Superheroes are a lot like everyone else. They grow up, they meet someone, they fall in love and they get married; but combine all of this with powers that can destroy small cities. While we’ve gone over some wonderful couples in the past, CBR thought it was time to talk about the dark side of superhero relationships; when things get decidedly out of hand. Mostly because of story changes or just writers and editors trying to free up characters who seem too comfortable, long and steady marriages are rare in the pages of comic books.
Marriage is never easy, but it’s even harder in the comics because while some superhero marriages have simply ended in divorce, that’s actually pretty rare. Far more often, superhero marriages end in horrible circumstances. We’re talking about the husband or wife being killed or dying. We’re talking about one or both spouses having their personalities changed, sometimes to the point of becoming a supervillain. There have even been a few marriages, which, because of science or hoodoo, suddenly cease to exist. Let’s talk about 15 superhero marriages that ended in the worst ways.
15. BLACK PANTHER AND STORM
The Black Panther (T’Challa) was the first black superhero in mainstream comics when Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created him in 1966’s Fantastic Four #52. Years later, another black superhero was created when Storm (Ororo Munroe) was created by Len Wein and Dave Cockrum in Giant-Size X-Men #1 (1975). As the two most prominent black superheroes in the Marvel Universe, it probably made sense to bring the two together.
In flashbacks, we found out they had met as youngsters, so this was more like a rekindled romance when, in Black Panther #18 (Reginald Hudlin, Scot Eaton), Marvel officially married Storm and Black Panther. They were happy together until “Avengers vs. X-Men,” when Namor destroyed the nation of Wakanda. Black Panther was furious that Storm left with the X-Men and annulled their marriage.
14. NAMOR AND MARRINA
Namor the Sub-Mariner is one of the oldest and strongest superheroes in the Marvel Universe with a temper as cold and steely as his unwavering fortitude. And yet, there were a few women who managed to tame him, perhaps paramount among which was an amphibious alien named Marrina. Raised on Earth, Marrina was a member of Alpha Flight before she was rescued by Namor. They ended up getting married in Alpha Flight #40 (Bill Mantlo, David Ross).
When she became pregnant, her alien DNA turned her into a monstrous and brutal creature known as the Leviathan and in a huge crossover between the Avengers and Alpha Flight, Namor was forced to kill her with the Black Knight’s magic Ebony Blade. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Marrina was brought back during “Dark Reign” when Norman Osborn turned her into a snake-like monster craving Atlantean blood. Namor had to kill her again.
13. ANT-MAN AND WASP
Hank Pym was the discoverer of Pym Particles, which allowed him to grow or shrink at will and become the superhero Ant-Man. In time, he fell in love with Janet Van Dyne, a wealthy socialite who joined him as his partner, the Wasp. Eventually, they married and things seemed to be going well… emphasis on “seemed.”
Over time, Hank Pym had a mental breakdown and took on the new identity of Yellowjacket. Even after Pym recovered his identity, he became more violent to criminals and team members until he was suspended from the Avengers. That’s when he tried to build a robot he would pretend to beat and regain his reputation. In 1981’s Avengers #213 (Jim Shooter, Bob Hall), the Wasp tried to stop his plan and Pym slapped her. That was the end of their marriage as Pym was kicked out of the Avengers, and Janet filed for divorce.
12. ANIMAL MAN AND ELLEN BAKER
Buddy Baker was once a C-level superhero who was caught in the explosion of an alien spacecraft and given the power to take on the abilities of nearby animals. As Animal Man, he only made brief appearances until Grant Morrison revived him in his own series in 1988. Buddy had a wife and two children and struggled with being a family man and under-appreciated hero as well as being dedicated to animal rights.
Things turned in 1990’s Animal Man #19 (Grant Morrison, Chaz Truog) when a corporate organization targeted Animal Man for his pro-animal acts and sent an assassin to kill his family. The grief sent Animal Man into a dark and twisted journey across time and reality until he even met Morrison himself, who rewarded the hero by bringing his family back to life. Later on, Ellen left Animal Man over an affair with his teammate Starfire.
