Jan 10, 2018

Tradecraft: Black Widow to Finally Fly Solo?

Variety reports that Marvel Studios may finally be moving forward with a standalone movie about superspy Natasha Romanoff--the Black Widow. This is something spy fans have wanted to see ever since it was first announced that the character would appear in Iron Man 2, played by Scarlett Johansson. Since then Johansson has reprised the role in five more films (including Marvel's The Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Captain America: Civil War), with two more in the can (including The Avengers: Infinity War, due this spring), but never starred in her own solo movie. (This despite Johansson being the only Avengers cast member to gross $450+ million in her own original movie outside that franchise.) It looks like that may finally be rectified.

According to the trade, Marvel President Kevin Feige has tapped screenwriter Jac Schaeffer to pen the script. Despite a track record that can't be argued with, Marvel have been surprisingly slow out the gate to launch a female-driven superhero franchise. They're finally doing that with Captain Marvel (starring Brie Larson and featuring Samuel L. Jackson's return as Nick Fury), due in 2019, but hiring a female writer to crack a Black Widow feature demonstrates a realization of the cultural moment we're in, and, hopefully, a commitment to further female-fronted superheroics. Schaeffer first attracted attention with a comedic spec script about an alien invasion interrupting a baby shower. That script, The Shower, was recognized on the prestigious Black List (favorite scripts of the year as voted on by Hollywood assistants), and now has Anne Hathaway attached to star. Since then Schaeffer has also written Nasty Women for Hathaway, a female-centric remake of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Bedtime Story.

The trade stresses that, "sources say [the Black Widow movie] is still very early development, as the film has no greenlight, but naming a writer is the closest the studio has come to moving forward on a standalone pic." Marvel hasn't yet announced any titles of their "Phase 4," which will follow the two upcoming Avengers movies, but the earliest we could possibly see a Black Widow would be 2020. I really hope it happens!

Schaeffer certainly won't be lacking for source material. The sexy former Russian spy Natasha Romanoff, aka The Black Widow, is one of Marvel's foremost espionage-oriented characters, second only to Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. She has a rich history in comics dating back to the Sixties. Three beautifully produced Marvel Premiere hardcovers collect this secret agent's most essential adventures in matching volumes. Black Widow: The Sting of the Widow presents the character's first appearance (in a silly costume in an issue of Iron Man) and earliest solo adventures from the early Seventies, after she'd gotten an Emma Peel makeover, ending up in the black catsuit with which she's still most closely associated. These early Black Widow comics will surely be of interest to collectors and hardcore fans, but casual fans looking for a great introduction to the character are better off picking up the second volume in the series, Black Widow: Web of Intrigue first.

Black Widow: Web of Intrigue offers an excellent primer on the character containing some of her classic appearances from the early Eighties, including an excellent comic drawn by my second-favorite spy artist (after Steranko), Paul Gulacy.  (Look for a cameo appearance by Michael Caine!) Black Widow: Web of Intrigue contains this and several other seminal tales of the red-haired Russian superspy. A third volume, Black Widow: The Itsy Bitsy Spider collects a pair of Marvel Knights stories from the late Nineties (including one by Queen & Country scribe Greg Rucka).

My two favorite modern-day Widow storylines have yet to receive the hardcover treatment, sadly, but are available in a pair of out-of-print trade paperbacks. Richard K. Morgan's Black Widow: Homecoming and Black Widow: The Things They Say About Her put the focus on espionage above superheroics and are among the very best Marvel spy stories. I hope they end up in their own Premiere volume one day. More recent Widow stories include Black Widow: Deadly Origin, Black Widow and the Marvel Girls, Black Widow: The Name of the RoseBlack Widow: Kiss or Kill, three volumes of beautiful material by Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto (including the one pictured at the top of this story), and two (comprising her most recent series) by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee. Most of the character's  adventures with Daredevil from the 1970s are included in Essential Daredevil: Volume 3. Last year, Black Widow was also the subject of a large-format character retrospective/art book, Marvel's The Black Widow: Creating the Avenging Super-Spy: The Complete Comics History.


Rob Buckley said...

I hope they use more of her more interesting comics back story in the movies, as they've almost studiously ignored it at the moment. There were hints in The Avengers 2 and an ahistoric reference to the KGB in Winter Soldier, but so far, she's not the decades old character trained by the Winter Soldier (among others) of the titles. Might be quite fun to see if they could squeeze Captain America meeting her as a child during the Second World War as well!

Anonymous said...

There's a Humphrey Bogart cameo in the Gulacy comics, too.