Comic books are for boys, chimed the traditional mindset during the infancy of the comics medium, its illustrious Golden Age (1938–1954), hence the overwhelming number of male superheroes. Outside of the occasional superheroine gender-bending the locked doors of this muscular boys club, in the earliest superhero adventures women were depicted as damsels in distress or femme fatales. Matters romantic were of no interest to the lads looking for escapism amid the turmoil of the Great Depression and World War II.
Yet romance remains an integral component of heroic fiction—what is Tarzan without Jane?—and the purveyors of this nascent entertainment form realized that love makes the world go 'round, even for those who occupy their spare time swooping from rooftops in capes and cowls. The majority of Golden Age superheroes in both comics and pulps were assigned significant others by their writers—the Shadow's Margo Lane, the original (not the Marvel Comics character) Daredevil's Tonia, and the Flash's Joan Williams (whom he later married )—but these characters were largely confined to the background.
Not so with Lois Lane, however. When Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster introduced Superman—the character that defined the superhero in popular culture—in Action Comics #1 (1938), Lane was along for the ride. She was conceived as the Man of Steel's romantic interest, but not portrayed as such, the creators steering clear of such
sissy stuff. But the subtext was there: Each time the brash young Superman rescued the gallant
girl reporter from peril, he outwardly admonished her recklessness, but inwardly admired her spunk and courage. Theirs was a taboo love, and a flirtatious one, for many decades. Everyone thought of Lois Lane as
Superman's girlfriend, but during the 1950s and 1960s she showed her affection by either trying to expose the hero's Clark Kent identity or by publicly pining for him.
During the 1970s and 1980s, women's lib and the sexual revolution may have loosened the shackles on ladies in the real world, but Superman still kept Lane at arm's length, married instead to his duty. When the two consummated their relationship in the live-action film Superman II (1981), their passion came with a price: Superman (temporarily) forfeited his powers, and superpowered villains from his homeworld nearly decimated planet Earth while the former Man of Steel redecorated his Fortress of Solitude into a lover's pad.
By the time DC Comics rebooted Superman in The Man of Steel (1986), readers were mature enough to accept a full-blown relationship between the hero and the reporter—although it was Kent with whom Lane fell in love, having dismissed him as a nebbish in the previous continuity. Kent finally revealed his Superman identity to Lane in 1991 and married her in 1996. (The Superman of
Earth-Two, an alternate reality once housing DC's Golden Age heroes, married his world's Lois Lane in Action Comics #484 , and the couple starred in the backup feature
Mr. and Mrs. Superman.)
This is not to say that Superman has only had (X-ray) eyes for Lane. Lana Lang was introduced as part of the hero's Superboy mythos as teenage Clark Kent's girlfriend, although no romantic relationship was ever explored: Lang was merely a girl who was a friend. In the Silver Age (1956–1969) and Bronze Age (1970–1979), the adult Lang periodically appeared in the Superman comics, and a Lois vs. Lana rivalry for Superman's (non-) affections ensued, a theme crucial to the plot of the movie Superman III (1983). Lang was redefined as Kent's high-school sweetheart in The Man of Steel (1986), and has received an increased profile in TV's Superboy (1988–1992) and Smallville (2001–present). Superman has had other passing relationships over the years, including a mermaid named Lori Lemaris, whom he dated in college. And in Action #600 (1988), the Man of Steel locked lips with Wonder Woman! (This idea was picked up on—and then some—in the popular alternate-universe series Kingdom Come  and The Dark Knight Strikes Again [2001–2002], in which the pair conceive children.)
Her smooching with Superman aside, Wonder Woman's life has been relatively loveless. Colonel Steve Trevor, the
Lois Lane to Wonder Woman's
Superman, was absolutely smitten over the star-spangled Amazon, overlooking the obvious: that she worked with him, each and every day, hiding her looks and statuesque form behind the cat-eyed glasses and military uniform of yeoman Diana Prince. But ever the good soldier, for years Trevor stormed the frontlines of love, hinting, suggesting, and falling short of begging for intimacy from the Amazon Princess. Wonder Woman was interested in Trevor, but reminded him that an Amazonian creed called
Aphrodite's law forbade her to marry, else she would lose her powers and status among her exclusively female community.
