This summer we’ve resurrected one of our favorite features, I ♥ Comics, and each Wednesday through Labor Day comics bloggers and creators will discuss the things they love about the medium.
This week, our guest contributor is writer, retailer and musician Rachelle Goguen, who maintains the blog Living Between Wednesdays.
By Rachelle Goguen
Don’t get me wrong. I love a big, epic battle. I love diabolical schemes that can only be solved with heavy detective work and fists. I love peril and I love suspense and I love the comic book heroes who tirelessly fight evil every week for my entertainment. But what I really love is what they’re doing after work.
Superhero friendships. I can’t get enough of them. If you enjoy superhero adventures and action, then you are a comic book reader. If you freak out with joy over superhero downtime, then you are a comic book nerd. I am, without question, a giant comic book n.e.r.d. I love team-ups in general, but it’s always that much sweeter if the heroes pal around a little. Comics are full of great BFF combinations. Green Arrow & Green Lantern, Power Man & Iron Fist, Captain America & Iron Man, Blue Beetle & Booster Gold, Spider-Man & Johnny Storm, Green Lantern & The Flash, Captain America & Falcon, Barbara Gordon & Black Canary, Captain America & Hawkeye, Dick Grayson & Wally West, and, of course, Superman & Batman. Crises, cosmic events and supervillains make comics exciting; friendships make them a soap opera. If a friendship is long-standing and well-established, it makes everything that happens to a character that much more interesting. When Blue Beetle was killed, my first thought was that Booster Gold would be devastated. Knowing that Ted was leaving his best friend behind heightened the tragedy of his death. In the recent “Lightning Saga” JLA/JSA cross-over, it wasn’t for me that I wanted Barry Allen to come back, it was for Hal Jordan and Batman.
Romances are fine. They’re fun, they’re sexy. They certainly add drama, but they’re also fleeting. Friendships are where it’s at. As a female, I’ve always been envious of male camaraderie in general. This might also explain my love of professional sports. The bond between male friends is absolutely fascinating to me. They will punch each other in the face and then get a beer. No love on Earth is as pure as that (not that they would ever call it that). To me it’s every bit as intangible as the ability to fly or shoot lasers out of my eyes.
In comic books, there are a lot of great friendships between superheroes and non-hero allies. Superman & Jimmy Olsen, Batman & Commissioner Gordon, Matt Murdock & Foggy Nelson, the entire Marvel Universe and Rick Jones — these are all enjoyable, but what I really love is the friendship between actual superheroes. Men and women who work together, battling the fantastic and terrifying, then kick off the knee-boots and enjoy each other’s company.
Is there anyone who doesn’t love the Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams Green Arrow/Green Lantern series that had the heroes take a road trip across America on a journey of self-discovery? NO. Comic fans eat that shit up. Why? Because we can relate to it. We want to see these characters that we love more than ourselves chill out sometimes, even if just to get a rare glimpse of what their interests are outside of punching people. Green Arrow likes chili?! I like chili! Maybe, if he were real, we could hang out and eat chili and watch football or something! But in lieu of that, I can read about Hal Jordan hanging out with him and eating chili and watching football. (The cross-America road trip might be a bad example because there was actually very little downtime, what with all the craziness they kept running into … but it’s still awesome reading).
Take any great comic, or important comic event, and I will tell you how it was more interesting because of long-standing superhero friendships. The best part of Kingdom Come? The Planet Krypton restaurant epilogue with Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman (extra points because Wonder Woman was there, because she rarely gets to hang out; minus points because there was romance involved). The only thing I cared about during Civil War? Iron Man and Captain America’s break-up. I was waiting for Iron Man to come to his senses and hug it out with Cap. Instead, Cap died and Tony is still a douche. But that really is how Marvel snagged me into the whole Civil War thing: At its heart, it was a big fight between two best friends. That’s the kind of angst you can’t find in your precious teen dramas, people. I like television more than movies because I like to get invested in characters. I like comics infinitely more than television for the same reason. With television you might get a few years of character development. With comics you get decades. Batman and Superman have been friends for decades. They have been through it all together, and that, my friends, is the basis of a good drama.
It’s a popular choice, particularly of late, to kill one half of a BFF pairing. This makes me question my love of the surviving hero. Do I love that character, or did I love that character only when paired with the other character? Am I a Booster Gold fan, or am I a Blue Beetle & Booster Gold fan? Do I care about Iron Man without Captain America being around to stop him from being a douche? Would I feel better if Hawkeye, Falcon, Bucky, Nick Fury and Sharon all kicked the shit out of Iron Man together? (Captain America, by the way, had a lot of friends. He wouldn’t be my first choice when picking superheroes to hang out with, but he was certainly popular.)
