Hard-Traveling Fanboys: Countdown (Favorite Comic Book Couples)

Mild-mannered reporters by day, Greg:  and Nick:  share an intense love of comic books that has made them the Hard-Traveling Fanboys. And if there’s anything that fanboys love, it’s debating what book is better than another book or which character is “cooler.” Enter Countdown, a monthly column where Greg and Nick will give a top five list and debate the merits therein.

Nick: Welcome, PTB readers, to a very special Valentine’s Day edition of Countdown.

Greg: Ah, Valentine’s Day. Love (or, in the case of many single folks, intense bitterness) is in the air, flower shops are finally turning a profit and television shows are turning on the mushiness.

Nick: In honor of the not-at-all commercially driven holiday, we’re taking a look at our favorite romantic relationships in comics.

Greg: That’s right. Hollywood doesn’t have a monopoly on iconic romantic relationships in American mythology. Many of the best, most believable romances have developed in the four-color world of comics. And to celebrate such a special day, we’ve even brought along a very special guest who has likely read more comics than either of us. Stay tuned, and you will be rewarded, loyal readers.

Nick: With that said, let’s get this thing underway. Greg, care to get it started?

Greg’s No. 5: Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon


Nick: Ah, yes, the most popular Bat sidekicks were once an item, and many fans have wondered why DC didn’t pull the trigger on a more permanent Dick and Barbara relationship.

Greg: I should probably divulge that Nightwing (Dick Grayson) is my favorite comic book superhero, so I’m clearly biased. And certainly, Mr. Grayson has dealt with his fair share of females through the years — from Starfire to the Huntress. However, none of his relationships struck quite the chord with me that this one did. Perhaps my opinion would be different had I grown up reading the George Perez/Marv Wolfman New Teen Titans, but for me, the teenage attraction between the then-Robin and Batgirl seemed a natural fit from day one.

It made sense that these two attractive teenagers would find each other irresistible, and it made just as much sense that one or both of them kept screwing it up. Yet no matter how many dumb mistakes Dick made, or how many changes of heart Babs had, they seemed to always come together in the end. Even more fascinating than their relationship as crimefighters, however, was seeing the effects “The Killing Joke” had on their dynamic.

Dick and Babs have been through a lot together.
Dick and Babs have been through a lot together.

A part of me will always prefer Babs as Oracle, because that was her role for the vast majority of my reading experience. And writers like Gail Simone and Chuck Dixon handled her relationship with Dick even more maturely once Barbara was bound to a wheelchair. Of all the relationships on this list, perhaps none represented the ability of love to overcome obstacles better than this one. Of course, they didn’t end up together, but in my “head canon” I will always ‘ship these two.

Nick: I remember a very poignant moment from Peter Tomasi’s Nightwing run where Dick took the still-wheelchair-bound Barbara skydiving for her birthday, even though they weren’t together anymore. Like you, I feel like the dynamic was almost enhanced after Barbara’s injury. It was just a great example of how to handle a dynamic-shifting creative decision like Barbara’s spinal injury.

The last scene of Nightwing's pre-New 52 solo title.
The last scene of Nightwing’s pre-New 52 solo title.

Nick’s No. 5: Luke Cage and Jessica Jones


Nick: While there are plenty of relationships that have been along longer than this one, there are few that were birthed from as complicated and conflicted a beginning as this one. After years of psychological torture and emotional abuse at the hands of the Purple Man, Jessica and Luke formed a friendship while she was at her most vulnerable. The Purple Man had warped Jessica’s thoughts and desires, making it difficult for Jessica to be comfortable with being intimate with anyone.   But, her friendship with Luke eventually became something more, as the two had a long-standing off-and-on affair. In somewhat of a controversy, the first issue of Alias featured a sex scene between the two that seemed to suggest they were having sex in a very uncomfortable place (no, not the back of a Volkswagen). An Alabama-based printer even refused to print the comic based on the “offensive” nature of the material.

Greg: My beloved home state censoring something? Perish the thought.

A controversial scene, to say the very least.
A controversial scene, to say the very least.

