Valentine’s Day Heroics

Happy Valentine’s Day! As I did last year, I find myself looking at my comics and realizing just how much of my comic book experiences have impacted me, often in surprising ways. I know that Valentine’s Day gets a bad rap (it always seems to catch me off guard, that’s for sure), but I really don’t despise it as much as I used to. It is very easy to be cynical about Valentine’s Day, especially if you are sans valentine, as I have been more often than not, but there are still good aspects to it. Last year I wrote about then various relationships that kind of guided me over time; this year, we’ll start with some of the things I learned in comics that have made me better at being in relationships.

It’s a pretty common device that most male superheroes are pretty much ladykillers when they are in costume, er, uniform, but totally useless around the fairer sex when not fighting crime (yes, there’s always Bruce Wayne and a few others who play it cool on and off duty).  The reasoning for this are clear; it makes for more entertaining stories when Peter Parker or Clark Kent save the day on one page and spilling coffee all over themselves when asking about the weather the next.  On the other hand, I think about times when I have been completely separated from my normal life, traveling to another city on my own, for example, where I can literally just decide to be someone who is less shy and more direct with other folks. I did this when I went to college; I was, and I am happy to admit it, an incredible dork for most of high school. But when I went to college, no one else knew that, so I decided to not be that guy and by the end of the night, was dancing with this senior like a maniac, in the middle of a circle of cheering freshman. I had taken my dork costume off, thrown in the incinerator, and blew it up. I still have dork residue if you get close (thank goodness), but it is no longer the thing (most) people notice about me. That conversion? Honestly, it was kind of awesome.

The places we go, the audiences we meet, definitely serve as costumes, or, at least opportunities to try different ones on. I am one person at my family gatherings, another at 1:34 in the lobby of the Hyatt in San Diego.  Each environment gets a different outfit, and the trick seems to be keeping as much of the good parts of the outfit as consistent from place to place as possible. But comics helped me learn how to accept that even though I considered myself one thing, that other people considered me as some type of person, just like Spider-Man, I could choose to become a different person, if I so chose. So, that’s one thing that comics helped me figure out: how do I want people to perceive me at a particular situation? Superheroes have to be able to turn that ability on and off all the time.

It seems that many of the love interests in comics, once they actually start engaging the hero in question, always seem to have the same frustration: why didn’t the hero just be a bit more direct? Why didn’t he or she just tell the love interest that he or she was interested? It makes for better stories, of course, but after seeing that kind of scene play out, time after time, I realized that there had to be something to it.  What always seems to happen in the books, of course, is that once the hero decides to tell the girl that he likes her, she either gets kidnapped or has just started going out with the star high school quarterback — adding a few more issues to the story.  All well and good, but wow, if I have learned anything, it’s that I’ve wasted a lot of time hoping that the girl I was interested in had telepathic powers.

That being said, it’s hard, it’s definitely hard to actually do that, to say something, even when you want to. It is scary to risk rejection, opening yourself up only to be shut down straight up sucks but if we’ve learned anything from our superheroes, it’s that when it’s time to act, it’s time to act.  When Superman hears someone in distress, he leaps into action, you know?  No time like the present in comics, and no time like the present in life, especially when it comes to relationships. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, in comics, life and relationships. Ugh, have I learned that the hard way, I was always waiting for the “right” moment, so much so that I kept missing it when the moment actually arrived!

Now, all of this touchy-feely stuff actually goes beyond the actual comic book stories. Witness my run to four-count-’em-four comic book shops to pursue Punisher Max #21.  I admit it, I let my relationship with my printed comics books alone a bit too long. I just assumed they would be there for me when I had time for them, that they’d be waiting for me at my comic book shop, eager to hang out with me. I never called to make sure Punisher Max #21 was there, I just showed up, out of the blue, after not being in the store for at least a month.  Oh, sure, I found Punisher Max #22, but #21 was nowhere to be found. So I went to Golden Apple. Then Meltdown. Then Secret Headquarters. No Punisher Max #21.  Gone. Splitsville. Off with some other reader, who was able to read #22 in all its glory. My only recourse? Conor’s sloppy seconds. Whatever; I’m not proud.

Like any relationship in comic book stories or in real life, your relationship with your comic books requires a certain amount of energy, commitment and focus. Taking anything for granted is a surefire way to drain the fun out of a relationship.Yes, there are going to be tough times, whether it be one of those lackluster stories with a fill-in artist, or one of those issues where nothing actually happens, despite the fact that there were people talking and moving around for much of it —there are lulls in any relationship. That’s okay…until it’s not, and then you can drop the comic like yesterday’s dirty socks, sure, but then you’ll always be wondering…what if I had stayed? What if things were really changing? What am I missing out on?

In many a comic book story, the hero usually tries to do the right thing, but he’s too late. Or he does the right thing but the universe intervenes (or Dr. Octopus), and his bouquet of flowers is reduced to a single wilted daisy. Distractions result in romantic dinners going cold and colder shoulders later on.  Our lives, for the most part, don’t have to be that difficult. Making an effort is good, but it’s not always going to be enough. In a relationship, one has to be the hero once in awhile, you know? In comics, our heroes are going out of their ways to do good things for people, for people they don’t even know. Valentine’s Day, as saccharin as it can be, does force us, at least, to take a second and do what we should probably do more often: go out of the way for the people that have chosen us for a Team-Up.

So, yes, Valentine’s Day is a manufactured holiday, one that is very easy to unload a bucket of snark on, but I say: embrace the day, enjoy it, get those flowers, buy those chocolates, purchase those tickets to that movie you’ll never be able to admit to your friends you actually watched. Go and tell that person you like that you hope he or she has a nice valentine’s day, ask that person your always shy around out to a cup coffee. Get into costume and save the goddamn day.


Mike Romo is an actor in Los Angeles who still has some shopping to do. You can reach him through email, visit his facebook page, connect with him on google +, and collect his tweets on twitter.


  1. Nothing against your words, Mike, but it would have been nice to read nothing about this artificially constructed marketing-event on this site.

  2. Very fun article! I admit, there was a time when I dumped a gallon of Haterade on Valentine’s Day, but looking back, I think I can trace that feeling back to its roots. Back in my middle school years, when I was young, impressionable, and when the happenings at school was my entire life, alot of pressure was placed upon everyone to have a date for that Valentine’s Day social (or to AT LEAST have a date in general). When that didn’t happen, I got very downtrodden (as I assume most people got). As I got older, I realized how ridiculous it was to put so much stock into this day, so I gleefully jumped aboard the “Fuck Valentine’s Day” bandwagon. So yeah, I bounced between the two extremes.

    The way I see it is this: Valentine’s Day shouldn’t be taken so seriously by anyone. No need to go overboard making the night “perfect”, and certainly no need to derail other’s fun with a logical-yet-unnecessary over analyzation. Just enjoy it as a day to be whimsically romantic with some one you love or have feelings for. At the very least, you’ll at least be called cute!

  3. This is just smart writing everyone.

  4. Wow, thanks a lot for this mike! This is a really cool article! I’ve never woulda thought about how simaler dating and superheroes are! I’ve personally always been a huge fan of V Day, the funny part about this is that my girlfriend can’t stand it! She was just telling me this morning about how she wanted to pop every heart shaped ballon she saw in hall. (luckily I didn’t get her a ballon)