Love makes the world go ’round, as they say. They also say the course of true love rarely runs smooth. This is certainly true in the Marvel Universe, which is built on relationships, starting with flagship title The Fantastic Four, which broke from the company’s tradition of publishing monster titles to showcase a family of explorers. The family dynamics involving those four personalities brought something new to the comics pages — a romance between an aloof scientist and a young woman who grew to learn the full extent of her power, a misshapen thing who couldn’t fully believe in the love he found, a brash youngster who often lets his heart overrule his common sense.
The new and different approach to stories brought to life an array of relationships, romantic and otherwise, that made the nascent Marvel Universe stand out. There are happy marriages, bitter breakups, love triangles, surprise weddings and clandestine affairs. There’s at least one stalker who sought her twisted revenge at gunpoint. There are fathers and sons who relate well to each other — and those who learn of their ties to each other late in life. And there are men who are like brothers who just can’t see eye-to-eye, and a bitter disagreement between them that draws in the entire global community of superheroes, painfully wrecking long-standing relationships as each one is forced to take sides. Here are 19 relationships that forever changed the Marvel Universe, and one that almost ruined it.
20. GWEN STACY AND NORMAN OSBORN
It was a shock to Peter Parker to learn that Gwen Stacy, the love of his life, fathered two children with his arch enemy Norman Osborn, the Green Goblin. This was revealed in the “Sins Past” storyline in Amazing Spider-Man (Volume 1) #509-514 (August 2004-January 2005), which told readers Osborn seduced Stacy about seven months before she was killed. Stacy becomes pregnant and bans Osborn from seeing the children, declaring she will raise them with Parker.
This retcons Stacy’s death in Amazing Spider-Man #121 (June 1973), changing things so that Stacy was attacked out of revenge for spurning Osborn, rather than being collateral damage in Spider-Man’s numerous fights with the Green Goblin. It also changes Stacy’s character, in ways many fans did not like.
19. BEN GRIMM, JOHNNY STORM AND LYJA
Alicia Masters was the love of the Fantastic Four’s Ben Grimm, despite his fears that she wouldn’t stay with him. But it was Grimm who left her; after he and the rest of the team where whisked away to Battleworld in Secret Wars #1-#12 (May 1985-April 1985), Grimm stayed behind. When he returned to Earth, he found Masters had a new love: his FF teammate Johnny Storm!
But that’s not all! “Alicia” was really Lyja, a Skrull spy who had been impersonating Masters since Fantastic Four (Volume 1) #265 (April 1984)! Her mission was to infiltrate the team by seducing Grimm; without him, Storm became her new target. But Lyja fell in love with Storm and even had a child, causing no end of complications.
18. NORTHSTAR AND KYLE JINADU
Northstar of Alpha Flight debuted in Uncanny X-Men #120 (April 1979). He was one of Marvel’s first gay superheroes, although that fact was initially presented through veiled allusions, and the company hasn’t been consistent in how forthright it would be about his sexuality. One storyline that had Northstar contract AIDS was retooled.
In the years that followed, Northstar had a bumpy character arc through the various X-Men titles. He made waves in the Marvel Universe and in the real world by coming out in Alpha Flight (Volume 1) #106 (March 1992). In Astonishing X-Men #51 (June 2012), he married Kyle Jinadu, manager of his sports events company. The cover-featured event was the first gay wedding in Marvel Comics.
17. AUNT MAY AND DOCTOR OCTOPUS
It was the wedding nobody ever expected, in Amazing Spider-Man (Volume 1) #131 (April 1974): May Parker and Otto Octavius. Yes, the widow Parker is a sweet old lady, but Doctor Octopus was not initially interested in her charms; he hired her in Amazing Spider-Man #114 (November 1972) to be his housekeeper.
Dutiful nephew Peter Parker investigates Octopus’s motives, and finds the answer in Amazing Spider-Man #130. He rushes home — and is shocked that a wedding is taking place. Even more shocking: Peter wasn’t invited! Moments later, in issue #131, Hammerhead and a bunch of goons bust in. They are after the same thing Octavius really wants: control of an island May has inherited that has an atomic processing plant and stores of uranium.
16. TONY STARK AND KATHY DARE
Being a love ’em and leave ’em playboy came back to bite billionaire business mogul Tony Stark when he hooked up with heiress Kathy Dare. She first appeared in Iron Man (Volume 1) #233 (August 1988), asking Stark for his autograph after a polo match, and just “happens” to see him at a tech expo in New York the next issue.
Over the next ten issues, Dare becomes jealous of his other girlfriend and increasingly stalkerish. In #243 (June 1989), Dare shoots Stark. He survives, but is hit in the spine and paralyzed. Things end for good when the world believes Stark is dead and a grieving Dare shoots herself in Iron Man #286 (November 1992).
15. DAREDEVIL AND ELEKTRA
It wasn’t exactly love at first sight for Matt Murdock and Elektra Natchios, but he was instantly smitten with the mysterious Greek beauty when they met each other as students at Columbia University. But the whirlwind romance turned sour when her father was grabbed by terrorists and killed by police when Murdock tried to rescue him. Bitter and heartbroken, Natchios left college and fell into a bad crowd … the ninja cult, the Hand.