Nick: Anyway, after months of “will they or won’t they,” the two admitted their feelings for one another. Soon, Jessica was pregnant with Luke’s child and the two decided to begin a committed relationship. Since then, the two have been married, and like a real marriage, there have been ups and downs. However, the two characters have stood by each other through thick and thin and always held their family as the most important thing in their lives. Comics have a tendency to be scared away from marriages as an editorial decision, but this is one that has worked from the get go. I, for one, can’t wait to see it brought to the small screen as part of the Marvel-Netflix deal.

Shockingly to some executives, the characters remained popular even after marriage and a child.
Shockingly to some executives, the characters remained popular even after marriage and a child.

Greg: I think certain publishers should learn that lesson — comic book marriages can work and do not inherently damage the characters involved.

Nick: Indeed. If comics are meant to reflect a bit of realism in terms of interactions between characters, then why would it not make sense for characters to make the ultimate commitment after a long enough relationship? I think writers are scared off by permanent relationships and the risk of things becoming monotonous, but I would suggest that marriages don’t have to be sunshine and rainbows all the time. There are ups and downs, and I would love to see publishers make a more concerted effort at displaying that. And by publishers, I mean DC Comics.

Greg’s No. 4: Rogue and Gambit


Nick: Rogue’s had her share of partners over the year, but none strike an emotional chord quite like everyone’s favorite Cajun in comics, Gambit.

Greg: This is the all-time classic comics example of a good girl falling for a bad boy, and said bad boy’s path to redemption. When we first met Gambit, he was a thief, and a pretty unrepentant one at that. Even after joining the X-Men, there was an air of distrust — his of the team and the team’s of him. There were certainly ample opportunities for Gambit to abandon or betray the team for his own benefit, but one person kept him coming back — Rogue.

Nick: I’ll admit my X-knowledge is pretty limited, but this relationship has been touched on in a variety of different mediums over the years, and it always seemed to work for me.

Greg: Looking past the surface, though, Rogue likely saw a lot of herself in Gambit. She was, after all, a redeemed former villain who also had to overcome the distrust of the superhero community after what she did to Carol Danvers (stealing her powers and persona). So while some of her teammates looked for any opportunity to blame Gambit for the team’s troubles, Rogue saw past his hard exterior to find the spirit that makes him a hero.

See? Heart of gold.
See? Heart of gold.

Certainly, this is also one of comics’ most tumultuous relationships. They’ve dated off and on for more than 20 years, abandoned each other, turned on each other and gone through other partners. But these two simply belong together, in this fanboy’s humble opinion. Perhaps (read: undeniably) my opinion is colored by the classic 1990s X-Men cartoon, which did a wonderful job of organically building their love for each other. One of my favorite moments from the show was Gambit finally overcoming his macho pride and admitting that he loves Rogue. And, it should be noted, Rogue is someone Gambit can’t afford to be a jerk to, given the fact that she is capable of thrashing him at a moment’s notice. It’s a good dynamic.

Nick’s No. 4: Hal Jordan and Carol Ferris


Nick: There are tons of complicated histories in comics, but few are quite as strange as that of Carol Ferris. Originally, she was Hal’s boss’ daughter and later his boss. The two had an off-and-on relationship in the early days of silver age Green Lantern, with the somewhat expected twist of Carol being madly in love with GL, yet somewhat lukewarm on Hal. Eventually, Carol was possessed by a galactic entity known as the Predator, turning her into Star Sapphire, one of Green Lantern’s oldest foes. Eventually, Hal helped to separate her from the Star Sapphire persona, but the two still did not enter into a committed relationship.

When your significant other says, "I love you," an appropriate response is never "I'm glad." Love tip from the Hard-Traveling Fanboys.
When your significant other says, “I love you,” an appropriate response is never “I’m glad.” Love tip from the Hard-Traveling Fanboys.

