Fans ship characters. This is a fact known by anyone who has ever spent any period of time in fandom. Fans want to see characters they love end up with other characters they love or feel would work well together. It's been going on long before even the Star Trek fandom started writing their fanfiction. It's been going on in the superhero fandom.
However, there are relationships in superhero comics that are toxic. Unhealthy. Just plain bad. While fans may enjoy these ships in spite of—or even because—of these toxic elements, it's important to take a step back and say "This isn't a healthy relationship." In order to expose some unhealthy relationships, it is time to ask "What superhero relationships are extra toxic?"
Trigger warning: if topics of emotional and physical abuse, abandonment, sexual assault, and mind-altering drugs are too traumatic to read about, turn back now.
10 Spider-Man And Black Cat
While an incredibly popular ship, the relationship between Black Cat and Spider-Man is incredibly toxic. Their relationship is centered around their identity as costumed characters. Black Cat feels a strong desire to be with Spider-Man.
But across every incarnation, she doesn't particularly care about Peter Parker. And that's where the problems come in. She only likes Spider-Man so long as he remains Spider-Man. This leads to a very real problem found in many toxic relationships: she's only interested in one aspect of him, to the exclusion of everything else.
9 Cyclops And Jean Grey
Cyclops and Jean Grey are among the most widely beloved relationships in comic book history. It's a shame, then, that they're also so incredibly toxic for each other.
Until Madelyn Pryor, Jean and Scott's relationship seemed alright. But then the moment Jean comes back, Cyclops casts aside Madelyn to be with the "real" Jean. Oh, and the only reason Cyclops hooked up with Madelyn was because she looked like Jean. All this is complicated later when Scott cheats on Jean with Emma Frost — resulting in more problems.
The problem here is that Scott is just a bad partner, seemingly for anyone. Jean just has to deal with it most often.
8 Ant-Man And The Wasp
Hank Pym and Janet van Dyne may be a great duo of superheroes, working together to save the world...but Hank Pym has some serious issues he needs to work out. If you're familiar with the loving relationship as seen in the MCU, prepare for a shocker: Hank Pym is a bit of a maniac.
In one infamous story, Hank Pym—then Yellowjacket—beat Janet across the face. Hank has always been unstable thanks to the Pym Particles messing with his brain chemistry, but that made him worse from there. On one hand, it isn't entirely Hank's fault the chemicals mess with his brain chemistry. But, at the end of the day, is that any excuse for Hank's awful behavior?
7 Star-Lord And Kitty Pryde
Kitty Pryde has had many partners over the years. She's been on and off again with Colossus, in the Ultimate Universe with Peter Parker, and may have had a relationship with Rachel Summers. But her worst one? Star-Lord.
Star-Lord and Kitty became very close for a hot second, with the former sweeping her up into the stars...only to promptly ignore her shortly thereafter. Yeah, this relationship is easily the worst of Pryde's relationships. By a lot.
6 Comedian And Silk Spectre
The shock of the century: Watchmen isn't a book about people with good mental health.
There are multiple toxic relationships in Watchmen. Dr. Manhattan and Silk Spectre II could have made this list as well. But the relationship between the Comedian and the original Silk Spectre is particularly disturbing, in part because it essentially started with sexual assault.
This relationship is deeply problematic, in part because the elder heroine looks back on the Comedian with a hint of fondness, implying that her feelings following the blatant assault softened somewhat. It's hard to imagine why.
5 The Atom And Jean Loring
Ray Palmer was married for some time with Jean Loring. That relationship, now, is forever broken in too many pieces to ever reassemble.
Identity Crisis is a controversial comic that features memory wiping, sexual assault, murder...and the whole thing unraveled that way because of Jean Loring, who thought that a series of murders might be the perfect way to get Ray Palmer back. The experience left Ray so broken and horrified that he ended up shrinking down into as small a microscopic speck as possible.
4 Venom And Anne Weying
Many people have been re-introduced to this toxic relationship thanks to the Venom movie. Make no mistake: the comic version of this relationship is particularly toxic, and, with that context, it becomes harder to ship these two.
While the relationship was either happy for many years or toxic (depending on if we're talking pre- or post-Venom: Dark Origins), the real tipping point was when Eddie became Venom, and the symbiote merged with Anne for a brief time.
The experience left Anne traumatized, which left her with crippling depression so intense that just seeing Spider-Man in a black costume again drove her to suicide.
So yeah. This superhero relationship? Pretty toxic.
3 Batman And Talia al Ghul
Many fans ship Batman and Talia al Ghul, in part because of their fairly intense relationship. However, knowing that Talia drugged Batman, had intercourse with him while he was drugged, gave birth to his son, and kept that son a secret for several years — well, that puts a bit of a damper on the relationship, doesn't it?
It is time to be frank. Talia al Ghul sexually assaulted Batman. But even beyond that, she continued to withhold his own child from him. Deliberately. Knowingly. That's...pretty messed up. And the simple fact is that Batman was a better father to Damian Wayne than Talia ever was.
2 Joker And Harley
Harley Quinn was brainwaved, broken, and visibly tormented by the Joker. There is not a single thing healthy about this relationship by any stretch of the word.
The Joker only used Harley as a tool to get out of jail. He emotionally devastated her to control her. His dominating behavior manifests consistently, to the point where Harley developed a disturbing case of Stockholm Syndrome, justifying the abusive behavior for as long as possible.
And this abuse isn't anything small of justifiable, either. No loving partner will try to carve a person's face off or isolate them from everyone that person ever loved.
Harley Quinn should stick with Poison Ivy. There's a relationship built on mutual trust and love rather than...whatever it is Joker did with Harley.
1 Purple Man And ANYONE
The Purple Man, by virtue of his nature and abilities, can never be in a healthy relationship with anyone. It is truly impossible for him to ever form any functional relationship with another human being — especially Jessica Jones.
Killgrave's abilities allow him to manipulate a person's mind, which means no one who ever enters into a relationship with him is acting of their own volition. They are acting because he is making them act. He treats humanity as tools for his own intention, and then, immediately, tosses them out. This disturbing character is truly beyond forgiveness.
And yet people ship Killgrave with Jessica, in part thanks to the Jessica Jones Netflix series, where the Purple Man happens to be played by David Tennant. Sure, he's an attractive guy, but are people just forgetting that this man is a manipulative monster? It's sometimes hard to understand why some fans ship certain relationships in comics. Just please, don't ship Killgrave with anyone.