Before Disney decided to postpone a number of their film releases due to Corona season, Black Widow was set to come out by early May. The first solo film feature for the Russian super-spy turned S.H.I.E.L.D agent. So far the trailers released have shown the film to be a non-stop, high-octane spy film with plenty of large scale action set pieces and impressive fights. It’s about time Black Widow had her time in the limelight. Funnily enough, it also got me thinking about another particular heroine who hasn’t exactly gotten the buzz she deserves. Someone who runs with a different group of caped crusaders: the Batgirl. There was a time when these two characters would have been seen as lesser to their male partners. Not anymore though. With Black Widow getting her first standalone film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), it’s only a matter of time before Barbara Gordon gets her very own solo debut.
So with that in mind, another interesting thought occurred. What if these two went head-to-head in a duel? Who would come out the winner? Well, let’s find out. We’re pitting these two female fighters in the ring to see who will prevail, the Avenging Spider or the Dark Knight’s Protege!
History and Background
For the sake of this fight, we’ll be using the MCU’s version of Natasha Romanov over her comic book counterpart. In the MCU, it is never mentioned that she took an experimental Russian Super-Soldier serum as stated in the comics. Therefore, she doesn’t have the same enhanced superhuman strength as she would have had in the comics. Seeing that there’s no official cinematic rendition of Batgirl, we’ll be using the latest version of Batgirl starting from 2016’s Batgirl: Rebirth title. Yes, at this point of time she has recovered from her paralysis by the Joker’s hands and is back to her good, old crime-fighting self. Without further ado, let’s get into their history.
Little is actually known of Romanov’s past except for the fact that at a very young age, she was recruited by Russia’s secrete intelligence agency, the KGB and trained in the Red Room Academy. An institution that brutally trains young women to become some of the world’s greatest assassins and spies. Her training ranges from martial arts to espionage to firearm mastery to political science. As we’ve suspected in the past, it was revealed in the latest trailer that Natasha received most of her training from the notorious mercenary Taskmaster but we’ll get to him later.
It was also revealed in the fifth episode of Agent Carter’s first season “The Iron Ceiling” how brutal and intense the Red Room Academy was. Trainees would suffer through severe indoctrination through the use of films that embedded subliminal messages into their brains. They were also subjected to horrible mind games and tests of loyalty. There was the time when one of the recruits, Underwood was ordered to snap her best friend’s neck without hesitation. Given the intensity of the Red Room, Natasha’s status as the KGB’s top agent should speak to her capability.
She has also proven to have a will of iron, breaking free from her past in the KGB to join S.H.I.E.L.D and eventually become a founding member of the Avengers. I suspect Black Widow will flesh out more of Natasha’s past regarding her defection to S.H.I.E.L.D and her time in the Red Room. For now, though, that’s all you really need to know about Marvel’s master assassin.
Let’s move on to Barbara Gordon, aka Batgirl. Over the years there have been some minor alterations to Batgirl’s history but we’ll give you the general rundown. As it is implied by her name, Barbara Gordon is the daughter of Police Commissioner James “Jim” Gordon, Batman’s longtime ally and friend in his war against crime in Gotham. Growing up Barbara admired Batman and the work he did to clean up the city. Sometime down the line, the Bat recruited her to join his team alongside the first Robin, Dick Grayson. She would also receive extensive training from the Dark Knight himself and become his second partner in crime. Over the years, the trio would go on to defeat criminals the likes of the Riddler, Penguin, Poison Ivy and many more.
For a time, she seemed to be getting the hang of the superheroine gig until one fateful event changed everything. In Alan Moore’s Batman: The Killing Joke, the Joker shot and paralyzed Barbara from the waist down. From that point forward, Barbara could no longer aid Batman in physical combat but refused to give up the fight. She donned the mantle of Oracle, serving as the Bat-family’s central intelligence unit and hacker. She soon became one of DC’s greatest minds, mastering the art of hacking, research and reconnaissance.
That is until she underwent a surgical procedure that restored her ability to walk, run and kick butt again. As of now, Batgirl is back to her full strength. In spite of the many horrors and hardships she’s endured, she refused to be broken. Like her mentor, she is a crusader of the night. She is Batgirl!
Strength and Skills
At first glance, our two warriors seem evenly matched. Both of them were trained by expert martial artists and combat specialists. Both of them have been taught in the finer arts of stealth, espionage, sabotage and hacking. Heck, both of them seem to have the same build but when we get down into the nitty-gritty of it all, there are some key differences worth noting. Based on the flashbacks seen in the episode of Agent Carter “The Iron Ceiling”, we see a young girl named Dottie Underwood, who was born in 1927, befriend and train with a girl named Anya in the Red Room around 1937. Through simple math, we can deduce that the Red Room Academy has inducted girls as old as 10 years into their assassin program.
With that information in mind, it’s safe to assume that Natasha was enrolled in the academy as early as 10 years old, upon which she received the same intense training as Underwood. Whereas, Barbara only joined Batman in his crusader later on in her teen years. It’s possible that Natasha’s training in the Red Room could give her an advantage over the Barbara in combat, given that she has more years of knowledge and experience under her belt.
Then again, there are other factors to consider: the type of teachers they had. Batgirl was trained by DC’s greatest detective and arguably one of the most dangerous men in comic book history, Batman. Black Widow was tutored under Taskmaster, a man who has defeated combatants the likes of Captain America, Black Panther and Daredevil. That being said, I do believe Batman to be more than a match for Taskmaster, which would mean Batgirl would have had better training, though for a shorter period of time, in comparison to Black Widow.
