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Romance in the comics—funnybook love through the ages


Ten great comic book romances—or, why did the Comedian have to beat up Silk Spectre?

I originally wrote this in response to Watchmen. In the 2009 Zac Snyder adaptation of the DC comic series by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, there’s a scene of the Comedian beating up Silk Spectre. Needlessly graphic and violent, the scene brought up uncomfortable associations with then-current headlines about Rihanna and abusive boyfriend Chris Brown.

So I thought it might be a good time to bring up some of the healthier (and by “healthier” I don’t necessarily mean “non-dysfunctional”) relationships from the comics – daily strips included. This is by no means a complete list, just some of my personal faves. If you’ve got any suggestions, I’d love to hear them. Starting with…

Lois and Clark, of course

Superman and Lois Lane. A classic triangle, as Clark Kent wants Lois, Lois wants Superman, and Superman can’t reveal he’s Clark Kent. Sparks fly, Lois gets in trouble, and Supes swoops in to the rescue, again.

Harvey Pekar and Joyce Brabner. Pekar is the creator of American Splendor, a comic-book anthology of autobiographical stories with different artists illustrating Harvey’s day-to-day existence. This includes Babner, his wife, who plays a starring role not only in the comic book series but in the movie version, as portrayed by Hope Davis. (Thanks to Michael Doran, from whom I stole this suggestion.)

L’il Abner and Daisy Mae Scragg. Daisy Mae was hopelessly in love with the good-natured hillbilly for the entire 43-year run of Al Capp’s comic strip. She ends up marrying the rube, mainly because Abner wants to get married just like his hero, Fearless Fosdick, does.

Li’l Abner and Daisy Mae.

The Invisible Girl and Mr. Fantastic. As the only distaff member of Marvel Comics’ Fantastic Four, the long-suffering Sue Storm has had to put up with distracted genius hubby Reed Richards for over 40 years. But with marriage therapists like Prince Namor the Submariner, Annihulus and Dr. Doom, how could they ever part?

Blondie and Dagwood. Blondie started out as a good-time flapper. But in 1933 she married Dagwood Bumstead. Disowned by his wealthy family for marrying beneath his class, Dagwood was forced to go into construction. The Bumsteads are still married, and have two kids. Discerning comic-strip readers might agree the sandwich jokes have run their course.

Maggie and Hopey. Love and Rockets, a joint indie-comic venture between Jaime and his brother Gilbert, has been at the forefront of the alternative comics scene since 1982. The relationship, in Jaime’s stories, between sometime-lovers Hopey and Maggie, is one of the most complex, adult, and enduring in any medium. Plus, he draws women really well.

Maggie and Hopey from Love and Rockets. Jaime Hernandez art.

R. Crumb and Aline-Kominsky Crumb. If you believe (and why wouldn’t you) what they tell us in their co-created comic Dirty Laundry, the first couple of underground comix lead a pretty complex, open relationship themselves, but in real life—and in France.

Archie, Betty… and Veronica. What’s up with these three? They’re like in the longest-running three-way (unconsummated) courtship ever. Something’s gotta give! Poor Arch.

Popeye and Olive Oyl. Surely one of the longest-running romances, and the strangest, in comic strips: the uncouth sailor addicted to spinach and a “flat-chested flirt with a dowdy sense of style,” writes Rachel Kopp. “There are several issues in Popeye and Olive Oyl’s relationship that need reconciling. Despite Olive’s obvious attraction to Popeye, she continues leading Bluto along, and Popeye refuses to ‘make a decent woman of Olive, whose biological clock must sound like Big Ben.'”

Krazy Kat and Ignatz Mouse. The androgynous Krazy has to be one of the most weirdly sexual creatures in comics; s/he is in love with Ignatz mouse, whose penchant for throwing bricks at Krazy’s noggin has her convinced it’s true love. Offisah Pup is caught in the middle—he’s intent on putting Ignatz behind bars for his “transgressions” against Pup’s own true love, who is, of course, Krazy.

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  1. Olive Oyl is a whore. She can’t make up her mind between Popeye and Bluto. Al Capp is a genius. I love when he put Lennon in his place during the bed in for peace in Toronto. And you know that Archie is banging both Betty and Veronica. You forgot that Ernie and Bert are having a relationship also.

    • Foobles, why don’t you post a pic of yourself with your illustrious commentary?

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