When Elektra Natchios first arrived in the pages of Marvel Comics’ Daredevil, it was under a shroud of mystery. Presented to readers first as a professional hit-woman, she was later revealed as a member of a ninja cult and eventually something more… supernatural.
Expert martial artist is only the top of her long resume of powers. Advancing deeper into the comics lore, Elektra has displayed telepathic talents and even some “mind over matter” moves.
Over time, she became one the most enigmatic players in the Marvel Universe. Not really a heroine, she operates more as an agent of a higher mystical force.
Despite fighting for good (most of the time), she has still done some very evil things. An unabashed killer who believes herself to be beyond the laws of humanity, Elektra often defies the laws of physics as well.
With Elektra slated to return in Netflix’s The Defenders, here’s some facts about the character (as well as some real-world tidbits) to add to your knowledge about this super-slayer.
14 SHE WAS AN AGENT OF S.H.I.E.L.D
As we all know, S.H.I.E.L.D. is the home of the top super-spies of the Marvel universe. Many characters have had stints at the agency legendarily run by the unforgettable Nick Fury. Everybody from Black Widow and Mockingbird to Falcon and Hawkeye have been on the agency’s roster. It’s been led by Iron Man at one time and even the Green Goblin at another. So why not let everybody’s favorite magic ninja assassin join in the fun, too?
Director Fury hired Elektra to beat back a nasty scheme started by a villainous team-up of HYDRA and The Hand, who were teaming up to kill heroes and resurrect them as murderous slaves – including Wolverine. With those two in the room, you can expect a whole lot of mayhem. This was a “hired gun scenario” – one of many – so Elektra's S.H.I.E.L.D. membership wasn’t forever.
Another time that Nick Fury gave contracting work to Elektra, she found herself facing off against the super-secret society HYDRA, which the evil Red Skull infamously led for a while. As the classic nemesis organization pitted against S.H.I.E.L.D., it should be of no surprise that Hydra would want to make talent like Elektra an offer she couldn’t refuse. Except, of course, she refused.
This caused the villainous cabal to send Silver Samurai to track her down and kill her – which didn’t end very well for that particular bad guy. Despite Elektra’s checkered past and former affiliation with other leagues of assassins, her rejection of HYDRA should provide a clue as to what side she is ultimately on. Which is good for Marvel heroes, as the lady can sometimes seem downright unstoppable!
13 SHE’S IN ALMOST AS MANY VIDEO GAMES AS SHE IS IN COMICS
Although Elektra is arguably one of the most iconic female characters from the Marvel Universe, she’s also been in relatively few comics stories, considering she’s been around since 1981.
For a while, she wasn’t in any comics at all (see entry #1 for more on that), and there’s also been a sense that she’s not an easy fit into the overall continuity. In fact, Elektra’s only got 3 solo titles adding up to less than 75 issues. The rest of her appearances are in a handful of limited series runs and a few guest slots in other books.
By relative standards, she sure is in a whole lot of video games; over a dozen of them in fact. From a cameo in 1997’s Marvel Superheroes vs. Street Fighter to 2015’s Marvel: Future Fight, digital Elektra has really made the rounds.
12 THE FILM ADAPTATION OF ELEKTRA WAS A TOTAL BOMB
What’s that? There was a feature film about Elektra? Don’t feel bad if you didn’t know about it, Marvel and just about anyone who ever saw the flick would rather forget about it.
Despite casting A-lister Jennifer Garner as the titular ninja assassin and being teed up by the relatively successful Daredevil feature film starring Garner and then-boyfriend Ben Affleck, the $43 million film only raked in about $57 million at the box office. That places it in the bottom ¼ of all-time Marvel movie earners – pretty weak for such a tough gal.
The film only score 10% on Rotten Tomatoes with critics, and just 29% with audience. So while she may be the best killer in comics, Elektra totally failed to kill it at the box office. Hopefully, she’ll do better in The Defenders!
11 SHE TEAMED UP WITH WOLVERINE BEFORE EITHER WERE REALLY SUPERHEROES
The great thing about comic book retconning is that characters with long histories can be found teaming up together in pre-continuity stories that become canon. The ageless Wolverine is a favorite for Marvel to add in-the-past stories to. Pushing him together with Elektra’s early days made for a good fit.
