Was Black Widow the first female leader of a Marvel team, and Storm the second?
When the short-lived team the Champions comes together on the UCLA campus* to defend against an incursion by the evil Greek gods, Black Widow assumes control of the team without complaint (but with a weird crack about her looks / Cyclops / Chris Claremont [even though Chris Claremont wasn’t even writing X-Men when Angel left the team?]). It’s easy to buy Black Widow as a natural leader, given her experience with SHIELD and the Avengers and her general super-competence, but as far as I know this might be her only instance as official leader.
Four years later, when Cyclops quit the X-Men following the Dark Phoenix Saga, Storm is named the new team leader. It’s an obvious choice: she is wise, responsible, and the most powerful member of the team. Especially when the rest of the team is Colossus, Nightcrawler, Wolverine, and the 13 and a half year old Kitty Pryde, none of whom are exactly leadership material. Unlike Black Widow, Storm has remained leader off and on since.
I can’t think of any other teams previous to these, or around the same time, that had female leaders. It’s interesting that they’re both seen as successors to Cyclops, as Champions was originally supposed to be about Iceman and Angel before Len Wein made Tony Isabella add more characters, including one woman, to the team. Meanwhile, when Storm was created at the same time in Giant-Size X-Men, it was part of an intentional effort to diversify and internationalize the team. Something to consider in light of recent news, perhaps.
*The wrangling involved in getting all these characters at UCLA is pretty funny. Angel and Iceman were attending college after leaving the X-Men; Black Widow was there to apply for a job teaching Russian after leaving San Francisco and Daredevil; Hercules was giving a lecture; and Ghost Rider was just riding by.
Champions #2, January 1976. Tona Isabella, Don Heck, John Tartaglione, Phil Rachelson, and Irving Watanabe. Edited by Marv Wolfman.
Uncanny X-Men #139, November 1980. Chris Claremont / John Bryne, Terry Austin, Glynis Oliver, and Tom Orzechowski. Edited by Louise Jones.
(if you reblog this, please leave the credits intact 👍)