Marvel 75th Anniversary

Chart 75 Years of Romance in the Marvel Universe—Does Love Conquer All?

From Reed and Sue to Luke and Jessica plus everybody in between, take a look back at over seven decades of love and loss!

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From the tender travails of Timely upstart MILLIE THE MODEL to the cerebral liaisons of Legion and Blindfold, love springs eternal in the pages of Marvel Comics.

Though some may balk at the very notion of “kissing books,” longtime readers know that romance churns at the very heart of adventure; that a heady rush of pheromones ferments between flesh and spandex like nowhere else in the known world. Try as they might, the privates entrenched on love’s battlefield can hardly hide their longing—even with a carefully placed Hawkeye head—for dedicated teammates, for some time enemies, for the boy or girl next door. Our heroes pair off early, sometimes often. They form tragic triangles. They build empires. They win at love and just as often lose.

This Valentine’s Day, we celebrate the many loves of Marvel.

Prolific Peter Parker—aka Spider-Man—got friendly with much of the neighborhood, as young writer Stan Lee transitioned from traditional romance comics to the universal concerns of the hot-blooded American teenager. Peter found himself bitten not just by a radioactive spider. He first flirted with Betty Brant at the Daily Bugle before a tragic romance with Gwen Stacy ended in the girl’s death. That loss, mingled with the earlier murder of his uncle, continues to inform Peter’s mission. All the while, his Aunt May labored to orchestrate an introduction between her nephew and Mary Jane Watson, the emerald-eyed starlet who came to catch the tiger by the tail. Peter and MJ eventually married, ushering comics’ most eligible—if consistently penniless—bachelor to a new epoch of steadfast adulthood. This fairytale union dissolved in the only way it could: through the shearing of reality’s very fabric by cruel Mephisto. MJ agreed to sacrifice all history and memory of their bond in return for Aunt May’s life and Peter’s opportunity to find hew happiness, resulting in as devastating tabula rasa as ever swept clean.

Brian Michael Bendis’ and Mark Bagley’s ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN saw a return to Peter’s period of teenage longing and romantic exploration for a new generation, even pairing him with the mutant Kitty Pryde for a time.

Daredevil might represent an even darker side of New York’s singles scene, blindly hurtling from one doomed dalliance to the next. Matt Murdock nearly lost his former secretary and one-time love interest Karen Page to drug addiction, betrayal, a deadly pornography ring, and an HIV diagnosis, before ultimately failing to protect her from the murderous Bullseye. Matt’s heartbreakingly succinct and resigned eulogy at Karen’s wake stands out as a sobering coda to a troubled love story, and to the collateral damage so often wrought but rarely appreciated by our caped heroes. Prior to those events, Frank Miller cast the Man Without Fear alongside the assassin Elektra in what has become Marvel’s quintessential Greek tragedy; a wound routinely salted with her every return to his journey.

Some love simply fades, dimming rather than burning out in a dramatic display. Though the lingering trauma of Skrull abduction and the archer’s man-child behavior likely contribute in some way, Bobbi “Mockingbird” Morse never quite recaptured that old magic with “Hawkeye” Clint Barton after her return. The two remain divorced, though they share the occasional clandestine S.H.I.E.L.D. field operation. Bobbi stuck the landing into post-marriage life, though Hawkeye’s quiver lacks Cupid’s surefire punch, leaving his flirtation with Spider-Woman as complicated as it probably ought to be. Jessica Drew see-saws over a relationship she knows bears the weight of two fully-stocked Samsonite warehouses.

Ororo Munroe, known to the world as Storm, united mutant Utopia with the African superpower of Wakanda when she wed stoic Black Panther T’Challa amidst the throes of Civil War. The marriage came as a surprise to many, but none were caught nearly as unaware as Storm when her husband announced he annulled their marriage in the wake of a fiery conflict between the Avengers and X-Men. She ultimately turned to her longtime comrade Wolverine, finding a warm partnership built on years of friendship.

