All’s Fair in Love & Comics: Going to the Chapel

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.

All’s Fair In Love & Comics: Star-Crossed Lovers

I’m a sucker for love. From the classic Young Romance comics to in-game trysts, I believe romantic relationships can be a part of any good story.

afilac01-01But it’s not just any romance that makes a story better. It’s the kind that enhances the characters, puts them in a new light, and puts them out of their comfort zones. And that’s why I think the romance between Peter Quill (aka Star-Lord) and Kitty Pryde (formerly Shadowcat) is a really stellar addition to the current continuity of the Marvel Universe.

Their romance is unique to comics right now: it’s light-hearted, fun, and inventive, and obviously not taken too seriously. Introduced at the tail end of the Brian Michael Bendis written All New X-Men/Guardians of the Galaxy crossover, the Trial of Jean Grey, Kitty falls for another Peter (in a long line of Peters). But this time is different from the others; the relationship is a long-distance one, and is moving very slowly, and I think that’s an asset. The low-key pace allows for some pretty drastic character growth: Quill is (slowly) quitting his playboy ways in favor of what is honestly a very chaste, capital-R Relationship. Kitty is coming out of her shell and opening up to someone who doesn’t know every detail of her life (unlike Iceman, Colossus, or even Pete Wisdom). It also opens Kitty up to the chance of moving out of the X-world and into the rest of the Marvel Universe; while I doubt she’ll be joining the Guardians of the Galaxy anytime soon, it bodes well for team-ups (and maybe, one day, she’ll follow in the footsteps of Beast and become an Avenger).

afilac01-03While Bendis started the relationship (and continues it throughout the pages of All New X-Men, primarily), it really shines in the hands of Legendary Star-Lord writer Sam Humphries. Humphries has great comedic timing, and a very good grasp of the voices of both characters. Only three issues in, he’s establishing them as hesitant and smitten, but also goofy–they clearly connect. Paco Medina’s strongly-lined art adds to the humor and fun of the book. And while the relationship distances the comics from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they make small nods to the little details that fans of the film Guardians of the Galaxy will love–Peter’s Awesome Mix, Blue Swede’s Hooked on a Feeling, Rocket’s sassy nicknames for his friends…

afilac01-04The relationship also addresses deeper subjects, like Kitty’s space bullet-based PTSD and Quill’s racism against the Badoon and suspicion of the Phoenix, and both of their fears of commitment.

This romance may not be one that lasts—although I wouldn’t mind it sticking around—but I think it’s a superb example of how romance should be handled and written in comics. It isn’t about lust, or fast-paced hook-ups (although that can be interesting); it’s about characters finding common ground and bonding on a deeper level. It’s light and fun and feels realistically flirtatious for a pair of people who spend most of their day in spandex.

afilac01-06Star-Lord editor Xander Jarowey definitely sums it up best: “You know, if a girl braved space to save my butt despite some serious traumatic history with space-bullets I’d probably fall for her too. Especially if she had some good mixtapes. I can feel the love tonight, can you?”