Natasha Romanoff and Bucky Barnes aren’t the first names that pop up when fans think about MCU romance. Tony Stark and Pepper Potts, Star-Lord and Gamora, and Ant-Man and the Wasp come to mind first. All of these couples have gotten more screen time than the black sheep romance of the Marvel universe, the love between Black Widow and The Winter Soldier.
He’s no knight in shining armor and she’s no damsel in distress. Instead, they share a background of emotional, physical, and psychological pain that few heroes have experienced for such prolonged periods. Both favor the heroic side of good and evil, but only just barely. And only because they’ve convinced themselves it’s the least they can do to pay for their crimes.
It’s a love story, but also a redemption story. One might even say, because they weren’t created to be together, that they found each other in the Marvel universe - as organically as any two imaginary characters can.
They’ve existed since the early days of Marvel comics, with Bucky serving as Cap’s sidekick, and Black Widow acting as the femme fatale spy. As happens in real life, those occupations ran their course, and after decades, reappearing for cameos, without clear direction or support for either character, they were put together. Fans learned that they had something between them that hadn’t existed before (thanks to a clever retcon) and now, in present day, two legacy characters have reinvented themselves.
For more on what makes this couple so alluring, here are 20 Crazy Details Behind Black Widow And Winter Soldier’s Relationship.
20 They Both Still Go By Their Soviet Code Names
As a constant reminder of their origins, Black Widow and Winter Soldier have both chosen to keep going with their old code names. Some survivors of the trauma of being hurt and brainwashed by spies might use a name change to put their past behind them, but these two haven’t run away from it.
The Winter Soldier’s real name is James Buchanan Barnes, and when he was fighting alongside Captain America before his abduction, he went by Bucky. When he lost his parents, he grew up on the army base his father served on, and continued in his father’s footsteps
The best guess at Black Widow’s real name is Natalia Alianovna Romanoff. She frequently goes by Natasha Romanoff as her chosen alias to bury her confused background after she was taken in by spies at an early age.
19 They’re Actually Roughly The Same Age
Bucky’s a little bit older, but both have gained long life and durability from their super serum doses, and, considering he’s been frozen for decades at a time, she’s wearing all of her years incredibly well.
Bucky was born in 1925, then lost his father in 1937 in an accident. One account has Natasha being found with her mother in a burning building around 1928, and being taken in by an officer on duty at the scene, named Ivan Petrovich. From then on, Petrovich raised Natasha into an officer.
The MCU has avoided this detail, setting Black Widow’s origins closer to the later Soviet Union - or they could just be mimicking the comics and setting her up for a more stunning character reveal for her forthcoming solo movie.
18 Bucky Was Natasha’s Trainer During Her Time In The Red Room
As revealed later in their canon, not only were Bucky and Natasha both taken in and spun around by the Red Room, but in fact, Bucky trained Natasha. Marvel readers discovered this part of the characters’ continuity in the Winter Soldier run penned by Ed Brubaker and drawn by Michael Lark.
It was during their training sessions that their romance first began, in secret.
Presumably, his role in her training wasn’t the torment and brainwash part, but the fighting and espionage skills part, but it’s still a troubled love borne of suspicious circumstances. This power imbalance is not a great start to a functional relationship.
17 They’ve Both Been Transformed By Super Serum
There’s no sign of Natasha’s powers in the cinematic universe, but in her sometimes complicated comic book history, he’s had a power set similar to that of Super Serum for a long time.
Nat and Bucky were injected with a different version of the serum while they were serving as spies for the other side.
This may have been left out of the movies to alleviate the trope of everyone getting infected with serum, especially after Red Skull was the villain in the first Captain America movie.
On the contrary, it’s even more believable that the Powers Race mirrored any other arms race during the Cold War. Having multiple chemically engineered heroes on each side, shrinks the distance between the Marvel-verse and real life. Plus Black Widow having abilities makes her even more deadly.
16 They are other Winter Soldier and Black Widows who never turned good
The Red Room, the training ground of Bucky and Natasha, hasn’t been elaborated on much since its introduction into the espionage canon, but it’s known that Department X ran that facility and the Winter Soldier and Black Widow programs, designed to produce legions of soldiers and spies.
Even though Bucky and Natasha are the fan favorite Winter Soldier and Black Widow, they aren’t the only ones.
The movies go into the Winter Soldier’s training a little bit in the second Captain America film. That story alludes to many subjects being experimented on until the formula was perfected, so a colleague from either of the two’s training past could show up in future stories at any time. Or they’re the only ones who have survived, and that would say something too.
