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Black Widow (I)

REAL NAME: Natalia “Natasha” Alianovna Romanova ("Natasha" is the informal version of the name "Natalia," and is used by her close associates. Sometimes she has chosen to Anglicize her last name as "Romanoff." She has dropped her married name of "Shostakova.")
KNOWN ALIASES: Natasha Romanoff, Nancy Rushman, Laura Matthers, Oktober, Tsarina, Natalia Shostakova
IDENTITY: Publicly known
OCCUPATION: Adventurer, intelligence agent, former ballerina
CITIZENSHIP: Former citizen of the U.S.S.R. who defected to the United States; she now lives in the United States under an extended visa authorized by S.H.I.E.L.D.; she has a criminal record in the United States for her espionage activities for other nations, but was granted amnesty through S.H.I.E.L.D.'s intervention.
PLACE OF BIRTH: Stalingrad, former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics now Volgograd, Russia
MARITAL STATUS: Widowed
KNOWN RELATIVES: Unnamed parents (presumed deceased), Alexi Shostakov (alias Red Guardian I, husband, deceased), Vindiktor (alleged brother, deceased)
GROUP AFFILIATION: Avengers, former member of the “Marvel Knights”, Queen’s Vengeance, Champions of Los Angeles, Lady Liberators, and K.G.B., former partner of Daredevil frequent freelance agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
BASE OF OPERATION: Mobile, but maintains a home in New York City
EDUCATION: College graduate
FRIST APPEARANCE: Tales of Suspense Vol. 1 #52 (1964)

HISTORY: Natasha Romanoff, a rumored descendant of Russia's royal family. But nothing else is known of her family. During World War II, a Nazi assault upon Stalingrad set the building she was in on fire. A woman, possibly her mother, threw her into the arms of a Russian soldier named Ivan Petrovich before being consumed by the flames.

Ivan brought Natasha under his protection and soon had to defend her from her many enemies. In 1941, Natasha was sought by the Nazi Baron Strucker, who presented her to the Hand to become their master assassin. She was saved from Strucker and the Hand by Ivan, the American super hero Captain America, and the Canadian adventurer Logan.

Under Ivan’s care, Natasha grew to pursue her goal of becoming a ballet dancer and studied under Oksana Bolishinko, a famous Bolshoi instructor. She fell in love with and married a Soviet test pilot named Alexi Shostakov. It was decided at the K.G.B., the department of the Soviet government which serves as the intelligence agency and secret police, which the Shostakovs would make good special operatives. While Alexi Shostakovs was away on a mission, he was informed of the state's new plans for him, and told that from then on he could have no contact with past friends and acquaintances, including even his own wife. Shostakov was then trained to become the Red Guardian, a costumed agent who was intended to act as the Soviet Union's counterpart to Captain America. Meanwhile, a Soviet officer told Natalia Shostakova that her husband had died in the explosion of an experimental rocket he was testing. Distraught, Natasha decided that she would honor Alexi’s memory by becoming an intelligence operative, not realizing that this was what the K.G.B. had hoped would happen when they informed her of Alexi’s death. She was instructed by the K.G.B. in their infamous Red Room Academy and under their training, she became their most skilled operative, a superb fighter and information-gatherer. The K.G.B gave her the code name of “Black Widow,” and quickly sent her into the field

When Logan resurfaced in America, now bereft of his memory, Natasha set out as the Black Widow to save him from a team of Hydra assassins. She soon encountered Logan again when he, Ben Grimm, and Carol Danvers stole the Red Storm Project from Russia. Natasha pursued them but was ordered off by her superiors.

Her first major field assignment was to infiltrate Stark Industries in the United States and to assist her partner Boris Turgenov in the assassination of the defector Professor Anton Vanko, who was the creator of the Soviet Crimson Dynamo. Natasha attempted to distract Tony Stark while her partner Boris Turgenov used the Crimson Dynamo to destroy Stark’s plants. Turgenov and Vanko wound up perishing in battle, and Natasha remained in America to find some way of regaining the K.G.B.’s favor.

Since Tony Stark was still unaware that she was a K.G.B. operative, she continued to romance him so that she could steal a new antigravity device he had created. She managed to use the device to commit various acts of sabotage, even lifting entire buildings into the air, but Iron Man nullified the device and she barely escaped capture, now unable to trick Stark into lowering his guard.

