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Black Widow (Romanoff) during the 1960s (Marvel Comics)

Black Widow

(Natalia Romanova profile #2 - 1965-1970)


Power Level:
Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game

Context

This profile depicts the Black Widow (Natalia Romanova)’s early career as a super-heroine. This era corresponds to the time where the Widow is an acrobat with some gadgets and a black and blue costume with a fishnet motif.

This profile is part of a series that should be read in order :

  1. This profile
  2. Black Widow the 1980s

Background

  • Real Name: Natalia Alianovna Romanova (previously Natalia Alianovna Shostakova). Her first name is occasionally rendered in Latin alphabet as Natalya.
  • Other Aliases: Madame Natasha, Natasha Romanoff (anglicised version of her name, and thus the most common version in the US), Czarina (nickname from both Ivan Petrovich and “Oksana Bolishinko”), Чёрный Же́мчуг (“Black Pearl” – nickname used by Commissar Bruskin and Ivan Petrovitch), The Girl Who Can Lift Mountains (when she stole Stark’s antigravity device), Чёрная вдова (“Black Widow” in Russian – ‘Chyornaya vdova’).
  • Marital Status: Widowed .
  • Known Relatives: Alexei Shostakov (aka Red Guardian, husband, officially deceased) ; Vindiktor (alleged brother, deceased). Given her patronymic Natalia’s father was presumably named Alian. Both her parents are thought to have been deceased by the time Ivan unofficially adopted Natalia.
  • Group Affiliation: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D..
  • Base Of Operations: Mobile.
  • Height: 5’7” Weight: 135 lbs.
  • Eyes: Striking blue Hair: Red-auburn


Powers and Abilities

The Widow is now depicted as being much more physical. She’s skilled in acrobatics, break-ins, stealth, ranged weapons, etc.

The main exception to this is her hand-to-hand skills. She’s fast and agile but not strong or tough, and doesn’t slug it out in melee during period appearances.

This is mostly a dated genre convention about violence and women, and is ’lifted‘ in later flashbacks that take place during this era.

If you want to keep the 1960s style, in DC Heroes remove her Martial Artist’s EV and RV substitution Subskills. She also won’t generally spend HPs on LDD – it”s just accepted that she’s easy to knock out.

Despite this modest physical durability, Natalia repeatedly makes fast, full recovery from serious wounds and drugs-induced brainwashing during this era. In hindsight, these can easily be retcon-rationalised as the effects of the Kudrin enhancements.

The Black Widow swinging above Manhattan

Natalia easily broke into and stole from a highly secure US military base using stealth and acrobatics. This, rather than seduction and manipulation, is now her preferred mode of operation and she no longer uses her femme fatale skills.

Her theme is now a beautiful spider-woman infiltrator who sticks to walls, sneaks around in the dark, and shoots “webbing” (her line) and “venom” (her electrical sting). She has few Hero Points , and when facing super-heroes-level threats she will usually get captured.

Her piloting talents also appear in period material for the first time, after she steals an American jet fighter.


History

Natalia Romanova was forcibly returned to Moscow, and taken “to the comrade leader, just before his fall from power”. This is presumably a reference to the ousting of Khrushchev  in late 1964.

Khrushchev wanted her to kill Iron Man, who frequently clashed with Communist agents. He ordered an engineer named Brushnev to build special gadgets for her. When Romanova resisted, he produced her parents and threatened to have them shot, forcing her hand.

Early Black Widow and Hawkeye

This sudden reinvention of the character by Stan Lee  works well with both the historical context and the latter retcons. Specifically :

  • Khrushchev had become somewhat erratic during the 1960s. Having a sudden change of heart about the Black Widow program would be credible.
    By 1964 Khrushchev apparently knew that Brezhnev and Semichastny were plotting against him. Perhaps reactivating one or more Widows was meant to send a message to the KGB to discourage Khrushchev’s assassination, and/or to get things done despite the GRU’s lack of support, and/or to gain cred with cold warrior factions… or any bit of Kremlinology you’d like.
  • The “parents” were presumably actors. A 2010 flashback set in 1957 reveals that Natalia then thinks that she has living parents – both in her fabricated life as a ballerina, and as a Red Room assassin.
  • When she returns (Tales of Suspense vol. 1 #64) the Widow is suddenly a capable acrobat and markswoman, with combat experience. This suggests that Khrushchev had a part of her Red Room memories “unlocked” to restore her as a super-agent rather than a femme fatale.
    One hypothesis is that her Red Room training and some memories gradually came back over the decades following the “unlocking”, helping explain her return to being a world-class agent and how she came to remember incidents such as the assassination in Madripoor in 1941.
  • In this hypothesis, the partial return of the memories was gradual enough that the Pchelintsov failsafes prevented her from realising that she couldn’t have been both a ballerina and a teenaged spy. Natalia presumably assumed that her memories of training were from just after the death of her husband, subconsciously avoiding to think too hard about it.

