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Black Widow (Marvel Comics) (Claire Voyant)

Black Widow

(Claire Voyant)


“Introducing the strangest, most terrifying character in action picture magazines – the Black Widow. You’ve heard of the black widow spider – that evil creature whose bite spells doom. Now start the adventures of another black widow – a human tool of Satan whose very touch means death !”


Context

This is “Claire Voyant”, the first Black Widow at Marvel (which, back then, still was Timely Comics). She appeared in August of 1940, and was something of an extreme character by the standards of the day. There is no known link to the latter, Soviet Black Widows.

This profile covers the Widow’s Golden Age  appearances. As this profile was being done Straczynski’s The Twelve series had just brought her back to the present day, but there wasn’t enough material yet. This profile includes a nice bit of art from this series though – the one with a Veronica Lake look.


Background

  • Real Name: “Claire Voyant” was presumably an alias
  • Marital Status: Unrevealed
  • Known Relatives: None
  • Group Affiliation: Servant of Satan
  • Base Of Operations: Hell
  • Height: 5’9” Weight: 127 lbs
  • Eyes: Black Hair: Blonde, sometimes red


Powers and Abilities

The Black Widow wields the “power of evil”, and has manifested numerous abilities. She is immune to gunfire, but once seemed briefly affected by unspecified chemicals. Though some effects are much more common than others, she can use the power of evil to do anything she may need, even if it’s not evil at all. Frex she once magically healed a sick child.

She does much of her work as an ethereal presence. She would thus spy, influence people and chase them in an invisible and intangible presence. This makes her ominous and almost unstoppable. Like a nightmare she’s impossible to lose, can appear anywhere, and seems to know everything.

Somehow, the existence of the Black Widow is known to all evil criminals on Earth, and they are all terrified of her. She also possesses a very strong presence and personal magnetism.


History

Claire Voyant was a medium. She conducted seances to contact the spirit of dead relatives of her clients. In 1940, she allegedly attempted to contact the spirit of one Mr. Wagler during one such sceance. Something went wrong and she was influenced by “Satan” to put a curse on the Wagler family. Her customers left in outrage at her witch-like imprecations.

On the way home, the Waglers’ car swerved and crashed. Mrs. Wagler died outright. Patricia died in the arms of her fiancé or husband, the young James Wagler. Unhinged with grief and prodded by “Satan” James Wagler decided that the curse uttered by the crazed medium was responsible for the accident. He broke into Claire Voyant’s home and shot her dead.

This was “Satan”’s plan all along. He swept in to collect the dead Voyant as soon as James fled. Once back in some Hell dimension, he turned Claire Voyant into his newest servant, the Black Widow. He then let her return to Earth for a brief time to kill James Wagler with her widow’s touch.

As she returned “Satan” explained what her mission was. “On the upper world are mortal creatures whose hearts are blackened with wickedness and corruption. You, the Black Widow, will bring their evil souls to me !”

Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name

In the Marvel Universe, “Satan” has been used as an alias by sundry demons of varying power to augment their clout over mortals. The best-known impostors are actually extremely powerful netherlords in their own right — such as Mephisto, Satannish, Lucifer or Marduk Kurios (the father of the Son of Satan).

Given the general style of “Satan” in the Black Widow stories, my bet would be that it was Mephisto.

The Widow’s job is to bring “Satan” strong corrupted souls. This makes little sense for the Christian bad guy – those souls would likely be his anyway, and grabbing them that way violates the whole free will and redemption thing. But it matches known interests and strategies of Mephisto.

And could you stand the torture

She next was sent to get the soul of crime boss Garvey Lang. She influenced one of his henchmen to rebel against him so Lang shot him. The Widow then manipulated another criminal to make it look like he had betrayed Lang – who also shot him.

She then infiltrated a masked ball, letting her beauty tempt Lang into flirting with her and taking her aside. They then both took their masks off. The Black Widow then turned her pupils into skulls that claimed the soul of the horrified Lang.

“Satan” then spotted two more men who were so evil that he would not wait for their souls. These were Lewis and Sykes, at Groome Ammunitions. These men were planning to sell ammunition to both the Axis and the Allies. Apparently the Netherlords support the Allies and consider that betraying America is one of the gravest sins.

The Widow, as Claire Voyant, walked into the Groome offices to offer her services as a secretary. Thanks to her attractiveness, she was hired on the spot. But she revealed herself as the Black Widow once she was alone with Lewis, killing him with a touch.

Sykes then came in. He instantly recognised her, and fled in terror to barricade himself in his office. But the Widow passed through the door like intangible mist, then ignored his gunfire. He threw chemicals at her, which seemed to hurt the agent of Hell for a bit. But she then threw her cape over him, killing him, and left.

And could you stand the pain

The Widow was then sent after Karl Koodamore, the head of Murder Unlimited. “Satan” said that this man was almost as evil as he was, and thus an upstart. The Widow came in just after one of Koodamore’s killers murdered a famous thespian. The late actor was seeing the wife of Koodamore’s current client.

The infernal beauty killed two of the thugs then stalked Koodamore to his hideout. A Murder Unlimited hitman committed suicide rather than let her touch him. Koodamore fled for hours in his car. However, the Black Widow just appeared in the middle of the road. Koodamore tried to run her down, only to drive his car over a cliff.

In late 1942, the Black Widow seemingly joined an Allied mission on a Nazi stronghold, led by the Invaders. My No-Prize Hypothesis  is that it was simply an Allied psychological warfare trick, namely a female operative wearing garb modelled after the Black Widow. Presumably, the hope was that the Germans had heard about her and would be suitably terrified.

