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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?

92 Comments
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Posted by jrock85

I'm sick of love triangles!

Posted by goldenkey

I don't like them when of the characters doesn't have powers or isn' a hero.

Posted by TheRedRobin96

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

Posted by Or35ti

Now with the relaunch these are gonna be coming back pretty hard in DC cos all the character's haven't found their loves yet.

Posted by gangly

Even if the majority of readers are uninterested, I think that seeing these characters without romantic relationships would be weird. Aside from us the readers being able to relate to that aspect of life, as Tony pointed out, I think the bigger point is that it's unrelatable when it isn't a part of what a character is about.

For example, many thought it was out of character for Batman to have sex with Catwoman. (or at least get pinned down and have his chest tickled). As someone who's only focus in life is his heroic duty, folks thought that he would never disregard that primary focus and get some lovin'. Knowing that he has, though, makes his dedication to the "job" that much more interesting, because we can now view that through emotions that we all experience as humans.

If we want to read three dimensional characters, there's gonna be some hugging in there.

Also, John Constantine looks REALLY pissed off for being in Young Romance #1.

Edited by phrosnite

Does Lois have super human strength? How did she break that thing on superman's head? lol

Posted by Doveland

If love leaves comics; I stop reading them.

Posted by JoseDRiveraTCR7

@jrock85 said:

I'm sick of love triangles!

Same here. I'm also tired of will they or won't they. Why can't writers just write an actual relationship instead of drama?

Posted by Planewalker

Love triangles are typical drama gimmick but sure are annoying as hell

Posted by KainScion

finally!!!! thank you!!! finally finished superman's flings quest!! man he's kinky for a boyscout!!

Posted by Dragoness1993

Comics wont be the same without a bit of romance

Posted by The_Mercenary

Comic love is boring...Because it is fake. And it's unrealistic because everybody has the body and face of a supermodel, male or female. I get that it is comics, and anything can happen... But if you're trying to connect with you're reader, and everybody looks like some demigod spawned from Apollo, then there isn't much to relate to.

Posted by MyraMyraMyra

What people like is intriguing and well-written character interaction - fantastic characters with fantastic powers dealing with human drama. Love, the lack of it, and troubles with it are a part of that, but I don't think romance itself is all readers need. In fact, badly written, shoddy romantic subplots make me gag. There are some great comic book love stories out there, but also fakey, boring, and annoying ones. Many readers are also annoyed with tedious and repetitive love triangles and the way characters are torn apart and brought together over and over again in an attempt to keep the readers interested.

I love a good comic book romance, but I don't think that it's necessary for a comic to be interesting. Just look at the X-23 solo series right now - there's no romantic subplot in it right now. It's currenty focusing on the relationships Laura has with her friends, enemies, and parental figures, and on the way she views herself, and it's being absolutely fantastic doing that. I'm sure romance will eventually become a part of that series, too, and I have no qualms with that, but I'm just saying that it's doing perfectly fine without it as well. As I said, it's well-written and intriguing character interaction that does it for me, romantic or not.

Posted by kfhrfdu_89_76k

@phrosnite:

No. She threw that rolling pin by using regular human force, and it cracked `cause of Supes invulnerability. sorry for ruining your joke.

Wow. She`s one cold big sister.

Romance is good if portrayded enough realistically unrealistically.

Posted by ReVamp

That guy that drew the Jean Grey and Wolverine scene happens to be one of my favourite artists.

Posted by NightFang

I would like to see more asexual heroes, like Doctor Who in comics.

Posted by The Stegman

Lol at Superman just taking the rolling pin to the head and not even flinching 

Posted by Phaedrusgr

@phrosnite: Actually, that poor thing had to break just because it was unlucky enough to land on a super head...Makes comic sense... Love and relationship in comics? Hmmm, why not? It's natural. Yet, not that much focus on it or too much of relationship and love in the air. I kind of dislike exaggeration in everything...

Posted by caladbolglight

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 phrosnite

@kfhrfdu_89_76k: @Phaedrusgr: Oh, OK. Laws of Physics mean nothing in comic books. Pity.

Posted by Kid_Zombie

Love your soup opera reference! I have been makeing that reference for decades. The drama, People die and come back, love triangles ect ect. But They are OUR soup operas ha ha

@JoseDRiveraTCR7 said:

@jrock85 said:

I'm sick of love triangles!

Same here. I'm also tired of will they or won't they. Why can't writers just write an actual relationship instead of drama?

Then nobody would read. Why do you think reality shows are so big? DRAMA!! We read for the drama, if everything was happy go lucky then no one would read.

Posted by difficlus

@Phaedrusgr said:

@phrosnite: Actually, that poor thing had to break just because it was unlucky enough to land on a super head...Makes comic sense... Love and relationship in comics? Hmmm, why not? It's natural. Yet, not that much focus on it or too much of relationship and love in the air. I kind of dislike exaggeration in everything...

agree with you

Edited by Shadow_Thief

@JoseDRiveraTCR7: Well, there's always Reed Richards and Sue Storm; their relationship is pretty stable and free of drama-oh, wait...nevermind...

Posted by Decept-O

I think that romance is a given to be included in most stories; it has been used down through the ages, and it is doubtful it will not be included in most genre fiction in one form or another.

However. However. However. I think too much of it has been used of late, especially in comic books and comic book movies. Too much romance and not enough action.

Perhaps I am being a fuddy duddy but I want to see characters laying the smack down and doing out of this world things that mere humans simply cannot do. Certainly, it is great to see the hero get the girl at the end but I don't want it to be the focus of the movie. For that I can watch a drama or the Lifetime channel.

