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Real Name: Unrevealed (see comments)

Identity/Class: Human;
    citizen of Russia

Occupation: Mercenary;
    former ballerina

Group Membership: Partner of Boris;
    formerly the Empire Ballet Troupe, KGB (Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti/Committee for State Security), Red Room

Affiliations: Princess Azir, A.J. Herbst, Jeryn Hogarth, KGB, Halwani royal guard, Elyena Sorodin, Sumi

Enemies: Black Tiger, Black Widow (Natasha Romanoff), Brillalae, Daredevil (Matt Murdock), Iron Fist (Daniel Rand), Peter Penkowsky, Power Man (Luke Cage)

Known Relatives: None

Aliases: "Nina" (nickname used by Boris and Iron Fist)

Base of Operations: Unrevealed;
    formerly London, United Kingdom;
    formerly Kamillabad, Halwan;
    formerly mobile throughout the world;
    formerly the Red Room, somewhere in Russia;
    formerly the Moscow Ballet Academy

First Appearance: Power Man and Iron Fist I#77 (January 1982)

Powers/Abilities: Ninotchka possesses no known superhuman abilities. A naturally gifted ballerina, her talents were honed by the same KGB operatives who trained the Black Widow (Natasha Romanova). Ninotchka learned to approach combat as a dancer, adapting her style and actions to the movements of her proverbial dance partners. This allowed her to literally stay one step ahead of her opponents at all time, though her innate overconfidence could at times cause her to slip up. Ninotchka has intimate knowledge of the various nerve centers in the human body, often focusing her attacks on the specific nerve centers that either cause (temporary) paralysis or pain. Given the proper strategy, this allows her to overcome opponents far stronger and more durable. Ninotchka is fairly ruthless, using her looks and sexuality if she feels that will help her accomplish the mission. She has been known to kill in cold blood, using a special knife she carries on her body during most assignments.

 

 

Height: 5'8" (by approximation)
Weight: 118 lbs. (by approximation)
Eyes: Blue
Hair: Black

 

 

 

History:
(Black Widow IV#3 (fb) - BTS) - The Russian mercenary who would become known as Ninotchka started out as an  elegant and talented ballerina at the Moscow ballet. She was there with the equally gifted Natasha Romanova who was soon recruited by the KGB to eventually become the super-spy known as the Black Widow (see comments). A little while after that, Ninotchka was invited to join the secret service as well, receiving special training that emphasized adapting her dance training into a specialized form of martial arts that was both elusive and deadly.

(Power Man & Iron Fist I#77 (fb) - BTS) -  After her KGB training was finished, Ninotchka met the brutishly strong Russian mercenary Boris. Impressed with his abilities and feeling an almost immediate kinship, she decided to become his partner. Operating as "Boris and Ninotchka," they offered their services to anyone who could afford it.

(Power Man & Iron Fist I#77 - BTS) - Boris and Ninotchka were hired by the Russian government to make sure famous Russian ballerina Elyena Sorodin would not defect to the United States during her scheduled tour there performing Zhukov's "Daystar" with the Empire Ballet Troupe. Chances of the 15 year old Elyena defecting were considerable, since she was is in love with her American dancing partner, Peter Penkowsky. Twisting the arm of the ballet's director A.J. Herbst, the Russian government made sure Boris and Ninotchka were hired to work on the tour. The agile Ninotchka joined the company, while Boris acted as a bodyguard.

(Power Man & Iron Fist I#77 - BTS) - Realizing romance was blooming between Peter and Elenya, Boris and Ninotchka decided to "talk" some sense into the lovebirds. Ninotchka violently attacked Peter while Boris went after Elenya who ran out into the streets. As luck would have it, Elyena bumped into Daredevil and the Heroes for Hire who were at the ballet trying to force A.J. Herbst to rehire Tammilu Shipman, a dancer who got fired after she broke her leg. Sensing Elyena's distress, Power Man & Iron Fist looked after Elenya when the giant, imposing figure of Boris came around the corner looking for her.

(Power Man & Iron Fist I#77) - At the same time, Daredevil's acute senses picked up Peter's anxious screams as Ninotchka continued her assault. Daredevil tried to intervene, but found it almost impossible to cope with the Russian ballerina's unique fighting style, which allowed her to hit him whenever she felt like it. However, when she stopped her assault to pursue the fleeing Peter, Daredevil was able to home in on her, tripping her up with his Billy club. Ninotchka nevertheless pursued Peter which led her and Daredevil to reunite inside the theater. Their conflict was interrupted by Herbst who was furious about the fact his theatre was being destroyed. Herbst himself was interrupted by Foggy Nelson who presented him with legal papers regarding the firing of Tammilu. Herbst revealed he had no choice: the only way he could hire Russian star ballerina Elyena was by giving Tammilu's spot to Ninotchka, who laughed at the insinuations they were with the secret police. Boris confirmed their status as free agents, working for a hefty paycheck, before he and the others were ordered out by Herbst who wanted to continue rehearsal. Ninotchka, who was forced to take part in the practice, told her partner to shadow Power Man and Iron Fist to see what they were up to.

