Hello, fanboys and fangirls, my given name’s Robert, but to all those dozens of loyal Hold 322 listeners I’m better known as Ultimate Bob. As our show’s “staff of writer” it is my obligation to bring to you a weekly blog containing my ideas and opinions concerning comic books and all other things nerdy / geek. This week’s blog will be about how I feel it’s high time that Marvel Studios finally gives the green light for a solo Black Widow movie—one she won’t have to share with any of the other Avengers.
I saw the Avengers: Age of Ultron twice this past week—first on Thursday night with the Radioactive Professor (JC Carter) and his non-radioactive son, and again on Saturday (Free Comic Day) with several good friends of and from both Hold 322 and the Left Show—and you better believe I loved every second of both viewings, true believers. The film had everything: spectacular action sequences, an abundance of humor, and the right emotional chords were struck as our beloved characters had great moments of further development through well acted interactions with one another. In particular, I enjoyed the growth in the relationship between Dr. Bruce Banner (the Hulk) and Natasha Romanov (Black Widow).
SPOILER ALERT! (Sorta)
In the film we discover that only Natasha can calm the Hulk down after a mission, thus helping him return to his meeker Bruce Banner self. This arrangement has lead to them spending much time together, and in doing so they have come to form an especially close bond; one clearly verging on intimacy and romance. After Natasha makes her intentions known to Dr. Banner, he is reluctant to return her affection, because he fears his affliction of being the destructive—and at times even uncontrollable—Hulk will put her in danger should they become intimate. Natasha responds by assuring Bruce that she is not afraid of the monster he can become, because she has to deal each day with the monster she has been, and in many ways feels she still is. In flashbacks of her formative years in Russia—brought on by the Scarlet Witch’s powers—we catch a glimpse into the traumas of Natasha’s past. As I watched those particular scenes, and every scene she was in for that matter, I couldn’t help wondering what a Black Widow solo film would be like; even wishing I could be hired to write the screenplay for it. Sadly, I’m nobody, so my being hired to write a Black Widow film is about as likely as Stan Lee shaving off his iconic mustache.
My first encounter with the character of Natasha Romanov / the Black Widow happened way back when I was only five-close-to-six years old, and I came across a box of my father’s old silver age comics from the early seventies. Thanks to my mother, I had already learned to read, so as I rummaged through the musty old box, I was determined to read my first-ever comic book. I think I was looking for a Batman comic, since—thanks to reruns of the Adam West TV series—the caped crusader and his sidekick were my favorite super heroes at the time, but surprisingly it was a Marvel mag that first caught my eye, and therefore became the first comic book I ever read. That comic book was Marvel Team-Up #82 (written by Chris Claremont, art by Sal Buscema and Steve Leialoha) featuring Spider-Man and the Black Widow.
In said comic, Spider-Man finds his old associate Natasha Romanov apparently suffering from some sort of amnesia, and living the life of a school teacher from upstate New York, going by the name of Nancy Rushman. Spidey first meets “Nancy” after saving her from a street-gang that attacks her in (where else?) a dark alley. He recognizes her as the Black Widow, but she has no memory of ever being a spy or a hero, although she does have her Black Widow costume in her suitcase. After putting the suit on, “Nancy” still doesn’t remember being Black Widow, but she does find she knows how to fight like the famed super spy—which comes in handy when she and Spider-Man are attacked by S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, who eventually trap them on the roof of a tall building. It is there that a man with an eye-patch and a lit smoke in his mouth (Nick Fury, duh) shows up and shoots Natasha with his gun. Spider-Man—all dramatic-like—vows to avenge Natasha’s apparent murder, and lunges at Nick Fury… who shoots him too. The comic book ends with Black Widow and Spider-Man lying motionless on the snow-covered rooftop, both seemingly the tragic victims of Nick Fury’s senseless actions.
Stunned and startled by what I had just read, I searched for the next issue to learn of Peter and Natasha’s joint-fate, but it was nowhere to be found in that particular box of my father’s old comic books. Nor was it in any of his other old comic book boxes, as I would disappointedly discover years later when I finally got around to going through each of them in order to organize and better store their aging contents for my old man. A few times over the years, I have checked the back issues boxes at local comic book shops in hopes of finding that next issue, but to no avail. I shared this story with the fans gathered at a Black Widow panel I was on at one of the two local 2014 comic cons last year, and told the crowd that if any of them had a copy of Marvel Team-Up #83, I would gladly buy it from them, even if doing so meant parting with my meager bus money, forcing me to walk many miles back home after the convention, but no one there had a copy. Months later, around Christmas time, we were doing a remote recording of both Hold 322 and the Left Show at the Nerd Store, as part of a fundraiser for Podcast Phil. It was there that JC Carter—who had been on that Black Widow panel with me—gifted me with a copy of Marvel Team-Up volume 4, which not only contained issues #82 and 83, but also the rest of that entire four issue story arc featuring Spider-Man and the Black Widow. It was awesome to get to see how the first comic book story I ever started reading finally ended, even if it took decades to finally do so—maybe especially because it took so long. So, thanks JC.
Anyhow, ever since that fateful night so many years ago, when I read my first ever comic book, that beautiful red-haired woman in the formfitting black suit, with the mad fighting skills, has remained one of my all-time favorite characters. The idea of a beautiful woman being a strong, mysterious, and lethal spy/hero, has always appealed to me because of the Black Widow, leading me to enjoy such TV shows as Alias, where Jennifer Gardner played such a character. I’m fortunate enough currently to be able to read Natasha Romanov’s solo adventures in her ongoing monthly comic book from Marvel—which is written brilliantly by Nathan Edmondson, with beautifully illustrative artwork by Phil Noto—but I am very much disappointed and confused that I won’t get to see her step out from the long shadow cast by her fellow onscreen Avengers, and star in her very own feature film. Scarlett Johansson has really made the role her own, having now played Natasha in several Marvel films as a supporting cast member, and it would be a great payoff to both Scarlett and us Marvel movie fans if she finally got to play Black Widow in a film where she’s the title character and main attraction. Maybe, just maybe, if enough fans demand it, Disney and Marvel will hear us and make it happen. I think it’s well nigh time that it does. Do you agree? If so, make it known to all the powers-that-be, by all possible means at your disposal.
Well, I think that concludes this week’s blog. Remember to subscribe to this here blog so you can join us for next week’s awesome bloviation from yours truly. Be sure also to listen to each and every episode of Hold 322, available every Tuesday from iTunes, Stitcher and Hold322.com; and if you wanna be just as cool as all the other cool kids are, you can follow me on the Twitter for all my insightful and zany tweets @Robert_A_Easton. Thanks for reading, friends.