Aside from “Who would win in a fight?”, no debate gets comic fans more heated than the question of whether or not superheroes should marry. In this mini-feature, former Bride Rebecca Henely-Weiss and Bride-to-Be Kayleigh Hearn take a trip down memory lane to the most significant times comic companies took the plunge and got their
Aside from “Who would win in a fight?”, no debate gets comic fans more heated than the question of whether or not superheroes should marry. In this mini-feature, former Bride Rebecca Henely-Weiss and Bride-to-Be 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? Today we look at several weird weddings.
Rebecca: Most of the couples we’ve covered in this column didn’t end up lasting—whether due to death, divorce or selling their marriage to the devil—but we’ve never discussed couples that were never meant to last to begin with. So for April Fool’s Day this year, we’re reading a handful of those strange, eye-catching Silver Age wedding comics that pop up on your favorite “Comics are Weird!” lists. Let’s get into some monsters and painfully outdated gender roles, folks!
Kayleigh: One of the best things about writing this column is researching superhero weddings and stumbling on all these ridiculous, campy, amazing comic covers that were the 60s newsstand equivalent of clickbait. Batman marries Batwoman? Wonder Woman marries a monster? Suffering Sappho! Though it wasn’t initially planned that way when we picked these issues out, it’s interesting that not a single one was about fulfilling any shippers’ “What If…” fantasies, but all of them present marriage as a kind of trap to run away from, because the groom secretly wants your uranium mine or because he’s a fucking Bizarro. Ain’t love grand? Maybe selling your marriage to the devil is getting off easy.
Rebecca: Wonder Woman #155 a.k.a. “I Married a Monster” features our heroine in a Beauty and the Beast retelling with a horrible moral that would have offended me if everything else around it weren’t so brain-meltingly bizarre. After being propositioned by each of her three potential suitors—the famous Steve Trevor, the less famous Manno the Mer-Boy and a guy named Birdman who isn’t either of the two that you’re thinking of—Diana spots an island falling from the sky, nearly hitting Themiscyra. Only it’s not a “normal” island (yeah, no shit) but a spaceship carrying a prince who hates women because his bride rejected him after he was turned into a monster on their wedding day.
Wonder Woman tries to cure the monster prince of his misogyny by marrying him, but the monster gets cold feet and bolts. Diana runs after him to a cliff but accidentally falls off herself. The prince tries to save Diana, briefly turning into a human, but turns back into a monster later when he lets his hatred of women flow. You’d think it would be a trenchant metaphor about how Nice Guys (™) are their own worst enemies, but the issue ends with Diana crying over how she failed the monster prince. I don’t recommend it, but it’s too weird to hate.
Kayleigh: I literally just finished Jill Lepore’s The Secret History of Wonder Woman while on vacation, so this was a very interesting read with all of that percolating in my brain. The book talked a bit about how after the death of Wonder Woman’s creator, William Moulton Marsten, she was basically handed off to a new writer who hated her feminist roots and turned the fascism-smashing WWII heroine into a dainty damsel who was dying for Steve Trevor’s marriage proposal, so the dismal gender politics here put a damper on the Silver Age craziness I usually love. (Lepore specifically laments how Wonder Woman’s red boots were replaced with ballet slippers, so when I looked at the cover, I was like, “A-ha!”)
How about Ross Andru’s monster design, though? That wedding scene with the monster prince in a tuxedo with tails is right off a 50s B-Movie poster. Wonder Woman failing to turn the beast back into a prince is such an odd ending, because it’s obvious the creators were not actually going for a “Some men are misogynists, and it’s not your job as a woman to fix them” message. Wonder Woman’s final line echoing Malibu Stacy—”Let’s all go bake cookies for the boys!”—hit me in the head like a brick. I’d love to see a writer in 2018 do a postmodern take on “I Married a Monster,” they could probably spin some gold out of it.
Rebecca: Amazing Spider-Man #131, which features Spider-Man’s Aunt May nearly marrying Dr. Octopus, is a regular candidate for “wacky comics covers” compilations, but it reads as a pretty ordinary, of-its-time Spider-Man comic. Granted, it was also the end of a long-running storyline so anyone who was reading it contemporaneously had long-accepted “Aunt May is afraid of Spider-Man but somehow thinks this temperamental guy with four metal tentacles sticking out of his back is husband material.”
The issue actually opens with the wedding on the cover, and the ceremony is interrupted not by Spidey but by Hammerhead, who knows that Doc Ock stands to get Aunt May’s mystery inheritance if he marries her. This sets off a chase between Ock and Hammerhead with Spider-Man in tow, and it ends at the site of her inheritance… a uranium mine that explodes shortly after Spidey manages to whisk Aunt May away from the villains. Because Spider-Man is deliberately staying in the background so as not to upset May, and May spends most of her time asking Ock what’s going on or fainting, neither character seems to have the emotional stake in this plotline that they should, which makes the book feel underwhelming despite how weird the concept continues to sound on paper. I had more investment in the sideplot where the Daily Bugle staff gossips over whether Mary Jane really loves Peter. Oh well, it makes for good jokes years later.
Kayleigh: I’ll joke about Spider-Man media making Aunt May younger and younger till she’s Actual Super Hottie Marissa Tomei, but this doddering, ’70s era Aunt May who’s always three seconds away from crumbling to dust really isn’t useful at all, is she? Considering Uncle Ben’s towering presence in Peter’s life, May remarrying anyone (let alone a supervillain) should pack more of an emotional wallop than it does in this issue; it mainly plays like a big joke on her. But so far we’re two for two with Ross Andru-drawn villains strutting around in wedding tuxes, so that’s a win. Oh yeah, and all this tomfoolery is taking place ten issues after Gwen Stacy died, so how’s that for emotional whiplash? The relationship drama with Mary Jane almost seems like it’s from a different comic, but it’s pretty great—Mary Jane walking out into the snow alone in her cocktail dress and fur coat, quoting Scarlett O’Hara as she tries to bury her feelings for Peter… that’s good comics, baby.
