Warning: SPOILERS for Avengers: Endgame
Avengers: Endgame just teased Black Widow's father ahead of her solo movie - but who exactly is Ivan Petrovich? In Marvel Comics, he is her guardian, but not her birth father. However, that doesn't look to be the case in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
When Black Widow and Hawkeye travel to Vormir in Avengers: Endgame, Red Skull calls her "Natasha, daughter of Ivan." This may have seemed like an unimportant piece of information, but she later confesses that she did not know her father - or at least that "Ivan" was her true father until this cosmic figure claimed it to be so. So what does it mean for the coming Black Widow movie?
In the comic books, Ivan Petrovich Bezukhov is a Russian soldier who became Natasha's guardian when she was an infant after he saves her from a burning building. He does not have many appearances, and is very much a secondary character at best - but could prove to be very important in future Marvel movies. Eventually, Ivan brought Natasha to the Black Widow program to train in combat, presumably to help keep her safe. This is where she trained in the Red Room, learning combat and how to become a spy. She was not the only little girl placed in this facility - the Red Room actually trained an entire army of them (an army they've been recently revealed to be attempting to clone).
It is here that Natasha was also was given the Soviet version of the Super-Soldier serum which not only gave her superhuman strength, but also slowed down her aging (something Ivan also received thanks to the Winter Soldier). While she remembers training to be a ballerina, the government tampered with her memories and it is unclear if that was ever her past. Once Nat was ready and released by the Red Room into the world, Ivan became her handler/chauffeur. From there, things get a little... weird. He protected Black Widow, but while she saw him as a fatherly figure, he fell in love with her. Knowing that she would never return his feelings, he disappeared for quite a while.
Ivan eventually returned to Natasha's life, but as a seriously changed man. He made himself into a cyborg monster and was threatening nuclear devastation on Earth. Black Widow realized that he was going insane and that the only way to stop him was to kill him (which she did). As much as it pained her to do so, she murdered her old friend and surrogate father. But considering the timeline of the MCU, that cyborg transformation seems the least likely chapter of Ivan's life to be added to the movie universe.
Will we see Ivan play a major role in this film? Highly likely. The MCU doesn't just drop names on accident. This was clearly a set up. But for what? It is very possible Ivan is being set up to play more than just a small supporting role in the Black Widow movie. Nat has been hardened, as we all know, so the look on her face in Avengers: Endgame was hard to read. She seemed to really be mulling over the name "Ivan" but it was unclear if she knew the man, and just not the fact that he was her father. Perhaps she was thinking back on the role this man played in her training and early life, having no idea he was in fact, her biological father.
Of course Gamora was called "daughter of Thanos" even though she was adopted, so perhaps we will see Ivan play the same role he played in the comic books; an adopted father, who grew a little too close to the child he raised and protected for years. Because of her fate, it is all but confirmed that we are looking at a Black Widow prequel film, so what better place to tell the story of her father?
Going by Avengers: Endgame's Ivan namedrop, it's all but guaranteed that her father will have some role to play in Black Widow's solo movie, although given Nat's shocked response to his name, their interactions may be a little different to in the comics; either in terms of blood relation, villainous turn and, perhaps, her unreliable memories. Regardless, considering all the upset Ivan caused Black Widow in the comics, it probably won't be a happy tale.
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019