In Q & A, a semi-regular feature of Fantastic Fangirls, we ask our staff to tackle a simple question — then open the floor to comments.
What is your favorite friendship in comics?
There are a lot of great relationships based on friendship. There’s the adorableness of Jean and Wanda in X-Men: First Class. There’s the odd affection Logan has for his girls. There’s any variation of the duos in the Fantastic Four. But all of those share a simplicity, a rightness that, while wonderful, is not, well, complicated enough to be my favorite. In that vein, there is one friendship that stands out….because it is hardly a friendship at all.
Bruce Wayne may be said to have many friends or no friends; Batman may be said to have many friends or no friends. Bruce Wayne may be said to have had three fathers; Batman may be said to have had three enablers. One person fits into each category: trusted butler, Alfred Pennyworth. This is my favorite relationship because it is complicated, intricate bordering on imprudent. Alfred, of anyone and everyone knows best that Bruce Wayne is really quite insane. But Alfred also knows Bruce better than anyone; he might be the only person to know Bruce and not just Batman — and he believes, right or wrong, that helping is how best to help. Here is an illustration of my point:
Girlfriends come and go, villains will always be there — and so will Alfred, to take care of things.
My favorite friendship is the Hal Jordan/Oliver Queen team-up that Denny O’Neill introduced for 1970’s Green Lantern/Green Arrow series. The premise of this now-legendary run was for the traditional conservative Hal and the revolutionary liberal Ollie to have adventures that would touch on the kind of political and social issues that comics of that era usually avoided. Looking back, whether the political content of the series seems embarrassing or unintentionally hilarious or totally awesome depends on your tolerance for anvillicious social commentary in fiction. But what’s undeniable is the great dynamic O’Neill created between these characters, which didn’t always fall along predictable lines. For all his concern for the welfare of man, Ollie could be a combative jerk, too busy with his own causes to notice his sidekick’s drug problem; Hal could be oblivious about larger issues of social justice, but he was also shown as a fundamentally decent guy, willing even to stand up to his cosmic Guardians if he thought they were doing the wrong thing. Most importantly, these unlikely friends managed to complement each others’ good and bad qualities perfectly so that — many writers and eras and a couple deaths and resurrections later — the relationship still works. In fact, as the recent DCU: Decisions comic shows, they’re still having fistfights over politics. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Sometimes, you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.
I started reading comics right at the beginning of the Civil War crossover, but I didn’t actually catch up with that storyline until after I’d read the entire run (up to that point) of Brian Michael Bendis’ New Avengers. Those were the comics where I met the Avengers, and those were the comics where, more specifically, I met Captain America and Iron Man. In the end, I couldn’t call either series a masterpiece, but there was one thing they consistently got right: portraying the painful deterioration of the once-great friendship between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark.
At that point, I hadn’t read the glory days of Steve and Tony’s friendship. I hadn’t read Iron Man #172, where Steve saves an alcoholic Tony from a burning flophouse. I hadn’t read the early Avengers days, where they formed the core of the team. I hadn’t read the Armor Wars, their first big fight, or Operation Galactic Storm, their second. I hadn’t read their significant interactions in Avengers Vol. 3, or any of the many times they had dropped everything and anything to help each other out, whether that help meant providing a shield replacement or saving each others’ lives. And yet, Civil War struck a chord — particularly Christos Gage’s Iron Man/Captain America: Casualties of War oneshot, and Brian Michael Bendis’ heartbreaking coda, The Confession. As I watched these men try to salvage their friendship in spite of all of their mounting differences, and then watched as Tony Stark mourned the death of his best friend to the point of admitting that everything he did during Civil War “wasn’t worth it” because of that death, I knew their friendship must have been something special to begin with. And so I began to investigate their history — and I’ve been hooked ever since.
There’s no question that the friendship I hold closest to my heart is the bond between Kitty Pryde and Rachel Summers-Grey. Kitty was (rightfully) a little weirded out by Rachel at first. And Rachel always has had a problem expressing how she feels about the people she cares for in a manner that is appropriate. But over time Rachel’s adoration of Kitty — fostered in her tortured childhood — slowly changed into a real friendship. Kitty slowly taught Rachel how to smile, how to dance, how to enjoy life’s moments. Kitty gave Rachel a steadiness and a moral compass the damaged young Phoenix desperately needed. Rachel, in return, adored Kitty no matter how petulant or irascible Kitty was. Rachel ignored Kitty’s fits of jealousy and insecurity and just kept on caring for her best friend, no matter what.
The initial phase of their friendship ended badly, with Kitty failing to notice Rachel desperately needed her help. But on Phoenix’s return the girls stayed together in Excalibur until Rachel’s second death-like departure — this time to defeat and destroy the terrifying future of Rachel’s origin.
Kitty was instrumental in Rachel’s third round in the Marvel Universe, when Pryde and the X-Treme X-Men rescued Rachel from Bogan.
As things currently stand, Kitty is dead/not-dead/lost to us, hurtling through space. Rachel is lost as well, hiding with Korvus, on the run from the Shi’ar. They are both lost and alone, in the depths of the galaxy. I just know that they will find each other again.
What about you? What is your favorite friendship in comics?