When Geoff Johns resurrected Hal in the mid-2000s, he also resurrected the Hal-Carol dynamic. Carol had gotten married in the years since Hal’s death, adding a whole new level of complicated to the relationship. Hal eventually began dating a fellow Ferris Air pilot, but it was clear that Hal and Carol still had eyes for each other. During the lead up to Blackest Night, Carol regained her Star Sapphire ring, minus the whole “maniacal, murdering shedevil” thing. She became one of Green Lantern’s closest allies, and soon her successes as a superhero led to the resurrection of Hal and Carol’s relationship. The two stayed together until the end of Geoff Johns’ run on GL, with the now-classic GL #20 featuring an epilogue which saw the two characters older, married and still madly in love with one another. There have been years of complications between the two (including the current problem of Carol leaving Hal to chase Kyle Rayner across the galaxy), but no matter what happened, it always seemed like the two were meant to be together. Carol is admittedly a bit more abrasive than most comic heroines, but somebody has to be around to put Hal in his place from time to time.

Greg: This is a great selection, one that I considered strongly for my list. As you alluded above, it’s Carol’s personality that makes her a perfect match for Hal, and vice versa. Hal’s arrogance and stubbornness has gotten in his way numerous times through the years, but the same is true of Carol. Strangely enough, their relationship is arguably more engaging when they’re fighting than when they’re at peace. Despite the sometimes adversarial conversations, though, their love shines through and forms one of the benchmarks of Green Lantern lore.

Nick: Well said, sir. Although, in my head, that epilogue ending of the two settling into aged suburban bliss will always be the true ending for those characters.

A touching panel from Green Lantern #20 (2013)
A touching panel from Green Lantern #20 (2013)

Greg: The same holds true for me. It was a perfect ending, and frankly it’d be more innovative at this point to show them actually holding a somewhat steady and happy relationship rather than constantly breaking up.

Nick: Or Carol running off to chase that bastard ‘90s creation!

Greg: Uh-oh! I better change the subject…

Greg’s No. 3: Wally West and Linda Park

flash linda park

Nick: Like you with Luke and Jessica, I haven’t the slightest clue about these two, so I’ll defer to you.

Greg: Since I was born in 1984, Wally West was the Flash to me. By the time I started reading DC Comics publications regularly, Wally was beginning to carve out his own rich history of Flash stories, and along for the ride was one of William Messner-Loebs’ greatest creations: Linda Park.

Wally and Linda had a relationship that truly blossomed before our eyes, primarily because of the writing of Mark Waid. Wally grew, through the course of a little more than a decade, from an immature playboy to a serious family man, a transition rarely (if ever) seen in mainstream comics. Along the way, Waid (and, later, Geoff Johns) created exactly what we’d like to see from modern DC Comics — a realistic marriage, complete with ups and downs, trials and tribulations and, above all, a commitment to make things work. Wally went through absolute hell, but so did Linda. And they came out the other side better people who loved each other more than ever. Wally spent so much time trying to escape Barry Allen’s shadow, and Linda is the one person who, more than any other, helped him realize his own identity.

The fastest wedding ceremony alive.
The fastest wedding ceremony alive.

One of the most poignant stories I’ve ever read in DC Comics was the long saga of Hunter Zolomon and the effects his actions had on Wally and Linda. Scott Kolins and Johns did a beautiful job conveying the emotions couples face as they deal with tragic loss, pregnancy and the ramifications of a superhero without a secret identity.   And in the end, unlike so many superhero couples, Wally and Linda truly got a happy ending. It’s something unlikely to be repeated in superhero comics among popular characters, and unlikely to follow Wally when he’s reintroduced in the New 52.

Nick’s No. 3: Green Arrow and Black Canary


Nick: While we’ve used the real names of most of these characters, I chose to use the costumed names of Oliver Queen and Dinah Lance simply because of the profound impact that superheroism had on their relationship. The two characters found each other after Dinah moved to Earth-One from Earth-Two. She did this in hopes for a fresh start after her husband, Larry Lance was killed. Through the Justice League, she eventually met Ollie, and the two began a flirtation that lasted quite some time. Once she felt like she could finally move on Larry’s memory, she and Oliver became a full-time item, complete with the requisite on-again, off-again structure found so often in superhero comics.