When Murdock met her again years later, in Daredevil (Volume 1) #168 (January 1981), he had become Daredevil and she was now known only as Elektra, and was a freelance assassin. Daredevil and Elektra have battled and romanced each other many times in the years since.
14. JESSICA JONES AND LUKE CAGE
When we first see Jessica Jones and Luke Cage together, in Alias #1 (November 2001), she picks him up in a bar and then they go to her place to do things not approved by the Comics Code. Jones was then a new character in the Marvel Universe, a private investigator suffering post-traumatic stress stemming from her days as the superhero Jewel and months being a hostage of Killgrave, the Purple Man. Cage debuted in Luke Cage, Hero for Hire (June 1972).
Through Alias and spinoff title The Pulse, Jones and Cage develop a relationship, have a child — daughter Danielle, born in The Pulse #13 (March 2006) — join the New Avengers, and get married in New Avengers Annual #1 (2006).
13. NICK FURY AND MARCUS JOHNSON
Nick Fury, the hard-charging leader of the Howling Commandos and S.H.I.E.L.D.’s No. 1 spy, hardly seems the fatherly type. But readers learned that among the secrets the spy agency director has kept is the existence of an adult son, Marcus Johnson. The six-issue Battle Scars miniseries (January-June 2012) has Johnson, an Army Ranger, investigating his mother’s murder.
In doing so, Johnson is pulled into a web of intrigue from a villain seeking the Infinity Formula that Johnson doesn’t know is in his system. He also learns Fury is his father — and his birth name is Nick Fury Jr. This introduces a Nick Fury into the mainstream Marvel Universe that resembles the Ultimates Universe version, whose appearance was modeled on actor Samuel L. Jackson.
12. SPIDER-MAN AND VENOM
Spider-Man got far more than he bargained for when he was spirited away with several of the world’s heroes and villains in Secret Wars #1 (May 1984). In issue #8 (December 1984), Spidey used a device that he thought gave him a new costume, one that flowed over his body, was self-repairing and generated its own webbing.
But the “costume” proved to be a sentient alien that attaches to host bodies and overwhelms the will of the host. Spider-Man ultimately forces the symbiote out of his body, but it finds a new host in disgraced reporter Eddie Brock and becomes the villain Venom — and reacts to Spider-Man much like a spurned lover.
11. BLACK PANTHER AND STORM
T’Challa, the king of Wakanda, and Ororo, mutant goddess of the weather, didn’t seem to have much in common, nor were they known to have traveled in the same circles. This, of course, did not prevent Marvel from telling us they were destined to be together since they were teenagers, thanks to the six-issue miniseries Storm (Volume 2, April-September 2006).
T’Challa and Ororo were wed in Black Panther (Volume 4) #18 (September 2006), making her queen of Wakanda. Unfortunately, their ties to opposing superhero teams led T’Challa to annul their union in Avengers vs. X-Men #9 (August 2012). They have since rekindled their romance in the current run of Black Panther.
10. QUICKSILVER AND THE SCARLET WITCH
Twin brother and sister Pietro and Wanda Maximoff — known as Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch — have gone through life with the firm belief that the only people they can count on are each other. Introduced in X-Men (Volume 1) #4 (March 1964), they were founding members of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, although they weren’t evil so much as seeking a place to belong.
Quicksilver has always been aggressively protective of Wanda, owing to their time as refugees in Europe and having to flee from people who fear mutants. Even after they reform and join the Avengers, Quicksilver puts Wanda first, denouncing her relationship with the Vision and contending with Magneto, whom they believe to be their father.
9. REED RICHARDS AND VICTOR VON DOOM
Too bad Reed Richards and Victor von Doom went to college in the days before Facebook and Google, because it’s routine now to find out about your new classmates well before you move into the dorm. As revealed in Fantastic Four Annual #2 (1964), Richards offered to be von Doom’s roommate but was brusquely rebuffed.
Worse, von Doom wouldn’t listen when Richards pointed out some errors in von Doom’s notes on matter transmutation and dimension warps. The result? Von Doom doesn’t correct his calculations, blows up his room and gets expelled — and ever after, blamed Richards for his mistakes, leading to a lifelong enmity as he moved on to become armored despot Doctor Doom and Richards became Mr. Fantastic.
8. PETER PARKER AND GWEN STACY
Empire State University classmates Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy became a romantic couple, although Mary Jane Watson was in the mix as a rival. Stacy was sweet and personable, where Watson affected a flighty party-girl air. Soon, Stacy became the love of Parker’s life, although his failure as Spider-Man to rescue her father, NYPD Captain George Stacy, from being killed (Amazing Spider-Man #90, November 1970) complicated things.
But the fight between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin in Amazing Spider-Man (Volume 1) #121 (June 1973) was a watershed moment. Stacy was kidnapped by the Goblin and tossed off the Brooklyn Bridge (mistakenly labeled the George Washington Bridge in the story). Spider-Man tries to save her with his webbing, but inadvertently breaks Stacy’s neck.
