Personal relationships are a fraught thing in superhero comics. Too often, our hero wishes to get close to someone, only for misunderstandings and the need for secrecy to get in the way. Still, most superheroes manage to hang on to at least one good friend. Some, like Superman’s pal Jimmy Olsen, are all but legends in their own right.
But comics thrive on conflict, not friendship. What better conflict than pitting a superhero against his trusted and beloved comrade? Superheroes often find themselves in (short-lived) combat with their best buds, but how they handle it depends on the circumstances.
Help Her Out
Nadia was raised in the Red Room to be an assassin, which didn’t leave much time for making friends. She did manage to get close to Ying, another baby assassin who she was forced to leave behind when she escaped to America. Sometime later, after becoming the Unstoppable Wasp, Nadia encountered Ying in New York City. But a cordial meeting this was not: Ying was under orders to bring Nadia back to the Red Room, or else Ying’s head would (literally) explode.
Nadia didn’t hesitate to help her friend. She contacted brilliant young scientists from all over the city and brought them together to prevent a Ying-shattering kaboom. They succeeded just in time, and Ying happily joined Nadia’s all-girl science squad, G.I.R.L.
Become Iconic Rivals
Before Superman was Superman, he was Superboy, protector of Smallville. In between using his powers to do farm chores and screw over Lana Lang, Superboy befriended a young fellow by the name of Lex Luthor. The boys were such good friends that Lex vowed to find a way to make Superboy immune to kryptonite so nothing could ever harm him.
Lex’s efforts had just begun to bear fruit when his lab caught on fire. Superboy saved Lex, but in the process destroyed both the kryptonite cure and Lex’s stylish coiffure, leaving him permanently bald. That was enough reason to make Lex hate the Supers forever, leading to one of comicdom’s greatest rivalries.
Snap Him Out of It
Captain America’s friends have a tendency to turn on him, it seems. I discussed Falcon’s betrayal in a previous #SuperheroProblems. Basically, Red Skull mind controlled Falcon into attacking Cap, and Cap slapped the villainy right out of him.
And then there’s Bucky Barnes. Bucky was Cap’s loyal sidekick all through World War II, until he supposedly died in the same explosion that preserved Cap in ice. Kidnapped and brainwashed by those pesky Russians, Bucky was forced to put his skills to work as an assassin. Thanks to Cap’s efforts, Bucky is on the side of the angels once again.
Save the World Without Him
The Pied Piper originated as a villain, but by the 1990s he had adapted to life on the straight and narrow. (Well, the narrow, anyway.) He befriended his former nemesis, Wally West, AKA the Flash, and they had all sorts of neat adventures together. So it was especially upsetting when Wally chose to believe that Piper killed Bart Allen, Wally’s sidekick, despite their long friendship and Piper’s generally non-murderous personality.
In the infamously stupid Countdown to Final Crisis, Piper and another ex-con accused of the murder were on the run. Instead of helping them out, Wally tortured them for a while and then just sort of forgot about them. Wally would go on to do nothing for the rest of the series, while Piper got tortured by other people and blew up a hostile planet by himself. Wally’s gonna have some groveling to do the next time they meet, I tell you what.
Find a New Best Friend
You remember the Hulk’s origin story where Bruce Banner got irradiated while trying to shoo some fool kid off the test site? That fool kid has a name: Rick Jones. Besieged by guilt, Rick became the Hulk’s confidante and was the only person who could calm his destructive rages.
But a few years later, in Captain America #110, Rick’s charm wore off. Hounded by soldiers, Hulk was so infuriated that he didn’t recognize Rick and nearly killed him. After that, Rick took Captain America’s advice and agreed to steer clear of the Hulk for a while. This led to Rick’s lightning-quick stint as the new Bucky before he left to pal around with the original Captain Marvel. If there’s one thing Rick was good at, it was making super-friends.