Jul 22 2011 2:00pm

Forced To Marry, Fated For Each Other, And More: Superheroes as Romantic Heroes

How about after you make me into a super soldier we go grab a milkshake?In all the plentiful comic book movies released in this year alone: The Green Hornet, Priest, Thor, X-Men: First Class, Green Lantern, Captain America, even the forthcoming Cowboys and Aliens and Conan the Barbarian—we have or will see the obligatory love interest B-plot along with all the action and adventure and men in tights.

The awesome Priest had Paul Bettany’s dutifully celibate character Thorn Birds-ing it with fellow priest, Maggie Q; X-Men: First Class gave us the twisted entanglement of Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), among others; Thor (Chris Hemsworth) was all about Natalie Portman in his woeful Earth-bound manifestation; Green Lantern offered up the unlikely and somewhat disturbing sexual tension between Ryan Reynolds and the dewy-eyed Blake Lively; and Captain America, out today, gives us the tale of Cap and his one-time girlfriend, Peggy Carter (can’t you just tell they dated during World War II?).

Furthermore, if I may be allowed to say one even vaguely good thing about The Green Hornet, it at least tried to give the love interest trope a new spin by making Cameron Diaz’s Lenore not only uninterested in her hero, but completely uninteresting to boot.

Of course, one would be hard pressed to find a movie based on a comic that The boy from Smallville knew how to treat a ladydoesn’t incorporate at least a tangential romance. From Superman’s fascination with Lois Lane to Batman’s succession of beautiful, damaged women to Spider-Man’s iconic upside down kiss with Mary Jane, comic book movies, like action movies, are seemingly incomplete without what studios clearly consider “a little something for the ladies”—hell, even Howard the Duck had a weird chemistry going on with Lea Thomson in his much-maligned 1984 film of the same name. And, yes: he was actually a duck.

The thing about this, though? It’s not just Hollywood running riot through long-established backstory. The romance is really, truly there.

Oh, sometimes it isn’t, I won’t deny it. Blade, in all his comic history, never once hooked up with a vampire, as the otherwise awesome Blade II would have us believe. The unnecessary addition of Julie Benz’s wronged, somewhat shrill Angela to the taut and brutal suspense of Punisher: War Zone was simply ridiculous, and Kick-Ass, in the comics, emphatically did not end up with the hot chick he’d long been crushing on. Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne’s childhood sweetheart Rachel, as played by first Katie Holmes then Maggie Gyllenhaal in Christopher Nolan’s acclaimed Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Returns, never once appeared in the comics at all.

But these are the exceptions. Generally speaking, the romance from the movie is ripped right out of the source material, for all that much will usually have been (bizarrely) altered, canon will have been messed with shamelessly, and quite often the relationship we see in the movie is far from the only romance on our superhero’s resume (looking at you, Tony Stark and Matt Murdock; but hey, when you’ve been around as long as they have, playa’s bound to have played).

Still, at each movie’s core, this stuff rings true because superhero comic books may at times be, as some naysayers have it, simplistic musings on good vs. evil, or didactically-minded morality plays, or hopelessly violent set pieces, or—damningly—scandalous mélanges of misogyny and female objectification, but what they also are is romantic.

To illustrate, I here present what I consider to be five of the most captivating love affairs in comics, re-imagined as paranormal romance novels:

It is not true love till you’ve tried to kill each otherScott Summers and Emma Frost
Cyclops and the White Queen
Marvel Comics

He believed he’d never love again…

Following a turbulent relationship that ended with the devastating loss of his
first love, Scott Summers felt his life was over. Though a leader among the group of superhumans known as the X-Men, he was determined to rid himself of any reminders of Jean Grey and her ultimate sacrifice; to leave X-Mansion and his disloyal feelings for a certain alluring, complicated resident behind.

Before Scott, snarky reformed villain Emma Frost had thought her heart as impervious as the diamond into which she could so spectacularly transform. She was skilled in the ways of seduction, but not in the ways of love, and when the first had failed to work on the faithful Cyclops, she had found herself falling ever deeper into the second.

With both of them holding tight to pride and to despair, it would take nothing less than a message from beyond the grave to bring them together—and ultimately, to save the world…

Wade Wilson and Theresa CassidyHe is just CRAZY for her
Deadpool and Siryn
Marvel Comics

He’d never let anyone see behind his mask, but he let her into his soul…

Ruthless mercenary Wade Wilson had never considered himself one of the good guys. Secret government experiments had left him permanently scarred, in both mind and body, and now he was Deadpool, the ultimate weapon, indestructible and lethal, to be wielded by almost anyone...for a price.

Flame-haired, hot-tempered and honorable to the core, Theresa Cassidy had been taught nothing but contempt for the wisecracking warrior known as the Merc with a Mouth. But when the two are brought together by circumstance in an exotic European locale, sparks fly, passion ignites, and only she, a Siryn both by name and by nature, can tempt him into doing what’s right solely for its own sake, and not for reward.

But will his overwhelming need to protect her keep him on the side of angels, or will the devil inside him have its way?

Their first date was watching Little MermaidNamor and Dorma
The Sub-Mariner and the Lady Dorma
Marvel Comics

Born of two worlds, can he learn to love his destined mermaid bride?

Son of a mermaid princess and a human sea captain, Namor is the Sub-Mariner, heir to the undersea throne of Atlantis. Arrogant and vengeful, he hates all that the surface world stands for… until he falls for one of his greatest enemies, the Fantastic Four’s Susan Storm, and pursues her relentlessly—even though her heart belongs to another man.

Promised to Namor as a child, Lady Dorma wanted nothing more than to be his bride. But when he becomes enamored of a mere human, to the affront of Atlanteans everywhere, Dorma finds herself caught in a web of hurt and betrayal, determined to stop at nothing to bring her recalcitrant King back to her side—and to his knees.

