5 Major Changes Black Widow Made To Marvel's Original Source Material

Most Marvel heroes in the MCU have had their stories introduced from the beginning. However, when it comes to Scarlett Johansson, we had to wait until the character’s last appearance to find out how she became the famed Black Widow. Natasha Romanov, of course, has deep roots in the comic book universe, and now that the spotlight is on her for Black Widow, it’s time to look at how the big-screen version compares to her comic origins.

This article does include SPOILERS for Black Widow. If you have yet to check out the movie in theaters or Disney+ Premier Access, you’ve been warned. Black Widow debuted in Marvel Comics back in 1964, and was created by Stan Lee, Don Rico and Don Heck. The character first appeared as a Russian spy and villain at the time, before later becoming a part of the Avengers in 1966. There’s a number of differences between Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha and the original one from the comics to discuss after Black Widow:

Young Black Widow / Natasha Romanoff in the beginning of the movie

(Image credit: (Marvel))

Natasha’s Road To The Red Room

In the latest Marvel movie, it’s established that Natasha is recruited in Dreykov’s Red Room as a very young girl. Briefly during that period, she spends time as the “daughter” to Alexei and Melina in Ohio as a cover before being sent back into the Russian training facility with her foster sister Yelena. We learn later in the film that Natasha's mother gave her up to join the program without really knowing what it was. When she found out and was “relentless” to get her daughter back, Dreykov had her killed and buried her in an unmarked grave.

In the comic books, Natasha was originally born in 1928 and grew up during Joseph Stalin’s reign. Enemy soldiers attacked her home and burned down the building she and her mother lived in. She was taken in by a Russian soldier named Ivan Petrovitch, who became her father and raised her to be an Olympic athlete and ballerina. Her talents were noticed by the KGB, and she was then recruited to become a spy. In a 2004 retcon of her character’s origin, Ivan turned her over to the Red Room to be trained, brainwashed and biochemically altered.

Scarlett Johansson pointing a gun in Black Widow white suit

(Image credit: (Marvel))

Natasha’s Superhero Skillset

In the Marvel movies, Natasha Romanoff does not have powers like her Avengers coworkers. What she does have are some impressive combat skills and brains when it comes to the life-threatening missions the team is faced with. Black Widow hints at Natasha having “genetically special” elements, but overall, she is a human with a host of really incredible skills to claim as her own.

However, in the comics, Black Widow does possess some superhuman abilities. While placed in the Red Room program in Marvel Comics, she was given an anti-aging implant that allows her to continue to have a youthful appearance for a longer period of time than the average person. Natasha also has some enhanced speed, healing resistance and heightened reflexes, among other biomedical upgrades.

Black Widow, Red Guardian and Yelena, in David Harbour's line "you've killed so many people" line

(Image credit: (Marvel))

Black Widow And Red Guardian’s Relationship

Black Widow introduces David Harbour’s Red Guardian/Alexei, who is described as Russia’s Captain America. In other words, while the U.S. was crafting their own hero with Super Soldier Serum, Alexei was injected with the same kind of chemicals and became a public figure and secret weapon. In the movie, the Red Guardian was a father figure to Natasha and Yelena when they were kids while undercover in Ohio.

In the comic books, Alexei was not a father to Natasha. In fact, their relationship is incredibly different. The KGB arranges Black Widow and Red Guardian to be married and they do fall in love, in between the couple’s union, also being part of the secret organization’s covert plans. Unfortunately for Black Widow, she learns he has died during a test flight and is heartbroken for the loss of her husband. Her grief allows her to channel her rage into becoming a great hero. Wow, is this part much different than what the MCU went with.

Natasha and Yelena on a motorcycle in Black Widow

(Image credit: (Marvel))

Yelena And Natasha As Sisters

In Black Widow, we also meet Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova, who is not Natasha’s blood relative, but foster sister who lives alongside her with Alexei and Melina in Ohio before going with her to the Red Room as a young girl. Following their training and Natasha leaving in the Red Room, they lose contact until the events of Black Widow. In the movie, they reunite to take down the facility that they gave away their childhood for. At first, Natasha claims they are not blood relatives, thus not really sisters, but by the ending, they conclude their sister bond is “real” to the both of them.

However in the comic books, Natasha and Yelena are not foster sisters, but they are sisters in a sense of being both raised and trained in the Red Room. Yelena looks up to Natasha, believes herself to be the heir to the Black Widow title and does all she can to prove herself to Natasha. She volunteers for a mission that will place her in the crosshairs of the Black Widow. When Natasha dies in the comic books, Yelena takes up the mantle of Black Widow, as we’d imagine Pugh will do as the MCU continues.

Dreykov and Taskmaster in Black Widow

(Image credit: (Marvel))

The Identity Of Taskmaster

The final major change in Black Widow that comic book readers are especially aware of is the adaptation of the villain Taskmaster. In the movie, Taskmaster is a secondary antagonist who is after Natasha throughout the film. The masked character has the ability to learn the abilities and fight like others, making them very difficult to beat. At the end of the movie, we learn that Taskmaster's real identity was Dreykov’s daughter, Antonia, who Widow attempted to kill years earlier.

In the comics, Taskmaster has the same abilities, but underneath the suit the character is Tony Masters. Masters grew up with a photographic memory, and he became a football pro in high school after watching one game. This later translates into him becoming a mercenary hired by criminals who has faced off against the Avengers.

Comic books and movies are different mediums, and as characters like Black Widow are adapted for the screen, changes are going to happen. What did you think about the specific changes made for Black Widow? Vote in our poll below and get ready for more MCU offerings with CinemaBlend’s updated list of upcoming Marvel movies.

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Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.