Spider-Man is known for being a Marvel hero with perpetually bad luck. Even when he wins a battle as Spidey, he often misses a date or work appointment as Peter Parker, making his personal life a mess. But as inconvenient as Spidey’s “Parker Luck” can be, he once came down with a case of bad luck so terrible it nearly killed him – thanks to his then-girlfriend Felicia Hardy, aka the Black Cat.
An enigmatic character, the Black Cat has had her powers frequently retconned, making it difficult for many fans to understand what she can and can’t do. At one point, however, her super powers were literally a type of magical disease – infecting others with a bad luck hex.
Although Felicia seems to have her powers under control these days, let’s take a look back at when it really was dangerous to have a Black Cat cross your path.
Originally introduced in The Amazing Spider-Man #194, the Black Cat was originally a cat burglar who liked to fool others into believing she truly had “bad luck” powers. Before every crime, she would strategically rig certain objects – such as windows and ladders – to malfunction at key moments, aiding her escape. Thanks to these booby traps, Spider-Man genuinely believed Felicia had powers.
Eventually, Spider-Man and the Black Cat fell in love (taking a page right out of the Batman/Catwoman playbook) and became crime fighting partners. However, Spidey soon discovered Felicia had no powers when she was seriously hurt in a fight against Doctor Octopus. Although her recovery helped them grow closer, Spider-Man became concerned about having her fight by his side. In response, Felicia tried to buy superpowers – approaching the Avengers, Hank Pym, Tony Stark, and even the Fantastic Four and asking them to experiment on her. Her activities caught the attention of Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin of Crime, who saw an opportunity to use Felicia as an unwitting pawn against Spider-Man.
Approaching Felicia anonymously, the Kingpin had his scientists experiment on Felicia. As is common in Marvel pseudoscience, the scientists found and awakened a latent superpower perfectly suited to Felicia’s personality. This power caused bad luck to befall anyone who tried to harm Felicia. If a criminal tried to shoot her, the gun would backfire on the shooter. If someone tried to sneak up on her, her “bad luck” powers would cause him or her to trip and fall. It seemed like the Black Cat had found the perfect protection… or so she thought.
Once Felicia reunited with Spider-Man, however, her new powers revealed a lethal downside. Spidey began to get more and more clumsy in battle – tripping on chimneys, getting caught in his own webbing, and letting villains get the drop on him. At one point, he jumped off a roof and forgot how to properly fire his web shooters (since he was wearing his black alien symbiote costume which fired webbing from the backs of his hands rather than from under his wrists).
Why was Spidey behaving so oddly? Turns out, the longer he spent around the Black Cat, the more Felicia’s bad luck powers attached a hex to Spider-Man’s aura – literally infecting him with bad luck. The Kingpin hoped he could use this as a way to jinx Spider-Man – essentially using Felicia as a Trojan Horse weapon. The longer Spider-Man spent around the Black Cat, the more likely her bad luck would kill him. Fearing for his life, Felicia decided to break up with him – only to have Peter beat her to the punch.
This, however, didn’t solve problems for Spider-Man, since the Black Cat’s “hex” was still stuck to him. A visit to Doctor Strange helped fix this, as the Sorcerer Supreme was able to remove Spidey’s bad luck with a spell. In the process, however, he erased Felicia’s own powers. This proved nearly fatal for the Black Cat since she was fighting a group of thugs and was relying on her power to protect her – only to have it blink out, leaving her defenseless.
From this point on, the Black Cat’s powers began changing in weird ways. Although Felicia no longer had her bad luck powers, Doctor Strange’s spell had mutated them, causing her to develop superhuman strength, speed, agility, balance, night vision – and retractable claws. Felicia used these powers to become a new Black Cat – only to lose them again in an accident with a machine that also temporarily removed Spider-Man’s powers.
Despite her willingness to use these technological enhancements, Felicia is still comfortable fighting without them. Already an Olympic-level athlete and brilliant detective who understands the criminal mind (thanks to first-hand experience), the Black Cat can easily hold her own in battle using just her own strength, sneakiness, and strategy.
For a character whose bad luck ability originally came from a plot by the Kingpin to use her as a pawn, the Black Cat has since made an effort to become her own woman and acquire super powers on her own terms. Although Felicia Hardy never did manage to rekindle her romantic relationship with Spider-Man, the Black Cat now makes her own luck – and thankfully it’s the useful kind that won’t accidentally kill Peter Parker.
Next: Star Wars: The Best Rebel Pilot Isn’t Lucky, He’s Cursed