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Capes On the Couch - Where Comics Get Counseling

Jul 7, 2021

  • Natalia Alianovna “Natasha” Romanova created by Stan Lee, Don Rico, and Don Heck in Tales of Suspense #52 (April 1964)
  • Young Natalia was trained and raised by the Red Room, a secret Soviet facility training assassins - she was sent to America to assassinate Anton Vanko, who had defected from Russia, but was defeated by Iron Man - then she enlisted Hawkeye’s help in fighting him, but they were defeated as well - when Clint saved her, she began falling for him, and he helped her defect - she later joined the Avengers
  • Began working for SHIELD, and then started a relationship with Daredevil while he was stationed in San Francisco
  • Encounters Yelena Belova, another graduate of the Red Room, who wants to take Natasha out so she can inherit the Black Widow mantle - uses psychological manipulation to force Yelena to confront her own past
  • Has a relationship with Bucky Barnes for a time, while he’s working as the Winter Soldier
  • Serves on the Secret Avengers under Captain America
  • Killed during the Incursion event merging the mainstream and Ultimate Marvel universes, but resurrected after Molecule Man restores the damage done - only to be killed again, this time by Hydra-influenced Steve Rogers
  • After her death, the Red Room cloned her, including her memories, and tasked her with taking out Hydra and SHIELD - the clone, calling herself Natasha Romanoff, instead eliminated the Red Room leadership and freed all the recruits

