Q&A #73: What is your favorite comic book romance that should have happened?

In Q & A, a weekly feature of Fantastic Fangirls, we ask our staff to tackle a simple question — then open the floor to comments. This week, our question was submitted by reader Aaron Kimel:

What is your favorite comic book romance that should have happened?



Anika

The social structure of bats varies, with some bats leading a solitary life and others living in caves colonized by more than a million bats. The fission-fusion social structure is seen among several species of bats. “Fusion” refers to the grouping of large numbers of bats in one roosting area and “fission” is the breaking apart and mixing of subgroups, with individual bats switching roosts with others and often ending up in different trees and with different roostmates.

The “Bat-Family” is so named because Batman is the sun they all revolve around. Batman does not allow himself to have a personal life ostensibly because it interferes in his mission but in reality, or so I believe, because emotionally and psychologically he is stuck at 10 years old. However, the Bat-family IS a family. Bruce claims to be alone, and to prefer it that way, but he does allow himself to have a “family” in Alfred, Dick, Tim, Lucius, Barbara, Jim, Cass, Selina, Clark, Diana. . . He has personal relationships despite his stance on a personal life. He just doesn’t really know how to deal with them because he’s stuck as a tween boy and the only part of life worse than tween boyhood is tween girlhood because it is when we learn how to build relationships outside of the provided family/social structure (remember how in elementary school you are required to give everyone in class a Valentine but in middle school you may choose who to give them to?). Bruce doesn’t know how to do that and he uses “Batman” as an excuse not to bother learning.

Zatanna is a performer, a superhero, and a Gothamite, and as such she knows, and can deal with, both Batman and Bruce. She understands having a dual personality, she was raised with the mindset, and she can and has stood up to Bruce’s “I am Batman and nothing else” mentality. Unlike a civilian, she can take care of herself, and she’s neither criminal nor crazy. This puts her ahead of the great majority of Bruce’s long list of love interests. She has a non-superheroing career that would grant him space when he (or she) needed it and the juxtaposition of a idealistic rationalist with a pragmatic magician would keep everyone on their toes. Finally, Zee befriended him before he was Batman. She’s the tween girl to his tween boy and all the years in between serve to make the connection stronger. She is perfectly poised to reach him. . .

. . .if he ever let her.



Caroline

Fans of the X-Men do not have a whole lot to thank writer Chuck Austen for, but I am a fan of the way he took Northstar (Jean-Paul Beaubier, the famously, openly gay superhero) and gave him an important role on an X-Men team. Austen didn’t stop there. He also gave Northstar a crush on founding X-Man Bobby “Iceman” Drake. Just a crush, of course. It couldn’t ever amount to anything because — as JP was fond of dramatically wailing — Bobby was straight. Bobby, meanwhile, professed never to notice that Northstar was gay — which, since Northstar’s characterization in this period largely consisted of, “Hey, I’m the gay X-Man! Look at me, over here, being gay!” seems like an amazing act of what lawyers call “willful blindness,” even for a comic book character.

Someone in this scenario might have been protesting too much. That’s all I’m saying.

Any Northstar/Iceman possibilities in the Austen era died when Jean-Paul did. He’s alive again these days, though (no I don’t remember how or why), he’s back with the X-Men, and I’d kind of like to see Marvel take a stab at this ‘ship for real. (Yes, he’s been portrayed as having a steady boyfriend, who may even have a last name by now, but as Anika is fond of saying, “My pairing is more meaningful than canon.”) As for Bobby, the character has been around for a lot of years without having an overly-explored inner life. He’s had a few relationships with women, but nothing, I think, that would preclude an interpretation of the character as bisexual or even closeted. Jean-Paul’s recent stories have hinted that he’s growing from self-promoting arrogance into a more mature social conscience, while Bobby’s have often been about growing up and exploring the potential for power and self-discovery beneath the surface of his boyish playfulness. There would be a lot to explore in a story about these two personalities, particularly in the context of how the mutant metaphor reflects both being out and being seen as different.

Plus, you know, they’re both really cute.