The Black Widow and Clint Barton

After her meeting with the comrade leader, the Widow returned to America and her lover Hawkeye (Clint Barton) to explain what had happened — and announce that she was going after Iron Man. The archer decided to come along rather than lose her again, and helped her kidnap “Happy” Hogan and “Pepper” Potts to set an ambush for Iron Man.

Stark easily dispersed the Soviet gunmen participating to the ambush, but found the Black Widow and especially Hawkeye far more dangerous. To force them to retreat he blasted the Widow with his repulsors, and Hawkeye opted to flee to get his lover to a doctor rather than stay and kill Iron Man.

This was the wrong decision. Soviet intelligence now wanted Romanova dead for her failure, and she was soon gunned down in the street by hitmen. Hawkeye shot the gunmen and rushed her to an hospital, saving her life. However, before she had recovered from her gunshot wounds, Natalia Alianovna was kidnapped and taken to China.

Avengers associate

After one Dr. Yen brainwashed Natasha, she was sent to take the Avengers down. To do so, she recruited the Swordsman (Jacques Duquesne) and Power Man (Erik Josten), but failed to recruit Hawkeye. Nevertheless, the Widow and her men captured all Avengers but one.

Goliath (Henry Pym) freed his colleagues, but the Widow escaped with her henchmen. Her team attacked anew, again starting with Hawkeye – but seeing the archer threatened broke the brainwashing and brought her back to her senses.

The early Black Widow, not actually dancing the Batusi

To allay distrust, the Widow allied with Hawkeye to help the Avengers defeat the Sons of the Serpents, an American racist conspiracy. She provided intelligence and some stealthy help, and helped arrest the Sons’ leader.

She also proved instrumental in defeating the alien Ultroids, who sought to use the Avengers’ oath against killing to stalemate the heroes. Natasha intimidated their leader Ixar into surrendering, reasoning that since she was not an Avenger, she was not bound by their oaths.

From that case onward she remained an associate of the Avengers. She and Hawkeye were also apparently living together. Hawkeye wanted the Widow to be formally made an Avenger, but Goliath objected to this. Meanwhile the Widow was in talks to join S.H.I.E.L.D..

The negotiation took place directly with Colonel Nick Fury. While S.H.I.E.L.D. itself had been founded very recently, Fury knew about the Red Room and the Black Widow program from his CIA days. He had apparently never shared this knowledge, which he presumably gained during a solo mission.

Among other things he had stolen a special chemical scent to which Black Widow agents had been conditioned to react obediently.

The early Black Widow with Power Man and the Swordsman

Thus, he was able not only to cement her defection, but to have her start working against Communist countries. However, he sensibly pitted her against mainland Chinese interests rather than Soviet ones. In minutes, S.H.I.E.L.D. had gained whom would arguably be their best agent for decades. Romanova only learned about the chemical used to manipulate her 40 years later.

La Chinoise

S.H.I.E.L.D. made it look like the Widow had betrayed the US, giving her an hypnotic conditioning so she would think that she was pro-PRC until some triggers were met. They then sent her back to China to infiltrate the target’s assets.

S.H.I.E.L.D. was after one Colonel Ling. From historical context it seems that Ling and his Soviet allies had gone rogue, and were no longer answering their respective superiors in the PLA or the Red Army. They controlled an experimental weapon of mass destruction called the Psychotron, which the Widow was tasked with destroying.

The early Black Widow walking on walls

During this mission, Natalia discovered that Colonel Alexei Shostakov was still alive and had become the Red Guardian. She was repelled by the cruel, overbearing man he had become, and wished to have nothing to do with him. The Red Guardian was thought killed in the destruction of Colonel Ling’s base.

The Psychotron was destroyed with the help of the Avengers. S.H.I.E.L.D. then cleared with the Avengers that the Widow’s apparent betrayal of America had been a S.H.I.E.L.D. deception.

Natasha Romanoff, agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.

As she recovered from wounds suffered during this mission, Natalia decided to retire from her career as the Widow. She wanted to become Clint Barton (Hawkeye)’s wife.

However, as the months went by it became clear that they worked much better as lovers than as a couple. Barton had too much of a temper and Romanova wanted too much attention, resulting in verbal fights. Romanova renewed her ties with S.H.I.E.L.D. and resumed working with Fury and Dugan.

A she prepared for an unrevealed mission she was exposed to a new nerve gas, presumably to mithridate her.

The Black Widow and Hawkeye escape from a burning base in China

The Widow was next seen sneaking into a secret base of the Mad Thinker, where she successfully sabotaged the Man-Slayer robot as it was about to kill Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell). Other androids of the Mad Thinker captured her and gassed her unconscious.

