I don't remember the exact context, but my friend Shawn had the question posed about how many happy relationships there are portrayed in DC comics. I started thinking about comics in general and today there are almost no great relationships left in comics.
Clark (Superman) Kent and Lois Lane in DC and Peter (Spider-Man) Parker and Mary Jane Watson in Marvel. Going away from starring characters you have Jay (Flash I) and Joan Garrick in DC and no others in Marvel come to mind.
Over the years we had Barry Allen and Iris West, Wally and Linda West, Hawkman and Hawkgirl, Adam Stange and Alanna (that relationship still exists), Ray Palmer and Jean Loring, Hal Jordan and Carol Ferris, Green Arrow and Black Canry, Garth Ranzz (Lighting Lad) Imra Ardeen (Saturn Girl), Mon-el and Shadow Lass, Karate Kid and Princess Projectra, Reed and Sue Richards, Ben Grimm and Alicia, Johnny Storm and Crystal, Dr. Strange and Clea, Scott Summers and Jean Grey, Captain America and Sharon Carter, Daredevil and Karen Page, Hawkeye and Mockingbird, Vision and Scarlet Witch, Thor and Sif, Thor and Jane Foster, Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne, Bruce and Betty Banner - and I'm sure a lot more that I'm not even thinking about.
So why can no one ever live happily ever after anymore. Are Bigby and Snow White the only couple destined for fairy tale happiness?
The lack of strong romantic relationships in comics is a reflection of the nature of most story telling seems to rely on conflict and a happy couple does not have conflict. Also I believe it a reflection of our society that we have come to devalue the positives of marriage and what a good long term relationship really means. While many may almost look down on and sneer at "traditional values" (and I know I have not succeeded in my own life in maintaining that life long relationship (hopefully this time is it)), but as with all things we should strive for the better things. I also miss the sense of relationships in many comics. It was fun reading about the Legion and seeing how couples came together, got married and had children. I enjoyed Wally West having Linda as his guidepost and the one that kept him tethered to this world. Their love story was fantastic and a great one to follow. The break-up and Reed and Sue does not bode well for the Fantastic Four, because that book was always unique because it was about family and how family stayed together no matter what. The "new" line-up being hinted at is only good as a stop gap until they can "fix" Reed and Sue's relationship and make them a family again. If you don't, then you have four people lumped together, not the Fantastic Four.
This also goes back to my one major theme that characters (even the core ones in the DC and Marvel universes) need to grow older and change or else the stories are made up just to keep things shifting. Cyclops with White Queen is interesting, but has never been what would have happened in my mind. The justifications can be made as to why things happened, but it does not keep the spirit and what had been established.
Clark belongs with Lois, Nightwing with Barbara Gordon, Reed with Sue and on and on. It seems to me that at times comics companies don' listen to their characters and let them do what everyone knows they are going to do, just to be contrarians. Stan Lee used to say that after awhile the stories wrote themselves and in a sense he was right. Once you know your characters and put them in a situation you don't have to figure out what is going to happen, you just have to let them do what they do.
The net result is that we have very few happy relationships in comics and I think that is a shame and I hope we see more good relationships form and grow in 2007.