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Off My Mind: Love and Relationships in Comic Books

People associate comic books with superheroes but they often end up being more like soap operas.

When people think about comic books, their first thoughts go to muscle-bound superheroes in bright flashy spandex costumes. Comics are about good versus evil. Supervillains want to take over the world and it's up to the hero to swoop in and save the day. Of course we all know that there is much more to comics than just superheroes.

Comic books have gone through several changes since their inception back in the 1930s. Many different genres have been the focus for comics and sometimes titles mix those genres up. These days it's pretty easy for there to be a type of comic for everyone.

The stereotype of comic readers is most of them are male and only interested in the big manly action. Readers only want to see big heroes beating up the villains. Superheroes have big epic adventures that encompass many worlds and universes.

Despite the efforts of the publishers and even Hollywood, it's clear that there is one common theme to superhero stories that always comes back...love.

== TEASER ==

When comics started gaining popularity, one of the big sellers were superhero titles. Crime comics were just as popular, if not more so. As millions read comics each week, publishers put out more and more similar titles and pushed the boundaries whenever they could. This led to the almost downfall of comics. Soon comics were labeled as a cause of delinquency and the violence depicted in crime (and even superhero comics) were a bad influence. With several boycotts and mass comic book burnings, publishers shifted their focus to other genres. Another popular one was love and romance comics.

Young Romance #1, 1947 by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby

It turned out kids wanted to read comics about romance as well. The publishers caught on to this quickly and made the wise decision of not talking down to their readers. The stories were serious and young teenage readers were hooked. In the 50s and 60s when superhero books managed to make their comeback, romance continued to play a small role in most titles. It's hard to figure out which causes more problems for the heroes, the villains or their romantic relationships.

Superman, Lois Lane and Clark Kent was one of the first superhero love triangles we saw. From the beginning, Lois was fascinated with Superman. In his alter ego, Clark tried winning over Lois but she was barely aware he even existed. This went on for decades until Lois finally started seeing Clark for who he was. They started dated and eventually got engaged. This was when Clark decided to finally confide in Lois and revealed he was actually Superman. The two got married but with DC's 'The New 52' relaunch, Lois and Clark are no longer married. This allows readers to witness the Clark try to win Lois' affections all over again.

Apparently it's NOT going to be all right...

Superman and Lois' marriage isn't the only casualty. We've heard that Barry Allen and Iris West are no longer married either. This poor couple has gone through tough times. Barry seemingly died during Crisis on Infinite Earths. It turned out that the two managed to spend some time together in the future, Iris gave birth to twins, Don and Dawn. Iris found her way back to the present, only to be a widow. Years later (in our time), Barry turned out to be alive, able to outrace death. The two were reunited but Flashpoint soon came and then 'The New 52.'

With this week's The Flash #1, we will see Barry in a relationship with Patty Spivot but Iris is still in the picture. Looks like we might have another love triangle and all the tension that accompanies them in this comic as well.

Other heroes have had romance problems. Spider-Man, as Peter Parker, constantly had girl problems. It didn't help that he constantly had to ditch his girlfriend in order to change into Spider-Man and fight one of his villains. Matt Murdock has had a run of bad luck as Daredevil's enemies either kill or drive his girlfriends crazy. There was always tension between Cyclops, Jean and Wolverine in the X-Men. The Thing's rocky exterior makes romance time a little difficult. Batman has had his share of girlfriends both as Bruce Wayne and as Batman. We even saw last week that things got pretty heated between Batman and Catwoman (the full extent of which is grounds for another article in itself).

Superhero comics aren't just about heroes and villains fighting. For love and romance to play such a big role in the action-orientated comics, it says something about what readers want. Seeing the heroes let their guard down and get close to another let's us see them as a little more human. Some readers say they sometimes relate to comic book characters. Perhaps reading about a young Peter Parker trying to get the girl is what they sometimes experience in real life (only with less supervillains hanging around). In the 90s we had several gratuitous books heavy on the sexual elements (and are seeing the return in some titles) so maybe there are readers hungry for that as well.

Just as in the late 40s, publishers give readers what they want. If readers want love (or more...graphic content) and speak out by purchasing those comics, that's what they will continue to make. Love is all you need so why shouldn't it be present in comic books as well?