Given the unholy terror the Widow inspired in “men of evil” who inexplicably could recognise her on sight, this may not have been an unreasonable trick to try.

When you’re burning in the flames

In 1943, “Satan” noticed a very evil man named Ogor. Ogor pretended to be a mystical healer, and forbade people from seeing real doctors while they paid him. This led to the death of many gullible folks.

Ogor decided to leave the town with his newly acquired fortune after he murdered the father of a young patient. The man had gotten wise to him and sought to kill him for endangering his son.

The Black Widow caught up with Ogor, who died of a heart attack. Before returning to Hell, the Black Widow snuck into the sick boy’s house. She used her infernal powers to heal the kid’s legs. The boy was beyond conventional medicine’s ability to heal, too much time having been lost to Ogor’s charlatanry.

A woman who… looked vaguely like the Black Widow was seen in a flashback describing a gang bust by her, the Angel (Thomas Halloway), the Falcon (Carl Burgess) and the Challenger (Bill Waring) during the late Golden Age. Officially this was the real McCoy, but this seems dubious.

Perhaps the Allied operative seen in 1942 continued to work with mystery men. Perhaps she used the Black Widow’s guise to terrify criminals – a superstitious, cowardly lot !


Description

The Widow wears a dark purple long-sleeved legless leotard with a spider design on the stomach. Her cape design consists of wide blue and green vertical (yes, vertical) stripes. Her dark high-heeled boots are the same color as her leotard, and have a spiky yellow fringe. Her face is oddly spooky, with pale skin drawn against her skull and lots of eye-shadow.

Her costume and exact appearance changed as she went through artists. Many of these illustrations were unusual for the times as they quite directly emphasised her curves and naughty bits, such as the underlit breasts in the main picture.

The illustration below is the 2007 visual recreation of the character by Chris Weston, based on Veronica Lake .

Black Widow (Claire Voyant) character design sheet


Personality

The Black Widow is an obedient servitor of Satan. She prefers to establish her groundwork in indirect ways. Her goal is to give her target a pervasive sense that everything is going wrong and that some kind of grave curse is coming. Then she moves in for the kill.

The Black Widow’s modus operandi makes it clear that her victims are punished for their sins. In fact, she goads them into committing more sins that will seal their doom at her hand. She likes killing a few secondary targets by manipulating them in to their demise. Yet sometimes, she just barges in and kills her main victim.

The Black Widow claimed to be helping the “oppressed on Earth” by getting them “rid of the evil element !”. Her actions are indeed that of a killer vigilante rather than those of an agent of evil.

The overall situation is weird. She openly admits her agenda of lethal justice to “Satan”. But the Hell-lord does not seem to mind as long as the mission is accomplished.

The Black Widow’s actions follow the Golden Age heroic code. She also went out of her way to heal a child for no special reason.

Between missions, she apparently just lounges around in Hell like a bored 1940s movie star.


Quotes

“Vengeance has been mine… the master calls – I must return !”

“Here is your kiss — the kiss of death !! Satan will see you soon !”

“Evil one, I claim your soul for Satan !”

“And so, the Black Widow is going to take your evil, merciless soul to the place it belongs — are you ready ? Lewis — come !”

“And now… you must pay for your heinous crimes !! The Black Widow will not be cheated !”

(Breaking the fourth wall) “I’m not on Earth now, but as soon as I learn of evil which must be met with quick punishment, I shall travel the great distance and return to your people to treat them to — death !

“And so, I’ll bring my cargo to Hades ! But let the evildoer beware… for wherever he strikes… there he will feel the deadly sting of the Black Widow !”


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Black Widow (Claire Voyant)

Dex: 05 Str: 03 Bod: 06 Motivation: Seeking Justice
Int: 05 Wil: 06 Min: 09 Occupation: Operative of Satan
Inf: 09 Aur: 07 Spi: 10 Resources {or Wealth}: N.A.
Init: 019 HP: 050

Powers:
Chameleon (ML): 01, Hypnotism (ML): 07, Mental blast (ML): 03, Skin armor (ML): 04, Sorcery*: 07, Spirit drain (ML): 09, Self-Link (Spirit travel): 07

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Chameleon is used to make her seem more human (and very attractive), circumventing her Distinct Appearance. It can also be used to turn her pupils into skulls and to change the colour of her hair.
  • Mental blast is Indirect, but must manifest itself as “bad luck”. Examples include targets tripping on stones that were not there before, or “accidentally” hitting the steering wheel of a car to make it swerve and crash (this one is a Trick Shot).
  • Sorcery is Minor Marginal, and does not allow her to leave Hell on her own.
  • Spirit drain has a Range of Touch, is Killing Combat only, and leaves a black widow-shaped mark on the brow of its victim. It can be used through her attire — for instance by throwing her cape on somebody and then doing the Drain.
  • Spirit Travel, being self-Linked, does not leave her body behind — she can fully switch from Spirit Travel to physical at any point with an Automatic Action.
  • Spirit Travel allows her to use Hypnotism on material persons, or to speak in the material world in an eerie voice, without materialising.

Skills:
Accuracy (Mental blast): 09, Charisma (Intimidation)*: 09, Thief (Stealth): 06

Advantages:
Schtick (Mystique — evil criminals)

Connections:
“Satan” (Low)

Drawbacks:
CIA toward Accomplishing the missions given by Satan, Distinct Appearance (worth zero points thanks to Chameleon)

By Sébastien Andrivet and Sean MacDonald

Source of Character: Timely comics

Helper(s): Roy Cowan, Kal El el Vigilante, Darci

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