The Most Dysfunctional Comic Book Romances

The day of chocolate, flowers, and sappy Facebook status updates has come and gone, but love is still in the air. The air saturated with the smell of ink stained pages, that is.

Romance has always been a central part of comic books, and while many fans may not read FOR the love stories, it is an incredibly driven plot device that personally has me coming back to certain story arcs again and again (just to see what happens!). Originally, I was going to write an article about the most enduring, adorable, awesome couples in comic books – because I’m sappy like that. But then I began to think about it… and where’s the fun in Happily Ever After? While we may not want conflict in our own lives and relationships, it sure is fun to read about in comic books… and boy, does our favorite medium for storytelling have some doozies in the way of messed up relationships.

Just don’t model your own love life on the below candidates and you will be just fine. Or do, if you want your life to read like a comic book (or a soap opera… sans superpowers and money that seems to grow on trees).


 Nico & Alex (Runaways)

While Nico may be a classic goth, inside she is not even close to as dark as her clothes. A self professed emotional person, she maintains incredibly intense relationships with all the Runaways – but especially Alex. Right from the get go she and Alex share a kiss and fall in [young] love, being the first real couple in the Runaways storyline. But Alex is a horrible daddy’s boy, and rather than continue to join the rest of the Runaways in their quest to conquer their parent’s evil society, he decides to go with his parents to their home planet (thus turning against his friends and allies). Naturally, he expects his doting girlfriend to come along with him – why wouldn’t she want to spend the rest of eternity with crazy in laws, right? – but Nico balks, showing incredible strength of character and loyalty to the team. Eventually, Alex croaks, and despite his betrayal Nico continues to profess her undying love and longing for the little brat.


 The Joker and Harley Quinn

The Joker and Harley Quinn are absolutely nuts together – but it makes them endearing, and I must admit half the reason I have read Batman for as long as I have is because I am perpetually longing to see them on the page. So, let’s just go through a rundown of their crazy relationship: Arkham Asylum psychiatrist meets insane super villain; psychiatrist falls madly in love with super villain; psychiatrist helps super villain escape the asylum on multiple occasions; psychiatrist is driven to insane rage when patient returns to facility in bad shape; psychiatrist dons jester outfit and becomes Harley Quinn, determined to assist her love; the patient (obviously the Joker), incapable of love mostly toys with and abuses Harley, but she puts up with it continually; Harley Quinn becomes the Joker’s side kick and wrecks general havoc; Joker is constantly messing with Harley Quinn until finally on one occasion she breaks into his cell with the intent to kill him for all the abuse he has put her through, instead opting to release him (again)… rinse, wash, repeat. If that isn’t dysfunctional than I don’t know what is.


 Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch

Apparently Marvel has been spending too much time on fanfiction websites, because the mantra that the darkest recesses of the internet community holds dear has been pounded into their skulls: incest is wincest. Yeah, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch are brother and sister, and also passionate lovers. ‘Nuff said.


 The Comedian and Sally Jupiter

It’s perfectly normal to fall in love with your rapist, right?

Not only did the insecure Sally Jupiter, sex symbol superheroine extraordinaire fall in love with her assaulter, but she consented to a second sexual encounter with him later, one that produced her daughter – Silk Spectre. Her devotion and adoration for her attacker is never really explained in the comic, though it may have something to do with the fact that she is a deeply insecure individual. Silk Spectre herself cannot make sense of her mother’s logic and loyalty to the Comedian, but Sally Jupiter maintains her feelings for the man that attacked her well into her late life.


 Maggie and Hopey (Love and Rockets)

While I would say that Maggie and Hopey are the most FUNCTIONAL couple on this list, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t still a little strained. While they are irrefutable soulmates and the love of one another’s lives, best friends and lovers throughout the entire beautiful run of Love and Rockets, their relationship is perpetually on again off again. It is mostly thanks to bisexual Maggie’s penchant for throwing herself at bad boys who don’t want her and treat her like crap, and then constantly coming back to Hopey for love and support. But these two characters do truly prove that despite conflict and hardship, if you love one another enough you can overcome all obstacles. (Come on, it’s me, I had to put a LITTLE sappiness in here. Leave me alone.)


