Superheroes rely on their love interests. They represent the hero’s desire to live a normal life despite their extracurricular activities. These love interests list among some of the greatest supporting characters in all of comic cannon, with names like Lois Lane, Steve Trevor and Catwoman transcending the comic book community to become as popular and iconic as their respective heroic partners. Most relationships that haven’t made such a leap are still considered to be critical and heartwarming elements to some popular characters. But for every solid, relatable, or generally accepted relationship in comic books, there’s one that’s stupid, ridiculous, or downright offensive.
It’s no secret that comics occasionally miss the mark in terms of what readers want or expect, but when it comes to comic book couples, these poor decisions are emphasized by the innate character and personality-driven nature of both comics and relationships. Sometimes these decisions are quickly reversed and swept under the rug, and sometimes they continue for years without the company realizing their mistake. DC certainly wants you to forget that their matchmaking record isn’t as squeaky clean as they would have you believe. Unfortunately for the company, nothing stays hidden forever. Here are 16 examples of cringe-worthy, uncomfortable, or just downright terrible DC couples.
16. BEAST BOY & RAVEN
The old adage says that opposites attract. While that is sometimes true, it also means that two opposite people in a relationship are doomed to deal with each other for the duration of it. Such is the case of the comical, socially-minded Beast Boy and the grim, solemn Raven. The two met as Teen Titans and, while it took until the third incarnation of the team, they eventually became a couple, which was subtly reflected in the television show of the same name.
The general gist of their relationship is that Raven, as a repressed half-demon, needs Beast Boy to help her become a balanced human. But relationships based on need never last, and theirs was subsequently deleted in the New 52. There are no apparent plans to reunite them in the Rebirth line as Raven is currently eyeing fellow Teen Titan Wally West.
15. PRE-CRISIS SUPERMAN & LOIS LANE
Superman and Lois Lane are one of the most iconic and respected couples in all of comic book history. Their relationship has weathered so much since DC’s continuity was solidified in Crisis on Infinite Earths that it seems almost laughable to suggest that DC would want you to forget it. What they definitely want you to forget about was what their relationship was like pre-Crisis.
Before his storyline was consolidated, Superman was possibly the most abusive boyfriend of all time. He tried to murder or gaslight Lois more times than he actually fought crime. His notable exploits in this era include mugging her, falsely accuse her of murder and cheating on her with a mermaid. DC probably wants you to forget most of the pre-Crisis continuity but the fact that that their most famous pairing has a rickety history and foundation is particularly hush-hush.
14. ATOM & JEAN LORING
You know your relationship is bad when the fallout from your breakup gets your friend’s wife killed, sparks a superhero manhunt and uncovers a mind-wiping conspiracy. But that’s what happened between the Atom, aka Ray Palmer, and his wife, Jean Loring. Unable to bridge their differences over Palmer’s double life, the two separated and even seemed to successfully move on with their lives, with Jean remarrying and Atom fully devoting himself to his superhero adventures.
Then, for reasons yet to be explained, Jean decided that Ray really was the love of her life and in order to get him back, she had to put another wife of a superhero a stroke. This kickstarted the Identity Crisis series where it was revealed Jean had gone insane and killed Sue Dibny and hand in killing both Jack Drake and Captain Boomerang.
13. BATWOMAN & NOCTURNA
Batwoman has been unlucky enough to receive the short end of the stick in most of her romantic relationships. Her time with DC’s only other prominent lesbian character, Renee Montoya, was brief and her engagement with Maggie Sawyer wasn’t allowed to be fulfilled by a corporate decision that caused her writers to leave the company. Her worst romantic entanglement was with the vampire villain Nocturna.
After learning Batwoman’s secret identity, Nocturna uses her vampire magic to hypnotize Batwoman into loving her. The following toxic affair is so damaging that it forces Batwoman’s estranged, semi-sane sister Red Alice to interfere in order to break the spell. Not only did Batwoman inadvertently break up with her real girlfriend, but the lines of consent were heavily blurred during the ordeal. DC definitely don’t want you to remember just how much they’ve been dragging Batwoman through the mud.
12. LUCY LANE & JIMMY OLSEN
Poor Jimmy Olsen is basically the Butters Scotch of the DC Universe, a happy-go-lucky, plucky young man who is unknowingly the most naive and oblivious character in the world. Perpetually unlucky, Jimmy briefly dated Lucy Lane, his best friend’s wife’s sister. Lane, an emotionally unstable army brat, seemed to share genuine chemistry with Olsen but quickly left him for his coworker Ron Troupe.
