Saturday, September 3, 2011

25 Ways to Make a Superhero Marriage Interesting

Lately there have been a number of superhero marriages that have been erased by history changes (Spider-Man and Mary Jane, Superman and Lois, Flash and Iris). The explanation is usually that marriage limits the kinds of stories that can be told and doesn’t allow or certain other stories. Well, it’s true that marriage closes the door on some stories, but it opens the door on other stories. Here are some ideas off the top of my head that work well with superhero marriages (particularly if, as is often the case, the spouse isn’t a superhero. Keep in mind that I’m not married myself, so married writers have even less of an excuse.
Also note that this was originally just going to be ten ideas. If there's enough of a demand for a sequel post, I'm sure I could brainstorm more of these.
  1. A villain realizes that the hero must be getting aid from some unidentified source (the spouse, of course) and sets out to find that source.
  2. The spouse struggles with the fact that their partner teams up regularly with really attractive people with near perfect builds. The hero won’t act on it, but the tension is there, and is affecting the spouse’s stress levels.
  3. The hero does in fact have a fling with a really attractive teammate and then needs to redeem themselves in both their spouse and their own eyes; if you really want to mess with the hero, and if the hero is male, have the woman he had a fling with get pregnant.
  4. The spouse has an affair due to their insecurities re: their beyond human partner or because of stress related to…
  5. The spouse is dealing with the fact that their heroic partner might not come home one day.
  6. The hero does die and then come back, requiring them to remarry.
  7. The spouse has to deal with the possibility that their partner is effectively immortal because heroes rarely stay dead, and in fact they themselves may be effectively immortal by association.
  8. Baby on the way! This will of course create complications regardless of who’s pregnant, but a pregnant superhero is going to really create complications.
  9. Marriage issues arise, and the hero takes advantage of being a superhero to duck out of dealing with the issues.
  10. Conversely, the hero really wants to attend marriage counselling but the villains don’t care about the scheduled appointment.
  11. The hero is captured and it’s up to their spouse to save them, and heaven help anyone who gets in the spouse’s way (of course there’s also the reverse, but that’s too much of a cliché.
  12. The hero’s powers activate during an argument, frightening the spouse.
  13. The spouse is planning a surprise party for the hero and has to find creative ways around the hero’s powers.
  14. The hero has a personal crisis about remaining a hero and starts taking less risky assignments even if the spouse doesn’t want them to.
  15. The spouse gets an adrenalin rush helping the hero and thus starts helping the hero to the point of endangering themselves needlessly, perhaps even training to become a crime fighter themselves.
  16. The hero starts to realize their spouse is better at following clues than they are.
  17. The hero starts to realize that they do their best work in solving cases if they have a sounding board (and for the writer of the story, they have a way to toss in important expository dialogue organically).
  18. The spouse learns that family members are criminals and has to choose between their birth family and their family by marriage.
  19. The spouse comes into a large sum of money and thus the hero becomes dependant on them for their gadgets etc.
  20. The hero and their spouse seek out ways to spice up their marriage in a world where the extraordinary can become boring.
  21. The hero tries to use their powers to find/make creative anniversary gifts.
  22. The spouse is the one trying to buy an anniversary gift and struggles to figure out what to give someone extraordinary.
  23. The hero and their spouse publicly endorse opposing political candidates.
  24. The marriage is failing so a cosmic mischief maker puts them in a trap that they can only get out of by working in tandem.
  25. The hero and their spouse learn that some villain is trying to erase their marriage from history and are determined to prevent this at all costs.


Ed Catto said...

What a great list! I'd also add that Bemdis writes a charming, fresh and believable narrative with Luke and Jessica's marriage in New Avengers.

Doug said...

Great list. The dissolution of comic marriages is a fallacy of the frat boy culture at DC and Marvel. The only stories that marriages eliminate are tawdry ones - Peter Parker bedding Felicia Hardy or Superman hooking up with Diana. Those kinds of stories add little to the characters or mythos and are nothing more than crude fanservice.

The editors and writers that have removed the marriages are reflecting their own insecurities and hangups about marriage, rather than writing for the character.

Eric said...

I kept wanting to say "ooh that's the best one" but then kept finding others that I'd have to mention. I think that one could make an entire series based just on these ideas! In fact I'm getting story ideas just from reading the list! Well done Andy.

Andy E. Nystrom said...

Glad people are enjoying this post. It's really puzzling that people who do this as a profession struggle with this when I came up with all these last night and this morning.

I do think there are good stories to be told with single heroes: Ultimate spider-Man and Mary Jane had a sweet romance between two people way too young to marry. And while a married Batman can be done (and has been done on Earth-2), marriage isn't as natural a fit for him as Clark and Barry.

What it boils down to is, I like a bit of both. Sometimes I want to read stories about a single hero, sometimes I want to read about a married couple. There's enough single heroes out there that we don't need to dissolve marriages right and left to make room for more.