Top 5 Comic Book Romances
It is that time of year again, and as a single woman with several heartaches in the recent past, I should be shoveling down ice-cream and sobbing while watching House of Cards. But no, who wants a repeat of Christmas? Instead, I’ll share with you, in no particular order, my top 5 comic book romances, dysfunction and all.
Despite my status, I do get warm fuzzies in my heart on this day, seeing my friends who are devoted to each other sharing cute stories and cards online actually makes me smile. But there’s a limit, and yes I am talking to the friend who I had to block for an entire day last year after he decided to bombard his fiancée with a different Valentines card every hour.
Most comic book couples are incredibly dysfunctional, switching partners as often as they die and are resurrected. Some of the following pairings have been busted up since, but during their time together, they made me feel like a dreamy-eyed fangirl. Spoilers and sexy pictures ahead:
1. Scarlet Witch & the Vision – The Avengers, Marvel
The classic star-crossed lovers, Scarlet Witch & the Vision were an unlikely pair, but are the only comic-book couple I can think of that spawned a series that focused less on superheroics, and more on the trials of marriage and child-raising.
Scarlet Witch was an emotionally damaged mutant who was persuaded to join a mutant terrorist organization at a young age, before finding her heroic core and joining the Avengers, along with her twin brother Quicksilver. The Vision was an android built by the evil robot Ultron (himself created by the Avenger Ant-man) who also turned his back on a life of crime to join the heroic team. Over the course of their adventures as Avengers together, the two characters fell in love and married, before slipping off for a honeymoon, pregnancy, and birth in the pages of their own comic series. The limited series was a perfect melodrama, with family issues (Scarlet Witch’s father is revealed to be Magneto, Vision’s brother is revealed to be their Avengers team-mate Wonder Man), robophobia, adultery, and a few witches thrown in for good measure. Through it all, Vision and the Scarlet Witch got through it by communication and understanding.
At least until the series ended, the Vision’s memory was wiped, the children were revealed to be fake, the Scarlet Witch started sleeping with the Vision’s brother before suffering a nervous breakdown and killing most of the mutant population. Oh, comics.
2. Maggie & Ray – Love & Rockets, Fantagraphics
Now, now, I know what you’re all about to say: but what about Hopey? As good friends and occasional lovers that Maggie & Hopey were, the real standout relationship of Love & Rockets for me was the flawed, yet very human relationship between Maggie Chascarillo and Ray Dominguez.
Growing up in Hoppers, a fictional southern California town, these two hung around in the same social circle, but Maggie only had eyes for the complicated bad-boy with the most magnificent eyebrows, Speedy, who was Ray’s best friend. After several issues of Love & Rockets, Speedy passed away (no spoilers, the storyline was called “The Death of Speedy”) leaving Ray and Maggie together to handle their grief. This quickly turned into a romantic relationship that had some incredibly affecting moments.
From Ray and Maggie talking casually about her weight gain, to staying in bed reading comics together, the two characters shared a meaningful relationship that was showcased in the series through small intimate moments. And like many relationships, ended due to a misunderstanding. Ray, thinking Maggie had left him to be with Hopey, started dating Maggie’s friend Danita, setting off a string of short-term romantic and sexual affairs. When Maggie found out, she was devastated and they didn’t speak for most of the rest of the series, though both characters featured prominently.
If you want to find out what happened to these two when they reconnected in middle-age after decades apart, pick up The Love Bunglers in April. I can tell you in advance, you should probably get your tissues ready. Until then, you can read Maggie & Ray (& Hopey’s) adventures in the collected edition of Locas.
3. Enigma & Michael Smith – Enigma, Vertigo
Michael Smith is a mild-mannered telephone repairman with a lackluster love life and no goals or dreams to speak of. As a child, he was abandoned on the street by his mother with only the comic book adventures of the superhero Enigma to keep him company. One day, Michael’s world is rocked to the core when the superhero Enigma briefly appears in real life to stop a string of supervillain murders, spurring Michael to abandon his dull life to chase after his hero. And what happens when they finally meet? Well, there really isn’t much doubt about what this panel is all about.
But what’s really surprising is what happens next. When you’re in a relationship with an omnipotent being, one that might have the power to manipulate your very reality, how do you know what feelings and emotions are your own and which are the whims of your lover? Author Peter Milligan leaves the answer up to the interpretation of the reader, leaving us with a relationship that is equal parts compelling and disturbing.
4. Scouter & Dewshine (& Tyleet) – ElfQuest, WARP
Can you imagine a fantasy comic book series about elves, primarily marketed to children, that features a happy, polyamorous couple? In the world of ElfQuest, created in the 1970s by husband-wife team Richard and Wendy Pini, this happens not only once but multiple times. Hinted at in the first book, when the antagonist Rayek is forced to choose between a relationship with his former girlfriend and her current lover, or being alone, he leaves instead. From this point on, the reader knows that romantic relationships in this world might not be what is typically presented.
In the third book, the focus of the relationship storyline shifts to the secondary characters Scouter and Dewshine. Lovers for a few years, but young even by human standards, these characters face their relationship put to the test when Dewshine experiences ‘Recognition’, or an undeniable mating need, for another man. Both Dewshine and Scouter fight against this, until Scouter relents, promising to raise the resulting child as his own.
Several graphic novels later the situations are reversed, this time with Scouter facing the same need. Instead of fighting against it, Dewshine, now his partner for several centuries, instead embraces the situation. Together, they form a new family with the character Tyleet, and their resulting child. The many ways that romances and love can develop are presented in these stories, from monogamy, polyamory, casual sex, and sex-less love all as normal and natural variations.
5. Raven & Nightwing – Teen Titans, DC
If you know me, you might be pretty surprised to see a DC couple on the list as I am a life-long Marvel fangirl. But even I have had my dalliances, and as a pre-teen I would buy any copy of New Teen Titans in back-issue bins I could find for one single reason: I had to know if Dick and Raven ended up together! Raven, the daughter of a woman raped by a demon from another world, was forced to control her emotions for decades in order to not cause chaos. But at one point in her story, Raven was released from this constraint and was free to experience emotion for the first time. And of course, she chose the handsome leader of the New Teen Titans and former Robin, Dick Grayson. Alas, it was a doomed affair, partly because Dick was shacking up with the bodacious, sexually-liberated alien Starfire, and partially because Raven was inadvertently forcing Dick to desire her with her superpowers.
I won’t lie, I experienced real heartbreak reading this story arc. I’m sure we can all relate at some point to the naive, inexperienced Raven whose first love is a doomed affair. Or to the flustered Nightwing who isn’t sure if his feelings for the woman clearly in love with him are genuine or temporary.
So, those are the top 5 romances in comics that spoke to me, which favourites of yours did I miss? Leave a note in the comments!