Under Pressure

Previously, in Comics 101: Last time, we looked at the beginnings of Marvel’s resident super-spy the Black Widow, when she made her first appearance as a Cold War antagonist of Iron Man, Marvel’s then-most-prominent Commie fighter. After a couple of failed clashes with the Armored Avenger, the Black Widow cast out for a little help…

The Black Widow would return again in TALES OF SUSPENSE #57, where she would meet up with one Clinton F. Barton, about to be known to the world as Hawkeye the Marksman.


Natasha could spot a sucker for a pretty face right away, as she immediately sizes up Hawkeye and recruits him for her continuing vendetta against Iron Man.


The Widow immediately offers to set Hawkeye up with more high-tech weaponry for his arrows, as well as apparently offering some… fringe benefits, if Hawkeye will agree to destroy Iron Man for her.


And Hawkeye, being the big dope that he is, jumps at the chance, as he’s been itching to take down Iron Man and prove himself the better man, thanks to his own inferiority issues. So Hawkeye and Iron Man duke it out a couple of time, only for their second bout to be cut short when the Widow is hit by an errant repulsor blast:


Hawkeye scoops up the Widow and flees the scene, and Black Widow is 0 for 3 in the “defeat Iron Man” category.


The duo would return in TALES OF SUSPENSE #60:


No new plan or anything, just once again Widow sending poor dumb Hawkeye to get his ass kicked by Iron Man. Although at least this time Hawkeye begins to realize that he just might be committing treason with the nice pretty Russian lady:


Still, Hawkeye agrees to go along with again, but this time doesn’t realize that while he’s fighting Iron Man, his beloved Black Widow is being retrieved by her Communist masters for an unwilling trip behind the Iron Curtain.


And we also see for the first time that maybe Natasha isn’t just using Hawkeye, that she might have some feelings for the big lug.


Hawkeye and the Widow’s next appearance would be in TALES OF SUSPENSE #64, and you could tell right from the cover, that must have been some trip to the USSR for Natasha.


Hawkeye is surprised by the returned Miz Romanoff, now sporting a much more superhero-styled look:


Natasha, it turned out, had been forced by her Soviet bosses to take on this new costumed identity of the Widow come back and kill Iron Man, and if she failed, it would mean her parents’ lives. You can see Stan Lee laying the groundwork here for the Widow’s eventual jump to the side of the angels, as she’s already being made more sympathetic. With the new costume comes new tricks: suction boots to allow her to cling to walls, and a bracelet that fires a grappling line:


Hawkeye seems even more reticent about the whole treason thing this time, but like always, he can’t resist a pretty face:


And soon enough, Hawkeye and the Widow are again fighting Iron Man, now with the Widow more physically involved than ever:


Unfortunately, Widow’s still not all that good at it, and winds up knocked out, taking yet another repulsor blast.


Hawkeye, as always, scoops up Natasha and hits the road, leaving Iron Man wondering yet again what the hell was going on.

What was next for Natasha? Well, things would have to get worse before they got better, as we’ll see next time…


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