Wouldn’t it be great if Marvel Studios made a solo movie for Scarlet Johansson’s Black Widow? At least that would force Disney to actually make some Black Widow toys for the little girls of the world, right? Wait, would it be even better if they made a Black Widow Netflix series ala Daredevil, with a smaller number of episodes to accommodate Johansson’s schedule? Or should we stop waiting for a solo Black Widow project and simply look forward to more of her and Elisabeth’s Olsen’s Scarlet Witch in Captain America: Civil War?
These are just some of the on-going conversations about Black Widow, saying nothing of the debate over the way Joss Whedon utilized her in Age of Ultron. Marvel’s actions with the character are naturally going to come under increased scrutiny when their films have made so much money. However, things were very different for Marvel back in the mid-70s. They were struggling to sell comics, and Stan Lee was selling off film and TV rights left and right, memorably letting Universal TV’s Frank Price purchase the television rights for twelve Marvel characters of his choice in 1976. He pitched Hulk, Doctor Strange, Captain America, the Human Torch, Ms. Marvel and the Sub-Mariner to CBS, and within months The Incredible Hulk was in production. However, a year prior to that Stan Lee sold the TV rights to then recent series Daredevil and Black Widow to fashion model Angela Bowie, aka David Bowie’s first wife.
Wait, why would Ziggy Stardust’s wife buy the rights to a comic book series? Well, for starters comic books were surprisingly popular with rock stars of the era, e.g., Kiss singer Gene Simmons based part of his onstage costume on Jack Kirby’s Black Bolt. Also, in 1973 Angela Bowie actually auditioned for the Wonder Woman TV movie starring Cathy Lee Crosby. Well, kind of. She took the audition quite seriously, purchasing comics to read up on the character, thinking through how to play her and fashioning together a costume with her husband’s costume designer. However, she never had an actual shot at getting the part. The whole thing was a ruse cooked up by David Bowie’s manager to get her in the news and booked on the Tonight Show where she could covertly promote her husband’s upcoming concert appearance.
Angela would have played along happily if she had been told from the get-go that it was all a ruse, but instead she really thought she had a chance of playing Wonder Woman. So, if not Wonder Woman why not Black Widow, right? However, the Wonder Woman debacle ended with her having her own photoshoot in her custom-made costume AND an actual audition for the real show. Her Black Widow experience never rose above a photoshoot, as she told Man Without Fear (hat tip to LegendsRevealed):
I received permission from Stan Lee to have the rights to Daredevil and Black Widow for a year. We were unable to place the series. Actor, writer, Benny Carruthers and I did the photo shoot with Terry O’Neill and Natasha Kornilkoff costume designer and Barbara Daly – make-up in London and that was all that ever happened. Unfortunately at that time it was considered too difficult and expensive to film, special effects etc.
Before Iron Man 2 rolled around, this Angela Bowie photoshoot would pretty much be it for even a remote hint of a potential live action Black Widow project until 2004 when Lionsgate announced and subsequently dropped a feature film to be written and directed by David Hayter.