7. THE VISION AND THE SCARLET WITCH
The Scarlet Witch and the synthozoid The Vision were an unlikely pair drawn together through the loneliness of being outsiders. Wanda Maximoff first appeared in X-Men (Volume 1) #4 (March 1964) as one of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. The Vision debuted in Avengers (Volume 1) #57 (October 1968); it is revealed he is a construct of Ultron.
They both reformed and joined the Avengers, and their relationship bloomed. They were married in Giant-Size Avengers #4 (June 1975) and had children in The Vision and The Scarlet Witch maxiseries (October 1985-September 1986). Unfortunately, the children were revealed to be magical constructs, and both the Vision and the Witch have been considered threats to the world because of how they cope for their longing for family.
6. REED RICHARDS AND SUE STORM
If any pair can be said to be the first couple of the Marvel Universe, it’s Reed Richards and Sue Storm. Storm was right with Richards on their first published adventure, in Fantastic Four (Volume 1) #1 (November 1961), joining him on the ill-fated space flight that transformed them, her brother Johnny and Ben Grimm into the first superheroes of the Marvel Age.
Their wedding, in Fantastic Four Annual #3 (1965) was the social event of the season, a blowout event that set the standard for every superhero wedding that followed. And through family squabbles, stressful pregnancies, outsiders undermining their marriage, strong arguments and spacefaring adventure, their love has endured.
5. ANT-MAN AND THE WASP
Henry Pym, introduced in Tales to Astonish #27 (January 1962), comes from a long line of square-jawed comic-book scientists whose inventions don’t work as expected. In that one-off tale, he invents a way to shrink. In issue #35 (September 1962), he develops means to communicate with ants and becomes Ant-Man. Issue #44 (June 1963) brings in socialite Janet van Dyne, who becomes Pym’s longtime love and the superhero the Wasp.
In Avengers (Volume 1) #60 (January 1969), van Dyne invites the team to a surprise wedding — to Yellowjacket, a new super-being who claims to have killed Pym. It’s revealed that Yellowjacket is Pym, having a psychotic episode, and that van Dyne knows who he really is. Their relationship after that is tumultuous.
4. CYCLOPS AND PHOENIX
X-Men (Volume 1) #1 (September 1963) introduces readers to the inaugural team, which includes Scott Summers, called Cyclops and Jean Grey, then known as Marvel Girl. Gray was the only woman on the team, and soon attracted Summers’ interest, although it took a long while for him to get over his shyness. The two established an enduring, long-term romance through many adventures with the X-Men.
On a space mission, Grey is possessed by the Phoenix Force, exponentially increasing her power until she destroys an inhabited world and commits suicide in battle to stop her corruption (X-Men #129-#138, January-October 1980). It is revealed that the Phoenix replaced Grey, and Summers reunited with her — despite being married to Madeline Pryor, who looked like Grey.
3. DOCTOR DOOM AND KRISTOFF VERNARD
Like any despot, Doctor Doom wishes to carry on his legacy. The inconvenient fact that he does not have a heir is a minor impediment; he just made one. After being overthrown in Latveria, Doom returned from exile in Fantastic Four (Volume 1) #247 (October 1982) and adopted a boy, Kristoff Vernard, whose mother was killed by a Zorba regime enforcer robot.
At a time when Doom was believed dead, Doom’s robots brainwashed Vernard with Doom’s brain patterns and outfitted him in armor. Fully believing himself to be Doom, Vernard ruled the country and exiled Doom again. Eventually, Vernard was restored to his own mind, but lives as Doom’s son. In She-Hulk (Volume 3) #2-4 (May-July 2014), he sought asylum in the United States.
2. WOLVERINE AND PROFESSOR X
Charles Xavier founded the X-Men in order to make the world a better place for mutants like himself. But where the inaugural group was composed of raw teenagers, subsequent teams were comprised of older, more experienced beings — in particular, Wolverine. Coming aboard in Giant Size X-Men #1 (May 1975), Wolverine was brash and disruptive.
Over the years, Wolverine’s demeanor toward Xavier shifted from being reflexively argumentative to fully respectful. The film Logan (2017) has the two of them on a road trip in the future as two of the last X-Men, trying to protect a mutant teen named Laura. This saga has them caring for each other as father and son.
1. CAPTAIN AMERICA AND IRON MAN
Captain America and Iron Man are two pillars of the Avengers. Both are strong-willed leaders, but their differing visions — Steve Rogers the idealist and Tony Stark the self-proclaimed futurist — has often put them at odds. One example was “Operation: Galactic Storm” crossover (March-May 1992), in which Iron Man leads a faction of Avengers to kill the Kree’s Supreme Intelligence, despite Captain America leading the group to vote against it.
The argument over registering superheroes with the government in the “Civil War” crossover (July 2006-January 2007), caused a major rift in the whole superhero community. Iron Man pushed for it and Captain America led a resistance movement, and the dispute led to family breakups, betrayals, deaths and arguments that lasted well after it ended.
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