But when the security of their home becomes threatened once more, Namor and Dorma must find a way to set aside their grievances… and possibly find their way back to love…

Bruce Banner and Betty RossYou might like him when he is happy
The Hulk and, uh, Betty Ross
Marvel Comics

Only she could tame the beast inside him…

Mild-mannered Bruce Banner was one of the Army’s top researchers, a brilliant but reckless scientist with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. But when exposure to radiation altered him in ways no one could explain, his anger became a fearsome force, his intellect consumed by a ravening creature not even he could predict or contain.

Betty Ross had always loved Bruce, and had trusted him completely, but when the ill-fated experiment left him caught between his higher nature and his baser instincts, he had shut her out of his life so completely that she was soon in the arms of another man.

Then Bruce realized that to harness the power of his inner-demon, he must also harness the power of love, and knew his only hope was to win Betty back, no matter what the cost…

She skipped over Birdman and went straight for the HawkCarter Hall and Kendra Saunders (et al.)
Hawkman and Hawkgirl
DC Comics

A love that transcended the depths of space and breadth of time…

From the sands of Ancient Egypt to the temples of Classical Greece; from Imperial Japan to the modern-day US; as humans flying among the stars or as aliens on the planet Thanagar, the spirits of these timeless lovers have always found each other in each new generation—before their curse to die at the hands of an endlessly reincarnated killer would again tear them apart.

Archaeologists Carter Hall and Shiera Saunders had long known that their time together was limited, and they made the best of every minute of it, as Hawkman and Hawkgirl, working with the Justice Society of America to defend the innocent and put wrongs right, always valiant and faithful… even though it cost Shiera her life.

Now, with their curse seemingly broken, and Hawkgirl’s soul dwelling in a new, though related, body, can these two star-crossed immortal beloveds finally escape their dire fate and find a happily ever after?

And if all of that doesn’t convince you, well…

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Daredevil and Elektra; Daredevil and the Black Widow; Daredevil and Karen; Daredevil and Echo; and Daredevil and Milla (yeah, dude gets around). Also: Batman and Catwoman; Spider-Man and Mary Jane; Colossus and Kitty Pryde; Robin and Starfire; Wolverine and Domino; Gambit and Rogue; Superman and Lois; Superman and Wonder Woman; Grunge and Roxy; Spawn and Sara; and Scott Pilgrim and Ramona Flowers.

Rachel Hyland is Editor in Chief of Geek Speak Magazine, and would like to thank Geek Speak’s own Brad Crammond for the assist.

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Victoria Janssen
1. VictoriaJanssen
This post is brilliant!!!

Yeah, Daredevil/Elektra would be a tricky one to pitch....
Rachel Hyland
2. RachelHyland
Aw, thanks Victoria!

And, yes, DD/E... hmm.

When the privileged Elektra Natchios met Hell's Kitchen refugee Matt Murdock... um... at college...

Maybe we could couch it as a teen romantic comedy romp, and only cover the stuff before it all went so heartbreakingly wrong?
Kate Nagy
3. Kate Nagy
This is awesome -- I would love to read any of these in book form, especially the White Queen and Cyclops. (Or comic form, although I'm guessing the original comics might be a bit hard to find? And expensive?)

A question -- do you think superhero comics are more likely to emphasize romantic entanglements among the characters now than they were twenty or thirty years ago? And if so, do you think that it's because someone, somewhere figured out that girls read comics, too, and of course everyone knows that girls want love and schmoopy stuff and James Marsden looking all pensive behind his visor? (Along with our supervillains and explosions and technobabble, of course.)
Christopher Morgan
4. cmorgan
@Katy You can find the White Queen/Cyc stuff around, but the story plays second fiddle to a lot of comic book action. There is a pretty good motion comic on Netflix done by Joss Weadon (Firefly) that has some of the story behind their relationship.

The sad thing about this overall is that comics are moving away from romantic entanglements. I mean Spider-Man just made a literal deal with the devil to break off his marriage to Mary Jane and the DC rewrite is doing away with the Louis/Kent romance. It's sad to see because it adds depth to the characters. I mean Bruce Banner wouldn't have been nearly as tragic without Betty. And the Cyc/Emma relationship helps explain a great deal about where they are taking his character.

@RachelHyland You rock more than most for putting Deadpool/Siren up there
Rachel Hyland
5. RachelHyland
@ cmorgan

Deadpool and Daredevil are my absolute favorite comic book boys; the only reason one of DD's many romances didn't merit an entry is because I couldn't decide which one to cover, and then how to condense it down.

Deadpool and Siryn, however, was a gimme: I mean, he used to watch her sleep! (And here people thought that trend began and ended with Edward Cullen.) Love them together, and still hold out hope that... one day...
Claire Louise Thompson
6. Nefersitra
@Kate Nagy - look for the trade paperbacks of Grant Morrison's run (under the New X-Men tag) for Emma and Scott's story.

What about Reed and Sue Richards (currently Marvel's longest lasting couple who are still together)? They have their HEA and two gorgeous, slightly scary, children.

Or Archangel and Psylocke from the X-men. Nice tragic ending there.

Deadpool needs a girlfirend who is not Death or Cable.
Rachel Hyland
7. RachelHyland
@ Nefersitra
Deadpool needs a girlfirend who is not Death or Cable.
Ha! Love it! Ah, Cable & Deadpool. I miss that title. Their Civil War stuff was among some of the best... and, ack, how could I not have mentioned Cable and Domino? This is me, mentioning them now.

Reed and Sue, however... meh. If anyone in the FF deserves a mention, it's poor, all-out-of-love Johnny. (Damn you, Secret Invasion!)
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