  • Issues (7:49)
    • Manipulation by the Red Room, and its repeated attempts to bring her back under their control, mean she’s never free from her past
    • Also constantly trying to redeem herself for her assassinations (16:05)
    • Life of a spy/secret agent means her identity is always in flux (22:53)
  • Break (34:06)
  • Treatment (36:10)
    • In-universe - Use Dr. Issues as a target, force her to face inequity
    • Out of universe - Empty chair exercise to discuss feelings with people that have been wronged (39:02)
  • Skit (46:21)
    • DOC: Hello Natasha, I’m Dr. Issues. 
    • NATASHA: Good afternoon, Doctor.
    • D: I’m afraid we’re going to have to go through a bit of an introductory period. Normally I get a file on my patients before I meet with them, but yours was almost entirely redacted.
    • N: That’s just how it is in my line of work.
    • D: That’s fair, but I’ve worked with your colleagues before, and I’ve never seen anything quite like this. It’s like the whole thing was covered in black Sharpie.
    • N: Some of my employers would kill both of us if they even knew I was speaking with you. Frankly this conversation is more dangerous than most.
    • D: In that case I appreciate you speaking with me. And be sure to know I take all the necessary precautions for my own safety, as well as the confidentiality of my clients.
    • N: No offense, doc, but that won’t stop some of the more… unsavory characters I’ve dealt with. They’ve come at me in Avengers Mansion, I don’t think this office will hold them.
    • D: Sad to say, but I’ve dealt with worse. So we’ll deal with that threat if and when it comes. Let’s get back to you. What can we accomplish today?
    • N: Probably less than what I would want out of this.
    • D: How so?
    • N: This is going to be the type of scenario where I don’t say names, I only give hints. If you are sharp enough to follow my lead, then maybe I can learn something from you. 
    • D: Way more nebulous than I imagined. Usually when people do that, I think they’re demonstrating paranoia. 
    • N: Is it really paranoia when you know people are truly after you?
    • D: But the fight, flight, or freeze phenomenon doesn’t turn itself on and off like a switch if you’ve exhausted yourself in that vigilant state for too long. Plus, it makes it difficult for anyone to get to know you.
    • N: Thank you for stating the obvious. No, really, thank you. People don’t understand that it’s inherent in what I do. I didn’t sign up for this life. I was bred for it.
    • D: Maybe that’s true, but
    • N: *interrupting, clearly upset* No maybes about it! I can’t say that much about such things but...think about how organized different agencies can be, especially under authoritarian rule.
    • D: Got it. Sorry to cast any doubt to your experience. I’m thankful that you’re keeping the conversation on track. Is it fair to ask, then, how being so harshly molded at a young age influences you now? Any nightmares or flashbacks to those events?
    • N: I’ve learned to regulate my physiology just fine. 
    • D: How about the emotional content, then? 
    • N: I have all of the...expected emotions.
    • D: Interesting choice of words. I’m not familiar with what would be considered “expected” because that’s such a wide range. Anger? Sadness? Fear?
    • N: *pause* All of it.
    • D: Then you have lots of possibilities to work with
    • N: More than that though. Relief, Joy, Pain...I know you’re really a doctor because you just went for what’s considered negative. But I’m a lot stronger than you realize. I don’t want a pity case here. In a way, you’re only alive right now because I made that decision when I stepped into this office.
    • D: *obtuse, missing the mark* Is that a veiled threat at me in some way to show superiority? I don’t have a god complex.
    • N: No, I meant it much simpler than that. 
    • D: Hmmmm...You’re so resolute about this, once again I have to take you at face value. And yet, that brings us back to the original point. How can I help you if the only thing on your mind is helping others besides yourself?
    • N: I don’t get such luxury. You seem to have this mindset that I’m intentionally draining my life away, toiling at the behest of others and neglecting my needs. That’s nonsense. I’m alive because I see all of the angles. Too many times it’s “kill or be killed.” But what about when you save someone? Save hundreds? How many times can I give an eye for an eye before we’re all blind?
    • D: That’s noble beyond compare. I hear the pain that comes through too. Same with exhaustion. I’m not asking you to change everything. I’m asking if you want some part...ANY part, better.
    • N: *sarcastic* So you want me to be a better killing machine?
    • D: ...anything, but that.
    • N: So you see my problem. Even when I’m supposedly doing good in the world, it’s typically because someone doing worse has been brought down
    • D: Least Common Denominator. So how do we change the math? You know I won’t help you with the one part of that equation you mentioned, so…
    • N: You’re not making the ultimate sinner into a saint...and I’m not even religious.
    • D: For one thing, I’d hardly consider you the ultimate sinner. For another, we’re not even going to get into that side of things. 
    • N: That makes one of us.
    • D: really would go that far, huh? 
    • N: When you’ve seen what I’ve seen and done what I’ve done, there’s not even a question about it. 
    • D: Then no shame, no blame. There’s only the way up. The next assignment. Clue me in your emotions, and I’ll try to establish the right path to maximizing your efficacy in relating to people in a mutually beneficial way.
    • N: Now you’re trying to make it sound like I’m a wallflower who's never dated. Come on!
    • D: That’s not what I’m getting at, I mean *bullets hit glass*
    • N: Bozhe moi. Get down!
    • D: Yes ma’am.
    • N: *fires back* Who knew I was coming?
    • D: No one outside of my assistant.
    • N: That’s one person too many. *pause* Did you see where the shot came from?
    • D: No, I’m kinda too busy doing my job. I thought you saw all the angles.
    • N: This is why I didn’t wanna come here in the first place. OK, you stick your head up and see if you spot any movement.
    • D: HELL NO. I’m not getting sniped so you can save the day again.
    • N: *grunts* Fine. Do you have something you can use as a distraction?
    • D: I have a paperweight on my desk.
    • N: Gotta work with what we’ve got. On the count of three, toss it to me. One… two… three!
    • D: *grunts* *bullets fire*
    • N: Do svidaniya, asshole.
    • D: I.. I can’t believe this.
    • N: Really? You do what you do and you’re surprised?
    • D: No, I can’t believe something like this happened and I don’t have a pun prepared.
    • N: You are a strange man. 
    • D: Thanks.
    • N: And yet, not the worst at your job. Perhaps I’ll come back for another session. But if I do that, we’re talking directly or not at all. Also, I’d check your assistant’s background.
    • D: Consider it done. So, do you want to keep the paperweight? Consider it a memento.
    • N: No thanks. I have enough stuff weighing me down, I don’t need something else.
    • D: Oh man, ANOTHER pun. You’re good at this.
    • N: See ya ‘round, Doc.
  • Ending (53:47)
    • Recommended reading: Black Widow vol. 5 (the Edmondson/Noto run), also Super Women
    • Next episodes: Rogue, Dr. Doom, Jocasta
    • Plugs for social


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