11. ELONGATED MAN AND SUE DIBNY
The Elongated Man became a superhero and detective who worked with his non-powered wife, Sue Dibny. The two of them were one of the most beloved couples in comics during the Silver Age as they traveled the world and solved countless mysteries. Later, Elongated Man joined the Justice League and Sue became a reserve member. Even during the Dark Age of the 1990s, the couple was a welcome contrast to the gritty superhero world where most marriages ended within a dozen issues.
That all changed in 2004’s Identity Crisis #1 by Brad Meltzer and Rags Morales, where Sue was found dead, killed by one of their own. Elongated Man was never the same, and he even tried to resurrect her, ultimately sacrificing himself and joining her in the afterlife.
10. ATOM AND JEAN LORING
The Atom was introduced at almost the same time as his girlfriend, Jean Loring. Loring was an attorney who was helped by the superhero before finding out the Atom was really her boyfriend, Ray Palmer. Palmer always wanted to marry her, but she turned him down until Justice League of America #157 (Gerry Conway, Dick Dillin, Juan Ortiz) when they were finally married. The problems didn’t end there, though. Just the opposite.
In Sword of the Atom #1 (1983), Ray divorced Jean because he found her in bed with another man. Jean became a minor figure until 2004’s Identity Crisis where it was revealed that she had been the killer of Sue Dibny, hoping the death would drive Ray back to her. She was institutionalized and later became infected by the supervillain Eclipso, which finally got her killed.
9. CYCLOPS AND JEAN GREY
Cyclops and Jean Grey (originally Marvel Girl) were two of the founding members of the X-Men and had an immediate attraction to each other. After working together for years, the two heroes fell in love. Even the temptation of Wolverine wasn’t enough to turn her away from him, and the two were married in 1994’s X-Men #30 (Fabian Nicieza, Andy Kubert).
Yet Jean Grey went through a transformation when she tried to save the X-Men from a space shuttle crash which caused her to collapse and revive as Phoenix, a mutant with cosmic-level powers. Her ability went out of control, leading her to become the supervillain Dark Phoenix and consume a star. She killed herself to stop her dark impulses, ending the marriage and her life, but the story wasn’t over. Not by a long shot.
8. CYCLOPS AND MADELYNE PRYOR
After Jean Grey’s death, Cyclops seemed unable to move on until 1983 when he met Madelyne Pryor in Uncanny X-Men #168 (Chris Claremont, Paul Smith), a mysterious woman who looked a lot like Jean Grey. Cyclops fell in love with her, married her and had a son with her, yet there was always something off about her, including the fact that Professor X couldn’t read her mind and she survived a plane crash that happened at the same time as Jean’s death.
Later on, Cyclops was shocked to discover that Jean Grey was actually alive and the Jean Grey who died had been a manifestation of the Phoenix Force. That led him to leave Madelyne, but it turned out that she was a clone of Jean made by the supervillain Mister Sinister, and she became the supervillain Goblin Queen.
7. HAWKEYE AND MOCKINGBIRD
Barbara “Bobbi” Morse (Mockingbird) started out in 1971’s Astonishing Tales #6 (Gerry Conway, Barry Smith) as a sidekick for Ka-Zar, and later an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Clint Barton started out as a supervillain in 1964’s Tales of Suspense #57 (Stan Lee, Don Heck), but later joined the Avengers as a hero. They teamed up when Mockingbird started investigating Cross Technological Enterprises, where Hawkeye was the security chief. They fell in love and ran off to get married.
The two became founding members of the West Coast Avengers, and that’s where things got complicated. When the West Coast Avengers went back in time to the Old West, the Phantom Rider kidnapped and brainwashed Mockingbird. After enduring horrible atrocities, she freed herself and let him fall off a cliff. Hawkeye was horrified by her letting him die and the rift ended their marriage.
6. JOHN STEWART AND KATMA TUI
The greatest enemy of the Green Lantern Corps is Sinestro, which is why it’s ironic that one of the greatest Green Lanterns is from his home world, Katma Tui. First seen in Green Lantern #30 (John Broome, Gil Kane), she romanced Hal Jordan but ended up with John Stewart, the first African-American Green Lantern and one of the earliest black superheroes in comics. The two of them moved in together on Earth and seemed happy… until death came for them.
