Single forever? (#SFWApro)

Even if you don’t read comics, you may have heard that DC recently nixed plans for Batwoman and lover Maggie Sawyer to tie the knot. The current creative team has walked off the book as a result, saying they accept this is DC’s call but they’ve had too many plans and plot arcs killed by a last-minute No, and it’s ruining their work.

The discussions I’ve lurked at online (like this one) split on whether it’s the Gay Issue (“This would make DC less progressive than Archie Comics”—which if you didn’t know, had Archie’s gay friend Kevin imagine his future wedding in one issue a while back) or the Marriage Issue—i.e.,that it’s become accepted wisdom in the industry that married characters don’t work. The One More Day storyline a few years back erased Peter’s marriage to Mary Jane and the recent DC reboot left Superman and Lois single again (as I’ve mentioned in the past) not to mention leaving Flash single as well. This, in turn, got me thinking about Jeanine Basinger’s I DO AND I DON’T, which I reviewed a couple of weeks back.
Basinger observes that even when Hollywood movies are about a marriage, they’re rarely marketed as such. Instead they’re comedies, romances, tragedies, dramas, with the word “marriage” rarely mentioned. She concludes that as Hollywood promoted marriage as the happy ending of everything, the studios weren’t sure how people would take to deconstructing marriage and suggesting it wasn’t so happy (not so sure they wouldn’t do stories about it, but unsure enough they didn’t promote that as the topic). Which I touched on in my link above—how much I usually hate sequels that revisit the happy ending and show it wasn’t that happy, and then have to convince us that this time, no it really will work out!
For comic books or serialized storytelling in general, it’s even trickier. If Peter Parker discovers his girlfriend’s cheating on him, or that she’s secretly a super-villain, he can move on. That’s not really practical with a spouse. Even if you make it work again, you can’t keep having her reveal dark secrets without making the marriage look miserable.
Likewise once you establish a happy marriage and keep it so for years, introducing strife can look awfully forced. Flash and Iris went through a bad patch in the late 1970s and it was incredibly unconvincing.
I’m not sure these are the issues that bug DC and Marvel about Lois and MJ. A lot of it (again, as noted at my link) is pure nostalgia from writers who grew up with the heroes single (as someone put it once, if they didn’t read it in their teen years, it’s not canon). Dating storylines so much outnumber marriage storylines it may come more naturally to keep heroes single. And some Marvel writers have argued that if Peter’s married to a loving, beautiful wife, it kills the core idea that Spider-Man is the guy for whom things don’t work out. Though of course Stan Lee had no trouble having him find Great Love with Gwen Stacey and generally grow up and he still managed to find problems for Peter to deal with (of course, Gerry Conway killed Gwen Stacey off precisely because he thought Peter had it too good). Just as Aquaman,Reed and Sue and Flash all married in the Silver Age and managed to stay viable characters.
I really don’t think perpetually Single and Twenty is that great an approach. And it’s particularly odd if (as Dan Didio reportedly said), DC thinks its target audience is in their forties. However, I don’t see the Official Wisdom changing any time soon.

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One response to “Single forever? (#SFWApro)

  1. Pingback: Undead sexist cliche: Contraception brings death! | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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