It was rumored that Natasha Romanoff (Romanova) was somehow related to the last ruling czars of Russia, but was never proven. Nothing else was known about her prior to World War II.
Nazis set the building Natasha was in on fire in Stalingrad, and her mother threw her out the window to a Russian soldier before dying in the fire. The soldier's name was Ivan Petrovitch, and he watched over Natasha for her entire life, to this day remaining by her side as her chauffeur.
While under Ivan's protection, many adversaries attempted to attack her. Baron von Stucker abducted Natasha and presented her to the Hand in Madripoor. There, she was to become their Master Assassin until Captain America, Logan, and Ivan saved her.
As Natasha grew and matured, she proved to be an amazing athlete and scholar, while gaining distinction in the USSR as a ballerina. Eventually, she married Alexi Shostakov, a distinguished Soviet test pilot.
Soviet government intelligence (KGB), decided that the skill set of this couple would make them superb special operatives, and split them up while Alexi was away on a mission. Trained as the Red Guardian, Alexi became the Soviet Union's answer to the United States' Captain America.
Natasha was told that her husband died in an experimental rocket crash, and was drafted into the KGB. She became their best operative from being trained in the infamous Red Room Academy, becoming excellent at fighting and information gathering. During this time she had some training under the Winter Soldier. It was there she was first dubbed the �Black Widow.�
The man named Logan resurfaced in America years later without any memory of his past, and in danger from Hydra assassins. She saved him and came upon him again when he stole the Red Storm Project from Russia alongside Carol Danvers and Ben Grimm.
Early Clashes with Iron Man
Black Widow's first field assignment was to assist Boris Turgenov in the assassination of Professor Anton Vanko for defecting from their country by infiltrating Stark Industries in America. Tony Stark, the original Iron Man, continually foiled her schemes against Stark Industries. She even attempted to coerce the novice costumed adventurer Hawkeye, his association with Russian spies would label his a criminal in his early career. Black Widow and Hawkeye would next clash against the novice super-hero Spider-Man. They would resume their focus on Tony Stark, clashing with Iron Man twice more. The first an attempt to raid Tony Stark's munitions plant.
When that mission ended in failure, she is taken back to Russia by her masters given a new costume that allows her to scale walls and a device that allows her to fire lines to swing from. She would once more attempt to get Hawkeye to help her destroy Iron Man, while the pair almost succeed when Black Widow is injured Hawkeye retreats to get her to safety. During this period the Black Widow would begin to feel love toward Hawkeye, weakening her loyalty to her country. When her employers learned the truth they had her gunned down sending her to a hospital, convincing Hawkeye to go straight and seek membership in the Avengers.
Association with the Avengers
Captured by her masters again and brainwashed, Black Widow would be forced to hire the Swordsman and Powerman to destroy the Avengers. This plot would eventually fail when the Avengers would defeat both of the villains and Natasha would shake off the effects of the brainwashing. Attempting to make amends with the group, she would assist them against the racist group known as the Sons of the Serpent.
Having been granted amnesty, Natasha would bid for membership in the Avengers, aiding them in their battle against the Ultroids. She would threaten to kill their leader Ixar if he did not leave the Earth, winning the victory, however Hawkeye would cover up this fact so that she could get membership in the group even though she violate their code of ethics regarding killing. However when Nick Fury would hire her to spy on her former master on behalf of S.H.I.E.L.D. she would be forced to decline membership with the Avengers and publicly break off her relationship with Hawkeye. As part of her mission, the press would brand her as a traitor, breaking Hawkeye's heart.
Arriving in China, the Black Widow would not be easily trusted and subjected to the Psychotron device, a machine that can brainwash anyone. She would prove to be too strong willed and would have to be gassed and kept locked up. Learning that Natasha is now a prisoner of her former Communist masters, the Avengers would travel to China to rescue her, clashing with the Red Guardian, Natasha's ex-husband who was thought to be dead. The Avengers with the help of Natasha would defeat the Communists plot to use the Psychotron against the western world. During the course of the battle Natasha would be injured and the Red Guardian would seemingly perish in the battle.
After time recovering in the hospital, Natasha would return to Avengers mansion and come to the decision to give up her career of costumed adventuring. However this would prove to be short lived as she would return to super-heroics shortly thereafter, however her romance with Hawkeye would become strained as he was usually too busy with Avengers business to pay attention to her.
Fed up with stay out of action, Black Widow would accept another assignment from S.H.I.E.L.D. to prevent Egghead from using an orbital platform to hold the world ransom, she would get captured prompting Hawkeye to use Henry Pym's growth formula to become the new Goliath and rescue her. She would aid the Avengers in stopping Egghead, although it would end in the seeming death of Egghead and Goliath's brother Barney. After a prolonged absence, the Black Widow would eventually end her relationship with Goliath.