In Elektra and Wolverine: The Redeemer, Logan has just had his adamantium claws installed and finds himself crossing paths with the ninja assassin early in her career. At this point in the history, neither has earned their superhero stripes – although Elektra is clearly the bad guy.
She needs to kill the only witness to her latest assassination – a little girl – and Wolverine is assigned to protect the innocent child. This adds another level to Elektra’s complicated past, but as mentioned before, these two adversaries eventually become solid partners.
10 MATT MURDOCK GAVE HER A CARTOON NICKNAME IN THE COMICS
As with most superhero women, Elektra is often portrayed as having overly idealized feminine features, but she wasn’t created that way. Not only was she drawn as waifish before waifish models became popular, but the deadly assassin gets regularly ribbed for her less-than-Rubenesque figure.
There’s a flashback story where Matt Murdock and Elektra start dating in college. His affectionate nickname for her is “Olive Oyl” – a reference to Popeye’s iconic rail-thin lady friend in the classic comics and cartoons. Setting this device up, Matt uses the name as code to prompt action from a young Elektra when he tries to rescue her father from a gang of terrorist kidnappers. “Hit ‘em low, Olive Oyl!” was his battle cry.
It’s a comics-within-comics reference which ties two famous fictional couples in a pretty unusual way.
9 SHE KILLED AN INVULNERABLE CYBORG IN THE COOLEST WAY EVER
In the classic mini-series Elektra Assassin, we find out that the resurrected Elektra is way more than just an expert martial artist killing machine – she’s got all sorts of crazy superpowers now which makes her totally unstoppable.
What happens when an invulnerable cyborg comes up against her? Well, she just slices his head off with a mystical samurai sword.
What happens when the severed cyborg head can live on its own and still remotely control its beheaded killer robot body? Well, now Elektra needs to improvise.
While the metal hands clutch at her throat, our resourceful warrior reaches up the head’s neck-hole until she finds the still-human brain controlling the machine – and literally squishes it in her hands. Gross, but it works! The rest of the cyborg body powers down and Elektra wins again.
8 MATT MURDOCK LITERALLY SAVED ELEKTRA’S SOUL
Okay, so, Elektra has done a lot of dying and resurrecting in her time. The first time was back in the pages of Daredevil, after his arch-nemesis Bullseye stabbed her through the heart with her own sai sword.
Enter The Hand, the evil ninja cult which serves a demon and uses magic to further its evil agenda. They're planning to bring the lifeless corpse of Elektra back to life, but Daredevil and his mystic ally Stone interrupt the rebirth ritual in progress. As a result, Elektra doesn’t come back.
Desperate to somehow finish the process, Matt Murdock tries to use his own higher consciousness to complete the revivification ceremony – but fails. Later, Stone realizes that while Matt didn’t bring her back, he did manage to cleanse her soul, setting up her return as a hero rather than a villain. This allows Stone to finish the job.
Rather than destroy the body, Stone brings Elektra back, this time on the side of the angels.
7 SHE’S GONE FACE TO FACE WITH A LITERAL DEMON FROM HELL
Speaking of The Hand and its cult based on the service to a demon from hell – that was actually for real. As in, they really are following a real demon, a powerful one, and he’s as big and scary as anyone could imagine it. Known only as “The Beast,” this undying evil entity essentially has one goal in mind – to quiet the “noisy” corruption of all life and flesh in the universe. And make it all dark and super silent so he can get some peace.
This is the sort of guy who totally calls the cops on a party - plus he’s basically the devil. Maybe it would be easier if he just bought a home in the country?
Anyway, despite being an all-powerful spirit of evil, Elektra takes him on with just a spear. And she actually hurts him. This makes her way more powerful than she was before, and maybe one of the best gals to have your back in a fight.
6 DURING TRAINING, STICK GAVE HER A GROSS NICKNAME
As we all learned from the Netflix Daredevil series, Matt Murdock was trained by a blind mystical warrior known only as Stick. Belonging to a generations-old network of fighters dedicated to opposing The Hand, Stick is part of an elite cadre of supernatural martial arts experts who recruit Daredevil to their cause. In the comics, he also trains Elektra and boy, does she show promise.
As all harsh teachers do, Stick spends a lot of time berating his student in an effort to make her tougher. His group all have single names reflecting their strengths: Stick, Stone, Shaft, and so on. Picking her favorite type of sword, Elektra asks to be called “Sai.” So the old teacher smacks her on the head and names her “Snot” instead.
