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Subject: CBG #1422 (Feb. 16, 2001): How not to end a relationship

Captain Comics

Posts: 110
Posted: 2/22/2006 3:17:26 AM
Blast from the Past: CAPTAIN COMICS from CBG #1422 (Feb. 16, 2001)

How NOT to end a relationship!

By Andrew A. Smith

Contributing Editor

It’s the St. Valentine’s Day issue of CBG, and The Captain’s fancy turns lightly to thoughts of love.

Well, it would, if comics weren’t so depressing in matters of the heart. They say the course of true love never runs smooth, which may explain why Archie can’t make up his mind about Betty or Veronica, why Batman and Catwoman exchange high kicks as often as hot clinches, and why so many of Tony “Iron Man” Stark’s ex-girlfriends want to kill him.

Come to think of it, that last one isn’t too uncommon. But the number of happily-married couples in comics are as rare as chocolate-covered cherries in a Whitman Sampler.

Being a super-hero would be tough enough on a relationship, under any circumstances. There aren’t too many people who’d be content to stay home and watch Temptation Island while their buff Spandex-clad superguy or gal was out all night with other buff Spandex-clad types doing Lord-knows-what and coming home at daybreak with their clothes all torn and smelling of cheap ion-cannon discharge. It’s not a situation that engenders trust.

But the worst aspect of super-hero dating is what is often referred to as “The Gwen Stacy Syndrome.” That’s when writers find themselves boxed into a corner when it comes to a relationship that threatens to tie down their hero, and they reach for the easy solution: The Grim Reaper.

The name comes from Amazing Spider-Man #121 (Jun 73), when Marvel found itself scratching its collective head over what to do with Gwen Stacy. In those halcyon days, Peter Parker and Gwen had reached a point in their relationship where the altar seemed inevitable. But Marvel didn’t want the webslinger married, divorced, or widowed – they feared that such an adult status would reduce Pete’s appeal to kids. And they didn’t want Pete to dump her – he’d be a Spider-Cad.

Their solution, as all CBG readers know from this newspaper’s in-depth story on the subject, was Gwen taking a header off the George Washington Bridge. Gee, that was easy!

I was reminded of this when I received the following missive:

Dear Cap: I was wondering if you could search your vast resources and find out how many super-heroes and -villains have lost their significant others -- whether by death, choice or just plain erased from existence by a black hole or something! I only came up with Aquaman and The Kingpin, but I'm not so sure on the hows and whys. -- To’Bor, Nashua, N.H.

And the answer is: Just about all of them. Rifling through the archives here in the Comics Cave, it was difficult to find a super-character whose special someone hadn’t met with one grisly end or another. Of course, as is the case with Aquaman’s Mera, most returned from the Other Side when a plot complication was called for. But rather than list the many deaths of super-sweeties, let The Captain just name his Top Ten. And to make it interesting, you can mix and match the hero with the method of expiration for his or her beloved:

1) Sub-Mariner
2) Kyle Rayner
3) Troia
4) Daredevil
5) John Stewart
6) J’onn J’onzz
7) The Incredible Hulk
8) Wolverine
9) Spider-Man
10) Black Canary

A) Death by blowfish poisoning
B) Death by evisceration
C) Death by dismemberment
D) Death by plague
E) Death by explosion
F) Death by impalement on sword
G) Death by radiation poisoning
H) Death by broken neck
I) Death by impalement on billy club
J) Death by car wreck

1-F) Sub-Mariner: Death by impalement on sword.

In Avengers #293 (Jul 88), Namor’s wife Marrina was transformed into a giant worm, and he was forced to kill her with The Black Knight’s sword. I kid you not. Marrina was a human/alien hybrid, and not only did she become a humongous, sea-going leviathan, not only was she slaughtering people right and left, but … she was spawning!

“Marrina, the wife of The Sub-Mariner, must die, so that all others may live!” quoth The Avenging Son, several pages before the dirty deed. I like this one, not only because of the giant-worm aspect, but also because Marrina was the second wife of The Sub-Mariner to hit Davy Jones’s Locker (the first one being Lady Dorma, who suffocated on air in the classic Sub-Mariner #37 in May 71). Some guys are just unlucky in love.

2-C) Kyle Rayner: Death by dismemberment.