Greg: And then, as things often do in comics, things got more convoluted (You see, Dinah was actually the daughter of the original Black Canary and had been stuck in suspended animation, because comics). Thankfully, Crisis on Infinite Earths helped consolidate things, making Dinah Laurel Lance a distinctive character.

Nick: Green Arrow was soon put under the watchful eye of Mike Grell, who chose to use the relationship as he redefined Green Arrow for a more adult audience. Part of that more adult direction included Ollie seeking out a serial killer. Dinah was on the case as well, however, and was eventually kidnapped, tortured and nearly killed by the “Seattle Slasher.” Her recovery takes up a large portion of Grell’s outstanding GA ongoing, and he brings the two characters closer than ever.   Eventually, as many characters do, Oliver meets his death and Dinah is forced to go on alone. Ollie would eventually return in Kevin Smith’s relaunch of Green Arrow, and one of Smith’s first acts was to restore the Arrow and Canary relationship. From there, the two were eventually married and divorced, and now have no known relationship in the New 52. I’m not one who wants the New 52 to retread the same old material, but here’s hoping Ollie will have his “pretty bird” by his side again one day. Oliver can be a bit grating to a lot of people, but Dinah’s always seen through his abrasive facade to the man underneath.

Ollie and Dinah eventually tied the knot.
Ollie and Dinah eventually tied the knot.

Greg: Importantly, Black Canary has been one of the strongest (from a character, not powers, standpoint) female characters in all of comics for the better part of three decades. She’s a natural leader, a top-notch hand-to-hand fighter and well respected for her intelligence and compassion. In other words, she’s a lot of things Ollie isn’t. Their dynamic has stood the test of time, largely because these two are almost an inverse of the stereotypical comic book relationship. Many times, Canary has been the one leaving Ollie flat on his butt after an argument or decided, on her own, to pursue other romantic avenues. Plus, like Rogue and Gambit, Arrow and Canary had an acclaimed cartoon (“Justice League Unlimited”) that did a great job showing their relationship.

Nick: Yep, and while the current “Arrow” television series is taking a different approach to the dynamic, we’ve already seen that Green Arrow and Black Canary can’t help but be involved with one another, no matter who’s under the respective masks.

Greg’s No. 2: Batman and Catwoman


Nick: Hey, that’s my painting!

Nick’s No. 2: Batman and Catwoman


Greg: Great minds think alike. I mean, that doesn’t apply to us, but it’s still true.

I can already see some handwringing from the types who prefer other Bruce Wayne love interests — Talia al Ghul, Silver St. Cloud, even Wonder Woman. But there has never been a doubt in my mind, from age 8 onward, who belongs with the Bat.

This relationship is defined by their codenames. In many ways, Bruce is his costume, and Selina Kyle is hers. While some believe they should maintain an antagonistic relationship, most modern stories (since the early ’80s, really) have gone in the opposite direction. Though Selina is a thief and every inclination Batman has points to him bringing her to justice, he can never really do it, because everything she says and does is alluring to him. Likewise, it would be easy for Selina to fall in with Gotham’s seedier types, but something about Batman pierces her soul and makes her want to protect him from harm. And deep down, Selina is a good person, something Bruce recognizes, even if his partners often don’t.

"Well, maybe a little."
“Well, maybe a little.”

From Dough Moench to Jeph Loeb, from Paul Dini to Geoff Johns, so many great Batman writers have explored this relationship and, while they may never truly get to ride off into the sunset together (though they did on Earth 2), this is consistently among the most interesting and believable of superhero relationships.

My favorite moment of the story that brought me back to comics, Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee’s “Hush,” is Bruce’s unmasking in front of Selina. It’s an incredibly touching scene for a longtime fan of the two characters, as Bruce finally shows Selina the ultimate trust. Dini’s “Heart of Hush” is another story that illustrates the immortal connection between these two comic book icons.

One of the biggest moments in “Hush.”