In Wonder Woman comics from the 1940s and 1950s, the Amazon Princess was obviously stronger than Trevor (stronger than twenty Trevors, actually), but social mores often backed her into a corner of domesticity. She deflected bullets with her bracelets and heaved tanks with a mere shrug, then found time to pen personal advice to her readers in her letters column. Wonder Woman became even
softer during the post–World War II romance comics boom, when publisher DC Comics attempted to attract girls to the character's comics. In his book Wonder Woman: The Complete History (2000), historian Les Daniels remarked of the cover to DC's Sensation Comics #94 (1949):
Wonder Woman was suddenly surrounded by mush, and she was in danger of sinking herself: the cover showed Steve Trevor carrying a simpering and seemingly helpless Princess Diana across a narrow stream.
In the 1960s, a succession of unorthodox suitors—amoeba-men, bird-men, mer-men, and spacemen—traipsed through the Wonder Woman series. She stayed single, and Trevor stayed interested. Wonder Woman and Trevor actually married in 1986, as the heroine's title was canceled as part of DC's companywide
housecleaning project, Crisis on Infinite Earths. The Amazon Princess was erased from existence in Crisis #12 (1986), and when she was introduced anew in 1987, Trevor had also been altered: He was now older and no longer a love interest, their previous marriage wiped away from continuity. In the years that have followed, other potential paramours—including fellow Justice Leaguers Aquaman and Batman—have waltzed through her life, but Wonder Woman remains the iconic single superheroine.
Among the superheroines who have fallen in love with normal men are two DC characters. The Silver Age Supergirl dated fellow student Dick Malverne while in her assumed identity of Linda Danvers, but Malverne went ga-ga over the Girl of Steel. And the Golden Age Black Canary, secretly flower-shop proprietor Dinah Drake, was sweet on hard-boiled private eye Larry Lance. Lance's sleuthing often dropped him into trouble, and Black Canary rushed to his rescue. It was later established that Drake and Lance had married, and that Lance had died. Shortly after Black Canary hopped from Earth-Two to the parallel reality of Earth-One, she encountered her new world's counterpart of her ex in her team-up with Batman in The Brave and the Bold (B&B) #91 (1970). But this Lance was not to be trusted, although lovesick Black Canary was oblivious to his shadiness. Batman warned her of his suspicions, but she scoffed,
I'm a woman first—and a super-heroine second! Don't try to ruin my new life! Batman was right—Lance was no good—but soon the Canary was singing a new tune, in the arms of fellow Justice Leaguer Green Arrow.
The introduction of Batman's partner Robin the Boy Wonder in Detective Comics #38 (1940) inspired a host of superhero sidekicks, and some of them were actually the girlfriends of their male counterparts. Cat-Man, an adult male superhero, enlisted a prepubescent girl he called Kitten as his sidekick. Over the years, Kitten matured into quite the cutie, sparking catty commentary from more astute readers. The tiny hero Doll Man spent much of his time rescuing his partner Doll Girl from spider webs, but on the few occasions Doll Man has been seen since the Golden Age, Doll Girl has been mostly ignored. A more famous diminutive duo is Ant-Man and the Wasp, who buzzed through Marvel's Tales to Astonish in the early 1960s before becoming charter members of
Earth's Mightiest Heroes, the Avengers. Their relationship has not been easy—Henry Pym, the man behind the antennaed ant-helmet, has lived a life fraught with costume changes (he has also been known as Giant-Man, Goliath, and Yellowjacket) and mental illness.
Hawkgirl, Hawkman's companion, has earned her wings and remained alongside her feathered partner throughout numerous reinventions over the decades. During the Golden Age, she was mostly window dressing, sometimes flying alongside Hawkman on his escapades. But during Hawkman's Silver Age revival in B&B #34 (1961), Hawkgirl was reintroduced as more than a hanger-on—she was now Hawkman's wife and equal partner. While Hawkgirl presented an empowering female figure for the times, she did not restrain her jealousy in their origin story when an attractive lady naturalist set her claws into her hubby:
Could I see you for a moment, please? her icy word balloon dripped when this intrusive vixen made her move.
