The Black Widow Movie Learned From Marvel’s Comic Mistakes


The Black Widow movie has learned from Marvel Comics’ mistakes. The last decade has seen Marvel Studios transform Hollywood, turning superheroes – derided for decades – into a succession of blockbuster hits. It all culminated in this year’s Avengers: Endgame, which broke Avatar’s record as the highest-grossing movie of all time.
Marvel has no shortage of material to work from. They have over 50 years’ worth of comics to draw upon, including some of the most beloved and influential stories of all time. But, crucially, they don’t just have all the successes to serve as inspiration; they can also learn important lessons from all the mistakes the comic book publisher has made over the decades. Black Widow presents an excellent case in point; the character was created by Stan Lee himself, has been in print since 1964, and should really be considered one of the core Avengers. For all that’s the case, the longest-lasting Black Widow series – written by Nathan Edmondson – ran for just 20 issues. What have Marvel Comics been getting wrong all these years?
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Black Widow’s struggles in print have been the result of a strategic mistake on Marvel’s part. The comic book publisher has typically attempted to stress Natasha Romanoff’s role in the Marvel Universe, focusing on her relationship with other superheroes such as the Winter Soldier, Daredevil, Iron Man, Wolverine, or SHIELD. It’s easy to understand why Marvel has made this choice; in theory, it allows them to connect Black Widow to a stronger brand, hopefully inflating her sales. But the problem is that it doesn’t really allow Black Widow a chance to stand on her own two feet, to develop her own unique supporting characters.
Without exception, the strongest solo superhero brands are the ones where the series lead is surrounded by well-developed secondary characters and villains. Superman has the likes of Lois Lane and Lex Luthor, characters who are just as iconic and celebrated as the Man of Steel himself; Spider-Man’s love life includes unforgettable names like Mary Jane and Gwen Stacy, and he takes on classic enemies such as Venom and the Green Goblin; Batman has an entire Bat-family around him, and possibly the best rogues’ gallery in comics; and Daredevil has Foggy Nelson, the Kingpin, and Elektra. Each of these heroes exists in a world of their own, in a unique context that doesn’t depend upon their interaction with other established superheroes. Marvel Comics has rarely afforded Black Widow the opportunity to develop a context of her own, and as a result her books have felt dependent upon other superheroes.
The Black Widow trailer makes it absolutely clear that Marvel Studios has learned from this mistake. While the trailer acknowledges the strength of Natasha Romanoff’s relationship with heroes like Hawkeye and Nick Fury, it focuses entirely upon the new supporting characters the film will introduce into the MCU. It moves from Natasha’s more traditional context – the Avengers film – to a whole new one. And that’s just the way it should be; this film has to stand on its own two feet, to feel worth making as a Black Widow movie that gives a unique insight into Natasha rather than capitalizing on her existing portrayal. And who knows – although Natasha’s own story is coming to an end, perhaps Yelena Belova will win viewers over as a successor, who operates in a completely different context without the Avengers?
More: Black Widow Trailer Breakdown: 23 Story Details & Secrets You Missed