Nick: There are so many reasons these two characters are perfect together, but I’ll try to state it simply. Bruce, no matter how much he may try, will always be more Batman than he is Bruce Wayne. That imbalanced duality has presented problems for him in essentially every other relationship he has. Vicki Vale, Silver St. Cloud and other love interests often want Bruce, but aren’t overly fond of Batman. Similarly, Bruce may care for these women, but his Batman persona isn’t intrigued by them and doesn’t have time to let them get in the way. Talia al Ghul, meanwhile, only is interested in Batman, who she considers to be Bruce’s true self. The Bruce Wayne side of his personality has no use to her, and it’s needless to say that Bruce would have a hard time explaining a terrorist’s daughter as his love interest while he was leading a major global corporation.

Selina Kyle, however, presents the perfect balance for Bruce. Her career as Catwoman provides the two a commonality that no one else can offer Bruce. She’s every bit his equal in so many areas, and close enough in others that he can’t fool her or keep her out if she truly wants in. Sure, there’s the whole cat burglar thing, but we’ve long since accepted Catwoman as more of antihero than a true villain. Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee gave the pairing a shot in their “Hush,” and the relationship was overwhelmingly effective. Paul Dini’s subsequent Hush follow-ups also included the pairing as a key element, and it was in those stories that we saw just how important Selina is to Bruce. When Hush wanted the best way to strike at Bruce’s heart, he went after Selina. I know that it’s unlikely Batman will ever have a true long-term love interest, but Catwoman is by far the best choice. While Bruce is very skilled at keeping himself emotionally isolated, Selina has always had a hold on him that he can’t quite shake. And sure, in Earth 2, the two characters did eventually find true love in one another’s arms, but maybe there’s still hope for their primary Earth counterparts as well.

Bruce's love for Selina was never more clear than in "Heart of Hush."
Bruce’s love for Selina was never more clear than in “Heart of Hush.”

Greg: When I think of these two, a scene from one of my favorite movies comes to mind. “I got gaps, she’s got gaps. Together, we fill gaps.”

Nick: Much like Bruce filled Selina’s gap in the first issue of New 52 Catwoman!

Perhaps a bit much.

I kid, I kid. I really love that scene in “Heart of Hush” where Bruce first arrives at Hush’s demented hospital. Selina is incapacitated, but you can really see and feel Bruce’s desperation in every panel. You almost got the sense that the incident was far more personal and harrowing to Bruce than Jason Todd’s death or any of the other times he had to save his allies.

Greg: The pages were beautifully rendered by Dustin Nguyen, and yeah, the emotion dripped off every panel.

Nick: With that, we reach our respective number ones, and it’s fitting that they are perhaps the most iconic relationships from the two biggest publishers.

Greg’s No. 1: Lois Lane and Clark Kent


Nick: I know a little about Clark and Lois, but I can’t compare to you in knowledge of the Big Blue Boy Scout. The floor is all yours, sir.

Greg: All right, diehard fans of the New 52 Superman-Wonder Woman relationship (which is fine for the time being) or Clark-Lana ‘shippers, you’re going to have to bear with me as I explain to you why there’s only one woman for Clark Kent and only one man for Lois Lane.

Since about the time of Superman’s inception, Lois Lane has been there, as both a professional thorn in the side of Clark Kent and a romantic interest of Superman. This dynamic changed in the 1980s and ’90s, with Lois and Clark finally settling down together and eventually marrying. While Lana Lang provided a quaint, down-home female presence in Clark’s life, and while Wonder Woman presented a hero equal to his own stature, Lois is always going to be the one most interesting to Kal-El because she is, for better or worse, the most human. Lois is strong, smart and compassionate. But she’s also hot-headed, vengeful and often overbearingly arrogant.

On a date, never lead with this move. Hard-Traveling love tip.
On a date, never lead with this move. Another Hard-Traveling love tip.

