Saturday 29 January 2011

Amazing Spider-Man #86. The Black Widow.

Amazing Spider-Man #86 Spider-Man vs the Black Widow
Has there ever been a more successful costume change in comic book history than that of the Black Widow? One moment she was running around in a fishnet and basque collision that at best could only be labelled quaint. The next she was running around in an outfit that suggested black leather had suddenly become available in aerosol form. Interesting that, in the wake of The Avengers TV show, both Marvel and DC decided to reinvent an established character in the Emma Peel mould.

With DC, it was Wonder Woman. Well, Wonder Woman's transformation was always doomed to failure, being, as it was, the equivalent of turning Superman into James Bond.

But if the switch didn't suit Diana Prince, it fitted the Black Widow as snugly as her new outfit did, and this is the issue where it all happened.

Amazing Spider-Man #86, The Black Widow, John Romita
In Amazing Spider-Man #86, the Black Widow decides she's had enough of living the jet-set lifestyle of Madame Natasha and that it's time to make a return to the ways of derring-do. As well as knocking up a new costume in five minutes flat - as only super-doers can - she decides that, to complete the reinvention process, she's going to take on and defeat Spider-Man so she can learn all his tricks. Bearing in mind how many years he'd been around by this point, I would've thought most of his tricks were pretty well-known by now but it seems Madame Natasha hasn't been paying that much attention and doesn't even seem sure if he has any super-powers at all when she meets him.

Unfortunately for our hero, he just happens to be ill when she turns up to tangle with him. This is a Stan Lee scripted tale, so I suppose Stan felt that no mere woman could hope to take on the web-slinger unless he was debilitated in some manner, and it has to be said that when they meet it's not exactly an epic clash, as Spidey at first doesn't bother putting up any kind of fight, because he doesn't feel well and then, when he finally feels provoked enough to do so by snapping her string and clogging her web shooters, the Widow promptly decides he's too much for her to handle, and scarpers. And to think I complained about the Vision's lack of sticking power in The Avengers #94.

Amazing Spider-Man #86 Spider-Man vs the Black Widow
This blog has of course travelled down dark and dangerous pathways of lust lately with its wildly successful, "Who's the sexiest character in comics?" post and now it must do so again by acknowledging that the main part of this issue's appeal is that John Romita and Jim Mooney between them manage to make the Widow look fantastic - even if you do worry she'll snap in half if Spidey actually decides to hit back, so narrow is her waist. We all know John Romita's romance comics background meant he could draw an attractive woman, but in the Widow he seems to have found the perfect conduit for his talents. And so a character who'd always been somewhat naff and pointless suddenly becomes cool and with-it.

Meanwhile, it's not just in his super-hero life that Spidey's having problems with women as, by this stage in the strip's history, Gwen Stacy's in full-on limpet mode and whingeing at Peter to stop taking photos of Spider-Man in case he gets hurt. What Gwendolyn doesn't know is that getting hurt is the least of his worries because, at the end of the issue, we're left with the cliff-hanger - is Peter Parker about to lose his Spider-Powers? I'm betting he doesn't. But, then, what do I know?


Simon B said...

I've just commented on your Sexiest Character post but clearly forgot about Romita's Black Widow. Thanks for reminding me - she does indeed look fantastic.

bliss_infinte said...

Ah, yes, Romita's Black Widow is stunningly awesome in this issue. I love her quick costume design to be more hip in the "swingy seventies"!

Anonymous said...

I pick up the Marvel Tales reprint of this whenever I see it. (So far, I have 6 copies) I first read it when I was 8 years old. Best. Comic. Ever.

Steve said...

I have the same urge to keep buying Amazing Spider-Man #59.

Blaze Morgan said...

AH, my first introduction with the new Black Widow was in Amazing Adventures #1. A comic that was half-Inhumans and half-Black Widow. The first couple of issues featured the Widow as drawn by Big John Buscema. Romita does a lovely lady, but Buscema does a sexy spy! WHOOF

It was a dandy comic for its limited life. Buscema was replaced by Gene Colan, who ain't no slouch either. Over with Inhumans, leftover Kirby krap became a nice little run of Neal Adams.

Steve said...

I've never read the Neal Adams Inhumans stuff but I've read the Kirby ones which I'd have to agree were less than great.