Way to be totally gross and a total jerk at the same time, Stick! Maybe you should have gone a little easier on her?
5 HER FATHER WAS ASSASSINATED BY PROFESSIONAL KILLERS, AND THEN SHE BECAME AN ASSASSIN
It’s pretty common for a child to follow in the footsteps of a parent, but following the killer of your dad’s career path? That’s a little odd to say the least.
As explained earlier, Elektra and her ambassador father Hugo Natchios are kidnapped by professional terrorists who are well-versed in the art of assassination. It all goes down right before her eyes and traumatizes her for life. So what does she go and do? Become a professional assassin of course!
It’s a really weird life choice to get into the hit woman business under any circumstances, but Elektra really loved her dad. Why in the world would she want to become like his murderers? Well, she’s a complicated character with a complicated past and after all, it's comics; all sorts of weird stuff happens. It's still a pretty creepy back story.
4 SHE CAN TRANSFER OTHER PEOPLE’S CONSCIOUSNESS BETWEEN BODIES
No, Elektra is not a mutant. She’s also not a Vulcan from Star Trek. But she is a magically-imbued super-assassin with more than a few tricks up her sleeve.
It’s one thing to manipulate minds al la Obi-Wan Kenobi (“These aren’t the droids you’re looking for”) but it’s a whole other matter to switch brain patterns from one person to another. That’s a trick usually reserved to science fiction tales or maybe with some sort of Doctor Doom device you might see in The Fantastic Four.
In one master stroke of story resolution, Elektra totally swaps minds between a good guy and a bad guy to confuse and diffuse a huge conspiracy (it’s complex, just read the Elektra: Assassin TPB). And yes does this very much, Mr. Spock-style, laying hands on both craniums at once to make the switch. It's totally awesome.
3 MARVEL HAD TO RECALL AN ISSUE OF ELEKTRA BECAUSE SHE WAS NAKED
Don’t ask us how an artist can “accidentally” draw a character naked, but that’s pretty much what seemed to happen in one issue of an Elektra comic book. To be honest – it’s actually a short sequence of comics panels done in tasteful shadows and silhouettes. By today’s standards, this would really be no problem. But this happened way back in 2004 when audiences couldn’t handle subtle nudity, so a recall ensued.
The reissues of Elektra: Vol. 2, #3 had some thin blank bands added in, suggesting underwear. So really, it changed almost nothing. Standards and practices can be really weird. About 5,000 copies got out into the wild, so hardcore collectors can easily find an inexpensive copy if they are so inclined.
2 SHE ALMOST KILLED THE PRESIDENT
Let’s just put this right up front: yes, Elektra really did come really close to killing the president once. But to be fair – this particular president was, in fact, possessed by The Beast, who fully intended to use the commander-in-chief’s nuclear codes to blow up the world so he could end all life on earth and finally be a happy demon from hell.
That’s the underlying mission throughout the classic Elektra: Assassin and -- after some very crazy action involving S.H.I.E.L.D, a mad scientist and an alcoholic spy – the moment of truth comes at hand. At the last moment, however, our mystical ninja killing machine actually thinks outside of the box. So what would be better than just killing the possessed acolyte?
We don’t want to spoil it but it does involve that Vulcan mind meld trick that was mentioned before. President spared!
1 SHE WAS CREATED BY THE SAME GUY WHO GAVE US BATMAN: THE DARK NIGHT RETURNS
Legendary artist/writer Frank Miller cut his teeth redefining a struggling Marvel title in the '80s called Daredevil. At that time, everyone’s favorite blind hero wasn’t terribly popular. Marvel gave Miller the chance to make the character his own, creating a gritty street hero with little resemblance to the character in earlier stories. In those pages, Frank delivered unto us Elektra.
Miller's work on DD presaged the “dark” pastiche which he would use to rework Batman in the classic Dark Knight Returns series. That noir-inspired motif stretched into later works, like Sin City and even 300. Marvel originally agreed to Miller’s demands that Elektra not appear in the wider comics universe, but alas, promises were broken.
This may be why Elektra didn’t appear in the larger Marvel Universe continuity for a few years, but once she did, it was over. The iconic character carved out a life of her own in the greater comics, film, and TV mythologies.
Have any Elektra trivia to add? Leave it in the comments.
The Defenders is available to stream on Neflix as of August 18.