5704 in-depth character profiles from comics, games, movies

Ivan in uniform with the Black Widow as a child (Marvel Comics)

Ivan Petrovich Bezukhov


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

Context

Ivan is the moustached aide and chauffeur of Marvel’s Black Widow (Natalia Romanova). He first appeared in 1970, when the Widow got her solo feature.

His profile best read after the Widow’s profiles, as these are the ones with all the context and history. But no moustache.

This entry progresses at the same (glacial) pace as our series of chronological character profiles for the Black Widow. Thus, it currently stops circa 1990 (publication time). And it doesn’t yet discusses the retcons that were published after that point.


Background

  • Real Name: Major Ivan Petrovitch Bezukhov
  • Marital Status: Widowed
  • Known Relatives: Wife (name unrevealed, deceased), Yuri Ivanovitch Bezukhov (aka Crimson Dynamo, son), unnamed little sister (likely deceased), Petrov (father, deceased)
  • Group Affiliation: Partner of the Black Widow, former quasi-member of the Champions, former senior officer in the Red Army.
  • Base Of Operations: Mobile.
  • Height: 6’2” Weight: 215 lbs.
  • Eyes: Brown Hair: Brown (incl. a moustache)


Powers and Abilities

Ivan is a sort of two-fisted pulps  adventurer, complete with a large moustache. Though he operates below the “super-hero scale”, he’s a competent adventurer possessing many talents. He’s :

  • A soldier.
  • An electronician.
  • A brawler.
  • A mechanic.
  • A strongman.
  • An espionage operative.
  • An engineer.
  • A chauffeur.
  • And some sort of senior military officer.

Ivan usually packs a Colt M1911A1 .45 pistol – presumably the exact same model he used back in the Great Patriotic War thanks to the Lend-Lease Program . He’s seldom more heavily armed, but if he’s to carry a heavier weapon the papasha (a PPSh-41 submachinegun) he’s using in Uncanny X-Men #268 was an excellent choice.

Never get old

Ivan doesn’t seem to age normally – though of course these things are hard to tell in a comic book environment. But the 2010 Black Widow series did have a reliable witness who knew Ivan from (tentatively) 1945 to 1955. That person pointed out that Mr. Bezukhov aged without ever getting older.

Mr. Bezukhov’s date of birth is at the latest 1912 – he was a Red Army soldier in 1928. 1910 is a good, round hypothetical number. Howbeit, it’s entirely possible that he’s much older. In 1941, Ivan seems to be about 30, though his impressive moustache makes it difficult to assess his age. A different flashback in 1938 has him looking in his 40s.

Later appearances all have him at some indistinct age between 40 and 55.

A flashback set in 1956 depicts a Soviet agent (the Winter Soldier) offering a special serum to save Ivan’s life and suspend his ageing. This incident is bizarre, and seems to have been some sort of deception – and as noted there’s an account of Ivan being unageing like the Widow before that.

Never get old – the hypotheticals

Here are some hypotheses, none of them supported since the matter is never otherwise addressed.

The 1956 serum

There was such a thing as an anagathic miracle cure, and the serum given to Ivan in 1956 was the real thing. This means that the Soviet Union had some reason to offer such an incredibly rare and valuable resource to a defector. Which might be tied to some scenes implying that Ivan Petrovitch was a General of some sort in the Red Army, with a lot of connections.

Natasha’s blood

Ivan was kept unageing by regular blood transfusions from Natalia Romanova. This is the same hypothesis that was suggested by fans to explain the unageing nature of most of Nick Fury’s wartime Howling Commandos.

Super-soldier

One scene obliquely refers to Ivan as the one recipient of some sort of Soviet Super-Soldier Serum who didn’t go crazy. But whether that’s what Khrushchev actually meant is impossible to say.

This might be tied to a mention made of a Red Room-like project for men, called Wolf Spiders rather than Black Widows, which failed. Ivan’s remarkable strength might also tie into that.

Pulps mysteries

Our description of Ivan as some sort of pulps adventurer might be more on target than we think. Perhaps Ivan had various pulps-like adventures, was some sort of Soviet Doc Savage during the first half of the XXth century, and was thus exposed to weird stuff or made strange discoveries.