By luck, Natasha happened upon the novice costumed crime fighter Hawkeye, who had been mistaken for a criminal by the police. Hawkeye was so taken with Natasha that she was able to entice him into on attempt at stealing plans from Tony Stark. Hawkeye fought Iron Man while Natasha watched from a distance, but when Iron Man deflected one of Hawkeye’s explosive arrows, the force of the impact struck Natasha down, knocking her unconscious. Hawkeye fled the scene to help Natasha recover.

After Natasha recovered, her superiors instructed her to avoid Stark Industries for a time and directed her instead to target Williams Innovations. She duped Hawkeye into assaulting that firm, but Spider-Man intervened and Hawkeye turned back as he had begun to suspect his lover’s true motivations. Natasha later sent Hawkeye out on a second attempt to steal Stark’s plans. However, while Hawkeye was gone, she was kidnapped by the K.G.B. and returned to Russia. The K.G.B. designed a new costume for her and equipped her with her “widow’s bite” and “widow’s line.” With these new weapons Natasha joined Hawkeye in battle against Iron Man in an attempt to destroy him, but when Iron Man shocked Natasha with an electrical blast Hawkeye disobeyed her orders to save her life once again. The K.G.B. the returned and stole Natasha away from Hawkeye.

This time the K.G.B. brainwashed Natasha to ensure her loyalty to the state; in her next mission, she found herself pitted against Hawkeye, who had become a member of the Avengers. Her love for Hawkeye allowed her to resist the brainwashing, and she finally turned against the K.G.B. She became an ally of the Avengers for awhile, aiding them against the Sons of the Serpent. She also proved instrumental in defeating the alien Ultroids who were certain the Avengers would not kill their leader Ixar because of their oath against killing, but Natasha forced Ixar to surrender, reasoning that as she was not an Avenger, she was not bound by their oaths.

On an assignment for S.H.I.E.L.D., Natasha discovered that Alexi Shostakov was still alive, and had been transformed by the K.G.B. into the costumed hero, the Red Guardian. She and the Avengers opposed the Red Guardian and his masters, and Alexi died in the Battle. For a while Natasha abandoned her identity as the Black Widow, just as the Avengers were about to make her an official member.

Natasha finally decided to resume the Black Widow identity, but soon broke off her relationship with Hawkeye so that she could pursue a solo career. She adopted a new all-black uniform and became a vigilante, battling gangs and organized crime in New York. Ivan had come to America by then, and he served as her chauffeur and confidant. Her new methods of operation brought her into contact with Daredevil, and she soon developed both a professional and personal relationship with him, battling side by side as they fell in love.

Natasha was less taken with Matt’s law partner Froggy Nelson, who was manipulated by the villain Mr. Kline into prosecuting her for the murder of the Scorpion (it was actually a robot duplicate of the Scorpion created by Mr. Kline). Although Natasha was proven innocent, she never truly forgave Froggy for the savagery of his courtroom assault.

Matt broke up with his long-time love, Karen Page, so that he could be with Natasha, and the two of them moved to San Francisco to start a new life together. They fought against menaces such as the Man-Bull, the Blue Talon, Dark Messiah, Angar the Screamer, Ramrod, Terrex, Kraven the Hunter, the Death Stalker, the Owl, El Jaguar, Hydra, and Damon Dran, the Indestructible Man.

Natasha wanted to find a new career for herself beyond the day-to-day adventures she and Daredevil enjoyed, and attempted to become a fashion designer, but her career never took off, and her relationship with Matt became strained.

Natasha left Daredevil briefly to accept an offer of membership in the Avengers after aiding them against Magneto, but she soon left them after determining from a battle against the Lion God that she did not fit into a team environment. Natasha and Matt reconciled for awhile, but after a lengthy romance, Natasha finally broke up with Matt because she felt he did not treat her as an equal in battle.

Still on the West Coast, Natasha joined forces with the Ghost Rider and Angel and Iceman of the X-Men when the gods Hercules and Venus were captured by the armies of Pluto and Ares. After having saved Hercules from a forced marriage, he joined the four heroes to found a new super-hero team, the Champions. Based in Los Angeles and bankrolled by the Angel, the team enjoyed modest success in their adventures. During this time, Natasha became involved with Hercules, but his perspective as an immortal made a long-term relationship seem unimportant. The Champions finally disbanded due to bankruptcy.

