Can superheroes have a successful marriage and still be superheroes?
This is one of the most frequently used storylines within the superhero genre. At their core, cape comics are essentially soap operas “for boys,” with the relationships the hero has and makes often getting significantly more focus and page-time than any other aspect of the comic (especially fights). Marriage often doesn’t end well in comics, but it’s usually something both characters involved sincerely want to do.
But about halfway through the tenure of the New 52, right after Kate Kane proposed to her girlfriend, DC put a kibosh on marriage. The New 52 had already revamped almost all the preexisting DC character to make them younger, darker, and often not even heroes yet, as well as erasing some of the most prevalent and long lasting relationships in comics. With this new editorial decree, the only substantial relationship that remind in the DCU, pre Convergence, were Superman and Wonder Woman and Aquaman and Mera.
Now that Convergence is out, DC’s made almost a complete about-face-turn in how it handles marriage and relationships:
In Convergence, when the dome goes up, all the capes lose their superpowers. While a few heroes remain heroing in their own ways, almost every character ends up coupling off. Not just Lois and Clark or Diana and Steve, but Blue Beetle and Fire, Babs and Dick, Dick (of a different universe) and Starfire, Harley and some police officer, Steph and Cass or Cass and Tim, Peej and her nosy reporter friend Andrew Vinson…
What this actually implies is not clear. Perhaps, losing the adoration of millions leaves a void that each character strives to fill. Maybe it’s a commentary on how love is irrelevant until you are no longer invulnerable. Maybe it’s derivative or a dull premise and weak storytelling.
In some instances, the relationships the characters are in are plausible, and the canon of the era had already paired the characters off. Others seem completely out of left field, with the characters rarely interacting solo with one another or downright disliking one another.
While Marvel’s Secret Wars has yet to start, and who knows how that will effect character relationships, the company tends to try at presenting marriage as something feasible, even for superheroes. For every failed Jean Grey and Scott Summers (and Scott and Madelyn Prior and Scott and Emma Frost), there’s a Sue Storm and Reed Richards. For every MJ and Peter Parker, there’s a Jessica Jones and Luke Cage.
There are new relationships and marriages, too, like Northstar and his boyfriend, Kyle, wedding in what was the first gay marriage shown in superhero comics, or the engagement of Kitty Pryde and Star-Lord (which promises to be a significant plot point in their Secret Wars series). What’s really interesting about that relationship is that the engagement came AFTER Kitty Pryde became a cosmic-level hero.
It’s not that one company handles relationships or marriage better than the other; it’s the fact that DC’s staunchly maintained “no commitment” rule was dropped and replaced by nearly every hero and bit character becoming involved in a romantic relationship, whereas Marvel seems to embrace the idea that, even if relationships are ultimately unsuccessful, they are still one of the most important aspects of superhero comics. Relationships are the most efficient and compelling way that a character can be made grounded and realistic: it’s not the powers that make someone a hero, it’s their love for humanity.