Sunday, February 14, 2010

Comics Coupling: Almost Weres

The seconds are ticking away rapidly before Valentine’s Day weekend concludes (and President’s Day begins!), but before it all came to an end, I wanted to commemorate not by looking at the best couples in comics or most romantic moments or whatever, but instead the pairings that could have been…but weren’t. Y’know, those characters you were rooting for to get together, but then due to a writing change or because it made no sense in the first place, it just didn’t happen.

I promise these will not all just be Nova and some girl (not all of them).

Right before and carrying into “Avengers Disassembled,” long-time teammates Captain America and the Scarlet Witch began striking up an unlikely romance in the pages of Captain America & The Falcon which would then be touched on briefly in Avengers. Ultimately I believe the whole thing turned out to be another symptom of Wanda Maximoff’s hastening trip off the rails on the crazy train, but I thought there was definitely something there. In those Cap & Falcon issues, writer Christopher Priest touched on some interesting stuff with Wanda basically telling Steve Rogers flat out he still thinks of her as a little girl because that’s how she was when she first joined the Avengers, but she’s a woman now and he should be able to see her as such. I don’t really have a dog in the whole “older man-younger woman” romance race in the real world (I’m only a couple years older than my wife), but the idea in fiction of a female character’s ultimate “coming into her own” moment being telling the guy who thought he was her father figure “Hey, I’m pretty hot now, and if you want to give this a shot, it’s not weird” has always intrigued me. What does that say about me? Who knows, but I did think this would have been an interesting break for both characters, as Cap doesn’t generally dally with fellow costumed heroes and Wanda was married to an android for years (there was an interesting What If? one-shot that further explored it).

Wow, two in and my running theme seems to be girls with daddy issues, awesome—don’t judge me! Anyhow, I haven’t been shy in the past about saying I don’t find Barry Allen to be the world’s most interesting character. However, I never enjoyed him more than in Mark Waid, Brian Augustyn and Barry Kitson’s JLA: Year One re-imagining of the Justice League’s formative year together, where he was the true blue and calming central hero steering the team through that awkward “getting to know you” phase. His burgeoning “opposites attract” friendship with Hal Jordan was part of that, but the sparks between him and the young Black Canary were certainly another. Barry was the consummate straight arrow of course, dutifully devoted to Iris West, but he fell into that all-too-familiar trap of the bombshell at work—Canary—showing interest and him not knowing how to handle it. For her part, young Dinah was overwhelmed by following in her mom’s footsteps and looking for a stable port in the storm which reliable Barry filled much better than obnoxious Hal. The way Waid and Augustyn played this “office romance” felt very genuine and though you knew it could never work (in part because we know Green Arrow has to show up at some point), it gets you wondering what that path would have been like, but also realizing the reality probably never could have lived up to the potential.

Just after the Age of Apocalypse, there was a period in the X-Men books where Rogue and Gambit were split up because she had kissed him just before reality went all wonky and learned all his dark secrets (basically that he had worked for Mister Sinister). She went off to discover America on some sort of road trip (really she was just trying to learn more about Gambit by following his memories) and Iceman came along to keep her company. From what I can remember, all signs seemed to point to Rogue and Bobby hooking up, but the writers and editors pretty firmly denied this in letter columns and whatnot, saying theirs was more of a brother-sister relationship (there was some reference to Luke and Leia in “Star Wars” in one reply, but I can’t remember if it had to do with Rogue and Bobby or a reader saying he thought Gambit’s secret was he was Rogue’s brother). Regardless, it went nowhere steamy, but I was hopefully both because it was something different and because I was a huge Iceman fan, so I wanted to see him end up with one of the hotter X-Men ladies. A decade or so later, the two characters got together not in the conventional comics, but on the big screen as well as in Ultimate X-Men, so apparently I wasn’t alone.

Speaking of “brother-sister” relationships that could have gone the other way (what is wrong with me?!)… This is one I know many folks have thought about over the years, both because the two characters have always been so close and also because it’s the mini-version of Batman and Wonder Woman getting together (though I guess these days it would be half of the full-version of Batman and Wonder Woman getting together). Around the mid-90’s, both these characters were so damaged in the relationship department, what with Donna being divorced and then almost immediately widowed and Dick Grayson coming out of a decade-long (in our world) thing with Starfire that ended horribly. One potential direction would have been for these two close friends to see something more in one another and leapfrog into romance. It would certainly have created some dynamic tension with their shared friends and former flames (Arsenal, Starfire, Oracle, Kyle Rayner, etc.) and made for some sweet moments and hard choices. The “best friends-turned-lovers” route is one we see a lot in real life and explored more often than not (though not so well) on TV, so I’m a bit surprised this has never happened, but I guess the stars have just never aligned—maybe now that they’re both on the JLA…

Ok, gimme just this one. There’s actually a really emotional and well-done back-up story written by Fabian Nicieza in New Warriors Annual #4 where Firestar’s friend is a victim of date rape and after going after the dude and feeling powerless to do anything about it, she heads back to the Crash Pad and Nova ends up being her shoulder to cry on as he’s the only one there (and Justice is still in jail). The New Warriors were such a small, tightly-knit team with three set couples (Nova-Namorita, Justice-Firestar, Night Thrasher-Silhouette), so as a fan it was only natural to wonder about the possibilities of partners being traded (not in a weird way). The idea of alpha male Nova with nice girl Firestar as opposed to brash Namorita, and Angelica Jones swapping smart and sensitive Vance Astrovik for the more down-to-earth Rich Rider intrigued me more than any other potential pairings, and this story just reinforced that. Hey, I’d still like to see this!

Well, writing this has made me feel oddly dirty. Enjoy the remainder of your weekend, freaks…


demoncat said...

not surprised you feel that way Ben for you were thinking of comic couples that were never ment to be including if they would have wound up doing the wild thing together. espically ice man and rogue and Scarlet witch and cap who given that she even had kids with the vision should prove that the scarlet witch is not able to have a normal romance with some one as good as cap. rogue romance is out for that involves touching.

demoncat said...

Tony Harris so good.