The comic book world is basically a huge tangle of relationships. There are the rivalries between the heroes and villains. There are the family ties and complex origin stories that link different characters in different ways. There’s the family drama, there’s the issues between heroes trying to fight on the same side, and there’s tons of storylines involving characters’ diverse powers and abilities.
The storylines involving fighting crime and learning to use those killer super powers are fascinating, but at the end of the day, one of the reasons that fans come back to comic books again and again are those relationships. Because, puzzling as they are, they’re real and nuanced. Even the most indestructible heroes or the most heinous villains can fall in love, just like us normal mortals.
Some comic book couples go down as fantastic pairings, true love incarnate. And then, there are the couples on this list. The ones that were too destructive and toxic to make anything real work, the ones who were related (ew) to their lover, or were of an entirely different species. The couples that, for whatever reason, just didn’t seem to work.
Here are 15 of the worst comic book couples out there.
15. Ant-Man and the Wasp
The whole ‘trying to make your partner jealous’ thing isn’t just for the human world – even superheroes fall victim to it. Hank Pym – “Ant-Man” was introduced as a bumbling scientist, and Janet Van Dyne, “the Wasp,” was a bit of a flirt. In many of the earlier comics, she’s spotted flirting with other superheroes. Eventually, Pym goes through a ton of drama including a mental breakdown and the two get hitched – because obviously, every strong marriage starts with a proposal that comes as a result of mental instability, right? That’s not where things end for the two – at one point, during another breakdown, Pym actually ends up hitting his wife. She divorces him, the Avengers part ways, and it just ends in a bad situation for everyone. These two are basically the definition of a toxic relationship, and though some writers tried to rekindle things between them in various storylines, it never quite works out.
14. Cyclops and Madelyne Pryor
This relationship is so messed up we don’t even know where to start. So, Cyclops gets together with Madelyne Pryor, a woman who eerily resembles his former love Jean Grey. They’re living happily ever after for a while, but as any comic book fan knows, that isn’t likely to last long. Eventually, Jean Grey shows up alive and well, and Cyclops basically abandons his family (oh yeah, did we mention he and Madelyne had a son?) and goes to start a new life with Jean. In the comic book world, that’s obviously not the end of it. Madelyne ends up getting together with Cyclops’ brother for a while, which is bad enough. Then, she finds out she is a clone of Jean Grey that Mister Sinister designed for Cyclops. Not too pleased to be a pawn, she then retaliates by leading a demon invasion of New York. You know, as you do.
13. The Atom and Jean Loring
When it comes to the comic book world, there’s pretty much nothing that’s off the table when it comes to getting back with a former lover – you can create a clone of them, you can bring them back from the dead, etc. Just take a look at Atom and Jean Loring’s case. First, there was fairly pedestrian marital strife – Loring got upset with The Atom for being away too often, you know, doing superhero stuff, and had an affair that split the family on. The two moved on with their lives. Then, Jean decided that she wanted her former husband again – and rather than doing something like trying to seduce him, she decided to kill two superheroes’ family members to get him running back to her. Well…turns out, he did. Of course, then the Justice League threw her in Arkham, she became the host for a crazy supervillain, and she tried to kill The Atom before he ended up killing her. Not exactly your average relationship.
12. Daredevil and Karen Page
Daredevil – or Matt Murdock, as his common form is known – was a regular lawyer by day and a crime-fighting superhero by night, as many of the characters in the comic book universe are. Karen Page was Murdock’s secretary, and the two ended up starting a relationship together. Innocuous enough, right? Well, after Page’s father turned into a villain and had to be taken out by Daredevil, Murdock decided his conscience couldn’t take it any longer and he revealed his identity to Page. While you might think revealing you’re a superhero is a guaranteed seduction technique, it wasn’t in this case – in the comics, Page was so worried about Murdock that she ended up leaving him and moving across the country. Of course, because comic books love things taking a dark twist, she then got hooked on heroin and told Murdock’s secret to someone, who then passed it on to Daredevil’s arch nemesis.