Natasha would not be able to avoid super-heroics for long and after designing a new sleek black costume and adapting her bracelets with electric "Widows Bites" she would seek to prove herself a capable adventurer by besting Spider-Man in battle. Although Spider-Man was ill and not at his full capacity at the time, he was still able to beat the Widow, however she would resolve to continue her career as a costumed adventurer.
She would mostly clash with underworld figures and costumed villains, notably the Astrologer and Watchlord.
Partners with Daredevil
The Black Widow would soon become a pawn manipulated by the computer known as Baal from the distant future Earth-71778. In that reality, mankind would be wiped out and the past history of Daredevil and Black Widow would play a crucial role. This would ultimately lead to a long relationship and partnership between the two heroes.
Champions of Los Angeles
She worked with the Champions of Los Angeles, who disbanded due to bankruptcy, and attempted a relationship with Hercules without success.
After these two failures, Natasha decided to stay on her own and freelance as an agent for awhile.
It was during this time that an enemy from her time alongside Daredevil kidnapped Ivan to lure her to her death. Damon Dran planned to bring Natasha to his island so a small army of female combat specialists could destroy her. Once she was out of the way, he would send a fake Black Widow back to SHIELD to assassinate Nick Fury. Unfortunately for Dran, Natasha defeated the army, saved Ivan, and notified Fury (who in turn bombed Dran's island).
On a freelance mission, the Black Widow attempted to prevent the Hand from stealing the long-dead body of their Master Warrior, Kirigi. Utilizing deadly poisons, Natasha was killed by the Hand. She was revived by Stone of the Chaste, and joined forces with Stone and Daredevil to stop the Hand from reviving Elektra. Natasha knew that they failed in this endeavor, but kept the information from Matt for his well being.
On a mission, Natasha found her husband Alexi Shostakov alive. Little did she know that it was only a Life Model Decoy created by Russian agents to blackmail her back into service of mother Russia. Once she finished the tasks they gave her, the Russians told her the truth and attempted to kill her. With Ivan's assistance, she defeated the Russians and destroyed the LMD.
Iron Man teamed up with Black Widow to prevent an agent named �Oktober� from attempting to start World War III by launching missiles. The missiles were launched, but Iron Man kept them from detonating. Oktober ended up actually being Natasha under some old KGB reprogramming that had been dormant in her mind. Together, they captured the agent responsible.
In time, Black Widow came back to the Avengers and became a co-leader, managing ops at home base while Black Knight lead in the field. When the majority of the Avengers were killed during the Onslaught saga, she was unable to rebuild the team while fighting off lawsuits from the Maria Stark Foundation. She always felt as if the Avengers dissolution was solely her fault.
The Black Widow then vowed to apprehend all of the Avenger's former foes, and ran into Daredevil while hunting the Grey Gargoyle. Matt feared for her mental state as he noticed how obsessive she became about bringing the Gargoyle down. As he attempted to help her, his girlfriend, Karen Page, became increasingly more angry and jealous. Natasha acknowledged Matt's love for Karen and left them to be together. Later, Natasha would even offer to help Karen clear her name from a murder Mr. Fear framed her for.
Once the Avengers who were thought killed returned, Natasha was more relieved, but decided to work with SHIELD instead, assisting them in destroying Freedom Light by pretending to be Ebon Flame.
Daredevil would come into her life once again when he needed her to take care of Baby Karen, who he believed to be the Antichrist. He would eventually come back to attempt to kill the child, and Natasha stood in his way. While they were fighting, Bullseye killed the child and Natasha was badly beaten. Upon the child's death, Matt realized what he was doing, and he and Natasha reconciled. While she could admit that she still loved him, they both decided they would never be together.
Another Russian agent would claim the mantle of Black Widow, which brought her up against Natasha. Yelena Belova tried to keep Natasha from retrieving the Endless Fury Serum but failed.
A short time after, Natasha would capture Yelena and have their faces surgically swapped in an effort to find out what General Stalyenko was doing with the Rhapastani Government in the Hudson River Valley. After meeting with who he thought was Yelena, Stalyenko figured out it was not really her and attempted to kill her. Even though her plan failed, Natasha was able to prevent Stalyenko from selling the Cold War nuclear weapons he was hiding in the valley to Rhapastan.
