Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Marriage: The Perfect Couple

Oh, Scipio, some of you are thinking, you just don't like superheroes being married
AT ALL, do you?

You're wrong; I see nothing intrinsically wrong with the concept of a married superhero. It just fits better on some than on others.

Heck, Animal Man's origin story has him working up the courage to ask Ellen to marry him and his was always a 'family book' (and will be again from what I gather).

We all love Buddy, but... well, c'mon. He's an adult named "Buddy".
He'd be completely lost without Ellen.

Mister Miracle and Big Barda were a prime example; they pretty much work
ONLY as a married couple. On their own, they were just silly/stupid; but together they were silly/hilarious.

Basically, they were like Oliver and Lisa Douglas in Hooterville, but with superpowers. Go look it up, kids.

Aquaman works as a married character. Though he works just as well as a single one, too. As long as he's not saddled with a big-headed, purple-eyed freak for a sidekick.

Art and Mera! You just know those glitter-strewn fun-loving beach-bunnies would go out partying at the pisco-theque every weekend. GET DOWN with your bad self, Mera! Shake what your mother gave you!

Although the Atom's marriage didn't work out so well for him, the Atom actually worked as a married character. Of course, that's mostly because being married to a dangerous world-threatening lunatic is seldom boring. Trust me, I know.

Jean Loring's about to shoot lasers from her eyes, bouncing them off her compact mirror to incinerate Ray. Ray, of course, is already smugly prepared with SCIENCE, and (rather than reveal his secret identity by shrinking to safety) he's ready to refract the laser beams away with a multifaceted crystal.
Truly those two were made for each other.

Many people think of Hawkman and Hawkgirl/woman as the classic married super-couple. They worked beautifully throughout the Silver and Bronze Ages as DC's ideal lovebirds (although the "one true love forever reincarnated" schtick got
really tedious over the last 20 some years). But each also works just as well as a solo act.

It was always pretty clear what kept those two joined at the hips; doing it in mid-air was the only way to keep from breaking the bed every night. And we all know it takes a whole roomful of toys to keep Hawkgirl even remotely satisfied... unless you're Hawkman.

But the two characters who actually work much better as a married couple than they do on their own are, of course...

Green Arrow and Black Canary.

Green Arrow. A presumptuous, loudmouthed, egotistical Batman-wannabe jackass and self-styled billionaire man-of-the-people.

Black Canary. Motorcycle-riding "tough girl" knock-off of her own mom. Just like her mom, in fact, since her mom also married a presumptuous, loudmouthed, egotistical Batman-wannabe jackass....
Private detective Larry Lance.

Despite Green Arrow's flaws (and they are nearly endless), he has the one thing that money and decent characterization can't buy: a Golden Age pedigree. And that's something you need to make the A List in the DCU. Just ask DC editorial about two years from now, when they'll still be trying to convince you in vain that "Cyborg" belongs in the Justice League. Heck, for that matter, ask the Martian Manhunter (that is, if you can find Stormwatch's address).

A Golden Age Pedigree is too important for DC to let characters that have them go to waste (except for, you know, the entire Justice Society), so they've got to make Green Arrow bearable somehow. And the only character ever to keep Green Arrow in line-- or even care enough to try -- is Black Canary.

I've made the case before that Black Canary is a character with enormous potential if only DC would make a Dynastic Centerpiece out of her. Instead, most of her Earth-1 existence has been as part of someone else's cast as "Green Arrow's girlfriend"; ugh. Black Canary, with an even stronger Golden Age Pedigree than GA, having worked her way beyond the glass ceiling from her beginning as supporting character for Johnny Thunder (of all people), relegated to "Ollie's biker-chick girlfriend"? More appropriate is the relationship shown on the
Batman:Brave & the Bold animated series, where Black Canary outshines him and he knows he's darned lucky to have her.

I was so happy when DC finally had them tie the knot! Despite some great attempts to stand them up on their own (such as when Green Arrow came back from the dead, returned to Star City, and started acquiring a dynasty of surrounding characters, or Black Canary's starring role in Birds of Prey), neither character was ever able to hold their own the way their Golden Age classmates (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and Flash) could. But as the first superhero couple with Golden Age pedigrees, they would have occupied a strong and unique niche in DC's heroic pantheon. Contextualizing each other, each became much more likable and accessible.

But DC screwed it up almost immediately. DC's not very good at letting couples be happily married... except for Lois & Clark, which made them exceedingly boring. The one couple who could easily stay happily married and still remain interesting -- because each was a well-known hero is his or her own right -- was Black Canary & Green Arrow. Yet DC screwed that up almost immediately.

