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A Brief History of Every Marvel Black Widow Character

Find out every Black Widow character in the Marvel universe. The upcoming Black Widow 2020 movie is going to delve deep into Natasha's past. The movie promises to explore her history with the Russian "Red Room" project that's only been seen in flashbacks and memories.

What may come as a surprise to some people is that there will be more than one Black Widow. The name is actually a title given to agents of the program. According to actress Rachel Weisz, there will be several Black Widows in the movie. "There are quite a number…I’m a Black Widow and there’s Scarlett [Johansson] and Florence [Pugh]," she told IGN. "There’s quite a bit of other characters you’ll also meet that are Black Widows.”

While most people only know about the one Black Widow here's a brief history of every Black Widow from the comics, television, and movies.

Natalia Romanova / Natasha Romanoff

Marvel's The Avengers (2012) - Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson)
Natalia Alianovna "Natasha" Romanova was trained as a child to become a Russian secret agent.  Created by Stan Lee, Don Rico, and Don Heck, the character debuted in Tales of Suspense #52 (1964). Black Widow started out as a Russian spy and an Iron Man villain. She later defected to the United States. After that, she joined S.H.I.E.L.D., and later the Avengers.

In the comics, Natasha was forced into the secretive "Red Room" project. The Red Room (Красная комната) is one of the K.G.B.'s espionage training programs. It trained 28 orphan girls to become female spies known as Black Widows and used psychological manipulation and biochemical enhancement to create near-perfect assassins. The program designed by Professor Grigor Chelintsov implanted false memories to believe that they were trained in ballet at the famous Bolshoi Theatre.

This is the Black Widow we've known and loved since her first appearance in Iron Man 2. Scarlett Johanson plays Natasha "Nat" Romanoff. We've seen many sides of Black Widow in the movies, but the new movie will be very different. Johansson described the film to Deadline as "an opportunity to explore the Widow as a woman who has come into her own and is making independent and active choices for herself, probably for once in her life".

Melina Vostokoff

A surprising twist to the history of the Black Widows is Melina Vostokoff. Vostokoff was created by Ralph Macchio and George Pérez and first appears in Marvel Fanfare #11 (1983). She's a master assassin and spy hired by Russia to take down Natasha. She fought Black Widow until S.H.I.E.L.D. showed up.

After that, she joined the villain group Femizons and became one of Superia's lieutenants. She's mainly a villain but joined Thunderbolts during the Civil War. Vostokoff is better known by the alias "Iron Maiden" because of the metal armor she wears.

Rachel Weisz is playing Melina Vostokoff in the upcoming Marvel movie. The biggest difference from the comic to the movie is she was never a member of the Red Room project before. The movie is setting her up to be another Black Widow. We'll see if she gets the metal skin.

Yelena Belova

Yelena is the second woman to take on the name Black Widow. Belova first appears in Inhumans #5 (1999) by Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee. Yelena also trained in the Red Room and excelled. She claims she surpassed Natasha’s score but it's probably a lie. At any rate, after Natasha defected, Russia decided to replace her and 15-year old Yelena took her place as the new Russian Black Widow.

After becoming Black Widow she set out to stop Natasha's missions and became a rival of hers. Eventually, she redeemed herself and rejoined S.H.I.E.L.D. She died a few times and even took on the abilities of the Super-Adaptoid to mimic the powers of her enemies.

In the Black Widow solo movie, 23-year-old Florence Pugh plays Yelena as a "sister-figure" to Natasha. "I was excited to see how bold it was and to see how raw it was and to see how sad it was. It was a script that I didn't expect to see associated with this. That was part of the reason I got so excited, and with Cate Shortland attached and telling the next part of [the 'Black Widow's history], it was only thrilling to be a part of," Pugh told Collider.

Monica Chang

In the Ultimate universe, Monica Chang plays the second woman to become the Black Widow. Her first comic appearance Ultimate Comics Avengers #3 (2009) and she was created by Mark Millar and Carlos Pacheco. If you read our post on Marvel Asian superheroes then you already know her name. She’s Asian-American and was Nick Fury's ex-wife. Agent Chang is the chief of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Artificial Intelligence division.

Monica Chang hasn’t shown up in the movies but there’s an Inhuman character named Monica Chang on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It’s a small cameo and probably won’t be addressed in the movies. But she might show up again.

Jessica Drew

In the comics, Jessica Drew is Spider-Woman but first appears as Black Widow in All-New Ultimates #1 (2014). In the Ultimate Universe Drew becomes the third person to take on the mantle of Black Widow. Drew is actually a gender-swapped genetically-engineered clone of Peter Parker. It’s all just a little strange.

There’s no version of Jessica Drew in the Marvel Universe. But with Peter Parker taking on a bigger role in the MCU it’s not a bad time to bring her in. Plus, in the comics, Jessica and Carol Danvers are best friends. Unfortunately, her character rights are with Sony since she’s related to Spider-Man. So unless Sony wants to give them up Marvel can't use her. Might be a good time to work on that though.

Tania (Black Widow 2099)

In the alternate 2099 universe, there’s another woman named Black Widow. Secret Wars 2099 #1, (2015) by Peter David and Will Sliney introduced a black woman named Tania as a member of the future team of Avengers 2099. She starts out as a serial killer. Similar to the mating habits of real black widows she eats men after sleeping with them. Usually jerks. She goes on to a long career as Black Widow.

There’s another alternate version of Black Widow that appears in Spider-Man 2099 #14 (2016) that bands with a group of fellow vigilantes.

Dottie Underwood

In the short-lived tv show Agent Carter Peggy meets a woman at a boarding school named Dorothy "Dottie" Underwood (Bridget Regan) in the 1940s. She's just your typical air-headed blonde and mainly played for comic relief. That is until she kills someone. That's because, in reality, Dottie’s a deep-cover operative, assassin, and Russian spy.

She pretended to be a small-town girl from Iowa and everyone was fooled. It’s later revealed that Dottie was trained at the Red Room Academy and is working with a Soviet espionage agency named Leviathan.

Unlike Natasha, Dottie was psycho. It was revealed she handcuffs herself to bed at night out of habit. As part of her crude training, she had pulled out her own teeth, hair, and nails. She’d burned her skin with a blowtorch and killed her best friend during a training session. Dottie is the opposite of everything Natasha is but she’s still a Black Widow.

We don't know if we'll see Black Widows like Jessica Drew or Monica Chang in the MCU but we know they're all fierce women with a killer edge.

What do you think of the history of the Black Widows? Do you have a favorite? Let us know in the comments below!
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