11. Shadowcat and Colossus
Colossus has a bit of a thing for troubled relationships, it seems. So, he met Shadowcat – perhaps more commonly known as Kitty Pryde, back when she made her first comic appearance in 1980. While their romance wasn’t initially the main focus of the storyline, there was a definite spark between the two. Since Jean Grey, one half of one of the more iconic romances in the X-Men universe had recently died, the Kitty and Colossus ship set sail. There was just one issue – though Colossus was the baby of the X-Men before Kitty arrived, he was still an adult (as in, over 18 years old), while Kitty was only 14. There was no doubt about her age – it was mentioned repeatedly, and the age difference was even a subject of discussion within the panels. So, if you’re all about the taboo relationships taking place on television shows nowadays, know that Kitty and Colossus did it first.
10. Dick Grayson and Helena Wayne
When you start introducing alternate universes into the situation, things get really messy, really fast – just take this pairing, for example. In an alternate universe where the two crazy kids get together, Helena Wayne is the daughter of Batman and Catwoman. Dick Grayson is Batman’s protégé, the man he’s grooming to take over in his heroic shoes. The whole ‘man falling for his boss’s daughter’ concept has been done to death, and would have been a normal enough comic pairing. However, in the comic universe, Dick and Helena were essentially raised as siblings. Sure, they weren’t actual blood siblings, and while it’s never explicitly stated that Dick is Batman’s adopted son, the whole relationship kind of has that vibe. Then, you know, there’s those weird moments when Dick shares how he used to peep at Helena when he could.
9. Scarlet Witch and The Vision
Given her upbringing, it only makes sense that Scarlet Witch would have her experience with a variety of awful relationships, but this one is particularly unique. Of course, in the comic book universe, things like species aren’t always a big issue – after all, this is a world where there are mutants and otherwise normal people with superheroes running around. However, Scarlet Witch dating and eventually marrying a robot is still a bit strange. And, in case you were wondering, it wasn’t exactly a pairing that writers had thought about for an extended period of time. Roy Thomas, a writer for Marvel, stated that these two were really just paired because the Avengers needed a couple, and Scarlet Witch and The Vision were the only two Avengers who didn’t have stand-alone titles. So…the robot love was basically a marketing tactic. Poor Scarlet Witch – she really gets the short end of the stick when it comes to potential partners.
8. Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch
One thing is for sure – comic book writers are definitely not afraid to go there when it comes to controversial and taboo subjects. Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch – also known as Pietro and Wanda Maximoff – are two characters who had a tough upbringing, and really had only each other to lean on for support for a while. The writers took the sibling relationship and added an element of incest to it, with Quicksilver seeking comfort in his sister’s arms after being rejected by his father. That’s a strange family relationship, to say the least. Given how popular Scarlet Witch is becoming as of late, with Elizabeth Olsen portraying her in the cinematic universe, it’s easy to be tempted to gloss over this less than savoury chapter in the character’s story. Audiences were shocked enough by Cersei and Jaime Lannister’s relationship on Game of Thrones – who knew the comic book universe had its own equivalent?
7. Superman and Lois Lane
Okay, okay, relax – we know, Superman/Clark Kent and Lois Lane are a beloved comic book couple. However, let’s just look at things a little bit closer. First of all, Superman is quite controlling and frequently lectures Lois not to be a snoop (you know, not to do her job, which is paying close attention and reporting things). Then, there’s the whole fact that he hides his identity from her for years and years. I mean, good relationships are built on a foundation of trust – and how could you ever trust someone once you found out they had been lying to you about something as big as who they actually were for years? There’s also the problematic factor that Lois Lane wasn’t exactly kind to Clark Kent all the time. Basically, these two are often billed as one of the greatest comic book couples ever, but we’re just not seeing it.
6. Iron Man and Pepper Potts
This couple has been at the forefront of everyone’s mind since the duo came to the big screen, played by Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow, but no matter how rom com perfect the assistant and boss storyline might seem, it just didn’t seem like a good fit. First of all, Iron Man made no secret about the fact that he was interested in basically anything with a pulse – a type of lifestyle that Pepper didn’t really seem to love. And then, there’s the fact that Tony would often literally flirt with women right in front of Pepper – multiple women, all the time. The couple is shown as undergoing a fair share of drama in the cinematic interpretation of things, but in the comic book world, it’s just a bad situation all around. Sure, Tony Stark is brilliant and charming, but come on – Pepper Potts can do a lot better than a guy who can’t keep his eyes from wandering 24/7.