Wolverine, of course, arrived at this mature relationship only after decades of torrid affairs. Some consider Mariko Yashida his truest, most profound love. Her soul currently resides in Hell, incidentally the locale of their most recent reunion. Still, the relationship that defines Logan’s role in the X-Men continues to undoubtedly be his affection for Jean Grey and his place in that sordid triangle with her eventual husband Cyclops. In the years following Jean’s death, Scott Summers became involved with the X-Men’s former adversary Emma Frost, a relationship continually tested by erratic ambitions from either side. For his part, Logan built and named a school for Jean.

Mutants prove particularly unlucky in love. The same romance with Colossus that sent Kitty Pryde phasing through floors itself turned intangible when Piotr’s near-nihilistic penchant for self-sacrifice drove her away. 

Fantastic Four Annual (1963) #3

FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL #3 COVER
Not every romance ends in tears, of course. Some relationships stand the test of time. Sue Storm and Reed Richards’ early bickering quickly evolved into the bedrock union of the Marvel Universe. Their marriage remains at the center of Marvel’s First Family, weathering the upheaval of Civil War and the advances of lusty Atlantean Prince Namor.

Alpha Flight and X-Men stalwart Northstar wed his civilian partner Kyle when New York City—home to throngs of super-heroes—legalized marriage equality. Their happiness endures, tempered only by the strain felt by any couple where one’s vocation demands running toward danger.

Luke Cage and Jessica Jones found each other in their time as disillusioned heroes fighting the good fight closer to the pavement. They married and conceived a child, Luke pursuing opportunities as an Avenger and the new handler for a Thunderbolts unit while Jessica distanced herself even further from her previous life as the Avenger called Jewel. With the arrival of their daughter Danielle, Luke, too, considered stepping back from reckless adventure, only to rally again with Thanos’ arrival on an unprecedentedly vulnerable Earth.

It’s worth examining the aforementioned Mad Titan’s efforts in love as well. Blackhearted Thanos plundered whole worlds, sundered the very cosmos in the name of his unrequited ardor. Unfortunately, the dour lady Death never returned his affection, no matter how high he heaped the corpses, no matter how many rings—or Infinity gems—he put on it. Equally sinister Morgan Le Fay shared something like a romance with a time-traveling Doctor Doom, proving one of Marvel’s deadliest, unholiest flings.

Strange as those villainous pairings might seem, love arises in the most curious of places between the unlikeliest of partners. Professor Charles Xavier carried on the ultimate star-crossed, long-distance romance with the extraterrestrial Shi’ar warrior called Lilandra. His son David found companionship with the precog Blindfold, now the only person in the world to remember his existence after he sacrificed himself for a people that always shunned him. The mutant sorceress Wanda Maximoff wed the android Vision, a pairing that resulted in unlikely offspring.

Reality, of course, never stops shuffling, least of all in the Marvel Universe. Love changes like a Skrull sleeper agent in the night just as often as it persists against all odds. That’s the gamble. That’s the potential to feel love’s sting in pursuit of its caress. But as Tennyson wrote, “'Tis better to have loved and lost / Than never to have loved at all.”

Nuff said, Lord Alfie. Nuff said.

All year-long, keep your eyes on marvel.com/75 for the latest videos, podcasts, galleries, retrospectives and more celebrating Marvel’s 75th anniversary!

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Comments

8 comments
Chiko.21
Chiko.21

What??

..... I can't believe you didn´t even mention  Rogue & Gambit! They are like the Romeo & Juliet of comics!!!

flcouceiro
flcouceiro

What about Hank and Janet, probably the oldest and most troubled couple of them all?

legohulkthorsmash
legohulkthorsmash

what about how deadpool is getting married? you forgot to mention that.

ThadeuBR
ThadeuBR member

You guys didn´t mention the best couple in Marvel: Gambit and Rogue

Donkeljohn
Donkeljohn member

Woah, woah, woah! When did Scott tie the know with Emma? I don't remember that happening.


"In the years following Jean’s death, Scott Summers married the X-Men’s former adversary Emma Frost, a relationship continually tested by erratic ambitions from either side."