 Archie, Betty, and Veronica

As I read Archie comics growing up (along with X-Men, constantly), I was taught that super hot, desirable women go for lack luster doofuses, and that warring, catty women can TOTALLY be friends (sometimes). They just need to have a threesome and get it over with, already.


Cloak and Dagger

With a relationship that began because they were both street kids, Cloak and Dagger already had a rocky beginning. Then, they were both captured by an evil mad man who injected them with infected heroin, which caused them to freak out and develop weird super powers – Cloak, forever enshrouded in darkness, sucks away all of Dagger’s light. Personally, I think they’re just still on a really weird drug trip.


Green Arrow and Black Canary

Boy (okay, older man) meets girl, girl hates boy, girl decides she likes boy, boy and girl fall in love, death, cheating, marriage, imposters… all of these things occur. And yet Green arrow and Black Canary stay by one another’s sides, the poster children for on again, off again relationships. They are also one of the few comic book relationships that very explicitly deal with infidelity. Superhero comics aren’t for kids anymore, folks! At least not any storyline with these two bickering in it.


Batman and Catwoman

Batman, the quintessential tortured good guy, has a thing for bad girls. And why wouldn’t he? If you’re a rich, handsome, charismatic man that hot women throw themselves on constantly, wouldn’t you want a little bit of adventure in your life? Enter Catwoman, a central theme in most Batman stories over the years. She’s a sneaky cat burglar, a multi layered villain who is constantly stealing kisses from the cloaked crusader. And while he oftentimes despises himself for the attraction he feels for Catwoman, Batman perpetually lusts after the leather clad lady. While at times he’s hopeful he cane pull her over to the “light side”, it is clear that Catwoman will never truly be virtuous, despite her desire for the big ol’ bat.


Janet Van Dyne and Hank Pym

Hank Pym is a wife beater. An abusive husband who just “accidentally” hits Janet Van Dyne (the Wasp) when he’s angry, or in more recent Ultimate comics, drowns her in an onslaught of ants while she begs him to stop. As despicable as this behavior is, in recent issues of the Avengers the writers are attempting to redeem Pym’s status as a “good guy” by making him a more central part of the team. But it’s like the old mantra goes – once a wife beater, always a wife beater (and I’m not talking about the redneck tanktops, either). To me, Hanky boy will only ever be a hero if he admits the error of his ways, and ties down those quick fists of his.


Molly McIsaac actually believes in love, she really does, but it’s just always so much more fun to write about the messed up aspect of it. She believes in unicorns and spends most of her time being a colossal geek and tweeting way too much. You can follow her misadventures on Twitter.


  1. I’m sorry, what? Is that last one supposed to make some kind of really satirical point or am I supposed to take the disingenuous ignorance at face value?

  2. The Joker/Harley Quinn relationship freaks me out a little. Only because the idea of Joker getting….it on with someone is quite disturbing. Considering how Arkham City ends it is quite horrifying to imagine what the plot of the third game is going to be.

  3. That’s twice I’ve seen the name of Hank Pym besmirched on iFanboy in recent weeks. Was the whole iFanboy writing staff attacked by ants or something?

  4. Hank Pym is not a “wife beater”. That term implies a pattern of behavior which 616 Pym just does not have. He had a breakdown ONE TIME and hit his wife. Yes, that was wrong. But it does not make him an abusive husband. He was not in his right mind. Also, your comparing 616 Pym to Ultimate Pym is like comparing apples to tractor trailers. **COMMENT MODERATED**

    • hitting your wife once qualifies as being a wife beater to many wives. Regardless, nowhere in the bit on Pym/Janet does it say which version it’s referencing. How do you know it is not referring to the Ultimate couple?

