Often times I ask myself why so many comic book couples are iconic. It seems like no matter how many new pairings new writers try certain pairings are just untouchable. I chose to examine two comic book couples that I feel have endured the test of time.
Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson
When you think of Spider-Man’s girlfriend who pops into your mind? Spider-Man is one of the most popular comic book characters of all time. Since his introduction the web-slinger has captured the hearts of all ages. He has lead a series of celebrated television shows and box office topping films. The image of Spider-Man is just as recognizable as his relationship with model/actress Mary Jane Watson. From their dating days in the early Spider-Man issues to their marriage to the controversial dissolving of their marriage; Spider-Man and MJ have been a constant source of some great storylines.
The success of their relationship came at the end of Spidey’s first relationship with the character of Gwen Stacy. Although there have been attempts to revive the Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy coupling, it always feels like I’m waiting for Mary Jane to show. What makes Peter Parker and Mary Jane’s relationship stand out? To me the appeal of Spider-Man wasn’t his abilities or his enemies. It’s that he is a character with something to lose. Mary Jane is a human character and yet she is the one who understood Spider-Man best. She knew about his secret identity. She risked her life to be with him. She is his equal and he loved her for it. Everyone likes a good love story.
After so many years it feels like I watched their relationship grow. I found the idea of a superhero that has someone at home waiting for him really interesting. It is this same reason that I lost interest in the Spider-Man comic books after the “One More Day,” arc which resulted in the end of their relationship. Luckily there are countless volumes of Spider-Man that document it. Hopefully Marvel will give fans what we’ve been begging for and bring them back together.
Batman and Catwoman
The second couple that I chose is Batman and Catwoman. They’re both on opposite sides of the law. Batman is a soldier for justice. Catwoman, a thief who steals whatever she desires. This couple stands out because of the opposition between the characters. Batman is known for being intolerant when it comes to criminals, but for some reason he has a soft spot for Selina Kyle. He cares about her. He wants her to be good. On more than one occasion Catwoman has taken this kindness for weakness.
Unlike Spider-Man and Mary Jane, Batman and Catwoman’s relationship status has never been traditional. Sometimes they go on dates in their secret identities. Sometimes they have random flings in their costumes. This has allowed writers to keep telling new stories where the characters intersect with each other. I think this relationship is relatable to a lot of people. Opposites attract.
In spite of their differences both characters have a lot in common. They both dress in leather mammal themed costumes. They both share a dark side. Sometimes the person you want is bad for you. Every time they interact there’s a sense of danger. Beneath the physical attraction. I do feel that there is a genuine love between the two. Batman keeps trying to help Catwoman convert to being a hero time and time again. Catwoman has saved Batman’s life on more than one occasion. As a reader this is a “will they or won’t they?” story that has never gotten old.
Classic comic book couples last for a number of reasons. Most superheroes have a love interest. When the right writer comes up with the right love interest it can elevate both characters to being memorable. Love is a human quality that makes comic book characters more relatable. We can look at Spider-Man when he’s at his worst and has Mary Jane to confide in. That’s what we all want. We can look at Batman saving Catwoman’s life even though she’s made mistakes. That’s the type of display that stays with readers. Hopefully we can all find someone to read these awesome comics with. If not, we’ll be living through our favorite heroes in more ways than one.