10 great funnybook romances

So Watchmen is the biggest movie in the land, or at least the most-hyped. Coincidentally, the noir superhero flick comes out when national, if not international, attention is focused on the drama between singer Rihanna and her (allegedly, cough cough) abusive boyfriend, singer Chris Brown. With violence towards women in the headlines, Watchmen may, and probably should, be taken to task for the scene in which one of the characters, the boorish rightwinger the Comedian, tosses around and punches his fellow superhero team-mate, Silk Spectre. It’s an ugly moment which itself feels like a slap in the face, and seems to be in there more because of something the moviemakers have to prove than for the audience’s understanding of the story. (If I recall from reading it 20 years ago, the comic that the movie is based on was not nearly as graphic, although I could be mistaken.) There is a little too much glee on the part of the filmmakers in the scene for my liking, like “look how grim and tough we are.”

That said, we shouldn’t throw out the babe with the bathwater. And in keeping with that sentiment, I’ve come up with a list of the top 10 relationships in comics (comic-strips and graphic novels included)—not necessarily the healthiest, just some of my personal faves.

10. Superman and Lois Lane. A classic triangle, as Clark Kent wants Lois, Lois wants Superman,  and Superman can’t reveal he’s Clark Kent. Sparks fly, Lois gets in trouble, and Supes swoops in to the rescue, again.

9. Harvey Pekar and Joyce Babner. Pekar is the creator of American Splendor, a comic-book anthology of autobiographical stories with different artists illustrating Harvey’s day-to-day existence. This includes Babner, his wife, who plays a starring role not only in the comic book series but in the movie version, as portrayed by Hope Davis. (Thanks to Michael Doran, from whom I stole this suggestion.)

Paul Giametti and Hope Davis as Pekar and Babner in the 2003 movie American Splendor.

Paul Giametti and Hope Davis as Pekar and Babner in the 2003 movie American Splendor.

8. L’il Abner and Daisy Mae Scragg. Daisy Mae was hopelessly in love with the goodnatured hillbilly for the entire 43-year run of Al Capp’s comic strip. She ends up marrying the rube, mainly because Abner wants to get married just like his hero, Fearless Fosdick, does.


7. The Invisible Girl and Mr. Fantastic. As members of Marvel Comics’ Fantastic Four, the long-suffering Sue Storm has put up with distracted genius hubby Reed Richards for over 40 years. But with marriage therapists like Prince Namor the Submariner, Annihulus and Dr. Doom, how could they ever part?

6. Blondie and Dagwood. Blondie started out as a good-time flapper, but in 1933 she married Dagwood Bumstead. Disowned by his wealthy family for marrying beneath his class, Dagwood was forced to go into construction. The Bumsteads are still married, and have two kids, though discerning comic-strip readers might agree the sandwich jokes have run their course.

5. Maggie & Hopey. Love and Rockets, a joint venture between Jaime and his brother Gilbert, has been at the forefront of the alternative comics scene (basically the second generation of undergrounds) since 1982. The relationship, in Jaime’s stories, between sometime-lovers Hopey and Maggie, is one of the most complex, adult, and enduring in any medium. Plus, he draws women real well.


4. R. Crumb and Aline-Cominsky Crumb. If you believe (and why wouldn’t you) what they tell us in their co-created comic Dirty Laundry, the first couple of underground comix lead a pretty complex, open relationship themselves, but in real life—and in France.


3. Archie, Betty… and Veronica. What’s up with these three? They’re like in the longest-running three-way (unconsummated) courtship ever. Something’s gotta give! Poor Arch.

2. Popeye and Olive Oyl (Popeye, comic strip). Surely one of the longest-running romances, and the strangest, in comic strips: the uncouth sailor addicted to spinach and a “flat-chested flirt with a dowdy sense of style,” writes Rachel Kopp. “There are several issues in Popeye and Olive Oyl’s relationship that need reconciling. Despite Olive’s obvious attraction to Popeye, she continues leading Bluto along, and Popeye refuses to ‘make a decent woman of Olive, whose biological clock must sound like Big Ben.'”


1. Krazy Kat and Ignatz Mouse. The androgynous Krazy has to be one of the most weirdly sexual creatures in comics; s/he is in love with Ignatz mouse, whose penchant for throwing bricks at Krazy’s noggin has her convinced he’s in love with her. Offisah Pup is caught in the middle—he’s intent on putting Ignatz behind bars for his “transgressions” against Pup’s own true love, who is, of course, Krazy.


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