To Superman, a god among mortals who wants to walk among us, that dichotomy is utterly fascinating. Lois challenges Clark intellectually and ethically, and the best relationships are often built on challenges. By the same token, Clark challenges Lois to better herself. This is a man and a woman shaped by their experiences with one another. While each will go through passing flings (remember Jeb Friedman?), they will inevitably be drawn back together. Their professional rivalry adds another combustible element to the relationship, especially given Clark’s natural advantages in terms of quickly covering stories. Yet, much to his surprise, Lois tends to beat him to the punch and, even he admits, is a better reporter.

Throughout mythology, the most intriguing romantic stories are when gods mate with humans, especially when the humans turn out to be as strong as Lois Lane. Plus, I’d argue no relationship has been better realized in other media than this one — Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder, Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher, Tom Welling and Erica Durance, Henry Cavil and Amy Adams, and the various animated versions.

Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher
Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher

Nick: You and your Dean Cain. It’s a bizarre fascination.

Greg: Hey, that show may have had flaws, but one thing it got right was the Lois-Clark relationship. Cain had a lot to do with that!   One of my favorite splash pages in all of comics was the two-page splash at the end of Superman #75, illustrated brilliantly by Dan Jurgens. It shows the torment Lois feels as she cradles her dead husband. And yet, perhaps my favorite Lois-and-Clark page occurs earlier in the issue. As Superman gets ready for one last charge at Doomsday, Lois tries to talk him out of it. She’s scared. She knows what is going to happen, and so does he. He stops, amid all the chaos, to kiss her for what both believe may be the final time. It’s a beautiful shot, and it’s my favorite Dan Jurgens page.


Nick’s No. 1: Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson


Greg: Arguably Marvel’s most iconic couple, though I have to confess I wasn’t a big MJ fan. I always favored the less popular/obvious pairings, like Wolverine and Jean Grey, or Spider-Man and the Black Cat. Still, even I can recognize the importance and longevity of this couple. Great writers like Gerry Conway, David Michelinie and J.M. DeMatteis put their own stamps on this coupling, and their marriage was one of the biggest events of its era.

Nick: Now, as anyone who has read our Secret Origins knows, it’s the Ultimate version of this relationship that I’m most fond of. However, I’m also a big fan of the 616 version, and I’ll do my best to touch on that one first. Long the girl next door, Mary Jane was not Peter’s first love interest. As we all know, Gwen Stacy was Pete’s first, and some still argue true, love. However, after Gwen’s death, Peter had a long road to recovery that featured a number of potential new girlfriends. However, he never truly “hit the jackpot” until Mary Jane and he became an item.

One of the most important pages in Spidey's history.
One of the most important pages in Spidey’s history.

While some say having a lowly photographer/college student date a supermodel might be a bit unrealistic, it’s important to remember they came from similar neighborhoods. Once they did get together, it was clear that Mary Jane was one of the only women willing to put up with the numerous obstacles that Pete’s double life threw in the way of the relationship.   But perhaps my favorite aspect of the relationship is the way it grew over time. It grew naturally until the couple became husband and wife. For years, it was the best marriage in comics, with the challenges and sheer joy of marriage both depicted in outstanding form. The two grew closer and fell apart, and yet had an undying devotion to each other that always left them stronger in the end.

Greg: It was also a neat relationship in that it was one of the most prominent examples of a romantic interest discovering a hero’s identity and not only being (mostly) OK with it, but learning to love that side of his or her persona as well.

Nick: It was that devotion, in fact, that led to their marriage’s end, as the marriage was … erased from existence by the demon Mephisto in exchange for the life of Aunt May. Now, I could go on for days about how Marvel’s decision to not only remove the marriage, but RETCON IT OUT OF EXISTENCE, is one of the most short-sighted and lazy decisions in recent memory. However, I choose to remember the pairing as it was, and as it hopefully will be one day again.

Surprisingly, the characters remained popular after marriage.
Surprisingly, the characters remained popular after marriage.

