Over the weekend, following the revelation that J.H. Williams III and Haden Blackman were walking off Batwoman in part because their plan to marry the lead character to her fiancee had been rejected by DC Editorial, there was a lot of talk about DC's "hatred for" or "war on" marriage.
While that's a more credible discussion to have than the marriage equality conversation that was erroneously attached to this particular story, DC has taken the brunt of the abuse--and it's really an equal-opportunity "problem," as far as Big Two comics are concerned. Whether it's "rolling timelines" or periodic "Crisis stories," both universes like to have lead characters that effectively don't change over a number of years.
The illusion of change, though, is valuable for giving a storyline or a writer's "run" some semblance of impact and that's why we get deaths, betrayals and, yes, marriages that don't last. Is DC really abusing the institution of marriage any more than Marvel is? A new report over at Inside Pulse says no.
They've compiled a list of 30 superhero marriages--not a complete one, but a pretty good base and I can't think of a high-profile one they've missed right off the top of my head--composed of 16 Marvel and 14 DC weddings. Of those, only four still stand--Reed and Sue Richards, Black Bolt and Medusa, Northstar and Kyle and Buddy and Ellen Baker.
You might notice that three of those four are Marvel's--but so are three of the four actual divorces that have been dealt with on the page: Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne, Quicksilver and Crystal, Black Panther and Storm and DC's Green Arrow and Black Canary. While some might argue that divorce is a preferable way to handle such separations--after all, it provides some good story fodder down the line--the more common practice seems to be to just...make it go away, somehow. That's a practice that's getting more common as marriage gets less so.
Death is a common breakup method--and in most cases, the characters stay split up even after the death has been undone by a convenient superhero resurrection. Marvel has used it seven times, and almost none of those characters are still dead--or got back together after the fact. Cyclops is notable for having undergone that process for two separate marriages.
DC has only done this five times, with two of them being the Superman of Earth-2, both pre- and post-Flashpoint. Donna Troy's husband has never come back but thanks to the New 52, almost everyone else is back in circulation as a swinging single. Except Donna, who doesn't exist, which brings us to...
Some characters had weirdly complex ways of getting the marriage to go away. DC's New 52 continuity reboot did a bunch of these, including making some characters like Wally West and Donna Troy simply no longer exist. Marvel used a deal with the devil to get rid of Spider-Man's marriage--and has a history of just ignoring that some of them--Wolverine and Viper, for instance, or Johnny Storm and Lyja--never happened to begin with. That's, I suppose, their version of a continuity reboot since, as they like to boast, they "don't need" reboots and so tend not to mess with time and space quite as much as DC.
So...how long before "comic book marriage" becomes a term as widely derided as "comic book death?"