Damvers and/or Monica Rambeau.

  4. You object to Black Widow’s costume, then suggest Moon Dragon? OK, it can be argued Moondragon doesn’t have a costume, just accessories . . .

  5. I’d definitely want to see Wasp or Ms. Marvel in an Avengers movie. I’d love to see Scarlet Witch, but I understand that the rights issue is complicated given that she’s a mutant.

    I do wonder why everyone objects to Jan because she’s tied to Hank, but not Wanda because they’d have to include her brother too.

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