Marriage isn’t easy – especially in comics.
Oh sure, I hear some grumblings in the back seats of the Internet about how Dagwood and Blondie managed to keep their marriage together especially after the “Giant Submarine Sandwich” argument of 1945, but that might be the exception. For every Dagwood and Blondie success, we have at least ten Flo and Andy Capps willing to beat the living hell out of each other with broken beer bottles over the drop of a pub fry.
The really stressful marriages are the ones that come from our superhero comics. It’s a huge difference between the three to six panels we get from the funny papers.When couples get married in the Marvel Universe, it’s really a big commitment. The readers are expecting either their given prosperity or their eventual downfall from the couple’s character DNA.
Most of the MU characters stay away from marriage like Galactus from the ultimate nullifier or the Human Torch from fire plugs.
They shy away from tying the knot.
If you don’t believe me, you can ask yourself why Ben Grimm hasn’t settled down with his longtime girlfriend, Alicia Masters, yet. I’m sure that the rest of the Fantastic Four are just dying to wish the couple a hearty mazeltov before they hit their honeymoon in the negative zone.
But “comic book marriage” isn’t easy and it doesn’t fit into little boxes that were drawn for it. While there are a lot of really bad marriages in the MU, only a few of them turned out good. For example, one of the worst marriages in the MU is between Crystal of the Inhumans and Pietro Maximoff, aka Quicksilver. Why? Pietro has no patience for anyone and has one of the worst dispositions in the MU. Need another example? How about Daimon Hellstrom aka The Son of Satan and Patsy Walker aka Hellcat? You can write that one off to “family issues”. It’s hard to start a family when you think your spawn might be projectile vomiting split pea soup – let alone the extreme issues with the in-laws.
The less said about Hank Pym’s marriage to the Wasp and that train wreck, the better.
But enough talk about the failed marriages of the Marvel Universe – I’m here to talk about the succesful ones.
Let’s start with…
Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson
Yes, I know. I can hear all of the nitpicking geeks out there getting their slide rulers in a bind.
Peter Parker and Mary Jane aren’t married anymore. Really, the disintegration of their marriage wasn’t their fault. It really wasn’t.
For those of you who have no idea of what I’m talking about, Peter Parker aka Spider-man and his steady girlfriend, Mary Jane Watson did their nuptials back in 1987. While the marriage was exactly what fans were expecting, it was not without problems.
Peter Parker, who was habitually having money issues and was essentially living from hand to mouth for the longest time as a freelance photographer, needed to make an ego adjustment to having a wife who earned a lot more as a fashion model than he did on his own. We should all have such problems.
In addition to this, Mary Jane was being stalked by her new landlord, Jonathan Caesar, a rich man obsessed with her who after being rejected tried to ruin her modeling/acting career.
Despite a kidnapping and a faked death, a separation, clone problems, a possibly stillborn baby, and secret identity exposure to the world during the first Civil War saga, their marriage lasted for twenty years in real time.
It literally took the death of Aunt May and a deal with the Devil to end their marriage.
Their marriage ended when Aunt May was killed by the Kingpin. Peter and Mary Jane were approached by Marvel’s version of the Devil, Mephisto, who offered a unique deal. Instead of selling his soul for Aunt May, Peter and Mary Jane gave up their marriage, as if it had never existed. This deal would return Peter Parker’s secret ID to being secret and it would bring Aunt May back to life. The actual cost was the subconscious longing and the pain of what might have been that Mephisto feasted on. Mary Jane put in a caveat that they both could, at least, find happiness.
While the official continuity since has been that Peter and Mary Jane dated seriously, they never married. However, for twenty years, the fans can remember the true happiness they had as a married couple.
Luke Cage and Jessica Jones
Here are two characters who have really been through the ringer.
Both are nigh invulnerable, both have seen the absolute worst in life, and both are damaged from past relationships. Luke Cage was scarred by the loss of his old dead girlfriend, Reva Connors. Jessica Jones had been systematically mind-controlled by Zebediah Kilgrave aka The Purple Man. They were two people who needed someone they could trust. These two found each other.
This was not a marriage of courtship, flowers, and dinner by candlelight. This was a knockdown, drag out, physical relationship that broke beds and only became serious after she’d conceived Cage’s child. The two since have committed to each other completely.
One of the first trials they had was during the one year anniversary of Nick Fury’s Secret War when Luke was ambushed by Lucia von Bardas in their apartment. Cage was severely injured in the attack and was hospitalized with internal injuries. Jessica, who was pregnant at the time, only had minor injuries. Even with his nigh invulnerability, Cage nearly died.
Soon after their daughter, Danielle (named after Cage’s former crime-fighting partner, Danny Rand aka Iron Fist was born, they were married. Cage joined the newly reformed Avengers team and took sides with Captain America when the MU Civil War broke out. Jones, on the other hand, felt that it was best that she stay on the side of the law, refusing to endanger her newborn child.
After the events of Civil War and the Dark Reign of the Avengers, Cage reunited with his wife and family and reluctantly took leadership of the Avengers. He and Jones stayed for a time before Cage quit for the sake of his family with Squirrel Girl as the child’s nanny.
I’m happy to report that they’re still going strong.
