Black Widow#1 cover by Daniel Acuna
The boy’s club of superheroes is a real thing. Look no further than the Justice Society of America which featured Wonder Woman as the team secretary. Sure, get the amazon to take meeting minutes. Brilliant. But comics have become more diverse in recent years and there’s talk of better portrayal of women in comics (don’t hold your breath, but people are talking at least).
Batman, Superman, Iron Man and Spider-Man may dominate the superhero movie genre and comic racks, but there is a character who should be in the spotlight who doesn’t share the ‘man’ moniker and isn’t derivative of them either; the Black Widow.
In the Red Room, a young Natasha Romanoff was trained to be the deadliest of assassins. A subject of the Black Widow program utilizing cyber technological implants and brain washing, Natasha has been active since WWII, making her a member of the ‘slow aging’ club including Nick Fury, Dum Dum Dugan and Wolverine.
In comics, Black Widow has fought alongside Hawkeye, Daredevil, Spider-Man, Captain America and Wolverine. A card-carrying member of the Avengers, the Champions (don’t ask), the Defenders and more, she isn’t just a sexy woman in a catsuit. Some of the best creators in comics have developed her background into a rich world of intrigue and danger that would be ideal material for a feature film.
Movie goers love her. Comic book fans are agog about her. Film directors are eager to give her a solo film. So… what’s the deal?
Since she was introduced in the second Iron Man film, Black Widow has been the most significant superheroine in movies since Catwoman in Batman Returns. Marvel has taken the character through three additional movies past her first appearance, making her more popular with fans and those new to the Soviet superspy alike. Scarlett Johansson hasn’t really portrayed the stone-cold killer aspect of the Black Widow, but there have been implications that the surface has just been scratched.
While it may seem impossible to see a Black Widow solo project, there has been an increase in interest from inside the industry and among moviegoers. That doesn’t necessarily make a Black Widow film a lock, but it would be foolish of Marvel/Disney to not explore the idea. Mixing elements of espionage, action and drama, it could be a real stand out blockbuster.
What’s the argument against this movie?
A leaked email correspondence inside Sony sited Elektra, Catwoman and Supergirl as bombs which led to the conclusion that female superhero movies don’t work. But Steel, Green Lantern, Captain America and the Fantastic Four have also bombed as movies and that hasn’t stopped films like that being made. In fact, the Spider-Man film franchise has seen steadily diminishing returns yet there is a fifth outing on its way.
Director Neil Marshall (who directed the female-centric horror film Descent) told Vanity Fair “I would love to do a Black Widow movie. That’s perfect, I would love to do that. That character is really interesting, she doesn’t have any superpowers, she just has extraordinary skills, and the world that she comes from, being this ex-K.G.B. assassin, I find that really fascinating, yeah.”
Marvel Comics fan Christopher Haley even went so far as to craft an opening animation that hearkens to Saul Bass and has hints of Maurice Binder’s James Bond classic sequences. Along with the visuals, the short film also hints at possible plot ideas, guest-stars and a director.
There has been more talk about diversifying the audience beyond the usual demographic, and a Black Widow movie could fit the bill. Just look at Greg Rucka’s excellent run on the character in comics as inspiration!
This isn’t a dream. Marvel’s President of Production Kevin Feige has stated that this is not an impossibility and actress Scarlett Johansson has shown interest. A Captain Marvel movie is in development so I question the gender bias in the argument seen in the Sony emails. Additionally, the focus on Natasha Romanoff in Avengers: Age of Ultron (if you look past some dreadful dialog) speaks volumes to the potential of a Black Widow movie. If only the corporate heads can see the light, it can happen.