Such a waste! Think of the fun that could have been had. Double-dating with the Halls or the Frees; fighting the Sportsmaster and the Huntress; acting as each other's partners, without the need for sidekicks. It would have been a fresh paradigm not seen since, well, since the days before Hawkman and Hawkgirl started dying on a monthly basis.

But as far as I can tell, in the New DCU both characters will revert to their Golden Age status quo as singles. Maybe DC will have better luck establishing each as a solo act; maybe this time when they meet, DC will pair them off happily. What do you think...?


Ostrakos said...

Scott and Barda as Oliver and Lisa? I would never have thought of that, but you are dead on. I guess that makes Oberon their Mr. Haney.

Dougie said...

Larry and Dinah had a great marriage until that sleazy, star-gazing hypochondriac Ted Knight showed up with his "Cosmic Rod". Then an overrated Beatnik decided to kill Larry off (rather than do the sensible thing and induct Babs into the Silver Age JLA.)
Ollie and Dinah would make a great married double-act, especially since the new GA might be the narcissistic but essentially good-hearted vigilante from Smallville. Just as long as Dinah isn't an Irish bartender this time round.

SallyP said...

Oh be still my heart. I thought I was the only one who liked Ollie and Dinah married. Boy, it sure didn't last did it? Personally, I feel that Oracle was quietly subverting the whole thing from the shadows.

I miss Ralph and Sue Dibny too.

Carl Walker said...

It seems like you're saying that Ollie benefits tremendously from being married to Dinah, but on the other hand, Dinah doesn't benefit from being married to Ollie? Even if that's not what you're saying, I agree with it. I thought the Winick run of GA/BC was amiable enough (mostly thanks to Cliff Chiang), but it was definitely just a continuation of the previous GA book, with Dinah simply added to the supporting cast. Inevitable when you reboot something with the same writer, I suppose, but still regrettable.

Jeff R. said...

I'll disagree strongly here. If you make Ollie anything other than the licentious, arrogant, smug, condescending ass that he is, you've wrecked everything that makes him remotely interesting as a charcter. And if you make Dinah someone who's willing to put up with that Ollie for more than 24 hours every couple of months, you're wrecking her as a character.

The most appropriate relation for those two is perpetually 'exes who can't really get over each other but really, really can't make it work.' And starting this nuReboot five years in means that they can set that all up as backstory without us having to see all the gory details.

Scipio said...

Strongs points, Jeff; you make a good case for them as Instant Exes.

Imitorar said...

Now you've got me thinking of the Arrow Family in contrast to the Bat-Family. I can totally see Ollie, Dinah, Roy, and Mia fighting crime together as a group. They'd play off each other wonderfully. The Bat-family, on the other hand, rarely work together, except for Batman and Robin (and Tim went off on his own a lot). I couldn't see Batman, Robin (Tim or Damian), Nightwing, and Batgirl (Cass or Steph) working together. Too many toes would get tread on, and they'd all end up bickering. The closest I can think of to it ever happening is when Batman and Robin appeared in Batgirl's book, and that was with Dick as Batman, which completely changed the dynamic.

It's true that I've never liked Green Arrow on his own, only when he has someone to play off of. The stories that really made me appreciate Green Arrow were, believe it or not, Identity Crisis and it's tie in The Secret of Barry Allen. I can see the case for keeping them as perennial exes, but I think that if you mitigate Ollie's jerkyness just a bit, and give Dinah a touch of a long-suffering air, their relationship could work really well for both characters. Especially once you factor in the rest of the Arrow Family.

TotalToyz said...

I certainly agree that marriage works better for some comic book characters than others.
In my seldom-humble opinion, the only thing Marvel ever did that was dumber than marrying off Spider-Man was the way in which they undid that marriage.

Anonymous said...

It didn't last long, but Giffen and DeMatteis (sp?) wrote an excellent Black Canary in the early Justice League issues. Confident, capable, and Green Arrow nowhere in sight. She was more enjoyable in those issues than Green Arrow was in anything I ever read.

Anonymous said...

um...wouldn't Hawkman & Hawkgirl (before they started dying on a monthly basis) have been the first married couple with a Golden Age pedigree? I mean, the original "Earth-2" versions were a pair back in the forties, and the "Earth-1" version was more similar to them (even with their orbiting starship) than the "hippie" Green Arrow and the sonic-screaming Canary...

Just wondering.

Scipio said...

INDEPENDENT pedigrees.

Hawkgirl was a Hawkman supporting character.

Green Arrow and Black Canary were independent characters who never even met until the Bronze Age.