In the Ultimate U, the hallmark of Ultimate Spider-Man was its realistic teen dialogue and interactions, complete with overly dramatic teen relationships. Constant breakups and pining is what teenagers are all about, and Brian Michael Bendis certainly gave Peter and MJ a heavy dose of that. However, there are those rare teen couples that actually wind up together, and Bendis constantly kept that belief alive that Peter and MJ could defy the odds. MJ’s home life was as tragic as Peter’s, albeit in a different form, and Peter stood by her every step of the way through her father’s abuse and her parents’ eventual divorce. In the end, Peter died in Mary Jane’s arms, with her clutching his dead body serving as perhaps the series’ most heart-wrenching moment. And Mary Jane dealt with Peter’s death in perhaps the least healthy way of any of his friends or family, throwing herself into investigating what she believed to be a conspiracy behind his death. These two never got to finish their story, and that abrupt end affects Ultimate Mary Jane to this day.

But no matter the incarnation, the relationship is notable for Mary Jane’s undying love for Peter, no matter how badly he may screw up at times. Peter totally outkicked his coverage when he landed Mary Jane, and he’s always kind of known it. Hopefully one day we’ll get to see these two reunited. Peter’s returning from the dead in the 616 universe, so maybe the book isn’t closed on these two quite yet.

Greg:  Peter’s had romantic forays with everyone from Betty Brant to Felicia Hardy. Yet his love for MJ shines through and ends up back at the forefront. There’s something to be said for loyalty, and it’s hard to find someone more loyal than MJ is to Peter, no matter how many times he screws up.

Another incredible, timeless comic book page.
Another incredible, timeless comic book page.

Nick: If only (former Marvel editor-in-chief) Joey Q had the same loyalty to Peter and MJ as they had to each other.

Greg: Hey, my top couple got their marriage retconned out of existence too. What do you know?

Nick: Here’s a crazy concept that the big two should probably be aware of: MARRIED PEOPLE READ COMICS, TOO.

Greg: I don’t know of any.

Nick: Sure, marriages are challenging to write, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth writing. Comics should represent all walks of life in some form or fashion, and right now there’s a significant shortage in married comics couples.

Greg:  If things are difficult, they aren’t to be tried. I learned that from my friend Homer. The Simpson, not the Greek playwright.

Nick: But, that’s neither here nor there. Something that is here, however, is the esteemed Ben Morse.

Greg: That’s right. In light of St. Valentine’s Day, we’re sharing … the love … here in Countdown. Ben is the author of the Five Count here on Place to Be Nation, and he’s also the editor of a little website you might have heard of, Marvel.com.

Nick: Ben’s here to give us his five favorite romances in comic history, so we’ll turn it over to him at this point.

Ben: Thanks for letting me be a part of this, guys!

Ben’s No. 5: Yorick Brown and Agent 355


Ben: Y: The Last Man is many things, and to try to distill it down to a single aspect or even a few would be foolish, but I always connected with the idea that it was a love story between two people who didn’t realize they were in love. It takes Yorick 60 issues of chasing the wrong girl around the world to realize the woman for him had been standing there getting his back the whole time.

They don’t get the fairy tale ending, but what unfolds between Yorick and 355 feels so organic so natural; a big part of that is the brilliant writing of Brian K. Vaughan and equally adept storytelling of Pia Guerra, but I do think somewhere along the way the characters took on a life of their own, and it’s a poignant and beautiful one.

Ben’s No. 4: Kitty Pryde and Colossus

Colossus and Kitty

Ben: To be honest, this one’s actually a bit creepy if you go back and read those early stories and see just how young Kitty was, but I think the fact that it overcomes that initial inappropriateness is a big reason why it makes the list for me. I think most of us have been there when it comes to schoolgirl or schoolboy crushes we probably should not have had; Kitty Pryde was the next evolution of “point of view characters” after Robin and Spider-Man, so it made sense to experience this through her. Colossus was a bit of a cipher for a lot of years, but because Kitty liked him, so did we (or hated him if you were one of those guys who grew up crushing on her; before my time).

The stories that stand out for me are the early ’80s one where they’re fighting the Brood and think they’re going to die but decide not to have sex just because of that, and then of course Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s run on Astonishing X-Men where said sex finally feels earned because of the massive sacrifices each is willing to make for the other. Part of what makes this one great has been watching them grow together and their relationship go from awkward to touching.

