Aside from “Who would win in a fight?” nothing gets comic fans more heated than the question of whether or not superheroes should be married. In this mini-feature, Bride-to-Be Rebecca Henely and her Maid of Honor Kayleigh Hearn take a trip down memory lane to the most significant times comic companies took the plunge and got their characters hitched! Did we like the couple? Did we like the dress? And more importantly … why did (or didn’t) the marriage last?
Rebecca: The Fantastic Four are known as Marvel’s First Family, and with Fantastic Four Annual #3, artist Jack Kirby and writer Stan Lee made that official with the wedding of Susan Storm and Reed Richards. In this issue, Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman’s big day has made front page news, inspiring Doctor Doom to sic a cavalcade of supervillains on the Baxter Building for the ceremony. Luckily, the super-powered wedding guests are enough to fend them off.
Before we get into the issue, let’s talk briefly about our experience with the couple. I wouldn’t call myself a Reed/Sue shipper, but I’m not necessarily for them with anyone else. The Fantastic Four works best as a unit and having Reed and Sue on the team as a married couple, and I have to say my engagement with the couple has always been based on how much agency Sue has in the relationship. She’s been written as everything from a milksop taking Reed’s sexist “Women amirite?” jokes to a Strong Independent Woman (™) who won’t accept Reed trying to protect her under any circumstances to a fully confident wife and mother. To me it’s not really whether or not they’re a couple, but how they’re portrayed as a couple. How about you?
Kayleigh: I wouldn’t put Reed and Sue at the Ant-Man/Wasp level of “oh dear god, no” (are we doing their wedding issue? Because holy shit). But there’s an uncomfortable air of paternalism that hangs over them even though creators have done a LOT of work over decades to make Sue a proactive, three-dimensional character. Who else you would ship with Sue–Namor? Even at his most heroic (i.e, not kidnapping her), Namor is kind of that bodice-ripper fantasy that might seem tempting if you’re in an unhappy relationship, but would be a really fucking bad idea in reality. In some ways these complications make Reed and Sue’s marriage more believable, showing the struggles of two people who have been together a long time, but are still changing and going through major ups and downs as a couple and as parents.
Rebecca: I’m still reeling over that Hank/Jan article to make a decision over whether to cover it, to be honest. Anyway, I’ve read a few superhero wedding comics in my day, but never the marriage of Reed and Sue. I was surprised how much it didn’t feel like a wedding issue — it’s basically a giant, cameo-riffic long fight scene that happens to end in a wedding. I loved Jack Kirby’s action-packed art and how yet another hero or villain (from the days when the Marvel Universe felt pretty small and manageable, although blindingly white) kept showing up in every panel. Also great is how Daredevil somehow manages to destroy an oncoming navy by dumb luck. Still, this isn’t what I think of when I think of a comic book wedding issue. Most of them seem to celebrate the couple and let the fans bask in the joys of seeing them together, and in this one the wedding feels really perfunctory. What did you think?
Kayleigh: This is billed as a “Special King Size Annual” but the wedding itself only spans two panels. I can practically hear Ben Grimm scoffing, “Awww, dat’s GOIL’S stuff!” in a cartoony New York accent. For such a big status quo change, the wedding is really just an excuse to see so many heroes fighting together in one place, and what 14-year-old at the newsstand cares about all that sentimental mush? But considering that Jack Kirby co-created the romance comic, it would have been nice to see more romantic moments between Reed and Sue amid the chaos. With so many cameos, it barely feels like a Fantastic Four issue, let alone an issue about Reed and Sue’s wedding. It definitely isn’t the kind of big event sales stunt that superhero weddings are today.
Rebecca: I agree about wishing Jack Kirby could have indulged in his romantic instincts here. Anyway, was there a cameo you particularly liked? I kind of dug seeing the future Hellcat and Hedy Wolfe, myself.
Kayleigh: I loved Tony Stark’s cameo. Fans love to drag Stan Lee’s Silver Age dialogue, but Ben Grimm’s “I thought they only wore them hats in cartoons where kids toss snowballs at rich geezers!” critique of Tony’s top hat is savage.
Rebecca: We don’t get much of a wedding ceremony in this issue, sadly, but we can still take some time to pick on the outfits. Sue’s dress is OK if a little plain — I do like the short over-skirt. I’m less impressed with the odd donut on her head holding her veil. I guess Alicia Masters is the maid of honor. The green is a good color, but it completely changes style from the first scene to the last, going from a no-sleeve to a long-sleeved. The guys’ suits I hate. The blue jackets with the black lapels are pretty nice, but with blue-and-black pinstripe pants? Ugh! And poor Matt Murdoch was just the uh … wedding lawyer … and he had to wear the same thing. Why does the lawyer have a role in a wedding? Should I get a lawyer for mine?
Kayleigh: I don’t know if it’s better or worse that all the guys lose their tuxes and end up going to the wedding in their classic blue Fantastic Four costumes. Sue’s dress seems ridiculously demure by today’s standards, but it’s also in character since she was still in “Oh, Reed!” mode.
Rebecca: So, I planned to ask if we would go to/emulate anything from this wedding, but it doesn’t seem like much of one. I guess if I had to go I would enjoy it the same way I enjoyed the comic — seeing all the Marvel celebrities at a big party (even if that ceremonial hall seems very small). I guess my favorite part was the famous scene where Stan Lee and Jack Kirby aren’t allowed in. What was yours?
Kayleigh: Does that make us Patsy and Hedy? My favorite part of the issue is that surreal, full page Kirby collage of Mr. Fantastic and the Watcher traveling through the Fourth Dimension. It’s so trippy and wild and one of those pages that you can point to and say “This! Right here!” if someone ever asks you what made Jack Kirby a legend.
Rebecca: Finally, unlike a big chunk of the people we’re going to cover on this feature — Sue and Reed have, a few Civil War storylines aside, basically stayed together. Would you know that from this comic? I wouldn’t necessarily, since the both of them but especially Sue are such a non-presence in this issue, but on the other hand this issue does present them as an inevitability of the Marvel Universe. Everyone’s here for their big day, even if it just results in a big fight that’s only solved by Watcher bringing out the deux ex machina. But hey, they’re Marvel’s First Family — they have to be married. Your thoughts?
Kayleigh: What therefore Lee and Kirby hath joined together, let no man put asunder. Reed and Sue probably have the one sacred, unbreakable marriage in the Marvel Universe, having been married early in their history and being part of a team that’s fairly unique for its tight-knit family dynamic. (The fact that they’ve been able to keep both their kids without Franklin and Valeria being permanently killed off, retconned out of existence, or being banished to an alternate, dystopian future is almost equally amazing.) Interestingly, I think they’re also the only classic Marvel couple to be married on the big screen? Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer has very little going for it, but I do like that it wasn’t afraid to marry Reed and Sue, especially since the MCU is very commitment-phobic. (Stan Lee still getting turned away at the door forty years later has to be one of his best cameos.) They may not be my favorite Marvel couple, but love is so fleeting in the Marvel Universe that I would never take away Reed and Sue’s happiness.