How she escaped is unrevealed, but perhaps it was the same gas that S.H.I.E.L.D. had her develop a tolerance to – and she was playing possum.

The Widow next infiltrated Egghead’s base, disguised as a cleaning lady. Though she was detected and captured, she contacted the Avengers using a concealed radio and Clint Barton responded, using one of Dr. Pym’s serum to become the new Goliath.

Goliath narrowly got the Widow out of Egghead’s base, and the Avengers foiled the cranially peculiar scientist’s plot.

The Black Widow, Hawkeye and the Scarlet Witch

After she recovered, the Widow disappeared for several weeks. She then popped up in Avengers’ Mansion, confronted Barton and dramatically announced that they would never see each other again. When Barton dared her to say that she never loved him, she did.

(It is probable that this scene was intended to start a subplot – if so it was never published.)

Leisure dress ’tasha

Natalya Romanova wanted to make a clean break from her whole past. She felt haunted and guilt-ridden over her past and over seeing Alexei Shostakov die a second time. For months she lived as a glamorous jet-setter, presumably spending her S.H.I.E.L.D. mission bonuses to resume her “Madam Natasha” fame and life style.

The Black Widow and Hawkeye/>

However, this did not work – she felt increasingly dissatisfied. She realised that adventure and danger were what allowed her to forget her past and perhaps make amends for it. Since she did not want to resume being the old Black Widow she drew new costume ideas, eventually designing her iconic look with the featureless dark blue body glove.

She also changed her hair style and resumed her natural dark red colour, though she kept the “Black Widow” name.

During the Spring of 1970, she resumed training and practicing to prepare for her return.


Description

During this era her hair still looks black. The Black Widow costume is actually a small wardrobe with a number of differently-coloured body stockings, capes, masks, various jewels, etc.

One set of earring includes a “B”-shaped one and a “W”-shaped one, and the cape’s clasp seems reversible with a “B” on one side and a “W” on the other.

The Black Widow captured by Egghead

The mask is patterned after Hawkeye’s, since the costume was intended to be worn as his partner in crime.

The Widow’s body type seems at that point patterned after the 1960s ideal, with a tiny waist contrasting with lots of curves, and doe eyes.


Personality

The Widow is adventurous and passionate.

In the field she’s mostly about stealth, though. She slips around undetected, looking for a good opportunity to do something decisive and staying in reserve. Several of her saving-the-day stunts have relied on her willingness to shoot people, if possible by surprise, and making clear that she thought nothing of killing if necessary.

At this point Natasha still thinks that she’s always been a dancer and the housewife of an important, dashing man. Her being a spy has been a short and very atypical period of her life as she remembers it. She wants to go back to this by being Hawkeye’s girlfriend and an occasional Avenger, a bit like a part-time Wasp.

The Black Widow attempts to retire

In her private life she retains the glamorous woman-of-leisure tastes and attitude. She seems somewhat difficult to live with as she demands exclusive attention. She wants to rebuild her life with Clint Barton and be a good early 1960s American fiancée, thinking and acting in a socially acceptable way.

She also wants to make it extra clear that she’s now a loyal American and a Cold War patriot.

Yet, something is stirring underneath. She needs action and danger to lose herself in. The death of Alexei and a small feeling of logical disconnect about it are also gnawing at her. This will grow into a feeling that something is wrong and that she needs to be by herself and reevaluate her life.

She also feels bad about her past as a spy and experiences a need to atone. However she doesn’t know yet about much of her real career as a spook and killer.


Quotes

Widow: “When you love someone… can you not recognize her even when she’s masked ?”
Hawkeye: “Natasha !! Then it is you, my darling ! You’ve returned to me at last !”
Widow: “I had to come back… to see you once more ! To feel your strong arms around me !”

“My feelings for you have never changed — and they never will ! It is you who have lost faith in me ! But I am here to prove I can be trusted — to help you — and the Avengers !”

“Look into my eyes, Ixar ! Look deep into the eyes of the Black Widow ! Are these the eyes of one who deals in empty words… and idle threats ? So make your decision… at once !”

“As I told you then, Colonel, I will do anything which will show that I am no longer your country’s enemy – but a loyal citizen !”

“Few things can remain hidden from a master spy !”

“Yes, Hank… I’ve made up my mind ! The mission for S.H.I.E.L.D. was my last ! The Black Widow is gone… forever ! From now on I am only Natasha… a girl with a past… and, I hope, a future !”