    • correction: it does reference the Ultimates, and makes it pretty clear that the entire relationship, across comics, is being looked at

    • @lawnbuddha: I added the word because it was clear that people are having trouble seeing that this is a relationship with big problems across universes.

    • @Conor: I think you’re having trouble understanding how alternate universes work. 616 Pym is not the same as Ultimate Pym. 616 Janet is not the same as Ultimate Janet. Their relationship in 616 is not the same as their relationship in the Ultimate universe. It’s different. You’re still acting like Ultimate Pym’s actions should somehow influence how the 616 Avengers feel about him.

    • @username: Yes, that seems likely. The point is that Pym and Janet have a dysfunctional relationship in both universes.

    • he actually is a wife beater and abusive husband by virtue of the fact that he beat his wife. pretty simple, really. i think your point is that you don’t want to conflate single-event intimate partner violence (which does happen) with hostile patterned abuse (which also happens).

      you’ll also have to remember that abuse doesn’t have to be physical. typically physical abuse occurs as an escalation after a period of emotional and psychological abuse. more likely than not pym’s behavior is the same. i would classify reed richards as abusive too, if only emotionally.

      all of which is to say that just because you can claim “one time” for physical incidents doesn’t rule someone out as abusive.

      wow. this got real heavy. what do you guys think about the watchmen prequels?

    • Again, not a real person. He’s a real fictional domestic abuser though.

    • I see y the put pym and janet on there they r the most dysfunctional couple in comics. think of it he hit her once not that i agree with it they have other prblms like pym geing a workaholic and for gods sake bat shit crazy he became the wasp after secret invasion in the mighty avengers after she died and kept all of her clothes cause his love was so strong if anything we should be mad bout Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch last time I remember Quicksilver or Scarlet Witch wasnt from West Virgina and them having a relationship is disgusting and if the have a child there have a new brother or sister and be new parents lol

    • @ josh – agreed.

      my point was less about hank pym or comics. and more about how people think and talk about sensitive issues like domestic violence. i’m a psychologist by trade and do marital and family therapy as part of my work, so this is an issue that comes up from time to time.

    • @mark. I don’t disagree with anything you’ve said. We cool.

    • @matthewAskirble I’m from West Virginia. I’m not going to say anything more than that.

  5. Tow of my more favorite disfunctional relationships would have to be the whole Logan/Jean affair and the Hawkeye/Mockingbird relationship/death/marriage thingy. This two relationships always get me coming back for more. I also agree that the Bats and Cats thing is pretty good as well. I agree with the person above who said the Joker, Harly thing freaks me out. Lol.

  6. Best relationship is Bats and Catwoman. As for Hank Pym the wife beater, yeah that is what he is, Hank needs to get a good old fashioned beat down.

  7. So now I see you’ve edited your article to show that you know the difference between 616 and Ultimate Marvel (when other people point it out to you). It still doesn’t change the fact that you’re acting like two entirely different people are exactly the same. Ultimate Pym is an abusive husband and all-around scumbag. 616 Pym is a guy who had a mental breakdown and did something awful that he later regretted and never did again. Give him an effing break.

    • Are you Hank Pym come to life?

      Relax. The article is about dysfunctional relationships. Despite your opinion, any relationship in which a man hauls off and backhands his wife (however many times) qualifies as dysfunctional. No one’s shitting on Pym’s legacy as a fictional superhero. You obviously love him enough to defend him adamantly as you would defend yourself. That’s admirable. But ya gotta take the good with the bad. The dude hit a woman.

    • Did you make some pro Chris Brown tweets the other day?

      (Just a joke, let’s not all go crazy here)

    • There is no legacy. It’s a big fake story. Fascinating is that instead of just ignoring that part of the story, people acknowledge it, and try to justify it. They wrote it in the story of Hank Pym. It’s there now, and each new generation will put their specific cultural spin on it. Getting mad about a the honor of a piece of fiction is beyond absurd.