Bulletgirl, partner to the Golden Age hero Bulletman, was no dud: When she discovered that her boyfriend was actually a superhero, she demanded to be let in on the fun. The Owl and Owl Girl? Contemporary readers would coo,
Who? as that pair of heroic lovebirds has fluttered into oblivion. The Flame and Flame Girl have similarly flickered out, as have most of the similar male/female teams of the 1940s.
In 1956, Batman was assigned a superheroine love interest—heiress Kathy Kane, who adopted the masked guise of Batwoman—to allay charges of a homosexual relationship between the Caped Crusader and his young ally Robin. Before long, the teenage Bat-Girl appeared as a date for the Boy Wonder. But no romance ever blossomed between these heroes and heroines, and the ladies retired from crime fighting after only a few years in costume.
Batman and his alter ego, millionaire Bruce Wayne, have enjoyed a bevy of beauties as companions over the decades, but, like Wonder Woman, Batman remains a loner. As Wayne, the hero pretends to be a playboy, navigating the social circles of Gotham City as a ruse to create a persona in stark contrast to his grim cowled guise. Wayne's first girlfriend in the comics of the Golden Age was socialite Julie Madison, who disappeared before long—but made an appearance in the flesh, in the live-action movie Batman & Robin (1997). Vicki Vale had more staying power in the Batman mythos. She first made her presence known in Gotham in 1950, snapping news photos and interacting with both Wayne and Batman. Her persona was similar to Lois Lane's: a savvy, headstrong newshound with suspicions of Batman's secret identity. She reappeared sporadically in later decades, and was the love interest in the blockbuster film Batman (1989).
On Bruce Wayne's yacht in Detective Comics #469 (1977), the dapper playboy, wearing an ascot, makes his way through the crowd, encountering a glamazon with stark white hair.
Ah! The mysterious Mr. Wayne! she calls, continuing,
I don't believe we've met! I'm Silver St. Cloud!
I'll bet you are! responds the playboy, not his snappiest come-on line, but it works—they're soon an item. When St. Cloud happens across a battle between Batman and the assassin Deadshot in issue #474 (1977), she gets a good look at the masked Dark Knight, and thinks,
It was Bruce! The following issue, she ponders whether or not to tell him she knows his secret, musing,
You're really my boyfriend, Batman! I can see what others would never notice—because I've spent so many evenings studying your jaw! By Detective #476, after watching Batman nearly lose his life combating the Joker, St. Cloud confronts him with her knowledge of his dual identity, confesses her love, then leaves him, admitting she couldn't live with
never knowing what each night would bring. Silver St. Cloud was embraced by readers during her short stint in the Batman legend, but left the series with the departure of her creator, writer Steve Englehart. In the DC Comics continuity of the 1990s and 2000s, women in Batman's life have included Dr. Shondra Kinsolving and Vesper Fairchild, the latter of whom was murdered, with Wayne framed as the killer.
Bad girls have sometimes tempted Batman. The playful pilferer Catwoman has strutted in and out of the hero's life since her introduction in Batman #1 (1940). Their attraction has transcended comics, in the campy Batman TV series (1966–1988)—where actors Adam West and Julie Newmar relished their sexy on-screen romps in tights (with rumored off-screen romps out of tights)—and in the motion picture Batman Returns (1992). Talia, the fetching daughter of the international ecoterrorist Ra's al Ghul, has often invited Batman to hang up his cowl and become her mate, but other than occasional kisses, the hero's iron will has kept him from a relationship. In the graphic novel Batman: Son of the Demon (1987), Talia, in lingerie, seduces Batman by urging him to
Forego your control, your discipline He does, the end result being their child, who is given up for adoption. DC Comics courageously published this story, then later stepped away from acknowledging or reprinting it due to its controversial content. Other villainesses that Batman has found attractive include Poison Ivy, Nocturna, and the TV Bat-foe the Siren.
Marvel's Iron Man is actually industrialist Tony Stark, and has worn on his arm more trophy dates than Bruce Wayne could ever imagine. Pepper Potts was Stark's first girlfriend, and lasted longer in the stories than others who followed. While no millionaire, Wally West—who started his career as Kid Flash, before growing into the role of the Flash—is as fast with women as he is as a superhero: He has had more girlfriends than space allows to list. Another rich-man-by-day, masked-man-by-night is the Green Hornet, abetted in his day job (as a newspaper publisher) and his nightlife by his secretary, Lenore Case.
