We here at Panels are taking some much needed time off; in the meantime, we’re revisiting some favorite old posts from the last 6 months! We’ll see you back on January 11 with all new posts for your enjoyment.
This post originally ran on October 5, 2015.
The following post contains some mild spoilers for the upcoming Netflix show Jessica Jones and the comic series Fables.
I got married the other day. It was stressful getting there but since the “I dos” it’s actually been pretty awesome. That said, marriages in comics are a funny thing. They’re often promoted as big events worth celebrating, but rarely do they go well. They tend to end in divorce, annulment, retconning, magical demonic erasing, death, or even domestic abuse. Hell, sometimes editors just decide to not even allow marriages in the first place. I suppose this is typical given the need of serialized literature to introduce continual strife; and a marriage not going well represents a much more realistic threat to a characters continued happiness than a supervillain’s plot or an alien invasion. However, in the wake of my own nuptials I wanted to find some comics that bucked this trend, so here I present five examples of happy, though not without their issues, marriages in the world of comics.
A brief caveat: I would have loved to include some examples of same-sex marriages. However, doing a bit of rough math shows that serialized comics are about 100 years older than legal same-sex marriages in the US, and there just aren’t that many to chose from yet. Here’s hoping that changes and I can write an update to this article sometime soon. And before you say “No love for Northstar?” The honest answer is, “No,” that character and his marriage didn’t actually mean much to me on an emotional level, but if he did for you, please share that experience with us in the comments.
Nord Storyteller and South Pole Woman in Encyclopedia of Early Earth
This one represents a bit of a cheat, because it’s not from an ongoing series, but it still represents one of the strongest and most loving relationships I’ve seen in my years reading comics. A young man from the North (aka a nord) has to travel into parts unknown to seek the missing parts of his soul. During his journey, he finds a woman he connects with in ways he’s never connected with anyone else, but because she is from his literal polar opposite, they cannot come within two feet of each other. They decide to marry anyways, and their adorable if melancholic relationship serves as the backdrop for the Nord’s epic tale of self-discovery. The little things they do to feel close to one another in spite of their forced separation is at once ‘Aw’-inducing and heartbreaking. This also presents an elegant way to introduce drama into a happy relationship without having to make either or both people act badly. The entire tome is a beautiful testament to the power of love and storytelling, and I’m guessing the one book on this list you weren’t already familiar with; so do yourself a favor and read it immediately. I’ll wait…
Reed Richards and Sue Storm in Fantastic Four
The first superhero couple to tie the knot and have it stick. Sue and Reed wed in 1965 in the pages of Fantastic Four Annual #3. Though they’d been ‘together’ in a loosely defined way since the comic’s inception, they didn’t make it legal until four years after the comic debuted. However, this pales in comparison to how long their marriage has lasted and been successful. The marriage isn’t without it’s faults: Reed’s dedication to his work and Sue’s attraction to Namor; but they always persevere through these challenges without ever (permanently) splitting up. Further, they’ve become parents in a way that few other comics dare depict. Often when a superhero winds up with young children, they are presented as a burden to be disappeared as quickly as possible (see Peter Parker and Mary Jane’s child and Wally West’s creepy twins). Reed and Sue, on the other hand, had their first son, Franklin Richards, in 1968, and their daughter, Valeria Richards, in 1999. Both children have persisted consistently since then and have even been the centerpiece of important stories relevant to their parents’ team (Valeria leaving for an extended period to stay with “Uncle Doom”) and to the entire Marvel Universe (when Franklin created the “Heroes Reborn” pocket universe by himself). This is not to say that having kids is the goal of all marriages, but it does speak to the challenges married couples often do face in their journeys through life together, thus earning them a spot on the list.
Alana and Marko in Saga
Though I think Saga is much more a comic about parenting than anything else, the relationship between Hazel’s parents is a fascinating and complex depiction of a marriage in comics. Even in the fantastical space-operatic setting, conflicts like culture clashes and difficult in-laws ring heart-breakingly true, and that’s all before their relationship comes under serious duress due to both their flaws as people and the external forces that oppose their union. And even though the series has already shown us 30 issues of their relationship, I feel like we’ve barely scratched the surface of what makes these two special. This speaks to the depth of these characters, and the fact that it’s narrated by their own daughter at some unspecified point in the future only hints that there is so much more to come. As Hazel herself says, “There’s no graduating from this kind of education, couples just keep growing and changing until they either break up or die.”
Luke Cage and Jessica Jones in Alias
Amidst tumultuous beginnings that are all too familiar to many couples, the romance between Jessica Jones and Luke Cage grew into something truly special. The naturalistic dialogue provided by writer Brian Michael Bendis in the couple’s early days laid the groundwork for how their relationship works and sounds within the Marvel universe. Often bickering, but in that loving way, I would hold these two up as exemplars for how a superhero marriage can actually work. Even when a kid is introduced, it’s treated as part of their progression as a married couple and not a narrative burden. Plus it lead to some great hijinks such as asking Squirrel Girl to be their nanny. Seeing as we are on the precipice of a Jessica Jones Netflix show, with a Luke Cage show to follow, I am excited to see how this relationship translates into the MCU, because for all the bombastic action we’ve seen so far, legitimate romance has been pretty sorely lacking outside of masculine posturing and shoe-horned sub-plots.
Bigby and Snow in Fables
When I think about what I aspire for in the realms of relationships within comics, I cannot help but land on Bigby Wolf and Snow White. Fables, in general, contains some of the healthiest relationships I can remember seeing in comics, often between couples who’ve been married hundreds, if not thousands, of years. In the case of Bigby and Snow, they began their time together as cautious allies, then coworkers, then maybe friends, eventually lovers, and finally married; and it all only took around 400 years if I remember the continuity correctly. As the series progresses we learn that Bigby has had strong feelings for Snow during most of that time, but perhaps partly out of respect for her and loathing of himself, he did his best not to make it an issue between them. It’s as healthy a portrayal of a man dealing with the “friend zone” issue as I’ve seen in comics, and it’s done by a character who literally has “big” and “bad” in his name. Once together, the bond they share between each other and for their cubs is powerful and feels earned. Like most couples in this series, they stick together through thick and thin, never wavering in their ultimate devotion to the family they’ve built together. With the recent ending of the series, we now know what becomes of Bigby and Snow, and while I won’t give any major spoilers, suffice it to say they end the book still deserving a spot at the top of this list.
So those are some of my favorite marriages in comics. What are some of yours? Am I wrong in thinking most comic marriages go poorly? Let’s discuss it all in the comments!