15 They’re Both Orphans
Natasha was so young when she was orphaned that records of her parents are scarce and even a quest she undertook to find her mother turned up nothing up loose ends. She was raised by the soldier Ivan Petrovich. He enrolled her in the Black Widow program and subjected her mind to extensive manipulation from a young age, but still cared enough to keep protecting her and working with her after she became a hero and moved to the USA.
Bucky lost his mother very young, but he was raised by his father until he 12. His father perished in an accident at the army base he was stationed at, Camp Lehigh. Bucky became a military man himself, remaining on the base, making a home with the officers there until he was old enough to serve and meet Steve Rogers.
14 The Winter Soldier’s Cryo was used to keep them apart
The Red Room believe that any romantic fraternization could come between the operatives and their mission. This didn’t stop Bucky and Natasha, who found each other in what must have been desperate circumstances. She was betrothed to another, he was far from home. Not much is said about their courtship, but at some point they saw the other’s better sides, and were drawn to them.
Ultimately, their relationship was discovered, and they reminded Natasha that their romance was infeasible in the least romantic way possible. The two have similar training and abilities but very different jobs.
The Winter Soldier is kept in permanent stasis, cryogenically frozen, when he’s not on a mission or assignment.
When she saw him there, helpless until the KGB flipped his switch back on, she knew their relationship was equally stuck.
13 Natasha was Engaged and brainwashed when they fell in love
A pawn in the game of global superpower warfare, Natasha Romanoff was brainwashed into falling in love with hot shot pilot, Alexi Shostakovich. The two were brought together at least briefly, and implanted with stories about how they’re the poster couple for the other side; he’s a war hero and she’s a prima ballerina.
Department X must know that humans are more than machines, and this relationship was constructed for the good of state and party.
In between her mind-altering sessions, she gravitated to Bucky.
Once her romance came to an end, her new brainwashing protocol included the passing of her husband, in order to recommit her to her purpose. Shostakovich went on to serve as the Red Guardian, and then on his own as Ronin.
12 She called him James
Another reason that Bucky’s cryogenic freezing had such a lasting effect on his and Natasha’s relationship is once they were separated, they didn’t have any reliable ways to get into contact with one another, and they don’t even know each other beyond first names.
Natasha had idea, due to his fragmented memory and the curtain of secrecy, that her lover was once the sidekick to Captain America, or that his name is even Bucky Barnes. She knew him by his first name, James.
This made for quite the reunion when they met next, although it was hampered by his still being brainwashed and fighting for the, but after a long hiatus, the two super spies eventually found each other again, somehow still alive after all these years.
11 Natasha named her son after Bucky
In the Marvel animated movie, Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow, a potential future of the present day Avengers team is imagined, and unfortunately, they take Black Widow and Winter Soldier and send them in a less romantic direction.
In this future, Black Widow and Captain America have had a son, and named him James Rogers.
This runs contrary to some established continuity that Natasha can’t have children due to her training, but more creepy than that, naming their son after a guy the two have so much history with. It sounds like a storyline straight out of a daytime soap opera from the '90s.
10 Moral Flexibility
Their similar backgrounds, sustained emotional, psychological damage, and directionless lifestyles all combine to make these two of the angstiest characters on the Marvel hero team. They’re frequently liable to break bad and succumb to a brainwashing flashback or other evil coercion and proceed to dance all over ethical boundaries.
Together, the two are even better, giving a voice and a second to the audiences skepticism of doing the right thing all the time, especially when they have their abilities.
Their difficult childhoods also lead them to question what the “right” thing to do is far more closely than other heroes.
Sometimes this pays off, and S.H.I.E.L.D. knows to ask for their talents whenever they have a mission a little too dirty for Captain America.
9 Both Characters Were Retconned
Originally, Black Widow was an out and out villain, feuding with prominent Avengers, including Iron Man and Spider-Man. Slowly, the real Natasha emerges from the Black Widow brainwashing and she helps the Avengers on a few missions on her way to becoming an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Bucky Barnes was raised on an army base and that’s where he first met Steve Rogers when he enlisted. The two became friends on his way to undergo his life changing procedure. After the transformation, Bucky tagged along with Cap as his sidekick, but it felt a little too much like another dynamic duo and the character was put on a shelf until it was “discovered” that he had been captured.
8 They Fought the Avengers
Even after Bucky resurfaces, their reunion battle takes time to unwind, but it’s a key moment when Bucky Barnes is reacquainted with Captain America and the Avengers.