Posted by LoganRogue24

the only romance i was never a huge fan of is the Gambit Rogue romance i could never really get into it maybe its the off on again thing that makes it not likeable for me i get that there atracted to eachother but thats all i get with the pairing.

Posted by doordoor123

In reality love comes and goes all of the time. People fall out of love or people pretend to love someone to get to something else. Could be money or a lifestyle or even a job. I think its about 75% of people who get married also get divorced. And even while married its not uncommon for the man in the relationship to look at other girls. And both man and women cheat. Some even have open relationships. Some people find a person right have a break up. Or before and break up with a person because they found someone they love more. These should be incorporated in comics. Sure there can be a couple stable lovers, but "love" can be such a flimsy word.

Posted by darksoul7th

@jrock85: Hell Yeah!! But the most realistic one was the the one in Watchmen! Most favorite and funniest!

Posted by sanmono

there arent many good relationships. the mayority are very bad.

Posted by Bestostero

comic books are soap operas for men.

Posted by The Impersonator
Posted by Maki_P

@Kid_Zombie said:

Love your soup opera reference! I have been makeing that reference for decades. The drama, People die and come back, love triangles ect ect. But They are OUR soup operas ha ha

@JoseDRiveraTCR7 said:

@jrock85 said:

I'm sick of love triangles!

Same here. I'm also tired of will they or won't they. Why can't writers just write an actual relationship instead of drama?

Then nobody would read. Why do you think reality shows are so big? DRAMA!! We read for the drama, if everything was happy go lucky then no one would read.

Drama's good, but too much drama gets boring. Why can't people be in happy relationships at least once?

Posted by TheCrowbar

I just wish Cyclops and Wolverine just admit that Jean's just a proxy for their love and finally make out.

Posted by Teerack

Relationships are the most interesting part of comics for me. Right now I'm really enjoying the relationship between Hawkeye and Spider-Woman. And I've always been hopeful that Peter would end up with Felicia but he keeps going with MJ :(

Posted by labarith

We all know the last half of Catwoman was 2 frames away from being full fledged hentai. And, sadly, I think that might have been more interesting.

Posted by Wattup

Daredevil is promiscuous.

Posted by Grimoire

For me if there is romance it should have a point to it and not be there just for the sake of being there to drag in a certain demographic. That ends up annoying and when its all about just the sex that makes the characters IMO too easily interchangeable with each other.

P.S: From what I have read about Batman and Catwoman in the past the whole scene at the end of her new series #1 was not unexpected. They have great chemistry together and if Batman didn't want to he wouldn't but he did because he knows her better than everyone and let her be the way she is.

Posted by B'Town

Love in comics brings out the personality of our heroes and villains, without seeing the vulnerabilities that come within relationships our characters would be flat and boring.

Posted by darth_brendroid

Personally, I think love and relationships work better in a story that has an end. It just means that the readers get a bit of pay-off instead of lamenting that every possible story's already been done to death already with the characters. Kinda like how Scott Pilgrim has its definite end and Watchmen has its definite end (though it's more about the relationships between characters and less about love).

That said, they can add more to the characters in an ongoing series because it allows them to grow. The only problem with that is when the characters have grown so much it's hard for them to grow any more...

Posted by daredevil21134

FOREVER!!!

Posted by christopherwalken

Romantic relationships in comic books tend to emphasize too much the normal side of the character's life within the Average Joe / Superhero dichotomy. It is alright up to a certain point, but balance is what is needed, really. After all, no-one would read Superman comics if they simply described the everyday life of Clark Kent, the small-town geeky, boring nimrod that works for a newspaper.

Posted by TheBlackestNight

i hate lois lane all these chicks hold heroes back

Edited by mikeclark1982

i think it is prety bunk that marvel is trying to shoehorn the jean/logan/scott love triangle into schism. now we have to read about how those 2 battle with the ethics of mutants killing, we have to now focus on who jean loved more? i am pretty sure we know who she loved at the end of the "here comes tomorrow" arc.

Posted by JonesDeini

@jrock85 said:

I'm sick of love triangles!

Preach!!! And I absolutely HATE when people say that there was always a triangle between Scott, Jean, Logan. That's pure bull, folk. It (like Magneto and Rogue) is something that writers got a hard on for and just haven't been able to let go. If somebody can show me concrete proof that there was always a romantic energy between Jean and Logan than I'll recant, but as of now the first time I can think of anything remotely similar is the first time Logan called her "Red" in issue 98. Boy those sparks were truly a flying then!!!...:-/ The X-Men animated series made JeanVerine a thing and now I'm forever doomed to have to see it rehashed again and again and again.

Posted by RedheadedAtrocitus

Love and romance is a good aspect to comics that brings out the character's depth all the more to us as readers. Have absolutely no problem with it whatsoever.

Posted by ALdragon17

Love stinks, ya ya ya! Just kidding, its alright. Along, that it does impact on the mission or a battle. If you have two people fighting for the same cause, its sexy. You might want to hit the other guy and find a strange emotion, when the girl takes a swing at the dude's face.

Posted by tonis

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. :)

I do find if it's used in comic writing I prefer it to be realistic and natural than most of the fairy tale sappy crap that tends to get done. Seeing stuff like Guy Gardner macking on Ice during league downtime was great, seeing Scott torn between Jean and Emma for like EVER gets old and over dramatized.

Posted by fivestarga
@TheCrowbar: 
Lol oh yeah.
Posted by I'maDC/ImageGuy!

@gangly: Apparently he was an artist way before he was into punk.

Posted by Deadcool

@jrock85 said:

I'm sick of love triangles!

Second...

Posted by MrMazz

Romance angles serve to humanize the super heroes because what is more human than to love and to have lost. I like them if they are done right and don't get to much needless drama

i'll be here all week

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