Jennifer

My dislike of Emma Frost is well-known. So is my dislike of her relationship with Scott Summers. But the one time I actually liked Emma — beyond the excellent character writing Joss Whedon gave her in Astonishing X-Men — was when she was involved in a flirty, high culture-based almost-relationship with Hank McCoy, the Beast.

Hank’s crush on Emma was one of the more intriguing parts of Grant Morrison’s run on the X-Men. He was attracted to her wit and intelligence, her love of opera and fine wine and education and good books; they were a good match, as far as interests went. And, since he wasn’t on the X-Men team during the bulk of her villainous years (the 70s being his Avengers and Defenders days), he didn’t have the same level of justifiable resentment toward her that many of the other X-Men had. Hank and Emma’s friendship was a solid rock amidst the chaos of the Morrison years, and when the psychic affair between Scott and Emma was revealed, Hank’s first instinct was to bring Emma flowers and wine and a book to comfort her. And when he entered the room and, instead of a distraught friend, found her diamond form shattered in a million pieces, he immediately set out on an impossible quest to put her back together.

Whatever issues I may have with parts of that storyline (including Hank’s bizarre decision to comfort Emma when two of his best and oldest friends were going through a messy breakup of which she had been the partial cause), it’s obvious Hank was in love with Emma. And I think that the two of them together might have been really good, and really interesting. Hank is probably the best boyfriend in comics, considerate and romantic and charming, and his willingness to accept Emma without judging her would allow Emma to let down some of her many, many shields. Emma with Hank would be happy, and his influence might soften her — not so much that she wouldn’t still be Emma, but enough that she wouldn’t be so bitter and resentful, taking her aggressions out on students and teammates alike. Hank, meanwhile, would have a girlfriend with whom he could share his cultural passions, and one with whom he could, conceivably, engage in intimacy on the astral plane, where he wouldn’t have to be a furry blue cat. A Hank-Emma relationship would benefit both characters, and I truly wish we’d been able to see their chemistry evolve into something more.



Sigrid

Sometimes I have a great deal of trouble remembering that certain romantic and sexual relationships in comics have not taken place. This is due, in large part, to reading comics in the 1980s. During this time period gay, lesbian, and bisexual characters were not visible in Marvel and DC comics. They were present, but were coded. You could see what you were looking for, if you knew to look for it. Moreover, sexual relationships of a dark or disturbing nature were also hinted and coded, perfectly deniable in an official canon. But the writers and artists put things in that raised eyebrows to those with a mind to see the hints.

So, that said, my favorite comic book romance that I am CONVINCED happened, and if pressed will start hauling out old issues of comics and waving them about in a vaguely disturbing manner as evidence, is Kitty Pryde and Rachel Summers of the X-Men. It’s the stuff of movies, or at least myth.

In Rachel’s timeline, Kitty Pryde saved Rachel’s life. Rachel, emotionally stunted and damaged by her childhood as a Hound, fixated on Kitty as a trusted person. When Rachel slipped back and over to our timeline Kitty was the person she most trusted. Rachel would have done anything for Kitty, and in fact did some things that were pretty bad ideas. Rachel’s love for Kitty was not that of a whole person, not healthy. And I am pretty sure Kitty wouldn’t have returned it at that point. But the two of them lived and worked together for an unspecified period of time during the run of Excalibur. Rachel grew, well, not completely better, not whole, but less broken and more functional. Their relationship developed into one of mutual trust and care and respect. I think it’s perfectly clear that the two of them likely shared some sort of romantic or sexual relationship at this point, though probably not a very serious one. Much later, after Kitty’s rescue of Rachel from Bogan in X-Treme X-Men, Kitty was out to herself as bisexual. (After the events of Mechanix.) The two of them occupied the mansion after the team shake-ups, living in nearby rooms while working on different teams. It’s during this timeframe that they were clearly dating.

Like I said. Don’t ever get me drunk and ask me about the relationship between Kitty and Rachel, because I’ll tell you about it. At great, great length.


What is your favorite comic book romance that should have happened?

  • Is it too creepy to say Jubilee and Wolverine? I always kind of liked that.

  • Corey

    Ted Kord and Barbera Gorden. Despite both deciding that they were better off as friends, Booster’s monologue in the Blackest Night tie-in of his book revealed that Babs was the love of Ted’s life.