Rebecca: Batman Family Giant #11 is less well-known, despite teasing the wedding of popular pairing Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon (in some spiffy alternate Robin and Batgirl outfits, too!). The ceremony itself is presented as a trap by the gang Maze to kill the superheroes. However, the day is saved when it’s revealed that the ceremony was actually a trap that Dick and Barb set for the gang (which Barbara explains in a bizarre breaking-the-fourth-wall epilogue). So it’s not a very well-constructed comic—and writer Bob Rozakis packs almost every panel with an awful joke—but Curt Swan and Vince Colletta draw some amazing fight scenes. I particularly liked Batgirl’s showdown with two gang members trying to mow her down with their car in a parking lot.
Kayleigh: I’m heartbroken that Robin and Batgirl don’t actually wear those outfits in the story— I love Batgirl’s veil attached to her cowl. This is a weird one. I’m cackling in glee over the premise of gangsters forcing superheroes to marry so they can mow them down with shotguns when the priest says “till death do you part” (and it would make a fantastic episode of Gotham), but it feels like pages were ripped out of this comic. There’s no explanation behind the fake wedding, other than comic book criminals love elaborate, drawn-out, easily escapable death traps for heroes, and if in the final page Batgirl has to literally sit down with a cup of coffee and say, “Hi there, readers! I guess you have a couple of questions…” then the writer clearly lost the plot on Earth-3. Robin carrying Batgirl “over the threshold” while she simultaneously hits and kicks the surrounding gangsters is a fantastic panel, though.
Rebecca: Batman #122 from 1959 features another—albeit much less popular—pairing from the Batfamily. It’s common comic book knowledge that while Batwoman is a lesbian in her current incarnation, she was once created as a love interest for Batman to quell fears that he and Robin are gay. So naturally “The Marriage of Batman and Batwoman” is a fever dream borne out Robin’s fears that Batman marrying will break up their partnership. In Robin’s dream, Bruce Wayne and Kate Kane marry (off-panel), but it doesn’t stop their adventuring as both of them try to sneak away to a crime scene without the other knowing. Bruce eventually reveals his secret identity to Kate, but afterwards demands she quit adventuring—going so far as to hide her Batwoman costume.
Undeterred, Kate alters one of Bruce’s costumes and tags along on the next mission, but a wind machine tears off her mask, revealing her secret identity to the bad guys, who figure out Batman is Bruce Wayne because everyone knows of his marriage to Kate. This ruins Batman and Robin forever–at least until Robin wakes up. Despite the irony inherent in the story, I really didn’t care for a sexist tale about how Women Ruin Everything and need to Stay Home and Give Up Their Careers after they get married. Oh well, it was short.
Kayleigh: The cover is such a deliciously ironic slab of camp (“Gosh! What’ll become of me now?”) that it sucks it’s for the one story that made me actually angry. If I was feeling generous I could write it off as a kid’s anxious nightmare about his father remarrying, which some of the young readers at the time might have related to, but no, fuck it, this is sexist drivel. “Batwoman! I thought I told you that a woman’s place is in the home!” is the FIRST LINE in this comic. God, I feel so bad for Silver Age Kathy Kane, created to appease assholes like Frederic Wertham and hated by the characters in the book for it (at one point Bruce deliberately squirts grapefruit juice in his eye to get away from her). Her desire to be a wife and have a crimefighting career is played as ridiculously unreasonable, even after she saves Batman from a shooter, and the “if you were unmasked, they’d figure out Batman’s identity!” justification is one big flaming cow patty of an excuse, because the exact same thing would happen if Bruce Wayne’s ward Dick Grayson were unmasked. This sucked. But Kathy did look cute in her blue Batwoman costume, so fuck ’em.
Rebecca: But there are a lot goofier weddings out there than Batman and Batwoman. What about Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #98 where the titular character marries a gorilla? *takes a look at the cover*
Rebecca: To wrap it up with something a bit less racist, we’ll tackle 1959’s Action Comics #255, “The Bride of Bizarro.” I’ve always said that Silver Age Superfamily comics are basically the equivalent of sitcoms and this issue is no exception. The plot revolves around Bizarro attempting to woo Lois Lane in myriad ways and failing miserably, but also involves a lot of wackiness such as Bizarro fighting another Bizarro that looks exactly like Superman, Superman clapping really loudly so Bizarro dressed as Clark Kent can’t reveal his secret identity to a Daily Planet employee, and Bizarro trying to figure out whether or not Lois Lane loves him by yanking metal petals off a giant flower sign. In the end, Lois Lane gets Bizarro off her back by using his Bizarro-making machine to create a Bizarro Lois which he immediately falls in love with.
So there’s no wedding, but hey! At least one issue we covered this month ended with a happy couple.
Kayleigh: Before we eventually tackle Lois and Superman’s real wedding, we could easily do another one of these all about Silver Age Lois Lane and all her strangest walks down the aisle. (Lois marries Batman! Lois marries Lex Luthor! Lois marries…Clark Kent? And whatever the hell this is.) You really have to admire the sheer amount of pure, uncut imagination in this era of Superman comics, as the above summary doesn’t even mention Supes flying to the Sargasso Sea to shoot Bizarro with cannons from a 1800s whaling ship. I would have loved to see a Bizarro wedding with Bizarro Lois decked out in black trashbags or whatever, but the final scene with smug, Silver Age Superman jerking Lois’s chain—”I may marry you…someday!” feels like a thematically appropriate note to end on. Until next time! Don’t go marrying any monsters, okay?