It’s usually difficult to find the elusive Natasha Romanoff, but not today: You can now find Black Widow starring her own young adult title, Forever Red, in bookstores everywhere.
Black Widow: Forever Red not only gives us a much-needed insight into the history of Natasha Romanoff, but also introduces a new teenaged character, Ava Orlova, who made her debut in September in the Mockingbird comic book one-shot. How do their paths intersect?
“Being able to tell a canon story–the definitive story of Natasha Romanoff’s past–that was both the carrot and the stick,” says author Margaret Stohl. “But the book is both an origin story and a legacy story–with our Black Widow and our Red Widow–so in many ways it becomes a very powerful female narrative about friendship and really sisterhood between two pretty amazing women.”
Stohl, a mother to three daughters in their teen years and beyond, didn’t have to look far for inspiration for the character of Ava. “[My daughters are] smart and strong and they are ready to be their own heroes, much like our new teen Red Widow, Ava Orlova, who also has that kind of resilience and independence,” Stohl says. “The book is dedicated to my fourteen-year-old, who is truly a Romanoff in spirit.
“Natasha would be proud.”
It’s not just the teen Red Widow that YA readers can relate to; Stohl knows her audience and how they can connect with Natasha as well. “Ava and Natasha have both been thrust in these situations where they have no choice but to save the world, and I see that in kids all around me,” says Stohl. “I think our teens today confront massive political, humanitarian, and social issues much earlier than we used to, thanks to the internet.
“Kids have access to global narratives and issues, and they want to know what’s going on. They want better from the world. Tumblr is a hotbed of middle school idealism and aspiration.
“I’m actually not worried about their future in that aspect–I think we are raising our children to take a stand and be leaders, and in some ways they’re raising us.”
Tackling an established character like Black Widow might seem daunting to any author, but Stohl had her own allies that had her back the entire time: the team at Marvel. “Natasha Romanoff has been around for fifty years, and had more than fifty creators and collaborators, and not for a minute did I forget that,” Stohl says. “It was a huge honor and a tremendous challenge, and I loved every minute of it.
“I had tons of support from Disney and Marvel, and worked really closely with my team, so at least I wasn’t in it alone! And the Women of Marvel, who have supported me every step of the way, have been celebrating the fact of this book from the start.”
Forever Red is the story of Black Widow’s past, and in typical Romanoff fashion, there’s lots of action to go along with the narrative that will appeal to readers of all ages and stripes. “It’s full of explosions and spycraft and intelligence operations and all the high tech gear S.H.I.E.L.D. can offer to go with it, so I think we’re really collapsing the notion of a girl or boy book,” says Stohl. “This is a spy book and a superhero book with powerful male and female characters, teens and adults alike.”