Lovefool 02.28.11 | That Thing You Do

What makes a good love story? Lovefool digs into her five favorite comic book romances to find out.




Okay, dear readers, happy Monday. I won’t lie: this weekend, my own funny romance took priority. I spent most of the weekend getting my husband ready to go on a business trip of sorts, and there was a fairly epic shopping excursion. There was also drinking on Saturday night, so Sunday—my procrastinator’s deadline day—was split between lying in bed bemoaning how stupid I am while making my husband fetch me glasses of water and carbs, puzzling out the mystery of what makes a good shirt/tie combo, and talking said husband into skinny-but-not-too-skinny jeans. It was a good weekend, really, all things considered. So here I am at my desk, nibbling on lunch and thinking about love, both 3-D and 2-D.
As we discussed last week, love ain’t easy for capes but, honestly, really, it’s probably not easy for any of us. Specifically, I was thinking about what makes a good love story. And the truth of it is I’m not sure what makes for compelling romance of any kind but I, personally, know what I like to see in my funnybooks. There’s just this intangible little thing about some stories that makes me happy and one notable exception that makes me cry every time I read it. Real life doesn’t quite work like that, except for the part about intangible somethings and crying at random times. So maybe it does work like that.
Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson, Spider Loves Mary Jane, Sean McKeever and Terry Moore
I am sitting at my desk trying very hard not to squee even thinking about this series. It’s so convoluted and teenage that I’m kind of blushing while I write this. But I loooove it. The make-ups, the break-ups, the sheer drama of it all—it’s hard not to think of my own teenage years, which were not complicated by a superhero crush, just my own inability to act like a human being sometimes. It’s easy to empathize with this tale, though. Mary Jane Watson is a teenager who’s got it goin’ on, but there’s boys and jobs and friends that are weird and friends that aren’t weird and the one who gets away and the friend zone and then the friend zone boundaries shift and who knows what happens then? It’s pure magic, watching Peter and Spidey and Gwen and Mary Jane and Liz and Flash and Harry try to figure out just what’s going on because we’ve all been there, too. And the end? Peter and MJ holding hands in the snow? Siiiiiiiigh.
George and Caroline, Paradise Kiss, Ai Yazawa
This was a hard pairing to identify because Paradise Kiss is a book about couples and it was kind of hard to pick just one to give the title to. As discussed previously in our Manga Movable Feast roundtable, this got hard to read in parts. There was abuse all over the place, which I dislike, and it wasn’t even one kind: there were variants of mean in here. There were casual things that turned very serious and serious things that ended abruptly and then, shebang, everyone ends up with someone unexpected at the end. There was a butterfly story of sorts, but the character who underwent it didn’t even get to keep her name. The story ended sadly but…not? It was bittersweet and I still cried even though everyone ended up with someone and, apparently, ended up happy-ish. I guess that my thing is that I wanted things to be spectacular and the main characters were so very spectacular together. But spectacular, as we discussed last week, hardly ever ends well. This is no exception. It’s also beautifully drawn and the plot is a little overblown, but I always end up so swept up in it all that I believe in it. I buy it, I really do. And I do cry every single time I read it, and I’m not sure if they’re happy tears or not.
Bleu Finnegan and Mr. Bishop, Blue Monday, Chynna Clugston
Blue Monday is one of my favorite comics, probably because I’m pretty sure I would’ve been Bleu Finnegan had I been just a hair older. I would’ve tried really hard to be her, anyway. Bleu was an excellent role model but, sadly, I was a little too young to be her during the time period the story was set and a little too old to be her when she hit comic book shelves but, as the girl with the blue hair in my teens, I got Bleu. Again, this is set in high school, betraying what might be an embarrassing nostalgia, but the characters seem so much older. There’s sex and shenanigans I didn’t dream of in high school, all set to a great soundtrack. But there’s also characters trying to be other things for people. Bleu didn’t have to be anything but what she was for Mr. Bishop from a compatibility standpoint but, legally speaking, she definitely needed to be a little older. Cue the Police jokes, watch Bleu dash her heart against the rocks of a morally-upright substitute history teacher and you get a great little tale of unrequited love all around. Bleu loves Mr. Bishop and everyone else loves Bleu.
Tony Stark and Pepper Potts, The Invincible Iron Man, Matt Fraction
Poor Tony and Pepper. Last week, I told you not to get me started but, this week, I’m ready to talk. I love Matt Fraction’s rendition of these two characters but they’re a departure from the previous continuity. We don’t have to talk about Happy, though, let’s discuss Tony and Pepper and their OMG EPIC LOVE. Seriously, this stuff spans continents. But it took a kidnapping and a weird mind wipe for Tony and Pepper to hook up. Even then, it was temporarily snatched out of their hands before maybe, possibly, working out. Because, as we discussed, no superhero couple gets along forever and, arguably, they’re equal partners in this, eventually. But, all that aside, seriously, what I love about Tony and Pepper is that they spark. I love reading them and I think that they’re the perfect foils for each other. Witty banter, gifts of armor suits and then Pepper goes ahead and rescues Tony Stark, Iron Man himself, with and without her spiffy new suit. Repeatedly. And then nearly dies, only to have an eerie brush with death and a possible, probable even, happy-ever-after. I think they worked out. Matt Fraction seems to think they worked out. I’m going to go with it because it makes my heart happy to think of Tony and Pepper snarking at each other for the rest of their lives.
Francine and Katchoo, Strangers in Paradise, Terry Moore
You know how you’re absolute best friends with someone and you’re just bopping along, hanging out and being besties and then they tell you that they’re in love with you but you’re not gay and might also be in various relationships and have all sorts of problems with how you think of yourself so you’re not really ready to deal with it? And then they get a boyfriend, after all, but only one? And then they turn out to have been part of some weird sexy spy ring? No? Oh. Well, surely everyone can identify with the friend-loves-a-friend-loves-someone-else. Francine and Katchoo, however, have the whole package, spy ring and all. But they’re so sweet. And so different and so muddled, just like the rest of us. On one hand, you have Francine, who is not into girls (but not not-into girls as much as she thought, as it turns out) and sweet and soft and also a little crazy and sometimes a lot crazy. On the other hand, you have Katchoo, who is madly in love with Francine because she’s not into guys (but not not-into guys as much as she thought, as well, as it turns out) and a complete bamf and tough and also a lot crazy but sometimes just a little crazy. And both of them would do absolutely anything for the other one, even if they won’t do it for themselves. Somehow, after international thriller levels of adventure and an unfortunate death, they end up strolling off into the sunset together. I feel like I’m not doing this couple justice but, of all the ones I’ve named here, even with the international spy ring, they’re the one that rings the most true for me. They’re complicated. But to complicate seems to be human and, yeah, they have the whole spy ring going on but they also have simple, basic problems. Relatable problems, ones we’ve all had, but they make it through, somehow, almost inexplicably, to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, that elusive happily-ever-after.
So who knows what makes a four-color love epic and true. It’s certainly not me. But maybe we should ask Terry Moore. | Erin Jameson


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