There’s no hint of that in the material, however – the “pulps adventurer” thing is just our way to describe his broad base of skills and talents. And his moustache. Did we mention the moustache ?

LGS-positive

Ivan might just be naturally unageing. This doesn’t have to mean he’s some sort of low-key mutant – see our Leòn Genetic Sequence article for a discussion of weirdly unageing people in super-hero comic books.

Earth-A

He might have been replaced by his Earth-A homologue and kept on ice on several occasions and for many years. ”Earth-A impostors” is a somewhat tongue-in-cheek feature of the Marvel Universe to explain some characters’ continuity issues (often sudden shifts in characterisation). It would be a fitting explanation for some story lines of the 2000s and 2010s.<


History

In 1928, Ivan Petrovitch was a Red Army soldier in Stalingrad. He was responding to an attack by “imperialists” that destroyed several buildings. Ivan was reportedly looking for his kid sister. Thus, he might be a Stalingrad native, having grown up when the city was still called Volgograd .

A desperate woman in a destroyed building handed a baby over to him, seconds before the building collapsed on her. The woman apologetically stated that the kid was a Romanova, strongly implying that she was related to the Imperial ruling family deposed during the Revolution.

Apparently, Ivan never found his kid sister in the ruined building. And he never found relatives for the kid he had been entrusted with. He ended up raising her and acting as her surrogate father. Whether something official was ever done — such as making Ivan Petrovitch the foster parent of little Natalia Alianovna — is unrevealed.

This is but one of many mysteries.

The 1930s

Ivan continued to serve in the Soviet military in an unknown capacity. By 1941 he was a Major – a senior officer rank in the Red Army, much like in English-speaking countries. He also arranged for Natalia to receive elite training in espionage and assassination even as child.

Which organisation it was, how Ivan knew of them, why and when Natalia was taken in, why Ivan took that decision, how much he was involved in her training… All of these remain mysteries. Our hypothesis — explained in Natalia Romanova’s first character profile — is that :

  1. Ivan had Natalia enrolled in the Red Room program circa 1934. She was sent on her first know mission in 1938 when she was about 11.
  2. The Red Room was working for the mysterious feral mastermind Romulus, though who had authority over what may have been complicated.
  3. The Red Room was moulding a cohort of little girls to become elite, undetectable deep-cover agents. It would come to employ memories implants and biochemical enhancements for its agents circa 1939.

These hypotheses are mostly deduced from dialogue. Nothing was ever clearly stated. It is possible that our interpretation wasn’t the one intended by the writers

1938

In 1938, Ivan helped Natalia join the entourage of spymaster Taras Romanoff. He met with Taras in Moscow with Natasha in tow. Ivan explained that his military responsibilities made it impossible to raise a girl – whereas Taras ran a sort of espionage academy with adolescent students.

As far as we can tell, Natalia was being deliberately injected into Romanoff’s entourage to gain his trust, become his prize pupil then perform an assassination. Per our hypothesis above, this was a Red Room infiltration mission to control the danger posed by the brilliant Romanoff.

The mission went bad at the very end. Taras died but little Natalia couldn’t pull the trigger on the killer, a Canadian adventurer named Logan. In the wake of this failure she lived in the nearby wilderness for three months, apparently waiting for Ivan.

Hearing about Romanoff’s death and Natalia’s disappearance Ivan deserted. He did come running, and located the secret Romanoff manor and then Natalia’s camp. Petrovitch then fled with her, apparently fearing retaliation by Romanoff’s associates.

The 1940s

In 1941 Ivan was in Madripoor with Natalia. Natalia was on an assassination mission for Romulus, which Ivan was presumably aware of. The goal was for her to be kidnapped by the Hand ninja clan, so she’d be in position to kill their leader.

But the hard-fighting Ivan provided credible resistance against the Hand and their Nazi allies. That became especially true after he was unexpectedly joined by a young Captain America and by Logan. The merry band was captured as the American ambassador to Madripoor betrayed them, but Logan saved the day and they fought their way out.