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Black Widow

Dex: 04 Str: 02 Bod: 03 Motivation: Thrill
Int: 06 Wil: 06 Min: 06 Occupation: Adventurer
Inf: 06 Aur: 05 Spi: 05 Resources {or Wealth}: 004
Init: 018 HP: 015

Powers:
Iron Will: 01, Regeneration: 01, Systemic Antidote: 02, Damage Capacity: 03

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • All Powers are only active when asleep, knocked out or otherwise unconscious.
  • All Powers are Form Function.
  • Regeneration affects all three Current Conditions.

Skills:
Acrobatics: 06, Artist (Actress, Dancer): 06, Artist (Photographer): 03, Charisma: 06, Detective (Legwork): 05, Martial artist: 05, Medicine (First aid): 03, Military science (Camouflage, cartography, danger recognition, demolition): 05, Vehicles (Air, Land, Water): 06, Thief: 06, Weaponry: 06

Advantages:
Attractive, Expertise (Espionage), Familiarity (Military equipment and protocols, Wilderness survival), Language (Russian), Slowed Ageing.

Connections:
Hawkeye (High), Avengers (Low), S.H.I.E.L.D. (Low), Colonel Fury (Low).

Drawbacks:
Dark Secret (her background), Exile (Involuntary), Guilt, Misc.: the Widow is sterile, Misc.: Kudrin failsafe scent, Pchelintsov failsafes.

Equipment:

  • SUCTION-CUP BOOTS [BODY 05, Cling: 04].
  • SWINGLINE-LAUNCHING BRACERS [BODY 05, 4 APs long line].
  • WIDOW’s BITE [BODY 05, Lightning: 07].
  • During a S.H.I.E.L.D. mission she conducted in costume, she didn’t seem to have her normal equipment – though it may have been a continuity mistake. Instead she had :
    • Small-frame semi-automatic pistol [BODY 02, Projectile weapon: 03, Ammo: 08, R#02]. A Beretta M1934, maybe.
    • Micro-bomb [BODY 01, EV 05, Grenade Drawback]. Concealed under her thumbnail, can be thrown at stuff to wreck it.


Game Stats — DC Adventures RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Black Widow — Averaged PL 6.6

STR STA AGL DEX FGT INT AWE PRE
00 01 04 04 05 02 02 02

Powers

Kudrin enhancements ● 3 points ● Descriptor: Biochemical enhancements
Diehard, Enhanced Stamina 2, Enhanced Fortitude 3, Regeneration 2 – all with Limitation 2 (only while unconscious, asleep or otherwise unable to notice the Effects)

Devices

Suction cup boots ● 3 points (Subtle) ● Descriptor: Mechanical
Movement 1 (Wall-crawling 1)

Special bracers ● 13 points ● Descriptor: Mechanical
– Movement 1 (Swinging)
– Ranged Electrical Damage 6

Combat Advantages

Close attack 3, Defensive Roll 1, Ranged attack 5

Other Advantages

Attractive, Benefit 1 (Slowed ageing), Benefit 1 (S.H.I.E.L.D. contractor), Benefit 1 (friend of the Avengers), Fascinate (Deception), Language (Russian), Well-Informed

Skills

Acrobatics 6 (+10), Athletics 8 (+8), Deception 7 (+9), Expertise (Espionage) 8 (+10), Expertise (Classical dancer) 10 (+12), Expertise (Military) 6 (+8), Insight 5 (+7), Intimidation 4 (+6), Perception 5 (+7), Persuasion 4 (+6), Sleight of Hand 5 (+9) (Quirk – no Contorting or Legerdemain), Stealth 5 (+9), Technology 6 (+8) (Limited 1 to Operating, Demolitions, Security), Treatment 5 (+7) (Limited 2 to Revive, Stabilise), Vehicles 5 (+9)

Offense

Initiative +4
Unarmed +7, Close, Damage 0
Ranged attacks +9, Ranged, Damage varies by type
Widow’s bite +9, Ranged, Damage 6

Defense

Dodge 7 Fortitude 4
Parry 7 Toughness 2/1*
Will 7

* Without Defensive Roll

Complications

  • Identity The Widow’s memory has been extensively tampered with, and there exists backdoors and failsafes to control her which she’s not aware of
  • Disability The Widow cannot bear a child
  • Secret Natalya often operates undercover as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
  • Secret Natalya’s past would be poorly regarded by most Americans learning about it and she tries hard to fit in
  • Exile Cannot return to her homeland
  • Restless The Widow craves action and danger and cannot return to a normal life for long

Power levels

  • Trade-off areas Attack & Effect PL 8, Dodge/Toughness PL 5, Parry/Toughness PL 5, Fort & Will PL 6
  • Point total 129 Abilities 40, Defences 13, Skills 41, Powers 3, Devices 16, Advantages 16. Equiv. PL 9.


By Sébastien Andrivet

Source of Character: Marvel Comics

Helper(s): Roy Cowan, Darci, Joshua Dunlow, Woodclaw

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