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Edited by dr3dg3

You know, I'm also sick of love triangles. I must say though, I REALLY like the love interest between Dani and Finch that Ron Marz wrote in The Angelus and Witchblade. I'm sure I may sound perverted saying this to anyone who read Angelus #5, but I've followed Dani for 4 years now and love how her character turned out. It's great to see her in a relationship that makes her so happy.

*realizes how much of a comic book nerd I am and feels hypocritical after hating soap operas and making this post*

Posted by Technoman

Love triangles are one fo the ways to create drama in romance. Of course, they can do more afterwards, but the fact remains. I think romance is necessary.

Posted by Out_of_Space

I'm not the biggest fan of stuf like these. Many relationships have ruined comic books that i like.

Posted by davelecave

@ReVamp: Where is it from?

Posted by ReVamp

@davelecave said:

@ReVamp: Where is it from?

One of the 390s, I want to say 394s. From Uncanny Of couse :P

The Artist is Ian Churchill. :)

Posted by Neuron

I've viewed relationships in comics as being the most distilled symbol of what needs protected and saved. Significant others are the reason why the hero is doing what he or she is doing. And providing an interesting, valid relationship to back that up is just quality writing.

Posted by SupermanJohnathanKentJr

I'm on the fence about this. There's no relationships I really care for beisdes Misty Knight and Iron Fist. It's not that I mind them or anything, I just don't really care about the extras details of their romance.

Posted by Green ankh

Romance in life is or can be a real difficalty i sure do not want to read about it in my escapeisum.

Posted by Namor1987

Technically Wolverine needs a woman closer to his own age. Jean was like 16 & he's a 100 & something when he came in & tried to get with her. I used to Spider-Man had no game but he's got Felicia Hardy & Mary Jane Watson must be doing something right

Posted by karrob

@jrock85 said:

I'm sick of love triangles!

Posted by CrimsonTempest

Wolverine and Jean Grey: The Original Edward and Bella.

Posted by Roxanne Starr

@tonis said:

It's amazing to think how many romance titles there was at some points during the golden age. It's a theme you can never kill. :)

Up until the 60's, it was clear what romance was. These days, it's much harder to pinpoint exactly what constitutes being romantic.

Men have always and will forever strive to save women...to fill a void. That's what guys do. They are the "Knights in Shining Armour" running to the rescue of the "Damsel in Distress."

But WHAT, exactly, qualifies as "Distress" in the 21st Century? and at what point does the line get crossed between merely being a polite and helpful friend a being someone whose influence is far deeper?

Edited by 04nbod
Marvel will always screw the decent relationships over for oversexualised crap. See Thor/Jane traded in for Thor/Sif or Thor/Enchantress
DC is a little better but not much. Why must all the truly romantic, epic love stories be mismanaged? Its like they don't know the theory behind good romance. Two characters who are drastically different find they have more in common than they think but they will have to overcome a great divide eg class, time, space, feuds etc...
Posted by Jamiracles

Its a little frustrating that Pete and MJ have been seperated by Quesada. Everyone talked about how their relationship didnt make sense with her being this gorgeous actress and him being a scrawny science geek. But no one ever stops to think that MJ was the type of girl to have any guy she wanted, and after bumming around with a bunch of superficial bums, she would miss Pete. He wasnt very reliable but he was a good honest dude from MJ's past with a mysterious side. It was one of the best relationships in comics and the most well known and now its done.

Posted by mcgregorp

i dislike them

Posted by Thorion88

@CrimsonTempest said:

Wolverine and Jean Grey: The Original Edward and Bella.

Ugh, My thoughts exactly. I will forever hate this pairing.

Posted by tonis

@Roxanne Starr said:

@tonis said:

It's amazing to think how many romance titles there was at some points during the golden age. It's a theme you can never kill. :)

Up until the 60's, it was clear what romance was. These days, it's much harder to pinpoint exactly what constitutes being romantic.

Men have always and will forever strive to save women...to fill a void. That's what guys do. They are the "Knights in Shining Armour" running to the rescue of the "Damsel in Distress."

But WHAT, exactly, qualifies as "Distress" in the 21st Century? and at what point does the line get crossed between merely being a polite and helpful friend a being someone whose influence is far deeper?