Black Widow as a child, with Ivan in Madripoor

Ivan and Natalia immediately returned to the Soviet Union. Presumably Operation Barbarossa  had just taken place and they returned home to serve during the war. Based on the one known wartime flashback, they served in separate units.

One assumes that Ivan Petrovitch was promoted during the war. Since he later had access to the highest political leadership, it is possible that he became a General during the Great Patriotic War.

At some point Ivan (and Natalia) studied under one Commissar Bruskin. Bruskin was a KGB expert who taught them a lot about espionage and technology. This likely took place during the second half of the 1940s.

Ivan also had a son, Yuri Ivanovitch, during the late 1940s. Since this is the first (and only) time where his wife is mentioned, it is possible that he married right after the war.

First half of the 1950s

By the 1950s Ivan and Natalia were no longer in good terms with the Soviet government, and had left.

This might be tied to a flashback taking place in the 1950s. The 1976 caption says “19 years ago” but that doesn’t work with later timelines for the Black Widow. Plus, Ivan mentions that Stalin’s death  has changed too much to the Soviet Union. So a few months after March, 1953 is the best guess to time this event without contradicting other known dates.

During this incident, Ivan was approached by men – apparently Americans. They told them that the USSR was crumbling. They added that Western powers were ready to give him a lot of money to defect and put his skills – particularly his engineering skills – to use.

The proudly patriotic Ivan refused, then told his wife to get the kid and drive to a safehouse in the mountains. He obviously expected some sort of payback. Mrs. Bezukhov never reached the safehouse. She was killed and her son kidnapped while they were on the road.

Ich bin ein Berliner

Little Yuri was detained in Berlin for nine years. He was trained as an agent and scientist just like his father.

He thought that he was in West Berlin and in the hands of the CIA. But he was actually in East Berlin and in the hands of the KGB. The “brainwashing” to make him hate the USSR was a double play. It was designed to fail and make him fiercely loyal toward the Union in reaction. The whole deception had been engineered by Commissar Bruskin, who later defected in disgust over this kind of op.

Ivan Petrovitch face closeup

Presumably, the goal was to turn Yuri into a top-flight agent. If so it worked, as he would wear the Crimson Dynamo armour during the 1970s.

Yet, one gets the faint impression that Ivan knew the truth. He seemed to be expecting a Soviet machination, not an American one, after he expelled the men offering him money to defect. If the events did take place shortly after Stalin’s death, he may have been fearing a sting operation leading to a purge.

A possible scenario is thus that Yuri was kidnapped in April, 1953, that Ivan assumed it was some sort of KGB plot, and that he left USSR with Natalia within days.

Second half of the 1950s

In any case, it is established than in 1956 Ivan and Natalia were international adventurers solving a case in Berlin. They had broken their ties with the Soviet government. It is possible that Ivan was looking for Yuri.

One flashback shows Ivan and Natalia being offered a healing/anagathic serum in Berlin in 1956. The Winter Soldier (James Barnes) reaches the scene after Ivan has been fatally shot, while Natalia is trying to save her old friend but can’t find supplies. The Soldier offers the serum in exchange for their return to the Union.

Ivan tells Natalia not to take the offer, but passes out and she takes the deal to save him.

As noted in our first Black Widow entry, the very existence of the serum seems unlikely. Our hypothesis is that Barnes is lying since Romanova is thought to already have received the Kudrin treatment at that point. Perhaps Ivan was trying to tell Natalia that, unbeknownst to her, neither of them was ageing and the “serum” story was a trick.

In 1957, Khrushchev  took the decision to peacefully retire the Black Widow agents. He wanted to give them a normal life and fake memories of a normal past. Ivan Petrovitch was apparently his advisor on this, thinking that it would bring peace and happiness to Natalia Romanova.

Ivan was also apparently a part of the decision to introduce her to a famous hero and pilot, Colonel Shostakov. Shostakov became Natalia’s husband in creepy circumstances.