Although she and Daredevil had parted ways, the Black Widow was still well-known to Daredevil’s enemies as a woman he had loved, and Natasha was captured by Bullseye to be used as bait in an attempt to slay Daredevil. However, Natasha escaped her bonds and aided Daredevil in defeating Bullseye. Damon Dran, one of Natasha’s enemies from her days with Daredevil, captured Ivan in order to lure Natasha to his island, where he set an army of female combat specialists against her. Dran intended to send an agent impersonating the Black Widow to infiltrate the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier and assassinate Nick Fury, but Natasha defeated his agents, warned Fury, and saved Ivan from Dran before S.H.I.E.L.D. bombed Dran’s island.

The Black Widow was once more embroiled in the schemes of the Hand when she attempted to prevent them from stealing the body of their master warrior, Kirgi, from the morgue. The Hand struck Natasha down with poisons that killed her, but Stone of the Chaste restored her to life. She joined forces with Daredevil and Stone against the Hand when they attempted to revive Elektra. Natasha guessed at the time that Elektra had been successfully revived, but kept this from Matt for his own good.

When Natasha learned that Oskana Bolishinko, her old instructor, was in America at the Russian Embassy, she broke into the premises, seeking to apologize to her mentor for abandoning the ballet to become a spy. Oskana replied that Natasha was not the only pupil of hers who had been stolen away by the K.G.B., and that she accepted that espionage was Natasha’s true calling.

Russian agents then created a Life Model Decoy (LMD) of Alexi Shostakov, which they used to dupe Natasha into believing her husband was still alive. With threats of terminating Alexi, they coerced her into performing acts of espionage for Russia against the U.S. Upon gaining the desired technology, the Russians revealed the truth and tried to kill the Widow, but with the aid of Ivan, she defeated them and destroyed the LMD.

Natasha later joined forces with Iron Man to prevent the Russian sleeper agent code named “Oktober” from launching nuclear missile which would have caused World War III. Unknown to Natasha, she herself was Oktober, and succeeded in launching the missiles. Unfortunately, Iron Man prevented them from being detonated and aided Natasha in capturing the K.G.B. agent responsible for Natasha’s reprogramming. The Window also worked alongside Daredevil against the murdering telepath known as Rose, who had target other telepaths, including several members of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s ESPer unit.

S.H.I.E.L.D. sent the Widow to investigate the Molina, the Russian Mafia, which thrust her into the middle of the decades old struggle between two seeming immortals, the vigilante Night Raven and the drug smuggling Yi Yang. The Widow assisted in foiling Yi Yang’s plot and was witness to Yi Yang casting her helicopter on top of the Night Raven. No bodies were found in the wreckage.

Natasha eventually returned to the Avengers and assumed the mantle of leadership, usually managing the team’s operations from Avengers Mansion while allowing the Black Knight to lead in the field. During this time she also became attracted to Captain America, but wound up sleeping with Tony Stark instead. Her tenure as the Avengers’ leader came to a sorrowful end when most of the team was apparently slain battling Onslaught. Unable to rebuild the Avengers roster herself, and threatened with a legal action from the Maria Stark Foundation, the Black Widow allowed the Avengers to dissolve.

Considering herself to be the last Avenger, Natasha embarked upon a personal mission to bring down all of the Avengers’ former enemies, including the Grey Gargoyle and the Masters of Evil. She again encountered Daredevil at this time, who was concerned with her mental state as he witnessed her obsessive hunting of the grey Gargoyle. Natasha’s presence in Daredevil’s life again complicated his relationship with Karen Page, which at that time was still being rebuilt. Although Natasha was willing to rekindle their relationship, she acknowledged that Karen was the woman Matt loved and nobly allowed them their space. Later on, she even offered to assist Karen after she had been framed for by Mr. Fear.

Natasha was also the first person to correctly identify the former members of the Master of Evil who had adopted the guise of the heroic Thunderbolts. She attempted to turn M.A.C.H.-IV and Songbird against Baron Zemo before he could make his move, inspiring them by telling them how Hawkeye, Quicksilver, and the Scarlet Witch had redeemed their own criminal pasts, but Zemo set his plan into motion before they could reach a decision.

The Avengers finally returned and resumed their operations, but the Black Widow has only occasionally assisted them on missions, still feeling responsible for the team’s disbanding. Instead, she has focused on her espionage work. Natasha has accepted several more assignments from S.H.I.E.L.D., such as impersonating the terrorist leader Ebon Flame in order to shut down her organization, Freedom’s Light. She also had Iron Man assist her in infiltrating the forced-labor camp for scientists run by Tuatara under Mandarin’s direction.

