Marvel’s very first Black Widow was one of the universe’s first superheroes, and she has an unusually dark and satanic origin story.
For the past sixty years, Marvel Comics has been one of the biggest names in the business, producing iconic figures every step of the way. The publisher’s true debut as Timely Comics was over two decades ago and featured some of the world’s first superheroes. While Marvel is no stranger to renaming these Golden Age heroes, few have gone through the kind of monumental changes as the very first Black Widow.
First appeared in the 1940s “Introducing the Black Widow” (by George Kapitan and Harry Sahle) by Mystical comic # 4, Claire Voyant was working as a medium when she was contacted by a demonic figure claiming to be Satan. Claire received an offer to work on behalf of the creature, guiding the souls of evil mortals to hell by having their lives lost in staged accidents. When one of his targets survived, the man retaliated by murdering Claire, only for the demon to give her new life so she could continue her dark work. This ultimately led to her helping other heroes such as the Invaders during WWII. Unfortunately, that’s when she and several of her compatriots are captured by their enemies and placed in suspended animation. By the end of the war, these heroes were forgotten for decades until they were discovered and revived in modern times and given new life.
2007 The Twelve (by J. Michael Straczynski and Chris Weston) brought back war-lost heroes and saw them attempt to re-enter modern society at the behest of the United States government. Along with other lost heroes such as the Laughing Mask and the Phantom Reporter, the First Black Widow has struggled to adjust to life in the present day, especially after being suspected of committing a hate crime. . Fortunately, she was able to clear her name and bring the real culprit to justice.
While its time with the twelve gave her backstory a much needed overhaul, turning her into a debt collector for those who had done dark business rather than a demonic lackey, the most essential aspects of Claire’s character remained intact. In reality, the twelve was a critically acclaimed series overall, and while its heroes did not achieve the same success in their rebirths as equally vintage characters such as the original Human Torch, they have become perfect examples of the way Marvel can build on the roots of its classic characters rather than crush them altogether.
Many characters who have made the journey from the Golden Age to the present day (like Avengers villain Loki) have had their first appearances rediscovered while others have effectively been erased from history entirely. Claire Voyant is proof that you don’t have to take such drastic measures when updating classic stories.
The original Black Widow may have fallen back into obscurity at this point, but she’s still a big part of the Marvel Universe. Whether or not she makes another appearance, she remains a classic model of how veteran characters can be effectively updated and brought into the current era.
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