      Batman is also a huge dick to his loved ones.

    • @Burritoclock lol I can see HAnk Pym and Chris Brown drinking together

      Chris: wht you do today
      Hank: Beat my wife, Kinda of reget it though you
      Chris: Same.

    • heh, I think the conversation goes more like:

      Chris: wht you do today
      Hank: Accidentally hit my wife while maybe under mind control and no matter how many times I save the world they won’t let me live it down. What about you?
      Chris: Yeah, no, same thing sorta but they gave me like five Grammys.
      Hank: Oh, that’s cool…wait what

    • @flakbait I LOLD for real. Sad but true. Except they would tweet it, and it would wind up on TMZ.

  8. How did Daredevil/Elektra not make this list? As much as i love The Runaways… Alex and nico were only a thin for a hand full of issue, and then he dided and hasn’t come back (yet).

  9. Y’know, I’ve always been annoyed that the writers decided to have Hank hit Jan. It’s really ruined that character. I love Hank Pym, but forever he’s gonna be a wife-beater. That’s not to say that a person who hits his wife should be forgiven (he said, treading dangerous waters as carefully as he could) or what have you, but that’s kinda the point. That’s really all Hank will ever be. There’ve been some great stories dealing with Hank’s recovery, his guilt, Jan and his relationship after the attack and the world’s perception of him (Avengers West Coast did fun stuff here, as did Slott in his Mighty Avengers run), but really, at the end of the day, he did hit his wife.

    Also: Scarlet Witch and Vision. Boy-bot meets girl, falls in love, gets married, conceives magic babies, gets disassembled, loses emotions, gets divorce, recovers emotions only to find ex-wife in the arms of the man whose brain patters his own android mind is based on, gets killed by ex-wife.

  10. “In that story (issue 213, I think), there is a scene in which Hank is supposed to have accidentally struck Jan while throwing his hands up in despair and frustration—making a sort of “get away from me” gesture while not looking at her. Bob Hall, who had been taught by John Buscema to always go for the most extreme action, turned that into a right cross! There was no time to have it redrawn, which, to this day has caused the tragic story of Hank Pym to be known as the “wife-beater” story.” -Jim Shooter

    It should have been an accident, and either way It happened years ago. He has been trying to redeem him self since then. And when you have tons of ex-super villain heroes, and you don’t say “once a super villain always a super villain” every time you mention them, give the (fictional) guy a break …

    • Okay, so he’s an ex-wife beater.

    • That Yellowjacket costume actually even looks a little like a tank top….

      I don’t care what shooter says, if you’d read the whole page, an accidental hit doesn’t even fit in the flow of the scene. He also tries to squash her a couple of panels later.

      And really, blame the artist? One frame of art couldn’t be undone so its the artist’s fault Pym’s an eternal loser? (insert rude comment about Shooter here)

    • There was no right cross in that picture, he clearly swung his left arm. Hank’s hand wasn’t even in a fist. It was more of a pimp slap or bitch slap.

      I’m not defending Hank, just wondering if there is another panel that is more of a punch.

  11. Damn. I didn’t realize Hank Pym had such a devoted fanbase. If I ever end up beating my wife, I’m coming to you guys for character references at the trial.

  12. @Molly Not sure if you selected the art for this article, but you have the wrong Green Arrow pictured here. That is Conner, not Ollie

  13. The Archie-Betty-Veronica triangle is classic. Gotta love the imaginary marriage stories. Let’s see what would happen with both choices! Brilliant.

  14. Where’d the Joker/Harley piece come from? Outside of the Azzarello/Bermejo “Joker” GN, I haven’t seen anybody go for the Heath Ledger-stylized Joker. I’m a little grateful for that, allowing the Ledger style to exist on its own, but I really like the way that it looks on paper.

    Are there any other places where artists have recreated that cinematically-themed Joker?