That's very true, romance stories were much easier to define pre-60's and the woman's movements certainly changed a lot of the preconceptions of what is romantic.

I guess it'd be easy to say men just wanna get laid and women just wanna be saved but those stereotypes don't make for a very romantic story these days. You really need to emphasize things like 'shared sacrifice' and 'unconditional commitment' when it comes to comic book characters. That's more fitting to the world they exist in. :)

Posted by Roxanne Starr

@tonis said:

I guess it'd be easy to say men just wanna get laid and women just wanna be saved but those stereotypes don't make for a very romantic story these days. You really need to emphasize things like 'shared sacrifice' and 'unconditional commitment' when it comes to comic book characters. That's more fitting to the world they exist in. :)

However it is near impossible to get that swooning feeling over a relationship founded on shared sacrifice and unconditional commitment.

There has to be a potential orgasm in there somewhere...even if it never happens...for it to be a romance. :D

Posted by SemiBlue

With all the action and keeping pace with the epic events/arc, I can understand how its difficult to show progression in love with subtle problems, as opposed to love triangles and "I cant be with you anymore because of ________!"

There should just be a separate comic for the romance/relationships. Some oneshots showing a date, or how they interact on a non-action filled day. Explain a little more of why they are together, instead of just him/her being hot and there. Then just show hints of it in the regular series.

Posted by tonis

@Roxanne Starr said:

@tonis said:

I guess it'd be easy to say men just wanna get laid and women just wanna be saved but those stereotypes don't make for a very romantic story these days. You really need to emphasize things like 'shared sacrifice' and 'unconditional commitment' when it comes to comic book characters. That's more fitting to the world they exist in. :)

However it is near impossible to get that swooning feeling over a relationship founded on shared sacrifice and unconditional commitment.

There has to be a potential orgasm in there somewhere...even if it never happens...for it to be a romance. :D

Shared sacrifice and unconditional commitment aren't the foundation of a romantic relationship, they are the cement ;)

All the swooning and other stuff is a given to make a foundation, but on it's own can not sustain one indefinitely.

Posted by Roxanne Starr

@tonis said:

@Roxanne Starr said:

@tonis said:

I guess it'd be easy to say men just wanna get laid and women just wanna be saved but those stereotypes don't make for a very romantic story these days. You really need to emphasize things like 'shared sacrifice' and 'unconditional commitment' when it comes to comic book characters. That's more fitting to the world they exist in. :)

However it is near impossible to get that swooning feeling over a relationship founded on shared sacrifice and unconditional commitment.

There has to be a potential orgasm in there somewhere...even if it never happens...for it to be a romance. :D

Shared sacrifice and unconditional commitment aren't the foundation of a romantic relationship, they are the cement ;)

All the swooning and other stuff is a given to make a foundation, but on it's own can not sustain one indefinitely.

So what would you call a relationship that is all cement with no foundation? :D

Posted by tonis

@Roxanne Starr said:

So what would you call a relationship that is all cement with no foundation? :D

a pile of cement. XD

that's no more a relationship than being all foundation with no cement. Then it's just a hole.

A relationship is something that grows and gets built from the initial attractions to the long term partnership. :)

Posted by Roxanne Starr

@tonis said:

That's no more a relationship than being all foundation with no cement. Then it's just a hole.

Like most modern marriages...that most modern comics portray? :D

Posted by Comicsabomb

Well its ok but at a right time in story if it fits well as the story goes along then i don't mind.

Posted by rmsb1984
@TheRedRobin96 said:

The worst is the whole Namor wanting Sue or Emma...........................................................................gets kind of annoying........................................................

true
Posted by larryman296

Not a fan of constantly recurring love triangles.

Posted by God_Spawn

Depends who, certain characters can play off one another in ways to make the characters themselves better thus making stories better.

Moderator
Posted by KingsCastle

Does anyone know what issue the picture of Wolverine and Jean kissing is from?

Posted by abeyance

i always like the peter and maryjane pairing, that One More Day arc was the worst. Aunt May has lived her life let her die and bring back Peter's marriage.