The 1960s

Natalia’s conditioning partially broke down in 1963. As a consequence, Ivan advised Nikita Khrushchev to let her become a spy to avenge her husband as she wished.

Bezukhov and Khrushchev hoped that Natalia Alianovna would eventually build a new life for herself abroad. Ivan Petrovitch told Nikita Sergeyevitch that he would help Natalia with her new life in the US. However, Ivan doesn’t actually appear at her side until 1970, after having himself defected to the West.

This may be linked to a loss of support from Soviet intelligence. Natalia seemingly lost her support from her handlers in 1964, and it stands to reason that her contacts and Ivan’s were the same persons. Perhaps Brezhnev  and his allies ousting Khrushchev wrecked the deals Ivan made about Romanova.

In any case, heavy-handed KGB handling of Natalia’s loyalty caused her to defect to the West. She joined S.H.I.E.L.D. and associated with the Avengers.

By the late 1960s she retired as a masked heroine to become a socialite in America. But she was yearning to return to action. Ivan rejoined her during this era and they decided that he would work as her chauffeur. Presumably, Ivan had reasons to keep a low profile and not use his tech skills. Perhaps there was some sort of gentlemen’s agreement with the KGB over his defection.

In 1970 the Widow cracked and returned to the fray, designing a new costume for herself. She initially hid the truth from Ivan, perhaps so he wouldn’t worry. But faithful Ivan Petrovitch soon learned the truth .

The 1970s

Soon, Ivan was acting as Natalia’s agent – a Harry Vincent to her Shadow. When the Widow came to lead the Champions of Los Angeles, Ivan was basically a member of the group.

A time bomb had been ticking for years, though. Commissar Bruskin arranged for Yuri, Ivan’s son, to “covertly” contact Soviet agents. These attacked the “Americans” holding Yury prisoner in Berlin, and freed him. Highly patriotic after the mistreatment from the faux CIA agents, Yuri was incensed to see that Ivan Petrovitch had defected to the West.

Yuri became the wearer of the Crimson Dynamo power armour. He was sent to the US to recover defectors – Natalia Romanova, Alexei Bruskin and Ivan Bezukhov. The mission ultimately failed, and Bruskin told Ivan the truth before sacrificing his life to stop Yuri.

Yuri was still refusing to admit that much of his life had been a sham. But his lover Darkstar (Layna Petrovna) restrained him. She asked Ivan what she should do, but Yuri’s father somberly answered that he did not know what sort of man his long-lost was. He said that Layna was better-qualified than him to make a decision.

Laynia let Yuri go. However, he was arrested once he returned to USSR and apparently sent to a work camp. When he learned this, Ivan decided to leave the Champions, return to the USSR and straighten some business of his. This included Yuri’s situation. He also cryptically stated that S.H.I.E.L.D. had entrusted him with a job there.

However, as soon as the boat for USSR left the US, Ivan was kidnapped by Soviet agents.

Indestructible

Months later, S.H.I.E.L.D. decided to mount a rescue mission. Although Fury was highly reluctant to do it, General Sam Sawyer forced his hand. Swayer had Fury send in what he thought was the best asset for this mission — the Black Widow !

Navigating through innumerable conspiracies, obstacles, secret agents and mercenaries, the Widow eventually discovered that Damon Dran — the Indestructible Man — was the one holding the brainwashed Ivan captive. It all was a ploy to lure her in and kidnap her.

The Widow prevailed after Ivan, still brainwashed but knowing he had to save her, gunned down a half-dozen of his fellow guards. S.H.I.E.L.D. destroyed Dran’s base before Dran could destroy the Helicarrier. S.H.I.E.L.D. doctors then broke Ivan’s programming.

1980s

After that adventure, during the 1980s, Ivan appeared much less. The Widow did admit in a thought bubble that, as he was getting older, she was taking care not to involve him in her adventures for fear of him getting hurt. But he still occasionally provided her with chauffeuring, moral support and first aid services, though.

Ivan was considerably more involved in the KGB plot to manipulate Romanova by pretending that her husband Alexei Shostakov was still alive. Ivan helped her deal with the KGB team. He also pitched in during the hit-and-run raid on a key S.H.I.E.L.D. base as part of the Widow’s plan to pretend to play along with the KGB.

