Marvel’s Black Widow from Spy to Superhero

Essays on an Avenger with a Very Specific Skill Set


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About the Book

First appearing in Marvel Comics in the 1960s, Natasha Romanoff, a.k.a. Black Widow, was introduced to movie audiences in Iron Man 2 (2010). Her character has grown in popularity with subsequent Marvel films, and fans have been vocal about wanting to see Black Widow in a titular role. Romanoff has potent appeal: a strong female character who is not defined by her looks or her romantic relationships, with the skill set of a veteran spy first for the KGB, then for S.H.I.E.L.D. This collection of new essays is the first to examine Black Widow and her development, from Cold War era comics to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

About the Author(s)

Sherry Ginn is a retired educator currently living in North Carolina. She has authored books examining female characters on science fiction television series as well as the multiple television worlds of Joss Whedon. Edited collections have examined sex in science fiction, time travel, the apocalypse, and the award-winning series Farscape, Doctor Who, and Fringe.

Bibliographic Details

Edited by Sherry Ginn
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 188
Bibliographic Info: 13 photos, notes, bibliographies, videography, index
Copyright Date: 2017
pISBN: 978-0-7864-9819-2
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2716-8
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction: Black Widow’s Place in Marvel’s Universes and Our Own (Sherry Ginn) 1

A “very specific skill set”: Black Widow’s Use of Language in The Avengers (Malgorzata Drewniok) 11

In Search of the Complete Female Character in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe (Heather M. Porter) 22

Front and Center: Examining Black Widow Fanvids (Samira Nadkarni) 38

“Eyes front, Ivan!” The Comic Books’ Journey through Fashions and Men (Valerie Estelle Frankel) 52

Feminism in American Cinema: The Many Incarnations of Black Widow (Jillian Coleman Benjamin) 72

Red Rooms, Conditioning Chairs and Needles in the Brain: Brainwashing and Mind Control in the Whedon and Marvel Universes (Sherry Ginn) 88

Joss Whedon’s Radical Icon of Third Wave Feminism (Lewis Call) 106

Athena’s Daughter: Black Widow’s Impact Aesthetic (David Kociemba) 128

The Elusive Black Widow Film: Fan-Made Texts as Social Desire Paths (Tanya R. Cochran) 149

Videography 167

About the Contributors 171

Index 173

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “Ginn’s collection of nine excellent essays explores the comic book and cinema portrayal of Black Widow of the Avengers franchise by showcasing a superheroine who uses her language as a weapon, inverts gender roles, and combines both masculine and feminine character traits in order to exemplify a woman who is brave, brazen, and ‘badass.’”—Richard J. Gray II, Associate Professor of French, Ashland University
  • “Until Marvel finally makes a Black Widow movie, Sherry Ginn gives fans the next best thing: compelling, historically grounded essays that examine the character over 50 years of comics, film, merchandise, and fandom.”—Tara Prescott, editor of Neil Gaiman in the 21st Century
  • “Ginn has made Black Widow central to the entire Marvel project and has done so in an insightful and readable fashion. Black Widow has long been among the more important superheroes, and Ginn brings together essays that assess the character’s significance that all popular culture scholars will relish. Marvel has been guilty of underplaying the character of Black Widow…one can only hope they read this book as Ginn brings together essays that convince the reader of her importance.”—Matthew Wilhelm Kapell, Exploring the Next Frontier: Vietnam, NASA, Star Trek and Utopia in 1960s and 1970s American Myth and History