Posted by abeyance

@Namor1987: man talk about mission impossible lol. The only chick i know almost old or older than wolverine is mystic (or I assume she's been around for a while). The whole Wolverine and Jean thing is played out, i never acknowledged them together. Actually could imagine Jean with Cyclops either. Maybe it's because she's always dying.

Posted by Namor1987

@abeyance: Wolverine's relationship/fascination with Jean is more disturbing than Magneto & Rogue because Magneto is like in 70s or 80s where Logan is in like his 100s.

Posted by SpidermanWins

It's a big part of the books and why they are interesting and as intriguing as they are. Comic books always need a little drama to be good.

Posted by The Mast

Sex is part of life, too, but when Catwoman came out people (Women, if we're being honest. MOSTLY women) went nuts.

Men don't necessarily wanna see overdone love stories just like women may not wanna see Catwoman half unzipped, getting it down with Batman. It's all part of life, so it should all be in comic books.

Edited by RazielWraith

I try not to like or get into Marvel and DC comic book couples because one minute they’re together, the next they’re with other people with little to no explanation at all. Whatever reason or reasons they do come up with, is bullshit half the time. I'm more into certain types of movies, TV shows, video games, books and other comic books couples that are not owned or written by the type of people at Marvel and DC.

Posted by Sammo21

lol, I thought for a second that was a panel from some super early John Constantine comic.

Posted by yo_yo_fun

It's definitlely more interesting to see them in love and crap. BUT, they never stay together!

I'm always rooting for Dick Grayson & Barbara Gordon. But these writers never let any romance last, which sucks.

Posted by yo_yo_fun

@CrimsonTempest said:

Wolverine and Jean Grey: The Original Edward and Bella.

LOL I've never thought of that!

Posted by GREGalicious

I dont mind the romance of comics. Love SUPERMAN & LOIS LANE. Im always rooting for GREEN LANTERN (Hal Jordan) & STAR SAPPHIRE (Carol Ferris) and BATMAN & CATWOMAN.

Despite everything thats happened over the years, im still hoping for a WOLVERINE/JEAN GREY love affair.

Posted by BoOMbOoMpOw

I cried when Wolverine had to kill Jean :( I always thought they should have been a couple instead of cyclops and jean. Same thing with pete and felicia

Posted by Jnr6Lil

@caladbolglight said:

I like love triangles...to a certain extent. Often times, writers use them way to much. But for me, I like my comic books to be as realistic as they can be. I like it when they have some form of ground for normality. I think it's only right.

Posted by Sweet_Heavens

Relationships in comics reflect humanity as a whole. Without them these heroes lose those qualities that allow them to be seen as such. They show that these people can be hurt, bleed and feel. They also (they did me) teach you a little about concepts such as mutual respect for men towards women or the extreme opposite as to why its bad for example for a man to hit a woman. Relationships can also show us restraint, teach us about ourselves and come on on an artistic side they avoid comics turning into action stupid things that reflect badly on us all.

When relationships started in comics yes they were flashy, silly and "I`m da man so love me" kind of nonsense but comics evolved as demand grew. When the world mass watched television, browsed the internet and embraced the cell phone the world grew up faster. Rural didn`t become synoecious with naive and the world reached out and became that bit smaller. This turned everything on its head. We learned more about the universe just by turning on a television and people arguably aged faster. Sixteen became the new twelve years old in knowledge and experience freely given out by the mass media that schools and parents used to hoard for years longer from embarrassment or legal hold overs. But times changed and in the most obscure ways this made comics have to change. Complex relationships had be born or else people would have went "unrealistic" and left.

But relationships also help people to like characters they normally would blink and think "boring". For example years ago when I still read Marvel I looked at Kitty Pride and went "Sprite? Who the hell came up with that name?" and ignored her for years only tolerating her during the beginning during the first Hellfire club saga that started Jean Grey`s madness into Dark Phoenix.

So remember people while relationships can be "Gah burn my eyes out" there are comics for the under fives that would happily give you what you want. For the rest of us there are here to stay so learn to live with it.

Oh but so you know come on Wolverine just gut his cyclops ass!

Posted by stikfigureman2

love seems to be needed for most stories to develop

a personal tragedy or a reason to fight on but the writing of these is like reading teenagers in their first ever "relationship" i soon expect to see characters writing about it all on twitter or something lol