5. The Comedian and Sally Jupiter
Okay, this one is even darker than most. There are toxic relationships where there’s deception and cheating and all that, and then there’s Sally Jupiter and The Comedian. Sally Jupiter from The Watchmen had a bit of a reputation as the comic’s sex symbol, a sultry superheroine who didn’t quite know how gorgeous she was. In the comic book universe, she probably could have been believably matched with just about any male figure. However, what happened was she got assaulted by The Comedian, and, in some type of strange Stockholm Syndrome, even allowed a second sexual encounter to occur, from which she got her daughter. While Jupiter herself never really states the reason she’d go back to a man who literally sexually assaulted her, her overall characterization offers some hints – she’s portrayed as someone who is very, very insecure, and for some reason she remains loyal to The Comedian after his unspeakable treatment of her rather than running as far and fast as she can.
4. Professor Xavier and Jean Grey
This couple isn’t really a true couple – but that’s only because Professor Xavier, unlike some characters such as The Comedian, doesn’t go so far as to force himself on the object of his desire. While Professor Xavier is usually just known as the wise head of the mutants at his academy, in a few panels in X-Men #4, a comic all the way from 1964, things take a bit of a turn. In a few panels, readers see Professor X, then in his 40s, and his lustful thoughts for the underage Jean Grey. Now, Jean Grey isn’t a stranger to toxic relationships – goodness knows she’s had her fair share of those – but this one was too much even for her. And it wasn’t just a one-off – the storyline returned a bit in the mid’90s, and then the mid-2000s. Jean Grey is gorgeous, but the whole storyline is just a bit icky.
3. Rogue and Gambit
This pairing has its fair share of fans, but let’s get real for a second – their relationship is inherently problematic because they. Can’t. Be. Together. Pretty much the entire time they’re featured together in any panels, the theme is just ‘they want to be together and touch one another and can’t. And it’s not even always clear why – sometimes there are seemingly opportunities for the two to get together and they just don’t. Sure, the playful seduction can be a fun plotline to incorporate into a comic book couple’s story, but that sexual tension and uncertainty is not something that a healthy relationship should be built on. They make the worst couple list because their relationship just never goes anywhere. Plus, there’s the whole awful southern/Cajun dialogue that kind of ruins the whole thing. Sure, there’s no terrible mistreatment of one another or blood ties or anything like that, but the whole relationship is just too frustrating and repetitive to be good.
2.Black Cat and Spider-Man
When you love someone, you love all parts of them – that is, unless you’re Black Cat. While many superhero storylines start with a normal man or woman falling for someone who they think is a regular person, only to find out they have superpowers, this couple is a bit different. Black Cat loved Spider-Man – and only Spider-Man. That whole geeky Peter Parker guy he was the rest of the time was totally unappealing to her. As in, she’d literally ask him to keep his mask on in order to avoid seeing his normal human face. She basically loves a character that he is for a small portion of his time, and that’s just no way to start a solid relationship. Spider-Man has his own relationship troubles as Peter Parker as well with his various women, but that’s a whole other story that we won’t get into. The point is, if she only loves your superhero persona, she probably doesn’t really love you.
1. Harley Quinn and Joker
I mean, could any other comic book couple possible take the top spot on this list? Harley Quinn and Joker are a notorious couple in the comic book world, and not always for the right reasons. The way they met is bad enough – Harley Quinn was, at that point, Dr. Harleen Quinzell, a psychiatrist working at the asylum where the Joker was being treated. Instead of doing her job and treating a clearly disturbed individual, Quinzell found herself falling for her patient, and eventually helped him break out of Arkham Asylum before becoming his partner in crime. While it may initially seem like the quintessential ‘love against all the odds’ story, just remember that it was never really a reciprocal relationship – Harley Quinn would have done pretty much everything for the Joker, while he would easily have traded her for a different sidekick without even thinking twice about it. Poor Harley.