At one point, Hal Jordan’s former girlfriend Carol Ferris was possessed by the then-cosmic entity known as Star Sapphire and went looking for revenge against him. In 1988’s Action Comics #601 (Christopher Priest, Gil Kane), Star Sapphire went to Jordan’s home, found Tui in the kitchen and killed her. It was a horrible end, but not one that is particularly unique to comics, sadly.
5. BARRY ALLEN AND IRIS WEST
The love affair and marriage of Barry Allen and Iris West is one of the most complicated in all of comic book history. When Barry Allen was struck by lightning and chemicals, turning him into a super-speedster named the Flash, he also met Iris West in 1956’s Showcase #4 (Robert Kanigher, Carmine Infantino). Their wedding day in Flash #165 (John Broome, Carmine Infantino) was complicated by his arch enemy Professor Zoom taking Barry’s place, but they managed to get married.
In 1979, Flash #275 (by Cary Bates, Alex Saviuk, Frank Chiaramonte) seemed to bring their marriage to a tragic end when the Flash was drugged and unable to stop Professor Zoom from killing Iris. Later, he discovered she was a refugee from the future whose real parents had brought her spirit back, given her a new body and returned her.
4. BRUCE BANNER AND BETTY ROSS
Bruce Banner and Betty Ross met at the birth of the Hulk in Incredible Hulk #1 (Stan Lee, Jack Kirby) when Banner was caught in a gamma bomb explosion, turning him into the Hulk. He also fell in love with Betty, who loved him too, even though her father didn’t care for his nerdiness. They made the relationship work, though they struggled with the constant threat of the Hulk
Things got complicated when MODOK briefly turned her into the winged creature Harpy. She managed to change back and marry Banner, but in 1998’s Incredible Hulk #466 (Peter David, Adam Kubert), Betty suffered severe radiation sickness from her exposure to the Hulk. Banner tried to cure her with his own blood, but she died because the Abomination had switched his blood. She was revived later on and changed into the Red She-Hulk, but never remarried Banner.
3. HULK AND CAIERA
The Hulk has been just a mindless monster for most of his appearances, but there was a time when he got to be the hero in the “Planet Hulk” storyline that started in 2006’s Incredible Hulk #92 (Greg Pak, Carlo Pagulayan). The Hulk was tricked into a spaceship that launched him into space and crash-landed him onto the distant planet Sakaar. Weakened by the trip, he was forced into fighting in a gladiatorial arena, but soon escaped and led a resistance against the evil Red King.
At the same time, he met Caiera, the lieutenant of the Red King’s Imperial Guard, who started out as the Hulk’s enemy and became his queen when Hulk overthrew the Red King. The two of them were married and had a child, but the idyllic life turned tragic when the spaceship that brought Hulk exploded, killing Caiera.
2. PETER PARKER AND MARY JANE WATSON
When Peter Parker became Spider-Man, he had a lot of responsibilities and falling in love wasn’t one of them. He resisted meeting the girl Aunt May tried to set him up with until The Amazing Spider-Man #42 (Stan Lee, John Romita) when he finally met Mary Jane Watson. The two of them fell in love and were an inseparable couple through all his trials.
That all changed in 2007’s Amazing Spider-Man #544 (J. Michael Straczynski, Joe Quesada), which was the start of the “One More Day” storyline, where Aunt May was hit by a bullet intended for Peter. Near death, Peter and MJ made a deal with the supernatural Mephisto to heal Aunt May in exchange for his marriage and secret identity. The history of their marriage was erased, leaving them lovers and not husband and wife.
1. SCARLET WITCH AND VISION
When Wanda Maximoff was introduced in 1964’s X-Men #4 (Jack Kirby, Stan Lee), she was a member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants with the power to change probability and thought to be the daughter of Magneto. She turned away from the Brotherhood to join the Avengers, where she met the Vision, an android with the power to pass through objects. The two made an unlikely pair but they fell in love and even had children.
You might be wondering how an android and a mutant woman could have children, and that’s what made this one of the most disastrous marriages ever. She thought she had used her powers to make pregnancy possible, but it turned out Mephisto had created them and took them away. That sent her into a spiral that included changing reality to the “House of M” timeline. Their marriage couldn’t survive.
What’s the most tragic ending to a superhero marriage of all time? Let us know in the comments!
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