Thanks to the huge success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the argument can easily be made that the most well known female character in Marvel Comics is Natasha Natalia Romanova, better known as the Black Widow.
Which is why it may come as such a surprise that when the character was first introduced, not only was she not a superhero, she wasn’t even a hero.
Let’s all step in to the Wayback Machine, shall we, to April of 1964, and TALES OF SUSPENSE #52, for “The Crimson Dynamo Strikes Again!” written by Stan Lee and N. Korok, with art by Don Heck.
We first met the Black Widow here, as her KGB masters prepare to send her to the United States to eliminate the defector Soviet scientist Professor Vanko and his new employer Tony Stark.
For those unfamiliar with Silver Age Iron Man comics, back in the ’60s Iron Man was fighting Commie Russian or Chinese bad guys pretty much every issue, and the Widow’s debut was certainly no exception. Although she does seem fairly taken with Tony Stark from the get-go:
And Stark Industries security seems pretty lax, if you ask me, as the Widow and her friend “Boris” just waltz in from the Ukraine and are immediately offered a tour:
Although Tony Stark admittedly seems a little distracted:
While Tony Stark is off “getting acquainted” with the Widow, Boris kidnaps Vanko and steals his invention, the enormous Crimson Dynamo armored suit, with bad intentions toward Iron Man:
Word gets back to Tony, who’s still entertaining Natasha, that the Crimson Dynamo is busting up his plant, and he heads off to face him as Iron Man:
When it looks like Iron Man has the Dynamo on the ropes, the Widow shows up to distract him…
…but Professor Vanko sacrifices his life to stop the new Crimson Dynamo, sending the Widow on the run.
The Widow would return in the very next issue, in “The Black Widow Strikes Again!” once more by Stan Lee, N. Korok and Don Heck.
Still in hiding after her defeat in the previous issue, the Widow hears news of a new anti-gravity weapon that Stark is working on, and decides it might be just the opportunity to get her back in good graces with her KGB masters.
She decides to infiltrate Stark Industries the same way she did last time, by knocking on the door and looking hot. And since Tony Stark is still Tony Stark, it pretty much works:
A couple of minutes of making eyes at Stark, and soon he’s showing her the new anti-grav ray. Seriously.
A quick spray from her purse and Stark is paralyzed and she’s off and running with the anti-grav gun. Worst security ever.
Of course, Stark manages to convince himself that he knew she was bad news all along…
The Widow is quickly back in touch with her Communist bosses, and given a new assignment for the anti-grav gun: Kill both Iron Man and Tony Stark:
The Widow gets right to work, using the weapon to destroy another one of Stark’s factories:
The Widow’s next target: the hidden gold reserves of Fort Knox (which, curiously, don’t seem to be at a fort, but who am I to judge?):
Luckily, Iron Man shows up with a new device to nullify the anti-grav ray, and that’s pretty much it for her again, although she once more manages to slip away in the confusion.
Would Iron Man see the Black Widow again? Oh, for sure. And next time, she’d recruit some poor bowslinging dope into helping her.
But we’ll get to that next week.