The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005
The Black Widow
Marvel Comics, first appeared in 1940.
Is the Black Widow a heroine or a villain? That’s a tough call. On the one hand, she dispatches villains like the finest superhero. On the other, she works directly for Satan; her mission is to kill evil-doers so that her boss can collect their souls. That scenario leads to all sorts of interesting spiritual, religious, and metaphysical speculation. The Black Widow is based on the stereotype of the witch as the tool of Satan; however, she is as much a crime-fighter and wrong-righter as Superman or any other hero.
Once upon a time, in her debut issue, Claire Voyant was an attractive psychic presiding over séances. Hired by a family wishing to contact a lost loved one, Satan insinuates himself into this séance and manipulates activities so that all but one member of the family ends up dead. During the séance, under Satan’s influence, Claire issues a witch’s curse. The client, who fails to understand the gravity of the situation, complains, “I came for a séance, not a lesson in witchcraft.” When the family perishes, the sole survivor blames Claire and murders her.
Satan claims her soul and transforms her into “The Black Widow.” (And is the inference that psychics and fortune-tellers, whether fraudulent or real, have sold their souls?) Like any superheroine she now sports distinctive clothing—a sexy, black spider-themed costume. The devil gives her supernatural powers, too.
Her first victim is her murderer: she materializes before him in a ball of flame. All she has to do is lay her hand on his forehead and he’s dead, leaving a spider-shaped burn as the sole clue to her identity. After this act of vengeance, the Black Widow focuses on purging Earth of villains.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the Black Widow had a limited run, only appearing in a few comics. It was a pretty racy story for its time: its “heroine” reports to Hell and there is at least a visual implication of a sexual relationship between the Black Widow and the devil. Not only was Claire’s costume sexy and seductive, but Satan himself, drawn as a horned red devil, was very obviously naked—with the exception of his scarlet cape, always strategically, arranged to hide his private parts.
See also WORMWOOD: Dangers of Witchcraft: Curses; MAGICAL ARTS: Divination; Necromancy.