I want to talk more about Superman & Batman, because while I love superhero friendships in general, I love these two guys specifically. Built on a solid foundation of mutual mistrust that has blossomed into complete and unwavering faith in each other, this is an epic friendship. Superman & Batman make Kirk & Spock look like casual acquaintances. Their friendship is so long-standing, and so well-established, that they frequently finish each other’s sentences, and often know what the other one is thinking. They believe in each other to the point that it’s almost careless. Let me be clear: I love this friendship. In fact, I believe the reason why I hate and will never like The Outsiders is because it is a group born out of a fight between Superman and Batman. Oh, and also because The Outsiders are lame.
Honestly, the touchy nature of their friendship is what makes it so good. Superman gave Batman a Kryptonite ring that can be used to kill him … just in case. (Although Batman was polite enough not to say anything, I’m willing to bet he already had a good-sized chunk of Kryptonite … just in case). Much like Civil War, at the heart of Infinite Crisis was a rift between two friends. Unlike Iron Man, Batman didn’t want superheroes to register with the government, he just wanted them to be registered with him, more or less. Like Iron Man, Batman was being a douche, and Superman wanted him to stop. Unlike Iron Man, Batman did stop, and he continues to be BFF with Superman. Who is still alive. What I am trying to say is Captain America is dead because Iron Man sucks, and that DC comics are awesome.
I keep going off the rails here because I am distracted by Iron Man’s infuriating douchebaggery. Friendship. That is today’s topic. Friendship, and why it is good.
Do you know what I am really looking forward to? The Black Canary/Green Arrow wedding stuff. Do you know why? It’s not because I’m a hopeless romantic and I am just so happy they’re finally tying the knot. No. It’s because I want to see the bachelor/bachelorette parties. I want to see the wedding, but not the, like, wedding part. A wedding between two superheroes means lots of superheroes having a good time in a relaxed and social environment. This is very exciting to me. When was the last wedding between two heroes? I can’t even remember. I’m really very excited about this. Marvel has been depressing me all summer with their Funeral for a Friend. Let’s have some wedding bells drown out the funeral dirges!
One of my favourite friendships has been the relatively recent one between Batman and Catwoman. Even as enemies, they always had a nice little thing going, but now that Catwoman is fighting on the side of good (and, no, it isn’t because Zatanna mindwiped her lalalala I can’t hear you), they’ve been building a really touching relationship. There will always be sexual tension with those two, but for now at least it stands as one of the most solid, and only, male/female friendships in comic books. Bruce can talk to Selina about things that Superman wouldn’t understand, and Selina can turn to Bruce for help. Not that she needs it very often. Because Catwoman rules. And this brings me to another point: I love the rare instances where a hero and a villain get along. Whether they are forced to put aside their differences for a greater good, or the villain decides to go straight, or they just find something they have in common, it’s always a nice moment.
The Giffen-DeMaties era of the Justice League ruled because it gave us so much downtime. It made the Justice League sound like a fun clubhouse, complete with snack food and chores. For some reason seeing something as simple as Blue Beetle grumbling about taking out the garbage, or Guy Gardner reading a magazine, gives me endless joy. I loved seeing fast food containers strewn about the headquarters, gleefully picturing Mister Miracle making a run to McDonald’s for the team. Plus, the whole series had a great Welcome Back, Kotter vibe (Batman = Kotter).
Any time a new team of superheroes is assembled, I eagerly anticipate who will hit it off. Leagues and teams are cliquey. If you look at the current Justice League, constructed and penned by the obvious superhero friendship ubernerd Brad Meltzer, you can already see some mini-teams forming. Already you had Superman and Batman. That’s a clique on its own. You can include Wonder Woman in there to round out the famous Big Three, but truthfully my girl is a bit of a loner. Roy, Hal and Dinah have their little friends-of-Oliver club, and if Wally officially joins he’ll likely be rolling with that crew, too. I’m hoping to see some new friendships when Dwayne McDuffie takes over. I think Wonder Woman and Black Lightning would get along great. Someone needs to take that lady out on the town.
In conclusion, I heart superhero friendships because they give heart to the senseless violence that we all enjoy so much. The fact that superheroes get to hang out with other superheroes just gives me another reason to live vicariously through them.