  • sigrid

    @Claire If I was going to hook Wolverine up with any of his barely-legal proteges, I think Jubilee is my pick. Mostly because I can’t FATHOM it with either Kitty or Hisako.

    @Corey Of all of Babs’s MALE possible romantic interests, I’d have to go with Ted. I like Dick Greyson just fine, but I like Babs less when he’s around her. Of course, Dinah trumps all the guys. 😛

  • Barbara Gordon and Dinah Lance. (I was tempted to say Dick Grayson and Roy Harper, or Hal and Ollie, but really, the answer is Babs and Dinah)

    There’s just a bond between the two of them, and you got to watch their relationship progress, and yeah, I love them.

    @Corey we all know that the true love of Ted’s life is Booster. 😀

  • Kari

    Sigrid, now I kind of *want* to get you drunk and ask you about Kitty and Rachel. Because I absolutely see them together, only you actually have canon evidence for this, whereas I just go “…isn’t it obvious?” So there would be much squeeing and taking of notes over drinks.

    And Jennifer, I actually really like the idea of Hank and Emma, now that you point it out. I will just pretend that it’s true and just block out any knowledge of Scott/Emma I may have. That’s the kind of willful blindness I can get behind.

    I want to say Harley and Ivy for my answer, but you can’t actually convince me that that *isn’t* completely canon, so maybe it doesn’t count.

  • I think you can believe that Harley & Ivy — or Kitty and Rachel, or Northstar and Iceman, or whatever — is totally canon, and still want to see that acknowledged explicitly and explored as a story. Look at the reaction to Rictor/Shatterstar in X-Factor. A lot of people believed they were together years ago, but by making that text, PAD was able to move the story forward in a way that couldn’t have been done otherwise.

  • I agree with the Bruce/Zee ‘shipping here, if only because my feelings toward Selina Kyle seem to mirror Jennifer’s regarding Emma Frost.

  • Also, Jen. . .Jean still wants to have some words with Hank AND Logan about the whole ‘comforting Emma’ thing. Like, hi, guys, *I’m* the one who got screwed over and I *probably* am not going to melt your brain just for daring to bring it up.

  • Why does everybody hate on Selina???

  • sigrid

    @Kari Well, there’s evidence in canon, if you LOOK at it right. Erm …

    @Caroline I love Selina!

  • Completely Jean and Logan. On the DC side, I’m with Corey – I’m totally for Ted and Babs. As someone that’s loved Ted Kord for a long time, I think his best portrayal was in Birds of Prey and Robin during that time period and am still kind of bummed that we’ve never really seen Barbara or Tim react to Ted’s death appropriately.

  • But anyway, Logan and Jean. It’s a relationship that gets downplayed a lot right now (probably because Jean is dead/in the White Hot Room) but Jean is clearly in Love with Logan and yes, I used the capital L on purpose. Casey and Morrison and of course Claremont build this up so much. When Jean comes back, I think she should leave Scott with Emma and finally give it an honest try with Logan.

  • Oh my God, Sigrid, I could totally get behind Rachel/Kitty.

    Mine is Ms Marvel and Iron Man. When Carol first met up with the Avengers, she and Tony shared a flirtatious relationship, one that even might have culminated in something more physical, depending on who you ask (I think it did). But that all eventually fell by the wayside when her alcoholism reared up and Tony ended up being her sponsor.

    I really, REALLY love the friendship that developed out of that, but I still want to see them together. (Ultimates 2 does have Tony/Carol in canon, but it’s not exactly the same!)

  • Anika

    @Chantaal Carol and Tony are my Marvel OTP!! Though, I think it hasn’t quite “culminated”. They’re too close for that. But I love their relationship like KITTENS.

  • Aaron K

    What a treat to have my question actually answered by the Fantastic Fangirls!

    I’ve never thought that Carol Danvers and Tony Stark would/should work out together. Really, I don’t know that Tony would work with many women: he’s too self-centered to have a relationship in which the other party has serious, emotional demands. It would need to be someone much more emotionally independent than Carol. (Someone like Natasha Romanoff, who can exist well with little human contact would be more his type.)

