The supernatural anti-hero known as the Black Widow was originally a young woman named Claire Voyant, born in the early 1900s. In 1928 Claire’s younger sister Debbie was murdered by Debbie’s mobster boyfriend, Lester Maddicks. Standing over Debbie’s grave, Claire vowed vengeance against Maddicks. At that moment she was contacted by a demonic entity, identifying itself as “Satan”, who offered to grant her power to avenge her sister’s murder in exchange for becoming his immortal servant. She would become his assassin on Earth, targeting only the wicked who had made deals with him in the past and she would kill them and send their over-due souls to him. Claire agreed and was transformed into the Black Widow!
After killing Maddicks and avenging her sister’s murder, the Black Widow began killing various criminals and evil men at her master’s command. Once World War II broke out the Black Widow became involved in the war effort, fighting alongside several other costumed heroes against the Nazis in enemy territory. On April 25th, 1945, she was with a group of 11 other costumed heroes who fell into an enemy trap while exploring an underground Nazi laboratory. Black Widow and the other heroes were put into suspended animation tubes by the Nazis, who intended to study and dissect them later in order to turn the next generation of Nazis into a true “master race”. The Nazi scientists were captured or killed before they could ever return to the lab, so the twelve heroes remained buried and forgotten for decades.
Black Widow and the others were finally discovered decades later when a construction project in Germany unearthed the buried lab. The suspension tubes were turned over to the U.S. military, who thawed the heroes and encouraged them to continue serving their country after having a period of time to adjust. This was shortly after the first superhero “Civil War”, so the U.S. government was thrilled at the prospect of having a group of heroes at their disposal from a simpler time.
Claire began to explore life in the modern era, and discovered a goth-themed gay-friendly nightclub where she met a young woman named Laura, and began to develop a relationship with her. The Black Widow soon felt her master’s call again, and discovered that despite the decades that had passed she was still his hand on Earth. She resumed her duties for him, sneaking away at night to kill various evil men. Claire maintained a distance between herself and Laura, not wanting to expose the younger woman to the horrors of her other life.
One of her fellow frozen heroes, the Phantom Reporter, had taken an instant liking to Claire and tried to pursue a relationship with her, although she repeatedly rebuffed him. His feelings for her did not stop him from interrogating her after a massacre at a gay bar which looked like it could have been her handiwork. Claire revealed her origins to him, and explained that she was not responsible for that attack–she only kills the wicked, not the innocent.
After the true killer was exposed, the remaining heroes started to go their separate ways. Black Widow and the Phantom Reporter had grown closer during this time, and the two eventually became both lovers and crime-fighting partners. Claire also continued to pursue other women, whom she and the Reporter would apparently get involved with together.
The Black Widow possesses a variety of powers. She can fly and teleport. She can kill with a touch, and possesses some limited shape-shifting ability–on at least one occasion her hand was shown to become monstrous claws when killing one of her targets. She has some superhuman strength, and is resistant to injury from conventional weapons. She is immortal, and claims to not need sleep. In her Golden Age appearances she has also displayed the ability to turn invisible, plant mental suggestions in people’s minds, and heal injuries with a gesture. She may possess additional abilities that have not yet been documented.
Her powers are granted by her demonic master, whose true identity remains unrevealed–but there are many Satan-like entities in the Marvel Universe it could be, including Mephisto, Satannish, Marduk Kurios, etc.
Black Widow first appeared in Mytic Comics #4 (1940) George Kapitan and Harry Sahle. She was outed as bisexual and had her origins revamped in the miniseries The Twelve (2008) by J. Michael Straczynski and Chris Weston.
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