The comics provide the best possible metaphor for their relationship during Lucy and Ron’s first date, during which Lucy is kidnapped by a mutated gorilla and Jimmy is on hand to catch the whole thing. After Superman saved the day, Jimmy boasts about the footage he’d gotten, earning himself a punch from Lucy for his troubles. She would go on to be a mother and Superwoman, he would go on to be exactly the same as he always was.
11. MR.FREEZE & NORA
In fairness, the first fully-realized incarnation of Victor Fries and his star-crossed wife Nora presented in Batman: The Animated Series‘ much-beloved episode “Heart of Ice” is a sincerely touching relationship that established Mr. Freeze as a tragic character rather than a silly man with an ice gun. However, DC decided he would be more effective as a psychotic villain for Batman to punch than a grieving soul he could sympathize with.
In the New 52 relaunch, Victor Fries is revealed to have imagined his romance with Nora, who was actually cryogenically frozen in the ’40s. Victor studied her case and fell so in love with a frozen body that he had a breakdown and believed her to be his wife. This retconned and erased their entire relationship, which had been his primary motivation since 1992.
10. KYLE RAYNER & ALEX DEWITT
Ah, one of the blandest romances in comic book history which ended in a controversial, pointless death. Their relationship was already over when Kyle received his Green Lantern ring, but Alex was receptive enough to give him some costume pointers and consider restarting their life together. Before they could go any further than that though, Alex was murdered by Major Force who left her for Kyle to find in accordance with the ‘girl in the refrigerator’ trope, named after this event.
DC has taken considerable flack over the years for this unnecessary death as well as how generic she was and how little she had to do with Kyle’s growth as a hero. As a potential nod to its critics, DC revived Alex in the Blackest Night event where she and Major Force reenacted her death to try to break Kyle’s spirit only for him to easily break their thrall.
9. CLOCK KING & DISRUPTOR
A brief relationship, and not a romantic one at that, Clock King and Disruptor’s fling stands out as a mistake due to the ages and motives of the parties involved. The two became an item during the Terror Titans mini-series, where Clock King created and lead a team of villainous teens, including Disruptor who he was sleeping with at the time.
Disruptor had a pathological hatred of other women and an obsessive need to be the sole focus of the men in her life, one of the many elements that allowed Clock King to manipulate her into his bed and his team. He would later murder her after she failed to kill Ravager. Though theirs is not the first abusive relationship that DC has featured, the considerable age difference between the two and their ultimate fates makes this a particularly uncomfortable pairing that DC would sooner have you forget.
8. DICK GRAYSON & HELENA WAYNE
The alternate-earth daughter of Batman and Catwoman, Helena Wayne adopted the Huntress moniker sometime before dimensional shenanigans happened in Crisis on Infinite Earths. During that time, she was trained by and was the partner of her world’s Dick Grayson. Their relationship started with the small things, flirting during training, joking about each other’s privates during patrol, shared glances. It evolved to the point where Dick felt comfortable walking in on her naked in the shower.
Their uncomfortable, quasi-incestuous love was never remarked upon outright but the very concept of Bruce Wayne’s biological daughter getting so intimate with his adopted ward was bizarre enough for both of them to die in Crisis and never be brought up again. Even when a different version of Helena Wayne was brought over from Earth 2 in New 52 she never again engaged with Dick Grayson.
7. SWAMP THING & ABAGAIL ARCANE
Abagail Arcane met Swamp Thing when she was a 17-year old and he saved her from falling to her death. Completely taken by her silent savior, Abagail emigrated to America in order to track him down. Thought their paths crossed through numerous adventures concerning an alcoholic secret agent, a secret demon invasion, and mind-control zombies, they didn’t wed until much later.
Because a human woman cannot consummate a relationship with a tree-creature in the traditional sense, they instead share psychedelic mushrooms to celebrate the occasion. Luckily, they were eventually able to conceive a child, not through hallucinogens but rather by Swamp Thing possessing the body of John Constantine and meeting his wife in amorous congress. There are so many odd anomalies with their relationship that the fact that Abby is technically still married to a comatose human is practically a footnote in their wedding vows.