(Power Man & Iron Fist I#77 - BTS) - Daredevil became aware the not too subtle Boris was keeping tabs on his allies but could not get close enough to warn them without tipping Boris off. Over the weeks that followed, Iron Fist and Cage acted as Elenya's bodyguards while Boris made himself scarce, yet was never too far away.

(Power Man & Iron Fist I#77) - Right before opening night, Ninotchka decided to mess with Elenya by forcing herself on Peter, making sure the young girl saw them kissing, figuring that would end their relationship. Elenya saw the two and became distraught, yet went on stage with him later that night. Watching the performance from the wings, Boris was unaware of his beloved Ninotchka's strategy and grew furious when she once again forced herself on Peter. When Peter's dance took him to the edge of the stage, Boris yanked him off and threatened to smash him for two-timing Elenya and his partner. Peter's screams alerted Power Man and Iron Fist, as well as Daredevil, who was attending the performance. The three heroes involved themselves in the fight which spilled out on the stage. Daredevil got Elenya to safety, while Ninotchka tried to disable Power Man by hitting his neural pressure points. Meanwhile, Iron Fist took on Boris and managed to stun him. Boris was so dazed, he couldn't dodge the massive stage lights that Peter had decided to drop. At the last possible moment, Power Man caught the falling object, saving Boris' life. In the aftermath, Elenya decided to go back to Russia, disgusted by what Peter had tried to do. Ninotchka lovingly took care of the still smarting Boris, telling him that, despite his objections, her methods resulted in the desired outcome. She followed that up by offering to teach him a few kicks and holds for their next assignment, to which he agreed. As a result of Elenya's departure, Daredevil and Foggy's client Tammilu was rehired by Herbst.

(Power Man & Iron Fist I#82 (fb) - BTS) - Once again hired by the Russian government who had a vested interest in benefiting from the socio-political tensions between the neighboring countries of Halwan and Murtakesh, Boris and Ninotchka were sent to Halwan to prepare for the arrival of the Russian diplomat Stolveski. They soon befriended both the Halwan royal palace guard and princess Azir.

(Power Man & Iron Fist I#81) - Aware Abe Brown, the former Black Tiger (who was Murtakesh' national hero) had acquired the services of the Heroes for Hire, Ninotchka shadowed Power Man, Iron Fist, and their associate Jeryn Hogarth as they traveled to Halwan in order to exonerate Brown. She watched how Hogarth was taken into custody as soon as their plane landed in Halwan, before returning to Boris at the royal palace.

(Power Man & Iron Fist I#81 - BTS) - When Iron Fist and Power Man made their way to the palace, surprising Ninotchka, Boris came storming in. Excited to see his old enemy Power Man, the Russian strongman immediately engaged, pulling a scimitar and vowing to kill him. However, he was temporarily taken out of the fight when Cage covered him in a pile of silk. The American heroes briefly escaping Boris, but the Russian mercenary and the Halwani palace guards under his command quickly caught up with them. Eager to prove himself against Cage, Boris' battle was interrupted by Iron Fist who once again blinded Boris with a piece of fabric. This time, however, Boris and his men chased the Heroes for Hire into an area of the palace that contained a spike trap over a mote too large to jump across, effectively trapping them.

(Power Man & Iron Fist I#82 (fb) - BTS) - Figuring Iron Fist and Power Man could only have been hired by the Black Tiger, the Halwani sent a telegram to Abe Brown, claiming to be Cage, luring him to fly to Halwan where he was quickly captured. Brown was sent to the Halwan palace torture chambers where both princess Azir and Ninotchka were waiting for him.

 

(Power Man & Iron Fist I#82 - BTS) - Iron Fist was thrown over the trap by Luke Cage, after which Cage surrendered to Boris and his forces. Princess Azir ordered Boris to take Cage to the same torture chamber Abe Brown was waiting in, along with Ninotchka. 

(Power Man & Iron Fist I#82) - Cage and Abe Brown were about to be tortured for information, with Princess Azir and Ninotchka present. Cage broke his bonds, freeing Brown as they made their way outside.

(Power Man & Iron Fist I#82 - BTS) - Cage and Brown reached the palace grounds just as Boris was welcoming the arriving Stolveski. Moments after he had entered the palace, everyone on the court was surprised by the arrival of the Black Tiger (actually Abe Brown's old associate Brillalae) and a small army of Murkatesh mercenaries intent on starting a war with Halwan by wiping out its royal family. Cage and Boris teamed up to fight off the invaders, with Luke protecting the somewhat headstrong Boris from a lethal barrage of bullets, though the durable Power Man was impressed by the Russian mercenary's ability to fight off over half a dozen men at once.