    As to Carol, I think she should give Richard Rider, Nova, a ring now that he’s on Earth and serving with Steve Rogers. Both have had crazy cosmic adventures, both have recently faced great odds and risen to the challenge, both have a down-to-earth perspective despite their otherworldy travels, and both can be light-hearted without overdoing it. (By contrast, I think Carol would grow weary of Peter Parker’s quips after a while in a romantic relationship.)

  • Anika

    @Aaron Oh, see, that’s why I didn’t answer with Carol and Tony: the “should” in the question. If someone were to look through my favourite ships they’d note that they have that in common — I tend to ship “this wouldn’t really work out well”. And I LOVE that you say Carol is not emotionally independent. YES. See, I think that Carol is in love with Tony but won’t even really admit it to herself because he represents everything she does not want in a relationship (even in their friendship to an extent) and she thinks it makes her weak. And Carol hates weakness. Tony is never weak. She hides her feelings and is satisfied being his buddy, but she’s entirely loyal to him. She would not put up with that self-centeredness in most other men! On Tony’s side, he sees Carol as an equal, which is huge, and finds her attractive but has too much respect for their relationship to go the romance route. Or sex, because while both can have casual sex, no issue, with each other it wouldn’t end up casual. It would end up A Mistake. So. They both flirt wildly with each other but never over-step or overtly acknowledge the deep affection on both sides.

    As for Peter, the “have” is what kept me from using them as my answer (since they’ve barely started). First, Carol is pretty quippy herself, so I’m not sure I agree with weary. But second, if she did, she’d say so and Peter would make an effort to be less so. That’s the type of people they are. Carol and Peter is an entirely oddball pairing but I am absolutely enamored with them. The possibilities are adorable and if they were a real relationship made up of real people I think they would both grow in the relationship and it would be very positive for each. Because they are comic characters and not “allowed” to change (esp. Peter), it wouldn’t work out as easily (not that growth or relationships are ever easy but you get me?).

    I don’t know Nova really, so I can’t weigh in on that 😉

  • Menshevik

    @ Caroline & Jennifer
    Like a few fans who lived through the 1990s, I’d actually prefer Bobby Drake and Emma Frost as a couple; it was something that had been kind of set up by Scott Lobdell in the X-Men books (through the story in which Emma possessed Bobby’s body). It became a fairly popular subplot in GenX fanfiction – there actually was an issue of Generation X (written by Jay Faerber) that made a nod to it (at a Xavier School prom, the kids wanted Emma to go with Sean, so to avoid this she chose Bobby instead as a measure of desperation). It is a pairing that I find interesting because the two are so different – among others, you get the whole (relative) innocence-vs.-experience thing…

    @ Sigrid
    Given how close the two were, it makes a lot of sense. Though it’s probably better not to go with the version I once read in a fanfic story (Rachel seduces Kitty, then reveals that the Kate Pryde of her future had been her first)…

    My own:
    Mystique and Valerie Cooper (what can I say, opposites attract or “les extrêmes se touchent”).

  • No sweat, gang, Tony’s already got an OTP – himself!

  • Radlum

    I’d like to see Ms Marvel/Spider-Man as a couple; it’s a pairing that shouldn’t work, but somehow Brian Reed managed to make it work in his Ms Marvel run and Siege: Spider-Man.
    Also, I always disliked the Kitty Pryde/Colossus couple because I preferred Nightcrawler/Kitty Pryde as a couple, even though they were always just friends in the comic.

  • Maddie

    I totally love Carol/Tony just have to say and honestly I always hear Tony is “self-centered” or too much of a manwhore to be in a committed relationship but um…just have to say go do your research. One, if he was self-centered why would he break off his casual relationship with Rae? The two of them ended that relationship because Rhodey had feelings for her. And if you want to look at the women he was in love with there was

    Natalie – stole from him and was a Russian spy when they were together/when she was first introduced in “Tales of Suspense: Ironman #50-something”
    Sunset – College sweetheart who took advantage of him and used his gullibility to still from what was then his dad’s company and continued to steal from him after it became his
    Whitney Frost – Is EVIL and broke up with him because of her dad
    Indries – Was hired by Obidiah to make Tony fall in love with her so she could still his ENTIRE company