6. DEATHSTROKE & TERRA
“The Judas Contract” is arguably the best Teen Titans story in comics. The tale of Terra’s betrayal and emotional breakdown provided one of the greatest twists for the young team to work through. Most of the focus in the story is generally given to Terra’s character arc and the developing feelings between her and Beast Boy, but one of the more subdued elements of the story is Terra’s relationship with her boss, Deathstroke.
Seeing her potential as a pawn in his war with the Titans, Deathstroke seduces her, a 15-year old girl. Terra’s death at the end of “The Judas Contract” ended their relationship and Deathstroke made it clear he never had any feelings for her, but among all the terrible things Slade Wilson has done over the years, having sex with an underage girl has to be near the top of the list.
5. CAPTAIN ATOM & PLASTIQUE
Villains and heroes generally don’t mix well romantically. There’s a reason Batman and Catwoman have managed to keep things interesting and why Captain Atom and Plastique completely fell apart. Namely, Captain Atom decided to take their relationship too far into marital territory. After fighting and flirting for years, Plastique’s military credentials expired and she turned over a new leaf. With her new anti-villain status, Plastique and Captain Atom got engaged.
Their relationship was already so rocky and clearly doomed that their wedding was never depicted, merely alluded to. As was their divorce which happened soon afterwards due to irreconcilable differences. Plastique quickly reverted to a villain and her relationship with Captain Atom was quickly forgotten. She didn’t have a notable romantic encounter until years later when she hooked up with a time-traveling future Batman, Terry McGinnis.
4. STARGIRL & SHAZAM
The unfortunate curse of Shazam is that he’s a teenager who wants to date other teenagers, but opperates in the body of a man in his physical prime — his late 20s to early 30s. When he joined the Justice Society of America, Shazam met Stargirl, a girl close to Billy Batson’s age who had a mutual interest in him. The rest of the JSA discover their relationship and hijinx/accusations of pedophilia ensue.
Rather than admit his secret identity and put aside all qualms, Billy decides he’d rather be treated as an adult and cuts off ties with both Stargirl and the team. Many fans were disheartened by this development as Shazam had never had a legitimate romantic relationship before. The same fans were not satisfied when it was revealed that Stargirl would eventually procreate with her teammate Atom-Smasher.
3. ARISIA RRAB & HAL JORDAN
For a time, Arisia Rrab was essentially Hal Jordan’s sidekick in the Green Lantern Corps. She was the stereotypical grinning, quipping young hero who follows a more serious mentor. The difference was that Arisia was deeply in love with Hal. To his credit, Hal openly told her that he wasn’t interested in dating a teenager. Then her Green Lantern ring responded to her subconscious desires and aged her body into that of a mature woman.
Apparently that was all it took for Hal to immediately start reciprocating her feelings and the two started dating. They moved in together on Earth, but the fire quickly went out of their relationship and their romance has never been brought up since. Despite the various excuses given in the comics, the whole situation is incredibly awkward and Hal comes off more as a predator than a hero.
2. BATMAN & BLACK CANARY
Oh Frank Miller. You’ve given comic readers some of their most unironically beloved works. You’ve also made some of the most questionable and confusing story-telling decisions in all of fiction. In his All-Star Batman and Robin, Batman’s primary love interest is Black Canary, long-time romantic partner of Green Arrow.
Taking place in the universe that would eventually become The Dark Knight Returns, the two flirt shamelessly during their crimefighting exploits to the point where they make love, in costume, on a dock surrounded by the flaming bodies of the thugs they’d just beaten up, the most romantic of settings. Miller’s world is known for being rougher around the edges than the regular DC continuity, but this wild and aggressive couple left a bad taste in readers mouths.
1. DONNA TROY & TERRY LONG
For the love of all things good and holy, how did DC possibly think this was a good idea and why did it last as long as it did? Terry Long was a history professor, a grown man with a full beard, who dated and eventually married Donna Troy, the teenage Wonder Girl at the time. He already had a daughter from a previous partner and ended up having a son with Donna before their relationship finally soured.
In their time together, Terry was often seen lounging around Titans Tower, constantly reminding readers of this bizarre and uncomfortable couple. He hung around so long that Starfire slowly developed a small crush on him, because apparently the situation wasn’t awkward enough already. As if realizing their mistake, DC rushed through a divorce and restraining order between the two before killing Terry and all his kids off in a car crash.
Are there any other DC couples you think should’ve made the list? Let us know in the comments!
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