Let's face it, super powers are pretty awesome. We love to play the game: what superpower would you like to have? Answer: teleportation, or the power to read someone's mind. In regards to The Avengers, people tend to gush over Thor's magical hammer (that only he can lift and wield), The Hulk's "SMASH," Cap's human-created strength, or Ironman's reactor (that happens to be in his chest) powered suit. In truth, those are all pretty amazing tools or skills, but what about Black Widow or Hawkeye? True, Black Widow has been enhanced, but the biotech used on her only slows her aging and boosts her immunity. It is only preventive, but does not factor in or boost her skill level when she is facing off in battle.
The internet has been up in arms about the lack of merchandise coinciding with the Age of Ultron release, especially when it comes to the female lead. Is it their lack of superpowers, because on no planet can it be a lack of interest in these characters. Why? Simply put, for two non-superheros they pack mad-skills that trump normal human capabilities (regardless of format: film or comics). They might not get the amount of screentime, but their place in Marvel comics is solidified - these two characters have a fan-base and it isn't going anywhere and today we look at one of the reasons why: they have "Mad Skills."
First up - Natasha Romanova, Black Widow.
Black Widow was created by Stan Lee and artist Dan Heck. She made her appearance in Tales of Suspense #52 (April 1964). That means she has been kicking butt and taking names for 51 years in comics. That is pretty impressive in my book. Can we take a moment to appreciate that? Okay. Now, on to the stats and feats of skills and strength.
Deep breath. Black Widow is a martial arts expert. Karate, judo, kung fu, boxing, you name it, she probably knows how to fight you and win. She also is a spy, witty, and on top of that she is an acrobat / aerialist and used to cover up her skills by studying ballet. She is a weapons specialist who tends to get the coolest gadgets (like Batman) to help her in the field. What more could a beautiful, agile woman skilled in hand-to-hand combat and as a marksman want? Brains! And Natasha has a super intellect, if you will, which not only extends to knowledge, but rapid thinking on her feet. She is an expert tactician, and has the ability to process more than one stream of information. These skills make her deadly on her own as a spy or the perfect fit alongside S.H.I.E.L.D, The Avengers, and even Daredevil. She also has a heart, but hides her emotion, as she is trained and modified to do. Imagine the strength is takes to do that and keep on fighting. Truly remarkable.
If you want more of Black Widow, first let the world know it any way you can, but secondly check out Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto's series Black Widow (2014- Present). Shockingly - the comic actually focus on Black Widow, her past, and how she needs to face certain things in her own way, outside the Avenger / S.H.I.E.L.D box. Honestly, how does one make up for the KGB assassin past, especially when their current profession requires mad fighting skills? The covers, as seen the in the middle above, are truly worthy of Black Widow.
And now, for Clint Barton, Hawkeye
Hawkeye was also created by Lee and Heck, but made his debut a few months later in Tales of Suspense #57 (Sept. 1964).
Hawkeye has no superhuman powers, no man made parts like Tony Stark or even anti-aging attributes like Black Widow. Yet, Hawkeye is one of the most fit human beings, at the peak of human conditioning. He is the best archer with unique trick arrows at his disposal, but he also happens to be an amazing marksman, fencer and acrobat (the former two requiring not only skills but strength). He can also wield a katana and other blade weapons, not to mention that skill where he can find so many harmless items in room and turn them into a deadly weapon. He also received training from Captain America, which only boosts his skillset with tactics, hand-to-hand combat, and martial arts. In addition to his trick arrows, Hawkey also gets some gadgets to up his style, for example his Sky-Cycle (snowmobile meets anti-gravity technology).
As you know from my previous posts, Matt Fraction's take on Hawkeye (2012- Present) has made it my favorite of the current Marvel comics. I honestly did not expect to feel that way, but after the positive reinforcement from friends, I gave it a shot and was very glad I did. The comic shows the hardships of being human with the desire to protect his city. He gets scuffed up and knocked down, but he always gets back up to face another day and another enemy. Plus, they are funny as comics also should be. The light and the dark, side by side.
This weekend, and for all the days to come, remember that being blessed (or cursed depending on your take) with superpowers is pretty cool. However, skills go a long way, especially in terms of Black Widow and Hawkeye. Learning such skills on one's own is to be commended, respected, and, why not, put on a t-shirt.