Ben’s No. 3: Nova and Namorita


Ben: Growing up, my favorite comic was New Warriors, and Nova was—and still is—my very favorite character. If you liked the Warriors, you generally got behind one of two romantic pairings: Firestar and Justice or Nova and Namorita (I’m sure some people liked Night Thrasher and Silhouette or Speedball and Timeslip, but I’ve yet to meet them). If New Warriors was high school, Vance and Angel were the prom king and queen, but Rich and Nita were the wiseasses you wanted to hang out with.

Nova is my favorite character because he’s “my” Peter Parker: I can relate to him more than I can Spidey because he’s not the smartest guy or the most popular, but he’s also not society’s doormat; he’s just an average dude doing his best. Seeing him end up with Namorita, the “hot girl” of the Warriors, was a weird sort of validation, I guess? I don’t know, there were a lot of mixed up adolescent factors mixed in, but 20 years later, whether through nostalgia or whatever, I still love this pairing.

Ben’s No. 2: The Scarlet Witch and The Vision


Ben: I didn’t become an avid Avengers reader until a ways into my fandom, and by that time Vision and Scarlet Witch’s romance had long since been blown up, but just by reading about it in back issues and flashbacks, I became pretty enamored of their bond. Where else in comics do you find a relationship between a mutant gypsy and an android that stands in as a metaphor for mixed race couple and tolerance through love—and does so effectively?

I know some newer fans—not all, but some—find the idea of a bombshell like the Scarlet Witch falling in love with a “robot” to be creepy, but in my humble opinion, they just don’t get it. As one of the few female members of the Avengers for years, Wanda had everybody from Hawkeye to Wonder Man pining after her, but rather than bow to society’s conventions, she chose the quiet guy in the corner who had trouble expressing his feelings but cared for her more deeply than anybody. Comics, right?

Ben’s No. 1: The Flash (Wally West) and Linda Park


Ben: The thing is, as you can see from my other picks, I generally tend to dig hero-on-hero romances, where the couples meet “on the job” and you see them progress from colleagues to more, but hands down my favorite romance in the history of comics has been for years and remains Wally West—The Flash—and Linda Park.

The Mark Waid-written Flash #100 stands the test of time for me as the best love story comic I’ve ever read. You’ve got Linda losing it because Wally has disappeared into the Speed Force, but it doesn’t stop her from standing up to super terrorist Kobra—despite her lack of powers or really any fighting skills whatsoever—in defiance just in time for the awesome splash page of angry lightning-body Wally making his triumphant return and beating down the bad guy for messing with his girl before vanishing once more. As the rest of Team Flash discusses what do now, Linda quietly wanders over the next hill into the arms of a waiting Wally, who reveals that even though no speedster has ever been able to escape the Speed Force, their love proved a strong enough tether for him to find his way back.

What always made Wally and Linda stand out for me had to be that even though he had the costume and the powers, it never felt like she sat at home as the damsel in distress. They always treated each other like equals and provided mutual support; their relationship worked how any good real world one should. If ever I looked to any comic book couple as a role model for how I wanted to be as a boyfriend and husband (and don’t tell my wife that I ever did), it would have to be Linda and Wally.

Nick: Well, that does it for this month’s Countdown. We want to send a huge thanks out to Ben for sharing his thoughts. Greg, tell the people what’s coming up next week.

Greg: We’ll be right back on your computer monitors, tablet screens and smartphone displays with another edition of The Longbook Hunters. This time, we’ll be examining Brad Meltzer and Rags Morales’ 2003 DC mystery “Identity Crisis.”

Nick: Looking forward to it. In the meantime, hit us up at GregP@placetobenation.com or NickD@placetobenation, or contact us on the PTB Facebook page or on Twitter (@gphillips8652 and @nickduke87) for any feedback you want to send our way. Thanks for stopping by!

Greg: And in closing, we leave you with a fitting quote.

For hearts long lost and full of fright,

For those alone in Blackest Night.

Accept our ring and join our fight,

Love conquers all with violet light!