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Six by 6 by 6 | Six unholy couplings

by  in Comic News Comment
Six by 6 by 6 |  Six unholy couplings

I’m not sure what inspired a set of six matches made in Hell, but I can tell you that it was fun picking from the scads we Robot Sixers suggested. They’re not all slow-motion trainwrecks, and neither are they all necessarily tragic. One doesn’t even last that long.  All of them have been fun to watch over the years — but all of them kinda make you think “oh, this could be bad.”

Therefore, in no particular order, JK Parkin and I present six pairs who might have done better as spares….

Arella and Trigon. After Angela Roth fled her abusive Gotham City home, she thought she’d found solace in the arms of religion. Unfortunately, her new church turned out to be a cult bent on bringing the Devil to Earth. This didn’t quite work out for the cultists (who should’ve waited fifteen years for Neron and Underworld Unleashed), but they did introduce Angela to Trigon, a stud with curly red hair and gold-flecked bedroom eyes. Following a sequence more soft-focus ’70s-turtleneck horror than Rosemary’s Baby, it wasn’t long before Angela was in Trigon’s dimension, pregnant with his child. That, in turn, was his cue to show her his true self: antlers, red skin, and four eyes (and not the nerdy kind, either). Trigon then sent Angela back to Earth, where she was saved from suicide by an emissary from the pacifist land of Azarath.

The Azarites named her Arella and cared for her and her daughter Raven for the next eighteen years or so. Yadda yadda yadda, Raven and her superhero friends wound up fighting Trigon, and more often than not, whatever peace Arella might have found was sacrificed so that he could be dispatched. The first time the Titans fought Trigon, they imprisoned him in another dimension, and Arella volunteered to be his jailer. When Trigon eventually returned (obliterating Azarath in the process), Arella helped destroy him, but she then spent months searching for the vanished Raven. Once the Titans freed mother and daughter from the Church of Brother Blood, Arella established a ranch for wayward girls, but that too was short-lived. The newly-evil Jericho destroyed the ranch, and Arella didn’t make it out of that arc, merging at its climax with assorted other souls (including the reviled Titan Danny Chase) to become the entity called Phantasm. (Phantasm’s in comic-book limbo at the moment, but I bet its inevitable revival highlights Danny more than Arella.) At least she was spared the sight of an Iggy Pop-like Trigon, once again menacing Raven and friends in the early issues of the current Titans series. (Tom Bondurant)

Darkseid and Dark Phoenix. He’s the embodiment of ultimate evil, bent on nothing less than total multiversal conquest!  She’s a fallen angel, condemned by her own limitless power!  Good thing they’re separated by the impregnable walls of publishing houses, right?

Not so fast, my friend; for the safety of all creation pales in comparison to the profit potential from combining the greatest cash cows of early ’80s superhero comics!  Seems that Darkseid, bent on turning the Earth into another Apokolips, needed a suitable power source for his machine, and set about recreating Dark Phoenix from the memories and energies she left behind.  Alive again, Dark Phoenix found Darkseid a kindred spirit, eagerly taking his hand and calling him “my love” soon afterwards.  Clearly they had excellent chemistry, especially as drawn by Walt Simonson.  It would’ve worked, too — Dark Phoenix fired the bolt which set the doomsday device in motion — if not for those meddling kids.  See, Raven (her again!) and Professor X … well, I’ll let Chris Claremont explain:

Her own abilities heightened by Xavier’s psi-powers, Raven drains Phoenix of rage and hatred and lust, filling that emotional void in turn with the love felt by Xavier — and all the X-Men — for Jean Grey.  Phoenix’s reaction is a shriek torn from the pit of her soul.

This soon causes Phoenix to start “discorporating,” so Robin convinces her to gas up on the closest available power source, which of course was her contribution to Darkseid’s machine.  This doesn’t quite do the trick either, and Darkseid suggests she take a new host body, which turns out to be Cyclops’.  Naturally, Cyke then reminds Phoenix she’s a creature of love, and if she accepts Darkseid then she denies her true blah blah blah.  Realizing that Darkseid’s the cause of her current predicament, she lashes out at him, imprisoning them both (presumably) in the Source Wall.

Now, there is some thought that the Dark Phoenix in this story wasn’t the “real” one, but a copy created by Darkseid out of (for lack of a better term) scraps.  This would explain her instant attraction and allegiance to him.  However, as Storm notes at the end, “Phoenix” appeared to both the Titans and Jean’s parents prior to Darkseid’s “summoning.”  Besides, Phoenix’s emotions were a little too on-the-nose merely to be products of Darkseid’s devices.  Therefore, although neither would spend too terribly long in the Source Wall*, I have to think it was an awkward kind of togetherness…. (Tom Bondurant)

Thanos and Death. It’s one thing to become obsessed with death — we’ve all seen villains who just love killing people for one reason or another — but Thanos takes that obsession to a whole other level. Because in the Marvel Universe, Death is, literally, a harsh mistress. Typically seen in her purple robe and showing either the face of a beautiful woman or a creepy skeleton, Death walks among us … and pretends not to see the roses and candy that Thanos has laid out at her feet, again. Or maybe she does see them, but she simply isn’t impressed, so she just silently walks away without acknowledging them. Damn, that’s cold.

And what do you do to step up your game? Jewelry. Anyone else would have gone for diamonds, but not Thanos … instead he collects the rarer-than-diamonds Infinity Gems, puts them all together in a glove and wipes out half of all life in the universe. Does that impress her? Who knows … again, she stays silent, aloof, simply observing without ever acknowledging what Thanos has done for her. Again, I say … damn, that’s cold.

