It’s a well-known fact by now that superheroes and marriage aren’t normally compatible. As readers saw with both X-Men Gold #30 and Batman #50 in recent weeks, many heroes can’t even make it to the altar without things falling apart. It’s not hard to understand the logic of publishers like Marvel and DC. They need to keep these characters fresh and ready to face new challenges year after year, and having a stable romantic life makes that process that much more difficult. But in some cases, having a married character just makes sense. Maybe that isn’t true for Batman, but it certainly is for Superman.
No matter how much DC hyped up Batman #50 for featuring the long-awaited wedding between Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle, deep down long-term readers probably knew it was never going to be. Multiple stories leading up to the wedding dealt with the notion that Bruce Wayne can’t be happy and still be Batman. Trauma is his source of fuel. Even Joker recognized this truth. Had Batman #50 actually culminated in a wedding, that union never would have lasted.
Superman is a very different story. Where characters like Batman and Spider-Man have had a great many love interests in their decades of comic book adventures, there’s only ever really been one woman for Clark Kent – Lois Lane. DC tried to ignore this fact when they erased Clark and Lois’ marriage as part of the New 52 reboot, but their attempts to reestablish Clark as a freewheeling bachelor always rang hollow. Even that headline-worthy fling with Wonder Woman seemed forced. The best thing DC did for the Superman comics in the last decade was using stories like Convergence and DC Universe Rebirth as a way of restoring Lois and Clark’s marriage. Heck, DC even gave them a son for good measure.
The past several years’ worth of Superman comics have proven that marriage doesn’t have to be a barrier to compelling character drama. Quite the opposite. Writers like Dan Jurgens and Peter Tomasi have opened up a whole new world of struggles and triumphs for the Man of Steel. He has to contend with raising a super-powered son caught between the worlds of Krypton and Earth. Every new adventure is a tug-of-war between a desire to teach his son the ways of being a hero and the desire to safeguard him from the evils of the world. Unlike punching Bizarro in the face, there’s no easy solution to these problems. This emphasis on family has helped mold Superman into a deeper, more compelling character than ever.
Many readers became understandably concerned when Brian Bendis’ Man of Steel was announced and early preview art seemed to downplay the presence of Lois and Jon in the series. The worry was that DC might be repeating old mistakes and once again wiping Superman’s marriage out of existence. Fortunately, that hasn’t been the case. Man of Steel instead provided a valid explanation for Lois and Jon’s absence. Bendis’ ongoing Superman run is now using their absence as fuel for new character drama, showing how lonely and empty Clark’s life can become when he doesn’t have his family to keep him grounded.
Marriage may not be an ideal, lasting story direction for most superheroes, but Superman is relatively unique in this regard. And as Bendis takes charge of both Superman and Action Comics this month, it’s satisfying to see that Lois and Clark’s marriage remains as high a priority as ever.