Till Death, Reboot or Plot Twist Do Us Part: Superheroes' Bad Luck In Love

With great power comes a terrible love life, it turns out.
John Byrne/DC Entertainment

On this day of romance, it’s worth remembering that sometimes, love can be hard. No matter what we do, there are times when even the strongest of relationships are tested by circumstances outside our control, and we have to face hardships and difficulties can tear us apart. And if it seems bad for those of us in the real world, spare a thought for the thankless love lives of superheroes.

Sure, superheroes have epic romances with partners almost as iconic as the heroes themselves that have lasted decades — but that doesn’t mean that the course of love has run smooth for all of that time. In fact, more often than not, the opposite is true. In case you’re feeling down about your own love life on Valentine's Day, here are five examples to make you a little more grateful for your situation. As you’re about to find out, it could be much, much worse.

Superman & Lois Lane

The romance between Lois and Clark was, admittedly, a slow one — for much of the 1950s and ‘60s, Lois could barely get Superman to pay any attention to her, despite her appearing every month in a series actually titled Superman’s Girlfriend, Lois Lane — but it eventually led to a marriage in 1996’s appropriately-titled Superman: The Wedding Album. That didn’t mean there was a happy-ever-after for the Man and Wife of Steel, however. Following a number of storylines intended to play with their married life (including adopted children, Lois being kidnapped and replaced by a supervillain without Superman even noticing and Superman moving to an alien planet for a year), the 2011 reboot of the entire DC Entertainment superhero line of comic books not only undid the character’s marriage, but reset their relationship entirely. In official DC history now, the two have never even dated.

Where Are They Now? Dating other people. Lois is seeing another journalist called Jonathan Carroll (No relation to the author of the same name), while Superman is dating Wonder Woman, a fact that caused much consternation in comic book fandom when it was announced. (Their relationship is the cornerstone of a monthly comic titled, unsurprisingly, Superman/Wonder Woman.)

Spider-Man & Mary-Jane Watson

Poor Mary-Jane. Despite numerous revisionist histories attempting to portray her relationship with Peter Parker as the latter’s one, true love — the Sam Raimi trilogy of movies being the most high-profile — the fact remains that, in the core comic book mythology of Spider-Man, MJ is but a rebound following the death of Gwen Stacy… albeit a rebound that turned into a long-lasting relationship that included marriage in 1987’s The Amazing Spider-Man Annual No. 21. Like Superman and Lois, however, it was a marriage that would eventually be erased from history, this time thanks to the satanic Mephisto, who rewrote the past as part of a Faustian pact in the much-reviled 2007 storyline “One More Day.”

Where Are They Now? Friends and former lovers, Peter Parker and Mary-Jane can remember being in a long-term relationship but not a marriage, and have done their best to respectfully stay out of each other’s way for the most part ever since. Of course, Marvel is teasing a return to wedded bliss as part of its massive Secret Wars event, so who knows what the future holds for the web-slinging twosome?

Wonder Woman & Steve Trevor

Steve Trevor holds an important part in Wonder Woman’s history — it was his plane crashing on Paradise Island that alerted her to the existence of “Man’s World,” and for the majority of the character’s existence, he was the man that she loved, if admittedly from a distance, for soap operatic reasons. After a number of years where Trevor was essentially written out of the mythology in an attempt to make Diana a more assertive, standalone character, he returned to Wonder Woman’s side as part of the same rebooting of the 2011 DC superhero line that split Superman and Lois, but this was no happy reunion. Instead, the two were depicted as former lovers, struggling to maintain a professional relationship following an awkward split.

Where Are They Now? Wonder Woman, as noted above, is dating Superman. Steve Trevor’s status is a little less clear — he was last seen saving the world as part of the storyline “Forever Evil” in 2014, but since then he’s pretty much disappeared into the background of the DC universe. Let’s hope that he’s using his temporary obscurity to get over Wonder Woman and settle down with a new, probably less Amazonian, girlfriend.

The Hulk & Betty Ross

In many ways, the relationship between Bruce Banner and Betty Ross, daughter of “Thunderbolt” Ross, the U.S. Army General tasked with hunting down Banner’s monstrous alter-ego the Hulk, was far healthier when it was forbidden and, for the most part, unrequited. Things got more difficult after their marriage (in The Incredible Hulk No. 319 from 1986), thanks to the Hulk being (wrongfully, of course) declared dead and, thanks to a case of amnesia, temporarily getting involved with another woman. By the time things got back on track, it was revealed that Betty was dying of gamma radiation poisoning — something that was initially assumed to be the Hulk’s fault, but later revealed to be the work of his long-time foe, the Abomination. Near-death, she was placed in a state of suspended animation until a cure could be found… only that cure turned out to be turning her into a Hulk herself. (The Hulk, meanwhile, has been through multiple changes during this time, including marrying into alien royalty and fathering multiple Hulk children. It’s best not to ask too much.)

Where Are They Now? Why can’t two Hulks make it work in this crazy world…? The answer, it seems, is that no-one really seems to be invested in the relationship anymore. Although both Bruce and Betty are active in the current Marvel comic books, there’s been little more than lip-service in the direction of treating the two as a couple of rekindling their romance. Sometimes, it seems, people just grow apart… especially when both have been assumed dead for awhile, and have giant monster temper tantrums to deal with.

Batman & Catwoman

One of the most famous non-romances in superhero comics, the status quo of these two characters has traditionally been closer to “a lot of flirting, but nothing serious” more than a romantic relationship for the majority of their existence. That’s not always been the case; for a period in the mid 1980s, Selina Kyle reformed and tried to settle down with Batman, but it didn’t work out. (On the alternate world known as “Earth-2,” however, Batman and Catwoman were married with a child… who, of course, grew up to become a superhero herself.) More recently, the 2011 DC reboot raised eyebrows and provoked fanboy upset by suggesting that the two maintained an enemies-with-benefits relationship of sorts. As if swinging over rooftops above a city like Gotham wouldn’t be workout enough…!

Where Are They Now? Separated by circumstance in a number of ways, Batman and Catwoman haven’t really had the chance to spend quality time together recently. He’s still trying to save the city from imminent disaster, whereas she has discovered that she’s actually part of a crime family and is trying to work out a way to break the law in a particularly moral manner. Both sound pretty stressful ways to spend their time. Someone should send these two on a date, and pronto.

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