Thursday, July 12, 2018

Comic Books and the Strange Anti-Marriage Trend

Image result for batman catwoman wedding

Most people believe in love.  This love includes for most of us to grow up, fall in love, get married, and live happily ever after.

But for some strange reason, modern comic books seem completely opposed to this idea.

Over time, our favorite character develop in their relationships to the point where they need to move on to the next step and get married.  But it is becoming quite too common now for comics to either prevent these marriages or to undo them all together.

Maybe I am in the minority, but I happen to be the type of person who gets completely invested in the emotional lives of the characters and get genuinely (though perhaps pathetically) excited when characters I come to care about find that special love.  But comic book culture doesn't seem to have this perspective.

(I am going to get very spoilery in the rest of this article, so please be warned).

Take for instance, the last two much trumpeted comic weddings: Kitty Pryde and Colossus at Marvel and Batman and Catwoman at DC.  Both had long build-ups.  Both sold tie-ins to ratchet up anticipation.  And both ended up going nowhere.  In both cases, someone was jilted at the altar.

In the case of Batman, I blame more DC marketing than writer Tom King.  King is now halfway through his planned 100-issue run.  I can see how this would amke an important climax to the story and lead to its inevitable resolution.  But the X-Men story feels like a complete waste with no real rhyme or explanation.  Kitty asks Colossus to marry her and then dumps him at the wedding.  She can give no logical explanation for it and the audience is left feeling cheated.  At least with King's Batman story, the characters have been dealing with this conundrum: can Bruce Wayne be happy and be Batman at the same time.  This leads to some serious character drama that at least makes narrative sense.  But DC promoted this story too much to not give a satisfying payoff.

On top of this, Superman has recently seen his wife and son leave Earth so that writer Brian Michael Bendis doesn't have to deal with them in his stories.  Not only do I think that this is weak thinking on Bendis' part, I am ashamed of myself for being pleased with the fact that at least they are alive and Bendis didn't just kill them off.

In my time reading comics, here are some of the super heroes who have had their marriages either ended or retconned:

-Spider-Man and Mary Jane: Our hero literally makes a deal with the devil that costs him his marriage.

-Superman and Lois Lane: retconned when they did the New 52 (though restored around Rebirth)

-Barry Allen (Flash) and Iris West: New 52 retcon

-Wally West (Flash) and Linda Park: New 52 retcon

-Green Arrow and Black Canary: New 52 retcon

-Storm and Black Panther: Divorce

-Cyclops and Jean Grey: ends with the death of Jean Grey but not before Cyclops cheats on her with Emma Frost.

It is this last one that irks me the most because it permanently ruined Scott Summers.  No matter how much his superhero actions appear heroic, he will always be a piece of crap for cheating on his wife who loved him.  Writer Grant Morrison betrayed a lot of X-Men fans in order to do something shocking (a charge that critics of The Last Jedi will find all too familiar).

But besides that, so many writers want to undo the marriage bond because they think that they cannot write interesting stories otherwise.  Mark Waid said years ago that if he was in charge of Superman, he would undo the marriage.  Spider-Man was removed from MJ because it was thought that having him grow up in this way made him less relatable to younger viewers.

There is something to be said about writing romantic tension.  It is an easy way to draw in readers.  How many people got hooked on Moonlighting or more recently The Office because they wanted to see the leads get together?  But these writers find writing married couples more difficult.

I think this speaks to their lack of imagination more than anything.  It also speaks to an immature view of relationships that sees the thrill of the chase as more powerful than the life of devotion.  How often do we hear about marriages breaking up because a spouse was bored or wanted to have some of the early romantic thrill of courtship and conquest?

But we know that this is an immature view.  This perspective assumes that the audience will not grow and mature along with the characters.  We also know that it is not a particularly heroic view.

Staying with your spouse in good times and in bad is quite a heroic thing in this day and age.  It is not something that young people find unrelatable.  Many of them see this in their own homes with a loving mom and dad.  And even if they don't, it is still the ideal to which most of them aspire.  So why not have our heroes not only be role models of valor but also of fidelity?

Some of the most enjoyable comics I've read in years has been Peter Tomasi's run on Superman, where we see Clark and Lois raise their son to be the hero he is destined to be.  Modern writers who are afraid of marriage should look to Tomasi for how to write a superhero marriage with heart and excitement.

Too many writers see marriages as the end of the story.  But they are wrong.  To a good writer, it is the beginning of the great adventure.

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