Superman and Lois Lane may be the most famous husband-and-wife duo in the superhero world, but they aren't alone, and certainly weren't the first. DC's Aquaman married Mera, a crimson-haired beauty from a watery dimension, and together they ruled the undersea kingdom of Atlantis as king and queen. Frequent misfortunes tore apart their relationship, and at one time, in a deranged state, she tried to kill him. Marvel's underwater anti-hero, Prince Namor the Sub-Mariner, married his water-breathing, blue-skinned love Lady Dorma after a royal courtship, but her death left the avenging son of Atlantis even more vengeful.
Before Lady Dorma, another beauty won Namor's heart: Sue Storm, the Invisible Girl (later Woman) of the Fantastic Four. Sue was the girlfriend of
FF team leader Reed Richards, a.k.a. Mr. Fantastic, but each time she saw the near-naked, powerful form of Namor, her heart pitter-pattered. In Fantastic Four #6 (1961), she defends the subsea man after another of his rampages:
Oh, he isn't our enemy! I just know it! He's so full of pain and bitterness that it blinds his better instincts. Sue's wandering eye finally focused on Richards, and they were wed in FF Annual #3 (1965), in which she beams to her husband,
We're married, at last! And nothing will ever part us, my beloved.
The Elongated Man, the ductile detective whose expansive ego led him to publicly reveal his true identity of Ralph Dibny, is joined on his adventures by his jetsetting wife Sue. Sue has grown to enjoy her stretching hubby's nose for mysteries, and helps manage his superheroic affairs. Earthman Adam Strange traveled light years through space to the planet Rann to be with Alanna, the lovely daughter of that world's chief scientist. Originally, his treks were the result of the otherworldly
Zeta Beam that teleported him through the cosmos, but eventually he spent more time on Rann with Alanna as his bride. Kit Walker, the latest in the long ancestral chain of jungle heroes known as the Phantom, married the feisty Diana Palmer, with whom he has had two children. Kit Jr., their son, is destined to replace his father in the purple garb of the
Ghost Who Walks. After a lengthy engagement, slowpoke Barry Allen—better known as the Silver Age Flash—married Iris West, but did not reveal his dual identity to her until some time later. And Tempest, DC's hero once known as Aqualad (sidekick to Aquaman), was in love with Tula, a.k.a. Aquagirl, but after her unfortunate death found himself walking down the aisle with Dolphin, a former lover of Aquaman. Hawkeye, the bowman of Marvel's Avengers, was led astray into crime by the Russian spy Black Widow. Hawkeye went straight, and after meeting the superheroine (and also reformed outlaw) Mockingbird, cupid's arrow struck and the two were married.
Another famous couple in the superhero community is Mr. and Mrs. Peter Parker, or Spider-Man and Mary Jane Watson. As a teen, Parker was a hopeless geek before a bite from an irradiated spider made him one of the most famous superheroes in the world. Through the soap opera injected into his series, The Amazing Spider-Man vol. 1, by writer Stan Lee and artist/co-plotter Steve Ditko, Parker engaged in several romances before marrying Mary Jane. His first love was Betty Brant, the secretary of Parker's boss, Daily Bugle publisher J. Jonah Jameson. Though slightly older than Parker, Brant was impressed with the youth's intellect and sensitivity, but her own personal problems interfered with their becoming a couple. Liz Allan was the girlfriend of Parker's high-school nemesis, the bully Flash Thompson. Allan had a crush on Parker, recognizing the same attributes that Brant did.
When Parker started college and met Gwen Stacy, he could keep his mind on little else. His Aunt May pressured him to meet her friend's niece, Mary Jane, but Parker resisted, and a series of comical near-misses ensued through numerous issues of Amazing Spider-Man. When Parker could no longer duck out on his Aunt's machinations and finally met Watson, he was floored to find a gorgeous, lively redhead standing on his doorstep:
Face it, tiger. You hit the jackpot, she audaciously grinned. He was interested in Watson, but remained in love with Stacy. In Amazing Spider-Man #100 (1971), Parker reflects,
Maybe I'm beginning to realize there's more to life than being a corny costumed clown. So I might as well admit it! I know what I want. And Gwen Stacy is it. He creates a serum to eradicate his spiderpowers, in hopes of living a normal life, but the untested potion causes him to grow four extra arms, making him even more a spider-man! That problem was soon rectified, but he shortly lost his beloved Gwen at the hands of the villainous Green Goblin. He later began dating, then married,
MJ, although their relationship has been nothing short of tumultuous.