However, there are some advantages to Widow’s training that makes her far more effective than Batgirl. Barbara has a strict no-killing code that she picks up from Batman. Natasha does not. Which means if they’re placed in a straight fight, I do not believe Batgirl would have what it takes to end the fight as quickly as Black Widow. Most of Batgirl’s move sets have more to do with knockouts and concussive blows, Black Widow has been taught to break bones and go for the kill.
One more key fact to note about Batgirl is that she has a neural implant at the base of her brain that connects to her lower spine as revealed DC’s New 52 Batgirl run. If the implant was too malfunctioned or be damaged in any way, it could render her paralyzed. A weakness that cannot be afforded when going up against Black Widow, especially she’s done her homework. So in terms of battle prowess and skills, I have to give it to Black Widow.
Tactics and Gadgets
While Black Widow may have an edge over Batgirl in terms of skills, that criteria isn’t necessarily the end-all-be-all in a fight. We also need to take into account weaponry and how they’re utilized against an opponent. Believe me when I say that both of these ladies are packing some serious firepower. Raised as an assassin and spy, Black Widow is a more than competent marksman, mainly with pistols. In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Black Widow managed to land some pretty impressive shots to Winter Soldier’s head, even after getting bounced off by a grenade launcher. She would have eliminated Bucky in a heartbeat if not for his protective mask but it’s clear to see that Romanov has an eagle eye.
Beyond conventional firearms, Romanov is also equipped with a handy electroshock fist known as the Black Widow’s Bite. The fist can administer electric voltages upon impact, capable of knocking out opponents. It also doubles as a projectile launcher. Those projectiles are Taser Disks. These electrically-charged disks are remarkably effective in immobilizing the Widow’s enemies. In Iron Man 2, Romanov uses the disks to temporarily paralyze Hammer Industries’ guards and in Captain America: Civil War, we see her momentarily put T’Challa on the ground using the disk. He was in his freaking Black Panther suit, a Vibranium suit that should be capable of absorbing shock and rendering it harmless! When all else fails, Romanov can whip out her twin shock batons for close-quarter situations. Needless to say, Romanov’s arsenal is no joke.
Over the years, it seems like there’s very little out there that can catch the Dark Knight off guard. A big part of that is due to his trusty utility belt, which is also issued to various members of the Bat-family. This includes Batgirl of course. While we can rule out Batgirl’s belt holding equipment like a Kryptonite laced gauntlet or a Bat Credit Card a’la Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin, there are some definite staples made available to her. She obviously has access to a variety of Batarangs. There’s the explosive Batarang, the electroshock Batarang and the standard piercing Batarang. Batgirl might not have the same weapon’s training as Black Widow but she is nonetheless still an expert marksman. Unlike bullets, her Batarangs can curve around corners and be launched in a multitude of trajectories. This means, even if you have her pinned down, Barbara could still take you out with a side shot to the head.
Her utility belt also comes with a bevvy of other gadgets that grant her increased mobility over the likes of Widow. Her Batclaw allows her to grapple onto high places at high speeds, glide across surfaces and can even be used to wrangle opponents to her side. She also has smoke pellets that can be used to disorient her enemies and hide her presence. Her mask also comes with advanced night-vision goggles that enable her to stalk in the dark. The belt is also equipped with projectiles like EMP grenades, tear-gas pellets and freeze grenades if she ever gets into a tight spot. If you’re unlucky enough to get close to her, she will unleash a brutal barrage of blows from her escrima fighting sticks until you’re unconscious or down.
If we’re talking about who is more equipped and war-ready in the gadgets and weapons department, I’m going to have to say that Batgirl has the superior arsenal. While Black Widow has a substantial amount of weapons, Barbara’s utility belt lends her more angles for attack. Whether from the shadows or in a straight fight, Batgirl has something for every situation.
After a thorough deliberation among the nerds in the office and running through multiple scenarios back and forth, I have come to a decision. And the winner is…Black Widow! Sure Batgirl has more tricks up her sleeve but Black Widow’s existing set of weapons and skills would have countered them all. If Batgirl had decided to grapple her using her Batclaw, Widow would have simply electrified the line with her Bite. If Batgirl attempted to conceal her presence with a smoke bomb, Black Widow would have the tactical sense to either keep low to avoid incoming projectiles or prepare for an ambush with her shock batons. Let’s say, however, Batgirl launches an EMP grenade that takes out most of Black Widow’s electronic weapons, what then?
If it’s a street fight with these two throwing down using fists and melee weapons, I believe Natasha’s extensive training would prove her the victor. If it’s a long-range fight, Natasha would also come out the winner seeing that her pistols aren’t reliant on electrical signals. I imagine Barbara would try to incapacitate her opponent while Natasha would go straight for a killing blow. There’s also the possibility of Natasha landing a shot from her Taser Disks onto Barbara, a hit that could shortcircuit her neural implant, leaving her helpless. I know it sounds brutal but that’s the way Black Widow rolls.
What do you think of our match-up? Do you agree that the Arachnid Avenger would have come out champion? Or do you think the adopted Daughter of the Dark Knight would have bested her? Be sure to let us know in the comments below and feel free to suggest any future match-ups you’d like to see!