Bucky eventually clears his head, but for a while he was fighting the good guys for Red Skull and control of the Cosmic Cube. He’s also been responsible for hundreds of civilian casualties due to his bombings, and he had a little trouble letting go the last time he served as Captain America.
Black Widow fought the Avengers for years as an associate of Hydra before she made the flip to the good side. She’s responsible for giving Hawkeye his start, first as a small time villain’s accomplice, before he flipped sides as well.
7 They've had their memories wiped
The compelling tragedy of these two lovers is that they were so clearly made for each other, yet so many things interrupt them to tear them apart. Between their meeting in the '60s, in the Red Room, and the present day, the two have switched sides more often and eliminated more people than anyone should be able to get away with.
It’s possible that their romance is fueled by each other being the strongest memories they both have.
Due to their stints with the Red Room, their brains have been erased multiple times over the course of their very long lives.
For the Winter Soldier, this includes many times when he’s disobeyed orders to do good deeds. Despite their relationship always being wiped in the collateral damage, they always get back together.
6 They took a 50 year break
After their first romantic entanglement in the Red Room, officials put a stop to their relationship by showing Natasha who she was really in love with and giving her a light brainwash. Between that break and their reunion after Bucky finally became Captain America, the couple was apart for around fifty years.
This long separation is the most epic part of their romance.
Being reunited almost as coincidentally as they were thrown together makes Black Widow and the Winter Soldier a tragically flawed couple, but it’s only one of many obstacles in their growth. This interlude also makes their romance one of the longest running in the universe, since both characters have been around so long that their love traces almost the entire arc of Marvel Comics.
5 Bucky Doesn’t Remember Natasha in the MCU
To this point in the MCU, as of the events of Infinity War, Bucky hasn’t been able to recall any of the past he and Black Widow share.
This could mean that the Winter Soldier still has a powerful memory block about some of his history (that could unleash a flood of information at some point), or there are no plans to reveal that romance at any stage.
If it’s the latter and Bucky and Widow aren’t fated for on screen romance, it’s too bad. After a complicated reference to a past with Hawkeye, and a romance that never got off the ground with Hulk, Black Widow is due for a relationship that actually has some hope in it.
4 The MCU Easter Egg
For her part, there was a passing reference to the Black Widow remembering some of hers and Bucky’s history, but it’s not divulged how much she’s known about him between now and then.
In Captain America: Civil War, when the Winter Soldier attacks the UN, a glimmer of recognition flashes across Natasha’s face, and then she throws a line into the air about him not acknowledging her.
One line is the entirety of the couples’ on screen history, but at least it leaves the door open to a complicated past.
If the MCU is ready to go there, the Black Widow and Winter Soldier will be standing by to tell their own tale.
3 They’re Both Struggling To Atone For Their Past
Watching two people raised from evil, trying to set themselves on the right track, is wildfire. Each character stands alone as an interesting progression of narrative and morality, but in very different ways.
Natasha and Bucky can’t escape what they’ve done. Their past, their assassinations, their lies, and their deceit will haunt them no matter how many missions they assist S.H.I.E.L.D. or the Avengers on, but all they can do is move forward, feeling the bad twice as bad but the good only half as good.
Fortunately for both of them, the other one can almost understand what the other’s going through.
2 They hide in the background
Natasha and Bucky have both been around for decades, but are never given quite the attention of an A-List hero.
Even when Bucky was at Captain America’s side, he was derided as a derivative teenage sidekick and mostly played the part in his early character run.
Black Widow was another square villain in the rogue’s gallery. When Natasha Romanoff was created, all the talent that could write women in the company was poured into Jean Grey, so she floundered.
The Winter Soldier’s and Black Widow’s character growth and inspiring romance is evidence of proof that Marvel continues to evolve over the years, even if it happens in the background of other heroes' stories.
1 They're Better Together
Romance storylines in comics have a history of being hit and miss. The epic love stories are few and far between. But in Natasha and Bucky, Marvel has a couple of characters that are special because their whole is greater than the sum of their parts.
Their power sets aren’t revolutionary, and their background makes them morally unqualified for a great deal of team leadership or individual spotlight.
On their own, they rarely rise above interesting supporting characters, leading compelling solo missions under harsh conditions; great for off-genre one-shots. Once they’re paired together, however, fans get a hero twice as powerful and more passionate than Captain America, and probably with more enemies.
Do you have other trivia to add about Black Widow and Winter Soldier's relationship? Let us know in the comments!