Medusa and Black Bolt
Initially, I wanted to talk about the relationship of Storm and Black Panther. Sadly, that marriage has recently been annulled by T’Challa. I admit I’m unclear on why this happened.
Instead, I’m going to talk about the one royal couple that’s been doing well for decades – Medusa and Black Bolt of the Inhumans.
While their premier movie may have been taken out of the Marvel movie schedule, their presence within the MU is alive and well.
The Inhumans are a group of superpowered beings that live apart from humanity. Their very biology puts them at risk if they are exposed to Earth’s polluted environment for prolonged periods.
Within their closed society, Black Bolt, their ruler, and Medusa, his queen and translator, have remained loyal to each another and have loved each other despite their lack of traditional communication.
You see, Black Bolt can’t speak. Actually, “can’t” is not the word. He won’t speak for fear of destroying everything within earshot of his voice… which would be practically everywhere on the planet. For the longest time, they lived in the “blue area” of the moon in the new Attilan. The two communicate through the use of sign language and gestures. Medusa is his interpreter, his voice to the rest of the Inhumans.
It was not until recently that the couple had been separated with Black Bolt’s presumed death from the detonation of a Terrigen bomb. After the Secret Invasion, it was revealed that Black Bolt was being impersonated by a Skrull agent, when during a battle with the Hulk, the body of Black Bolt reverted back to its Skrull form. The real Black Bolt was then rescued from the Skrulls after The Secret Invasion and began an aggressive campaign against all of the Inhumans’ former persecutors.
It is presumed that Medusa and Black Bolt are still married and loving each other, hand gestures and all.
Mister Fantastic and the Invisible Woman
In this incredible unlikely pairing, Reed and Sue Richards remain as one of the best marriages in the Marvel Universe.
While there were some doubts during the courtship with Sue going off with Prince Namor, the Submariner, once they were hitched they stayed hitched. This is not to say that the marriage has been completely devoid of problems.
After all, we are talking about comic book drama.
Their history is epic.
As the first couple of the first family of Marvel’s very first superteam, we’d expect there’d be some issues between Mister Fantastic, the elastic pipe smoking absent minded professor, and Susan Richards, fashion model, stalwart companion, loving understanding wife, and mother. Despite there being a moderate age difference between the two, and Reed’s somewhat controlling manner in not just their relationship but in the dynamic of the team, the couple has endured for decades.
Those of you who are looking to find an over the top representation of the two only need to watch The Venture Bros and see any episode featuring Richard Impossible and his wife, Sally, the Visible Woman. Richard Impossible, originally voiced by The Late Show’s Stephen Colbert, is the typical authoritarian husband from the early sixties who constantly “allows” and “forbids” his wife from doing things – like leaving the building. Sally, like any person living in such a home, looks to leave the marriage.
To be fair, the early days of the Lee and Kirby stories had a lot of this paradigm. It wasn’t until new writers took over later issues that this dynamic became more realistic.
The two of them have faced and survived more things thrown at them than any other couple in the MU. They’ve fought countless enemies, resisted alien invasions, and had to survive being parents of two extremely powerful mutants, Franklin and Valeria. Raising kids is hard. Raising kids with uncontrollable world damaging powers is a bigger challenge.
Both Reed and Sue have been presumed dead more than once leaving the survivor to repeatedly mourn their spouse’s loss. Currently, after the last “Secret Wars” story, Sue had been lost to the merging of the Marvel (616) main universe and the Marvel “Ultimates” universe. While it is probable that she has survived in one form or another, where the marriage stands at this point is unknown.
I have a few confessions to make.
The first being this article took more research than I thought it would. Marriages in comic book continuities are hard to follow. I not only had to scour my own personal collection of comics, but I had to also check every online source I could find to check if the marriage was intact. I made an exception to Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson’s marriage because
1) it was representative of most marriages in the MU and
2) it stopped existing through no fault of their own.
When you think about it, that’s what happens to many marriages. While there are certainly some marriages that end due entirely to one person’s personal issues or just desertion, others end by mutual agreement or through death.
When a spouse dies, either through natural causes or through an unexpected tragedy, the survivor mourns.
As I said earlier, initially, I wanted to include the marriage of Storm and The Black Panther. That marriage seemed to be a storybook fantasy (which it literally was) until The Black Panther annulled it. I confess that I have not found enough resources to explain why this happened. I really don’t know where the writers were going with that one.
Because this is the comic book world and because this is fiction, storytelling demands that there be a crisis in a relationship. Why? If there isn’t, it gets boring. Drama sells comic books. So, yes, readers are going to see a spousal death. Yes, there will be a fling that will be explained away or forgiven. Yes, one of the spouses will have a major problem that threatens the marriage – be it an addiction, mental illness, financial ruin, or just plain life shit. A marriage in comic book land is more dramatic because it has to be part of the drama. Through these crises, the characters grow – which is really the point to any good story.
Lastly, I wrote this article to celebrate the union of two of our Echo Base team members, Tim and Maddie, who got married last weekend. Both of them have been so excited about this and it is the beginning of a long journey they’ll be taking for the rest of their lives. They may not have to worry about Skrull agents tossing Terrigen bombs at them, but they’ll always be superheros in my comic book.
Congrats, you two, you deserve a great life together.