But eventually maybe Death did warm up to Thanos. They did have a kid of sorts, The Rot, at one point. And the last time we saw the two together was after Thanos’ death at the end of the first Annihilation mini-series, where a near-death Nova sees the pair standing together. Maybe Thanos finally melted the ultimate ice queen’s heart, or maybe she’s just setting him up for more spurning. Because as all comic fans know, nobody gets to hang out with death for very long in the Marvel U. (JK Parkin)

Madame Xanadu and the Phantom Stranger. These are two DC figures of long standing, but although we’ve seen them interact previously, the current Madame Xanadu series has really put their relationship in perspective.  As related by Matt Wagner and Amy Reeder Hadley in MX #s 1-10, this pair has a history stretching back to the fall of Camelot, and it may be summarized thusly:  the Phantom Stranger is a jerk.  He spends ten issues manipulating Madame X. and, by extension, the course of human (and superhuman) history, while exploiting her feelings for him (both positive and negative).  Issue #2 reveals his version of “it’s not you, it’s me:”

Already the winds of fate summon me elsewhere … to a situation that begs for guidance and promises only untold dangers. […] I am but a stranger to all, and that is my destiny.  I would not condemn you to such a lonely life.

He even puts her squarely in the Friend Zone, calling her “dear friend” at that.  Accordingly, their meetings in the 18th and 19th Centuries go less well, as she blames him for failing to stop such tragedies as the Reign of Terror and the Ripper murders.  By the 20th Century she’s ready to have her revenge … but he knows she’s foreseen a particular murder herself, one which will create a mystical being of incalculable power; and she’s ready to let it happen.  Therefore, despite her revulsion at his inaction (not to mention his turning her down back in issue #2), she comes to appreciate the Stranger’s perspective.  That’s obviously not as bad an outcome as some of the other couples we’ve mentioned, and the story itself is a nice riff on the “why does God let bad things happen?” conundrum.  It doesn’t change the fact that over the centuries the Stranger’s still pretty much a jerk. (Tom Bondurant)

Hellcat and Daimon Hellstrom. I think just their names alone more than make them qualified for this list. And when you look at their history, it only makes you wonder if you even need five other candidates …

Rule #1: Hot chicks dig bad boys. At least that’s what I witnessed first hand in elementary school when my straight “A” self was dumped for the kid who spent all his time in detention. So when model-turn-superhero Patsy Walker laid eyes on Daimon Hellstrom, it was probably inevitable … the poor red-headed Defender was in trouble. And it isn’t like she could play coy and pretend that maybe this bad boy had a softer side that no one else could see, or that he duped her into loving him with his charms before she found out his history. I mean, when a guy goes by the name “Son of Satan,” at best he’s a liar with a fetish for the unholy, and at worst he’s the dude that’s supposed to bring about the apocalypse.

But in Marvel Universe, he was actually a superhero, fighting alongside Patsy and her friends in the Defenders. So we’ll cut her some slack. And at one point his satanic darkside was even taken out of his body and absorbed into a villain, freeing him of all the baggage that goes along with being the son of the devil. But it was short-lived; eventually Hellstrom had to reabsorb his darker side, something Patsy got to witness and subsequently drove her mad and eventually to suicide.

She’s back now, of course, and in the pages of Marvel Divas Ol’ Scratch Jr. has been sniffing around her back door again. Oh Patsy, haven’t you learned your lesson by now? I’m sure there’s a nice superhero somewhere in Manhattan who is not only single, but isn’t related to the devil. (JK Parkin)

Dracula and Domini. There are few words to describe how tired I am of seeing all those erectile-dysfunction-drug commercials, but they look like “Sesame Street” next to the thought of Dracula, Lord of the Undead, getting his groove back. That’s just one of the twists in the Machiavellian tale of Domini, Dracula’s second wife. Introduced in Tomb Of Dracula #45 (June 1976) by writer Marv Wolfman and artists Gene Colan and Tom Palmer, Domini was a reluctant member of Anton Lupeski’s Satanist cult. In fact, Domini was about to be sacrificed by the cult when Dracula interrupted the ceremony. Seeing the opportunity for instant minions, Dracula took charge; and seeing the opportunity to bend Dracula to his will, Lupeski let him, offering Domini to Dracula along the way. Dracula and Domini were married three days later, but Domini had her own agenda; because she knew the child she’d bear that Christmas (actually, in issue #54) would not be a child of evil. (When all your unholy rituals are performed under a painting of Christ which not even Dracula seems to be able to remove, you have to think there’s a little more to the story.)

Anyway, Dracula, Domini, and Lupeski each plotted and schemed, both during her pregnancy and after baby Janus was born. Lupeski allied himself secretly with TOD‘s group of vampire hunters, and Domini found out; but when the vampire hunters attacked the church, Lupeski and Janus were both killed. Domini was able to bring Janus back to life and merge him with a rather superhero-looking spirit called the Golden Angel. Janus/GA then tried repeatedly to kill Dracula, and when Dracula was defeated (in TOD #70, the last issue of the series), Janus returned to infancy and was reunited with Domini. Mother and son then appeared in an arc in the ’90s series Nightstalkers, alongside Dr. Strange and TOD alums Blade, Frank Drake, and Hannibal King. (Tom Bondurant)

[Many thanks to The Appendix to the Handbook of the Marvel Universe, which, along with my Essential Tomb Of Dracula volumes, was a great resource in putting together this synopsis.]

* [Darkseid next appeared in “The Great Darkness Saga,” which clearly wasn’t a bad way to go.]

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