Given their current places within the Marvel Universe, it’s hard to imagine a time when the gritty street-level hero Daredevil shared his comic with the international spy and Avengers icon Black Widow, but these two Marvel heroes shared a lot more than a comic. The two heroes fought together, lived together and even enjoyed a romance together that proved to be an important development for both characters.
Far from some one-off tryst, the romance had a deep impact on the trajectories that both characters went on to take. Now, we’re taking a closer look at how Matt Murdock and Natasha Romanoff come together in the first place and what ultimately happened to this superhero couple.
After initially appearing as a recurring Iron Man villain in Tales of Suspense #52, by Stan Lee, Don Heck and Don Rico, Black Widow was betrayed by her Soviet masters and marked for death. She embraced her new home in the U.S. and reformed into a vigilante, even enjoying her own solo stories in Amazing Adventures. Her run in the title was brief, however, and when Marvel wanted a new home for the character they found the perfect companion for her in the Man Without Fear.
In Daredevil #81, by Gerry Conway and Gene Colan, Daredevil was first entangled in the Widow’s web in his guise as Matt Murdock, and he defended her as her lawyer when she was on trial for a murder she did not commit. While there was a definite spark between the two, their mutual attraction was fully ignited following the failure of Matt’s previous relationship to Karen Page. Unlike with Page, Widow represented a union between Daredevil’s civilian and heroic identities. Both could be confident that the other would be safe when their adventures grew dangerous, and they even began operating as a superhero duo too.
Perhaps most remarkable, especially for superhero romances of the day, is that the couple quickly decided to move across the country and live together in San Francisco. An unmarried couple living together was unheard of in mainstream comics of the time, and Marvel only even made it work by explaining that the two lived “on separate floors” of Natasha’s San Francisco penthouse, while Matt shared his floor with Wanda’s chauffeur/surrogate father Ivan. The radical new setting, new relationship, and new partner dynamic for two heroes who were predominantly solo stars came as a huge breath of fresh air that showed what both Daredevil and Black Widow were truly capable of.
Ultimately their relationship didn’t last. Daredevil’s own need to take charge interfered with Widow’s sense of independence, still developing while recovering from the state-induced brainwashing of the Soviet Union. When Hawkeye showed up in California jealously challenging Daredevil, Widow decided she was sick of both of them and left the penthouse altogether. Her relationship with Daredevil ended soon after that, but that’s not to say it wouldn’t continue to create a huge ripple effect for both characters that is still felt in modern comics.
For Widow, the development instigated an exploration of her sense of independence that would eventually flourish throughout the years. Her stay in California convinced her to stick around and lead the offbeat superheroes of the Champions, which set the stage for her to lead the Avengers in the late ’90s. After serving as the head of two super teams, Black Widow has enjoyed multiple series as a solo star undertaking her own adventures. She’s even had subsequent relationships with other heroes like Winter Soldier, but maintained a distance that respected her individuality. That early relationship with Daredevil was important for Widow, and it seems the reverse was also true.
Daredevil’s subsequent relationships grew increasingly problematic, and the victimization of his romantic partners became an increasing trend for the horned hero. Throughout it all Natasha has been a recurring supporting character in his cast, and although romance never re-ignited between the two the Black Widow has always been an important example to Matt of a strong woman capable of protecting herself.
Considering how much both Black Widow and Daredevil have been through in the years since their relationship ended, their romance might seem like a small detail of their respective histories, but their lingering bond proves that these two weren’t just another superhero couple.
Daredevil and Black Widow may not share the page much anymore, but they were once Marvel's mightiest couple.