Team-ups have long been a staple of superhero stories, and at times the connection between two heroes has gone beyond a shared mission. The aforementioned Ant-Man/Wasp and Green Arrow/Black Canary liaisons were forged in camaraderie, as was the love between Scott Summers, a.k.a. Cyclops, and Jean Grey, a.k.a. Marvel Girl (and later Phoenix), of Marvel's X-Men. For years they were inseparable, but after Grey had apparently died, Summers married and became a father. Their relationship was part of a romantic triangle in the live-action movies X-Men (2000) and X2: X-Men United (2003), including a strong, almost feral attraction between Grey and the roguish Wolverine.
Doctor Strange, Marvel's
Master of the Mystic Arts, became involved with the sorceress Clea. DC's futuristic superteam the Legion of Super-Heroes, a virtual army of powerful teens, has long bred romance among members; A few examples include Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl, Brainiac 5 and Supergirl, Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel, Star Boy and Dream Girl, and Ultra Boy and Phantom Girl. When Gotham City's Dick Grayson fought crime alongside Batman as Robin the Boy Wonder, he met the second Batgirl (Barbara Gordon), and over time formed a partnership with her out from under his mentor's wing. Maturing into the solo hero Nightwing, Grayson and Oracle—the information broker that Gordon has become—have sometimes been an item.
Pity poor Norrin Radd—once Radd sacrificed his humanity to spare his planet Zenn-La from the hunger of Galactus by becoming his herald the Silver Surfer, he bade a tearful farewell to his beloved Shalla Bal. She laments,
Never has there been This scene, playing out in Marvel's Silver Surfer vol. 1 #1 (1968), did not end after the Surfer streaked into the depths of outer space: He pined and whined for her through numerous subsequent adventures. Hal Jordan, the Silver Age Green Lantern, was similarly unlucky in love. His girlfriend (and employer), Carol Ferris, was corrupted into supervillainy as Star Sapphire.
For some superheroes, love is blind. Heiress Sapphire Stagg seems unbothered by the fact that her boyfriend, adventurer Rex Mason, has been mutated into the freakish DC hero Metamorpho the Element Man. Wyatt Wingfoot, a strapping, Native American friend of the Fantastic Four, was not bothered by the fact that his girlfriend was a green giantess: She-Hulk. And Marvel's mutant enchantress called the Scarlet Witch married the synthetic humanoid known as the Vision. Perhaps no superhero has had a thornier love life than Marvel's Man without Fear, Daredevil. When secretary Karen Page trips and falls into the arms of blind lawyer Matt Murdock in Daredevil #7 (1965), Murdock—secretly Daredevil—wishes,
If only—you could stay this way—forever! He changed his tune in the 1980s, when Page, then a strung-out junkie, sold the secret of his Daredevil identity for the price of a fix. His next girlfriend, the Black Widow, had since relinquished her villainous ways and they shared a relatively normal rapport. When Elektra, Murdock's former college lover, returned to his life, the results were disastrous—Elektra had become an assassin, on a collision course with the law-abiding Daredevil.
For some superheroes, love is blind. Heiress Sapphire Stagg seems unbothered by the fact that her boyfriend, adventurer Rex Mason, has been mutated into the freakish DC hero Metamorpho the Element Man. Wyatt Wingfoot, a strapping, Native American friend of the Fantastic Four, was not bothered by the fact that his girlfriend was a green giantess: She-Hulk. And Marvel's mutant enchantress called the Scarlet Witch married the synthetic humanoid known as the Vision.
Perhaps no superhero has had a thornier love life than Marvel's Man without Fear, Daredevil. When secretary Karen Page trips and falls into the arms of blind lawyer Matt Murdock in Daredevil #7 (1965), Murdock—secretly Daredevil—wishes,