Was the MCU's Most Controversial Black Widow Scene Based on Marvel Comics?

Today, we look at the Marvel Universe origins of one of the most controversial Black Widow scenes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

This is a feature called "Written in the Book." It is basically the reverse of another feature of mine called "Follow the Path," where I spotlight changes made to comic book characters that are based on outside media, as well as characters who entirely came from outside media. Nowadays, there are so many comic book films and TV series out there that we can spotlight examples of TV and film adapting specific and less famous comic book stories to other media (so no "Spider-Man lifts up debris" or stuff like that).

This time, we're going to look at the comic book influences on the infamous "monster" scene from Avengers: Age of Ultron.

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In the first Avengers film, a big part of Black Widow's arc in the film is that she doesn't truly feel that she can be considered a hero because she had done so many bad things before Hawkeye got her out of the Black Widow program. Loki, of course, being a jerk, torments her with that very concern in the film:

Black Widow: It’s really not that complicated. I’ve got red in my ledger, I’d like to wipe it out.

Loki: Can you? Can you wipe out that much red? Dreykov’s daughter, Sao Paulo, the hospital fire? Barton told me everything. Your ledger is dripping, it’s GUSHING red, and you think saving a man no more virtuous than yourself will change anything? This is the basest sentimentality. This is a child at prayer... PATHETIC! You lie and kill in the service of liars and killers. You pretend to be separate, to have your own code. Something that makes up for the horrors. But they are a part of you, and they will never go away!

So that's what Black Widow was dealing with in the second film when she and Bruce Banner became to develop a sort of relationship with each other and when the team was hiding out at Hawkeye's farmhouse, they have a heart to heart about their possible relationship. Banner, naturally, is hesitant because of the monster inside of him and Black Widow explains that she's just as much of a monster as him.

She then explains that during her training in the Red Room to be a Black Widow, she was sterilized. She explains, “You know what my final test was in the Red Room? They sterilize you. It's efficient. One less thing to worry about, the one thing that might matter more than a mission. It makes everything easier — even killing. You still think you’re the only monster on the team?*

Now, clearly, the presumed intent of the scene was to continue on the ideas expressed in the first film, which is that Black Widow has done so many bad things before coming to work for S.H.I.E.L.D. that she feels that she is just as much of a monster as the Hulk. However, in te way that it is specifically expressed, it sure sounds like she is saying that her sterilization plays a role in her being a "monster," and that was, as you might imagine, not taken well by a number of fans, who felt that it equated an inability to have your own children as being a "monster."

Again, that almost certainly was not the intent of Joss Whedon, but whether purposeful or not, it still was how the scene read.

Interestingly, though, the scene was greatly influenced by a comic book sequence.

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In the 2004 Black Widow miniseries by Richard K. Morgan, Goran Parlov and Bill Sienkiewicz, Natasha discovered in the fifth issue that the Black Widows were prevented from becoming pregnant...

because the program didn't want any distractions...

Natasha is angered by the news...

Morgan was later asked by Charlie Jane Anders about the scene and after expressing pleasure at Whedon adapting some of it for Age of Ultron, he explained:

That narrative thread actually emerged not from any specific interest in children on Natasha’s part — my sense of the character is that she’s probably not keen on the idea — but because one of her fellow Widows was trying to have kids and had run up against the Red Room biotech that prevented it. So when Natasha finds this out, it’s almost a casual blow. But what’s telling, I think, is her reaction; there are no tears, no mawkishness, no collapse into becoming womanly distress — she’s just very (and dangerously) angry. And it’s important to realise why she’s angry — it’s not because she necessarily wants kids. She’s pissed off because she’s had the choice taken away.

It was always important to me that the Widow should be a genuine woman, not just a kick-ass guy-type character with T&A and legs-up-to-here glued on. And there’s no honest real-world vision of women that doesn’t take having babies into account; it’s what females have been designed for by millions of years of evolution, most women will feel the urge at some point in their lives, and remember I was positing Natasha as getting older — a woman in her late thirties minimum, so that urge might be getting urgent.

But that’s biology. Feminism begins after biology, and in this case it begins with what women do (and more importantly are enabled to do) about that biological urge. See, most women I’ve ever met either already have or at some point want kids, but there are still significant numbers who don’t, or at least don’t right now. But those variations are beside the point — the real point is that among all those women, having or wanting kids or not, I never met a single one who didn’t want the choice. Ultimately, I think, that’s what feminism is about — building a world in which women’s choices are not circumvented by someone (male) else’s agenda.

So yeah, that's how the scene made its way from comics to the films.

If you have any suggestions for future Written in the Book installments, drop me a line at [email protected]!

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About The Author
Brian Cronin (15258 Articles Published)

CBR Senior Writer Brian Cronin has been writing professionally about comic books for over fifteen years now at CBR (primarily with his “Comics Should Be Good” series of columns, including Comic Book Legends Revealed). He has written two books about comics for Penguin-Random House – Was Superman a Spy? And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed and Why Does Batman Carry Shark Repellent? And Other Amazing Comic Book Trivia! and one book, 100 Things X-Men Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, from Triumph Books. His writing has been featured at ESPN.com, the Los Angeles Times, About.com, the Huffington Post and Gizmodo. He features legends about entertainment and sports at his website, Legends Revealed and other pop culture features at Pop Culture References. Follow him on Twitter at @Brian_Cronin and feel free to e-mail him suggestions for stories about comic books that you'd like to see featured at [email protected]!

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