Bezukhov then accompanied Romanova to Russia to confront “Shostakov”. He was, as they both suspected, an android simulacra. Ivan was hit was superhuman force by the android during the fight, but he survived without sequellae.


Description

See illustrations.


Personality

Loyal, dour and very stubborn. He tends to be protective of Natalia despite her superior skills, and acts in a fatherly manner toward the “little Czarina”. His DC Heroes RPG Irrational Attraction toward protecting the Widow is just that. He can, and does, act irrationally if he feels he has failed to protect her.

Many have observed that he talks like somebody from a James Cagney  gangster movie. In fact, he seems to have learned much of his English diction watching those 1930s movies.

Generally speaking, he’s an impatient man of action, often bordering on being rash and violent. He’s quite prone to hitting walls and other stuff with considerable force when frustrated.

Ivan never liked Matt Murdock much. He considered that while he had superior skills he wasn’t enough of a real man for his Natalia. He often looked down his nose on Matt as he considered that this whole super-hero thing was childish and lacking in gravitas. In his view, Natalia should have focused on more adult matters.

Ivan remains a mysterious figure. Too much context about his past and motivations is missing.


Quotes

“Боже мой !” (“Bozhe moi !”, literally “My God !”, the preferred exclamation of Russian characters in the Marvel Universe).

Street guy : “Flake off ! I ain’t going nowhere with y… Oh wow ! You’re a strong dude !”
Ivan: “I work out a lot.”

“No one knows all there is to know about the Black Widow, kid — no one but Ivan… and maybe not even Ivan.”

(To the Widow) “I’ve been knowing what to do since Stalingrad, sweetheart — when you were knee-high to a tarantula !”

“Forget flashy-pants, ’Tash — get yourself dry before that little skull catches cold.”

“After a while, you have to *do* something — or stop calling yourself a man.”

“You mean the grey limo tailing us ? I’ve been watching it since we left the West Side highway. Want me to lose him ?”


Sharing

The links to follow us and/or subscribe to our monthly newsletter are at the bottom of this page.



Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Ivan

Dex: 04 Str: 04 Bod: 04 Motivation: Uphold Natasha
Int: 03 Wil: 04 Min: 04 Occupation: Chauffeur
Inf: 03 Aur: 03 Spi: 03 Resources {or Wealth}: 005
Init: 012 HP: 010

Skills:
Accuracy (Perception – spotting cars tailing him): 07, Charisma (Interrogation): 04, Gadgetry (Identify gadget): 05, Gadgetry (Build gadget): 04, Martial artist: 05, Scientist: 04, Vehicles (Land): 05, Weaponry (Firearms): 04, Weaponry (WW2-era firearms): 05

Advantages:
Expertise (Electronics), Familiarity (American movies from the 1930s and 1940s), Language (Russian), Lightning Reflexes, Slowed Ageing.

Connections:
Natalia Romanova (High), Daredevil (Low), Champions (Low, defunct), Nick Fury (Low).

Drawbacks:
MIA toward being protective of the Widow, MIA toward Impulsiveness.

Equipment:

  • SOUPED UP ARMOURED ROLLS ROYCE [STR 05 BODY (Hardened) 08, Running: 07, R#02. Ivan’s famous Rolls has centrally-locked doors (a rarity back then, IIRC) and a car videophone (!)]
  • Colt M1911A1 [BODY 05, Projectile weapon: 04, Ammo: 07, R#02].
  • HOMING DEVICE AND TRACKER [BODY 05, Detect (homing device): 12 ; Detect is tuned to a pair of homing devices – he wears one and Natasha the other].
  • Ivan seems to keep a small arsenal at the current HQ of the Widow. From time to time he did produce special armament, such as tear gas grenades, when charging into action. This is all normal, commercially-procured equipment.

By Sébastien Andrivet

Source of Character: Marvel comics

Subscribe to our MINI-NEWSLETTER !

One bare-bones e-mail per month. Plain text. Short. To the point. Learn more.