  15. So I guess Spider-Man and Mary Jane is one of the great comic book romances, even though he (a man with super strength) once hit her while she was pregnant.

    • That was during the clone saga in which that Peter Parker was supposed to be a clone of Ben Reilly. That gigantic mess has been retconned and time travel and future versions of Peter Parker coming back to the past and the entire thing is such a giant mess that it can safely be ignored. Plus, wasn’t it accidental?

    • Maybe “One More Day/Brand New Day” Mephisto’d it out of existence…LOL!

      The way it works is, if no one talks about something in comics, it never happened. If someone brings it up, it did. That’s why all this retconning stuff is really nonsense. If no one ever references an event in a character’s life, then it may as well have never happened.

      No one talks about Peter hitting MJ, so no one remembers or dwells on it. Hank Pym hitting Janet Van Dyne comes up ALL THE TIME in the stories. It’s part of Hank’s character now. But if one day a writer decided not to bring attention to that story, and every writer after him followed suit, then the even may as well have never happened.

    • PS- I really liked the Clone Saga…That’s about the time I started reading comics…;)

    • **event (not “even”)

  16. Other couples who didn’t make the cut (I had to stick to just 10 cos this list would have just been insane):

    Daredevil and Elektra
    Gambit and Rogue
    Wolvie and Jean Grey
    Polaris and Havok
    Mockingbird and Hawkeye

  17. I don’t really think Cloak and Dagger have a dysfunctional relationship. They have a relationship built on intense friendship and genuine love for each other. Isn’t that what people want? I know I’m thankful every day that i have that with my wife.

  18. This is insanely fascinating. Following the “Defenders of Hank Pym” and their outrage at even bringing up domestic abuse and justifications of it… it’s just… I don’t know… It’s really mind blowing. It’s almost as if they themselves were victims of Hank’s rage:

    “Well, Hank hit me. But I love him SO MUCH… And he’s such a good guy otherwise. I just… You know what? It was probably my fault.” Is anyone else really, really weirded out by this?

    • Like it or not his character has been tarnished forever by cocaine fueled Marvel Nights.

      Hal Jordan is a genocidal maniac mass murderer who I still dislike but everyone seems to forgive and forget him.

      It’s an interesting societal quirk that in comics hitting someone one time while under mind controll is a permanent crime while mass genocide is all cool. Probably because the spousal abuse is a lot closer to an actual human reality than a cosmic scale mass murder.

      I personally dislike both characters.

    • @ResurrectionFlan Again it has to do with the fact that no one talks about those events, and if they do, they justify it in the books, not the readers/fans in our own heads.

      Also the fact that, as Josh has pointed out several times in the comments here, These are characters in works of fiction 🙂

    • Yeah, but that doesn’t mean I have to like Hal Jordan, I started reading Green Lantern at Emerald Twilight (Glow in the Dark Cover!!!!!) so I always thought he was a bit of a haughty jackass. Which he still is.

  19. i propose that we re-title this article as “what’s wrong with you: love.”

  20. I guess I read Watchmen a little bit wrong because the way I saw their relationship was that it was going on at the time. She was just saying no at that time. It doesn’t make it not attempted rape though. If someone is saying No it is rape.

    One of the reasons I like Hank Pym as a character is because he believes he needs to be punished as mush as anyone. He realizes that he did what he did and could do it again, but he still wants to do good. Doesn’t mean we should like him as a person, but it is a character trait that isn’t explored much.

    Then again I may be talking nonsense.

  21. Harley and Joker is not a romance. It’s not reciprocal. Maybe a dysfunctional infatuation. Also, this is the first time I’ve heard anything about Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch…..that’s icky.

    • whether it’s reciprocal or not depends on what you read/watch. and given the Conner school of thought, i choose to view them as a romance

    • @sitara119 I agree with the statement that it depends on what you watch. If you are basing it on BTAS, which is where Harley came from afterall, it is definitely not reciprocal. She is infatuated with him, and he uses that to his own ends. Though, I don’t think the Joker is capable of loving anyone except himself.