Green Lantern writer Ron Marz didn’t waste any time offing the new Emerald Gladiator’s girlfriend, who joined the choir invisible in only her fourth appearance (Green Lantern #54, third series, Aug 94). And what a way to go: dismembered by Major Force and stuffed into a refrigerator.

OK, it’s not pretty, but it’s pretty imaginative.

3-J) Troia: Death by car wreck.

Poor Donna Troy. Not only did her husband and child die in something as banal as an auto accident, not only is she saddled with the goofy name Troia, not only has she dated two of the most immature men in the DC Universe (Kyle Rayner and Arsenal), but they’re STILL trying to give her a proper origin (see current issues of Titans). Donna, Donna, Donna – can’t you see that Nightwing is the perfect man for you? Well, if he wasn’t already involved with half a dozen other women. And if he didn’t think of you as a sister. Come to think of it, maybe Arsenal isn’t so bad.

4-I) Daredevil: Death by impalement on billy club.

Yup, Bullseye used DD’s own weapon to ace the Man Without Fear’s long-time sweetie Karen Page in Daredevil #5 (second series, Mar 99). Bullseye had already practiced by skewering former Daredevil girlfriend Elektra with her own sais, but that one didn’t take. Karen, alas, seems to have permanently gone the way of All-Flash, like former Matt Murdock squeeze Heather Glenn, who committed suicide. Matt and Namor ought to form a club or something. Lord knows they shouldn’t date any more.

5-B) John Stewart: Death by evisceration.

Hard-luck Green Lantern John Stewart seemed to finally have hit the jackpot with former GL Katma Tui of Korugar – until Star Sapphire shredded her like so much sausage in Action Comics #601 (May 88), in one of the most gratuitous deaths ever in comics. Not only was it pointless and grotesquely brutal, but it didn’t even involve a refrigerator to make it memorable. I tell ya, the other Lanterns have all the luck.

6-D) J’onn J’onzz: Death by plague.

As fully explained in Martian Manhunter #0 (Oct 98), Martian malefactor Ma’alefa’ak engineered a telepathic pyrovirus called Hronmeer’s Curse to spontaneously combust not only J’onn’s wife and child, but his entire race! This one isn’t really an example of The Gwen Stacy Syndrome, since Le Hombre Verdad’s family has been dead off and on since his inception. But it was a memorable and emotionally affecting issue, and also explains why MM gets queasy at barbecues.

7-G) Incredible Hulk: Death by radiation poisoning.

Long-time greenskin galpal Betty Ross-Talbot-Banner died from gamma-ray exposure in Incredible Hulk #466 (Jul 98), the result of machinations by Emil “The Abomination” Blonsky. Since Betty was cleared away like so much debris by editorial fiat to make room for the “new direction” of the Hulk, she’s a classic example of The Gwen Stacy Syndrome. Still, as written by Peter David, it was a heart-tugger.

(Captain's note: This one didn't take.)

8-A) Wolverine: Death by blowfish poisoning.

In Wolverine #57 (late Jul 92), Logan’s Japanese fiancé Mariko Yashida was tricked into using a blade poisoned with blowfish toxin to slice off one of her own fingers. The actual coup de grace was delivered by the ol’ Canucklehead himself (to spare her the death agonies), but that’s one remarkably peculiar way to go, even for comics.

9-H) Spider-Man: Death by broken neck.

OK, this one was a gimmie, since I’ve already explained that Gwen Stacy took a dive off the George Washington Bridge (assisted by The Green Goblin). What I didn’t mention is that the fall didn’t kill her – it was the sudden stop that broke her neck when Spidey tried to catch her with his webbing. Guilt, guilt, guilt!

10-E) Black Canary: Death by explosion.

Dinah Lance’s decades-long romance with The Emerald Archer ended in Green Arrow #100 (Sep 95), when the Battling Bowman met his end in an exploding aircraft that – what? He’s coming back this month? Oh. All right then, the original Black Canary’s husband, Larry Lance, was killed by a bolt of stellar magic by the star-being Aquarius in Justice League of America #74 (Sep 69), when – what? He was shown to have survived in JLA #220 (Nov 83)?

Oh. Well, it just goes to show what we’ve always known: It’s better to be a guy in comics than a gal. For women, the retirement plan really stinks.

Andrew Smith, who vows never to take his wife into combat with a super-villain, writes the syndicated “Captain Comics” newspaper column and can be reached at or on his Web site, Please include a city/state of address.

"With great power there must also come great responsibility!"
-- Stan Lee, 1962