    I’m trying to remember them all but it’s Tony so it’s hard but
    Kathy Dare – Psycho who SHOT him when he broke things off
    Bethany – who left him because she thought her husband was dead but turns out he wasn’t
    Marianna – went crazy because she thought she was going to kill him
    Janice Chord – got hurt in a cross fire in a battle and died in Tony’s arms
    Joanna – was his fiancee but he broke things off because he was afraid he’d hurt her after he became Ironman

    And of course Pepper but ugh! PEPPER BELONGS WITH HAPPY!!! And when they finally did have sex he couldn’t even remember how to use a screwdriver let alone remember who Happy was.

    AND he almost killed himself to save every last superhero from Osborn not to mention the reason he chose the side he was on in Civil War was because he blamed himself for all the kids at Stamford dying because as Secretary of Defense he refused to let them pass the Registration Act…Not to mention if you want to go back to the sixties Tony would continually go to employee dinners and he would always stick up for his people not to mention after he became Ironman he wouldn’t let them do crazy experiments without him there because he didn’t want them to get hurt…NOW…I apologize if I’m being rude but it gets to me when people say Tony is an ass and Bruce Banner is a sweet heart when all you have to do is pick up ONE Ironman comic to realize Tony is only a jerk to people he doesn’t like and he will fight to the death to protect someone he believes is innocent not to mention he forgives pretty much ANYONE for doing something wrong to him. And when they say he’s a manwhore and can’t be in a committed relationship because I have read more comics in which a woman has ripped his heart out than I’ve read comics in which he can’t stay faithful to a woman he wants to be in an exclusive relationship with.

    I just vented a WHOLE bunch and I’m sorry but I always hear the same damn thing about Tony and he is my favorite superhero because there is a whole hell’ve a lot more to him than what people say which is why I am frustrated with new writers because all they put is he’s an alcoholic and a womanizer when there’s about 50 years of comics that say otherwise

    END RANT

    My apologizes

  • Anika

    Hi Maddie, it’s all right to rant when you don’t do it at any particular person or comment. Thank you for all this backstory, I admit it is more than I was aware of. Here’s my take —

    Carol/Tony is truly my favourite Marvel pairing. I have a playlist miles long. I believe there is an alternate universe where the characters would be allowed to evolve and grow and change where they would grow together naturally and have a very strong and committed relationship. I also believe there is an alternate universe where their very similar, very volatile personalities would overwhelm the courtship and they would live out a highly dysfunctional and unhealthy relationship akin to the one described in Eminem’s Love the Way You Lie. But in the shared universe we amusingly (to me) call “canon” — it’s not so much that I think Tony can’t commit. I don’t think he’d ever be allowed to. As evidence I point to the mess that is Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson. Or Scott Summers and Jean Grey. The comic book medium (particularly in Marvel) is too hard on relationships for me to even really, for really want my favourite pairings to be “canon”. That you feel the current writers are ignoring the 50 years of writing that would contradict the idea he is a womanizer/alcoholic helps prove that point (and believe me, I know it is frustrating).

    I don’t think Tony is a bad guy, or incapable of commitment. I love Tony Stark. Being self-centered doesn’t mean he doesn’t care about other people — as I said and as you said, he chooses who to care about personally and everyone else is a nobody who he will lay down his life to save but isn’t important enough to know. And he is an admirer of women. In my head at least if not in print he will sometimes treat Carol and Pepper the same way he treats anonymous women because he knows they disapprove. It’s a game. It’s part of their relationship. In my head, at least.

    So, basically, I think Tony and Carol would both need to grow some to have a healthy relationship. I think they are both entirely capable of it. I think Marvel would never let them do it (Luke Cage is allowed to settle down, Peter Parker is not — Tony Stark is much more a Peter Parker, recognition wise, than a Luke Cage). I think they can have a close, committed relationship without romance or sex. And I think I prefer that (and all my little AUs in my head where they are together) to something that ends up like Peter & MJ or Scott & Jean.

    Thanks for commenting!

    (Also, I don’t know ANYONE who thinks Bruce Banner is a sweetheart and I certainly don’t!)

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