    • is reciprocal, and he loves batman more than anyone.

    • theres a BTAS episode in which harley teams up with ivy and towards the end of it, the joker comes a calling. he ends up in a wright brothers type of airplane dressed like the red baron, and if i’m not mistaken, harley, in a rage, shoots down his plane with a bazooka or something. after crash landing, he professes his love for her right before batman takes them all back to arkham. he doesnt fight to the end to get away, because in that moment the only thing that matters to him is her.

    • @ClasikRok You’re right about The Joker…Batman even said that exact quote in Mad Love, which is the definitive Harley/Joker episode. Harley tried to kill Batman with one of Joker’s failed ideas in an effort to please him, which caused Batman to laugh his head off and say exactly what you said. Turns out that he was correct…Joker wasn’t impressed with Harley’s attempt, since his ego and style are #1 in his heart. He even tried killing her when she did that. So yeah, the Joker DEFINITELY doesn’t love her back…she just represents a personal victory of corrupting someone.

    • hahahahahahahahahaha-somebody has a crush on me-hahahahahahahhahahahaha
      to view other people’s artist expressions in such black and white terms is funny if not a lil’ silly. what’s even funnier is to suggest that any one of us KNOWS what a fictional character is thinking or feeling. it’s just ridiculous because all of this is subjective considering there are many stories that suggest a great many things and back up all of our theories as well as a few others not mentioned in this thread.

      and it’s not that he wasnt impressed with harley’s attempt, he was pissed that she actually almost killed his one true love: BATMAN.

      none of us are right or wrong. thats what makes some of the pointless debates fun.

      hey chris, remember rebels and conformists. hahahahahahahaha

    • *artistic expressions*

    • Wasn’t talking to you, kid.

    • play it cool, tough guy.

  22. Vision and Scarlet Witch?? For piss sake he’s an ethereal android!!

  23. Hank Pym is not nearly as bad as Scott Summers.

    Lets see, his girlfriend dies, he meets a woman that looks exactly like her (Madeline Pryor) marries her, has a child with her, finds out that other girlfriend is alive that looks exactly like her but not a mutant, leaves human wife and son, gets together with girlfriend, wife disappears, he doesn’t try to find her, she turns evil and reveals she is the clone of Jean, she dies, he starts to flirt with hot Asian telepath, then decides to marry Jean, then starts affair with, Emma Frost, Jean dies again, and ghost of Madeline wants to come back in Jean’s body and he stops that!

  24. What about beast and the woman from S.W.O.R.D, she is practically practicing beastiality

  25. Peter Parker’s also a wife beater, but you never see anyone bring that up….

  26. love this article. dysfunctional relationships are fun on paper.

    really love the joker/harley piece. watching them beat the crap out of eachother over the years has been a lot of fun.

    and the comedian/ms.jupiter looks beautiful painted. she hates him, she loves him, hates him, loves him….MAKE UP YOUR MIND JUPITER!

    i wonder how magneto feels about his children gettn’ it on. if they had kids they would certainly come out as homo-inferior. he’s from nazi germany, right? i wonder if he would do what nazis used to do to children they considered inferior. nah. he’s a good guy now, isnt he? granddaddy mags, can you imagine what that would do to his ego?lol

    archie does need to have a threesome with betty and veronica. then all three of them can fall in love and live happily ever after. archie could live the dream if he wasnt such a jackass. lol

  27. I dunno. Hank was pretty good in Mighty Avengers when he’d come to terms with the error of his ways. He’s long been forgiven by me.

  28. “Its on, bitch” – Hank Pym

    That line will forever make Pym a badass, no matter what he does or how he trys to redeem himself. Read Dan Slotts run on Mighty Avengers and Avengers Academy. This character is AMAZING to read and wacky fun.