Natasha came close to learning some truths about her past when she was led into a trap by a man named Vindiktor, who claimed to have a copy of Natasha’s mother’s diary. This turned out to be false, but as Natasha fought him, he claimed that he was her brother. Unfortunately, Vindiktor died during their battle before Natasha could ascertain if he was telling the truth.

Natasha crossed Daredevil’s path again when he attempted to slay Baby Karen, believing the infant to be the Antichrist. Natasha saved the child, but was badly beaten by Daredevil in the ensuing fight. Karen Page ultimately died protecting the child, and Matt went to Natasha to be consoled and to explain his earlier actions to her. Natasha reconciled with Matt, revealed that she still loved him, but noted that they had grown to far apart to become a couple again.

Recently, Natasha became aware of the presence of another Black Widow, a younger woman named Yelena Belova who had also been trained at the Red Room and who was obsessed with being the sole Black Widow. The two Black Widows first encountered each other while attempting to retrieve the Endless Fury bio weapon created in Rhapistan, which exploded violently. Natasha later had herself and Yelena trade appearances through plastic surgery to help teach Yelena teach Yelena that her superiors considered her expendable

Despite the presence of the other Black Widow, Natasha Romanoff remains one of the world’s most accomplished hand-to-hand combatants, and is quite possibly the most skilled espionage agent alive, still in high demand with S.H.I.E.L.D., though the U.S. government recently attempted to turn her over to the government of Bulgaria in exchange for having the Viper released to the United States. Her most recent S.H.I.E.L.D. assignment has been to trace the whereabouts of the Tinkerer during a plot to investigate the financing of super-villains in America by foreign nations, possibly Latveria.

HEIGHT: 5 ft. 7 in.
WEIGHT: 131 lbs.
EYES: Blue
HAIR: Red-auburn (formerly died black)

STRENGTH LEVEL: The Black Widow possesses the normal human strength of a woman of her age, height, and build who engages in intensive regular exercise.

SUPERHUMAN POWERS: The Black Widow has received a variant of the Super-Soldier Serum which enabled her to remain in peak physical condition for the past several decades, as well as slowing her aging process to some degree

ABILITIES: The Black Widow is an Olympic class athlete

WEAPONRY: Bracelets that contain both the “widow’s line” which fires her cable, and the “widow’s bite” which releases electric bolts to stun her adversaries with a charge of up to 30,000 volts. Her gloves and boots are equipped with miniature suction cups which enable her to cling to surfaces. Her belt contains plastic explosives.

SIGNIFICANT ISSUES:
Prevented HYDRA from obtaining Logan (Wolverine Vol. 2 #-1, 1997)
Encountered Ben Grimm and Logan (Before the Fantastic Four: Ben Grimm & Logan #1-3, 2000)
Sent by K.G.B. to kill Anton Vanko, met Tony Stark (Tales of Suspense Vol. 1 #52, 1964)
Stole Stark’s anti-gravity device (Tales of Suspense Vol. 1 #53, 1964)
Met Hawkeye and duped him into battling Iron Man (Tales of Suspense Vol. 1 #57, 1964)
Received costume and weapons (Tales of Suspense Vol. 1 #60, 1964)
Brainwashed by K.G.B., reunited with Hawkeye (Avengers Vol. 1 #29-30, 1966)
Discovered husband had become Red Guardian, witnessed his death (Avengers Vol.1 #43-44, 1967)
Adopted all-black costume (Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1 #86, 1970)
First met Daredevil (Daredevil Vol. 1 #81, 1971)
Moved to San Francisco with Matt (Daredevil Vol. 1 #86 1972)
Joined the Avengers (Avengers Vol.1 #111, 1973)
Broke up with Daredevil (Daredevil Vol. 1 #124, 1975)
Founded the Champions (Champions #1, 1975)
Killed by the Hand, resurrected by Stone (Daredevil Vol. 1 #187-190, 1982-1983)
Fought Vindiktor (Shadows & Light #1, 1998)
Met Black Widow II (Black Widow Vol. 1 #1-3, 1999)
Traded identities with Yelena Belova (Black Widow Vol. 2 #1-3, 2001)

NOTE: Updated from The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe: Daredevil 2004

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