(Power Man & Iron Fist I#82) - While Boris was fighting off the Murkatesh army, Ninotchka tried to keep Iron Fist from interfering with "comrade" Stolveski's closed door meeting with the Halwani rulers. A ferocious fight broke out, with Iron Fist realizing he was in a ballet instead of a battle when all his blows failed to connect. She figured to land a killing blow by covering Danny in a curtain, but the Fist rolled with the punches, avoided her attack and was able to hit her because the self assured Ninotchka didn't expect any opposition. After taking her out, Danny used his iron fist to breach the palace's inner sanctum. There, to his surprise, he found Jeryn Hogarth had already finalized a lucrative trade agreement between Halwan and Murkatesh that would also prove beneficial to both the US and Russia, effectively preventing a war between the two countries.

(Power Man & Iron Fist I#82) - Boris cared for the slightly dazed Ninotchka, making sure she was alright before both left to continue their career as mercenaries.

 

 

(Black Widow V#3 - BTS) - Boris and Ninotchka were hired by a man who called himself "Sumi" to help him take down the Black Widow (Natasha Romanova). Eager to prove herself against one of her fellow Red Room trainees, Ninotchka accepted and the duo traveled to London where they waited for the Widow to arrive.

 

(Black Widow V#3) - Moments after Sumi (actually a robotic duplicate controlled by Imus Champion) firebombed the Widow's location, he confronted her along with Boris and Ninotchka, who called her "pretty Natasha" before asking if the Widow remembered her back from their days at the Moscow ballet. Trying to anger her, the Widow told Ninotchka that she always talked more than she danced. Unmoved, Ninotcha shot back that Natasha had forgotten her abilities and that Natasha couldn't touch her. In response, the Widow told her she didn't have to. Proving her point, Natasha hit Ninotchka's partner Boris on the head with a piece of pipe, effectively knocking him out. Ninotchka battled on, eventually killing Ned, the man Widow had come to London with which to rendezvous for some intel. She then tried to take out Romanova by hitting her neural pressure points. However, she got briefly distracted when the raging fires threatened to claim Boris, giving the Black Widow a prime opportunity to take her down.

 

Comments: Created by Joe Duffy (writer), Kerry Gammill (pencils), Ricardo Villamonte (inks).

    "Ninotchka" is Russian for "little girl" or "little Nina," and also references the 1939 motion picture of the same name. In the movie, Greta Garbo stars as a Russian agent who is fun loving and out to collect a profit in spite of her Communist upbringings. A perfect fit for Ninotchka who, along with Boris, was true to the motherland but weren't above earning a buck or two.

As for her real name, it's not unthinkable her first name is indeed Nina.

    Having Ninotchka (and Boris!) return in 2010 after a 28 year absence is a nice nod to continuity, but writer Marjorie Liu added a little wrinkle to that continuity which is troublesome to say the least. It's been well established the Black Widow was a ballerina before the Russian government recruited her in the 1930s, exposed her to treatments that slowed her aging considerably. Unless the KGB did the same thing to Ninotchka when they recruited her (let's say somewhere in 1940s, post World War II), there's an age gap that can't be explained away.

    It's water under the bridge now, but it'd have made more sense to (re)introduce Ninotchka as a member of Russia's Red Room collective of (borderline) superhuman operatives.

Profile by Norvo.

CLARIFICATIONS:
Ninotchka should not be confused with


images: (without ads)
Power Man & Iron Fist I#77, p4, pan3 (main image)
Power Man & Iron Fist I#82, p5, pan8 (closeup)
Power Man & Iron Fist I#77, p19, pan6 (takes on Power Man)
Power Man & Iron Fist I#82, p19, pans 4,5,6 (matches Iron Fist blow for blow)
Black Widow IV#3, p23, pans 3,4,5 (fights Black Widow)


Appearances:
Power Man & Iron Fist I#77 (January 1982) -
Joe Duffy (writer), Kerry Gammill (pencils), Ricardo Villamonte (inks), Denny O'Neill (editor)
Power Man & Iron Fist I#81 (May 1982) - Joe Duffy (writer), Denys Cowan (pencils), Ricardo Villamonte (inks), Denny O'Neill (editor)
Power Man & Iron Fist I#82 (June 1982) - Joe Duffy (writer), Denys Cowan (pencils), Carl Potts (inks), Denny O'Neill (editor)
Black Widow V#3 (August 2010) - Marjorie Liu (writer), Daniel Acuña (pencils & inks), Ralph Macchio (editor)


Last updated: 07/08/14

Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.

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