Surprise! Batman’s getting married!
And not just to anyone: He’s getting married to femme fatale and long-time paramour Selina Kyle aka Catwoman. The Caped Crusader proposed in issue #24 of the current Batman comic book series, written by award-winning writer Tom King. In issue #32, released last month, Catwoman said yes. Cue the confetti and champagne.
While this is certainly a huge step in the world of the Dark Knight — this is a superhero who has gotten everything from accusations of homoerotic subtext to a biological son who’s a crazed assassin — it’s also another chapter in an equally strange realm of fiction: Comic Books and Marriage.
Comic books have always been designed with younger readers in mind; it’s why they primarily deal in stories about the fantastical and supernatural, after all. However, marriage is, by definition, an adult concept. It’s paradoxically both a venerated ceremony in many cultures, and a strangely banal and anticlimactic experience.
Considering this, comic books have had varying success with dealing with weddings, marriage, and long-term married couples. Here’s a look back at some of the best and worst of this strange sub-genre.
Mr. Fantastic and The Invisible Woman
In 1965, the mother and father of comic book’s First Family made their love official. The Fantastic Four’s Reed Richards and Sue Richards (nee Storm) were married in Fantastic Four Annual #3, written by creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. The wedding set the benchmark for all future comic book weddings: every Marvel superhero attended, and over a dozen villains tried to steal the show with “surprise attacks”.
Reed and Sue’s relationship has mostly lived on through the decades of comic book canon, even leading to a 40th Wedding Anniversary Special. And with good reason: By being written as parental figures, comic’s younger audience saw the move as organic to their personalities, for the most part.
Spider-man and Mary Jane Watson
In contrast, in 1987 Marvel released one of the most famous, and controversial, comics of all time: The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21, gleefully titled “The Wedding!”
While the issue, with its instantly-iconic cover, was a success, the resulting nuptials were divisive amongst fans. In addition, many writers found themselves in a creative rut: unlike Reed and Sue, Spider-man was a young man with impossible super-powers who fights god-like villains all day — a literal analogue for many young readers. How was he meant to be in a loving, monogamous relationship?
This led to the 2007 series One More Day, where to reverse the death of Aunt May, Peter Parker cuts a deal with Mephisto, Marvel’s version of the Devil. Simply: his life will be just as good as it was before with Aunt May brought back to life. The catch? He’d never have been married.
I guess nobody told Peter Parker that annulment exists.
Batwoman and Maggie Sawyer
While this marriage never came to be on the page, it’s notable for what happened behind the scenes.
The batman ally Batwoman (not to be confused with Batman sidekick Batgirl) was relaunched in 2006 as Kate Kane, the ex-military cousin of Bruce Wayne and, notably, an out lesbian. She became an immediate fan favourite, and received her own solo title that exists till this day.
It was in this book that, in 2013, writer and artist JH Williams III wrote in a proposal between Batwoman and her partner at the time, Gotham detective Maggie Sawyer. However, Williams soon resigned, stating that DC Comics didn’t want Kate Kane to get married.
It immediately angered fans, with many calling DC’s decision homophobic, especially during the heated debate around marriage equality that was happening in the US. In addition, rivals Marvel had, the year prior, given comic books its first gay wedding when superhero Northstar married his civilian partner Kyle in a headline-making issue of Astonishing X-Men.
Archie and Betty/Archie and Veronica/Kevin Keller and Clay Walker
While Archie and his gang are currently busy solving Twin Peaks-lite mysteries on television’s Riverdale, the original comics were using marriage to rejig and reboot the series into more adult storylines way before anyone thought about introducing dark set lighting and murder conspiracies.
In a storyline that began in 2009 with Archie #600, Archie Andrews is shown to marry long-time paramour Veronica Lodge. Only, this is quickly followed by another storyline, where he instead marries Betty Cooper, his other paramour and other side of the Archie/Betty/Veronica love triangle.
Both stories turn out to be merely dreams, but they did help launch Life With Archie. Focusing on Archie’s life as a man and husband, the comic alternated between the two “dream” timelines. But, most significantly, Life With Archie was where canonically gay supporting character Kevin Keller marries his boyfriend Clay Walker, giving comics another major same sex marriage.
Alana and Marko (Saga)
It’s bizarre to say out loud, but one of the most human examples of a loving wedded relationship comes in a comic featuring talking Puffins, robots with TVs for heads, and warring alien species. But really, did we expect any less?
Written by industry veteran Brian K Vaughan and illustrated magnificently by Fiona Staples (who’d later help redesign comic book mainstay Archie), Alana and Marko are the protagonists of Saga, the parents of narrator Hazel, and one of the best examples of what a married relationship can be in a comic book world. Their relationship ebbs and flows, as they not only face external trials with and without each other, but also trials within their own relationship. They misread cues, fail to communicate, argue, make-up, and talk to each other the way only long-term lovers can.
Of course, they do all this while on the run from authorities that want to capture them and their child. Comic books are nothing, if not high-concept.