The government of Bulgaria later captured Madame Hydra and requested an exchange with the United States for the Black Widow. As part of a sting to find out who it was that was going to allow Natasha to be exchanged, Daredevil and SHIELD teamed up with Natasha and found out that her husband, Alexi had orchestrated the entire exchange. Alongside the Avengers, SHIELD, and Daredevil, Natasha took Alexi into custody.
The stress of seeing her once-dead once-living once-dead once-robot now-alive again husband drove Natasha to retirement. She lived for a short time in Arizona before agents from the Red Room began tracking down ex-Black Widow agents and killing them. Natasha recruited Phil Dexter, an associate from SHIELD, and attempted to track down the killers. In her hunting, she found Sally Anne Carter as well as Antonovna Kudrin, who was the former head of bio-tech for the Red Room. It turned out that the Black Widows included twenty seven girls trained to be perfect killers. They were implanted with false memories, psychochemically conditioned, and chemically enhanced to be loyal and perform perfectly for the program. Even pheromonal locks and keys were implanted into the Black Widows as a control mechanism to keep them from rebelling. While taking Lyudmila to SHIELD, Natasha learned that Nick Fury had used the pheromonal keys to make her defect from her home country and begin working for SHIELD. She also learned that Sally Anne was kidnapped and Phil was killed in the process.
The trail of Black Widow killings lead to Vassily Ilyich Ulyanov from the Red Room and Ian McMasters, CEO of Gynacon. Natasha caught up to them on his yacht and killed them, making her the number one most wanted criminal in the United States.
Natasha sought help from Yelena Belova in Cuba. Yelena was running a lingerie company and soft pornography television channels at the time. In return for a place to stay, Yelena asked Natasha for help in exporting stolen medical supplies from Miami. To her surprise, Natasha found the medical supplies to be from Gynacon and that Sally Anne was actually taken by the mafia. Kestrel and Martin Ferris captured Natasha in Miami and attempted to alter her mind using drugs to find out what she knew. With the help of Yelena, Daredevil rescued Natasha, who then tracked and killed Kestrel and Ferris. In all the madness, Natasha learned that Sally Anne had been experimented on by Gynacon but had escaped.
Black Widow was assigned to track down the Tinkerer in an effort to find the financier behind the super-villains of America. Disguised in a burka, she tracked the Tinkerer to the castle of Lucia von Bardas, the current prime minister of Latveria. Unfortunately, the President refused Fury's request for a S.H.I.E.L.D.-focused overthrow of von Bardas. Forced to act alone, Fury gathered Widow, Captain America, Spider-Man, Luke Cage, Daredevil, Wolverine and Daisy Johnson to overthrow von Bardas. Unfortunately, the heroes disapproved of bringing down Castle Doom down on von Bardas. Afterwards, Fury erased the memories of the non-level 10 participants in his secret war.
When Matt Murdock's identity as Daredevil was leaked to the press, the government came to arrest him along with Luke Cage, Iron Fist and Foggy Nelson. Natasha was able to keep everyone but Matt from going to jail.
Natasha, still one of the world's most sought-after espionage agents alive, was recruited by Iron Man and Ms. Marvel to be on the newest team of Avengers alongside the Sentry, Ares, the Wasp, and Wonder Man. She immediately proved herself in battle against the Mole Man's biological creatures and continued to do so when taking command of SHIELD during the an Ultron crisis.
Natasha was among the Avengers infected along with hundreds of other New York citizens by a symbiote virus, but were cured by Iron Man. Natasha became very suspicious of Jessica Drew, who was later discovered to be the Skrull impostor, Veranke.
Natasha assumed the identity of Yelena Belova to infiltrate Norman Osborn's Thunderbolts for Nick Fury. Osborn discovered her breaking into an abandoned S.H.I.E.L.D. facility, and offered her the position of field leade. On her first mission, she and Ant-Man took control of Air Force One with the Goblin, Doc Samson, and the new President aboard. Osborn began impersonating Fury in messages to set Natasha up in order to strengthen the Thunderbolts and lead him to Fury.
Osborn ordered her to lead the current Thunderbolts to kill former Thunderbolt, Songbird. Fury orders "Yelena" to rescue and retrieve Songbird, for the information she might have possessed about Osborn and his operations. Natasha found Songbird, and revealed to her that she was really Natasha Romanova in disguise. She tried delivering Songbird to Fury, but the Thunderbolts also followed them. The trio were captured as Osborn revealed he had been impersonating Fury in messages all along. She and Songbird were brought to be executed but managed to escape when Ant-Man, Headsmen and Paladin turned on the rest of the Thunderbolts and let them go. After being rescued by MACH-V and Fixer, they learned that the Fury Osborn shot was actually an LMD.