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Joel Grineau
by: Joel V. Grineau
Love and Marriage in Comics

Why is it that most of the `big guns' of comicdom: Batman, Iron Man, Green Lantern, Thor, Captain America . . . are not married? Once again, Joseph Campbell's "The Hero with a Thousand Faces" (1949), offers us an answer.

According to Campbell, the hero's reward after the final ordeal can be the sexual union of the hero with the goddess mother. There are two simple reasons why this does not happen in comics. First and most obvious is that despite the toothlessness of the Comics Code Authority, sex still cannot be depicted, nor for that matter be explicitly implied in a Code approved book.

Secondly, in Campbell's heroic cycle, what comes after this sexual union is the trip home. That would mean that the hero's journey is half over. Although comic book characters have origins and careers, they rarely have true ends. By getting married, they are in effect setting off on the road to the end. Few 14 year olds want to read about a 40 year old hero who's spends his Avengers pay check on his 3 bedroom home, complete with white picket fence. As a case in point, you'll notice that the majority of DC's golden age heroes are married; yes marriage is okay for the septuagenarian super heroes.

Worse yet, if a hero does not achieve union at the nadir of the heroic cycle, they often marry upon their return, that is, the end of the heroic cycle. For example: Sam Gamgee (in "The Lord of the Rings"), Hercules and Jason in Greek literature, and Garion (of "The Belgariad"). Riding off into the sunset would effectively kill off a comic book.

Therefore, women are generally just tests or helpers along the heroic cycle/ hero's career path. Non-super powered women are generally end up as jilted and jaded girlfriends, who rarely know they were once dating Batman, Iron Man or Spider-Man.

More importantly, comic book heroes often end up in titillating situations with female super villains (or is it super villainesses?). I guess it's just not right to have a married Superman battling a mate seeking Maxima, so she has now turned her propagating attentions to other heros, Aquaman being the most recent.

So, in the grand scheme of things hero's don't often marry.

But, of course many of you will cite such high profiled married heros as: Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman, Elongated Man, the Hulk, or Spider-Man.

Yes, it's true they are married, and true they still have viable careers (well maybe not Elongated Man). Is my arguement therefore invalidated? Yes and no. Wives often become bad plot devices. "I must save Mary Jane from that madman!" or "Really Sue, Sonar is a villain. Really." or "Hulk, do you know what I'm going to do to your wife?" In affect they can become liabilities. [Here is and interesting fact. Mayfair Games excellent "DC Heroes" role playing game gives a hero the option of being married. Such a choice is defined as a `drawback' in the game. Whereas girlfriends, who are but passing events in the hero's life are not defined as such].

Lastly, marriage is no longer a sanctified institution in comicdom. Giant Man and the Wasp are divorced (I think, this has yet to be defined in the new `Heroes Return' Marvel universe). Antman II is divorced. Troia (formerly Wonder Girl) is divorced.

I can only conclude that DC must have agreed with some of my points. After all, the married Batman and Superman of Earth II were both eliminated during "Crisis". Batman is still single, and it took over 10 years to get Supes married again.

Joel Grineau is a former Writer/Contributing Editor for "Chaos" Magazine. "Iron Man" 146 (purchased in the spring of 1981) was his first comic book, and time has not worn down his enjoyment of them. Joel holds a BA from the University of Guelph and an MA from the University of Saskatchewan. He is currently an officer with the Canadian Forces.

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Text © Joel V. Grineau, 1997,1998.
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