Marvel’s whole shtick as a comic book company is that it produces human characters with human problems and human stories for human readers. While DC holds itself up as a pantheon filled with living gods and esoteric forces, Marvel prefers just to throw flawed, imperfect creatures on the page and see how they react when interacting with a flawed, imperfect world. And what is more flawed and imperfect than a relationship? Fiction often overly romanticizes dating, but the reality of it is that love is hard work and one of the most difficult aspects of the human experience.
Marvel, like its characters, can occasionally mess up when it comes to relationships. Unlike DC which rely on tried-and-tested iconic couples to be the romantic crux of its universe, Marvel has a habit of flickering characters back and forth between different relationships like an indecisive Sims player. Sometimes the pairings it throws at the wall sticks, in which case the relationship might last a few years before the company decides to switch things up, and sometimes they splatter against the wall and readers witness some of the most cringe-worthy romances in comic book history. Here are 15 of the worst couples Marvel’s produced that it wants you to forget about.
15. KITTY PRYDE & COLOSSUS
Often considered the little sister of the X-Men team, Kitty first admitted her feelings for Colossus when she was 14. He was only 19 at the time, but still…14. Oh, and they were both dying from a Brood infection at the time. Colossus was decent enough to know not to court her, but continued to actively lead her on until his death at the hands of the Legacy Virus.
When he was resurrected (because of course he was, this is the X-Men for goodness sake) Kitty was of legal age and, realizing they had a lot of lost time to make up for, immediately consummated their new relationship. The awkwardness of them making good on a several-year old underage crush was only topped by the weird scene where Kitty get so excited she loses control of her powers and phases naked through the floor.
14. ULTIMATE QUICKSILVER & SCARLET WITCH
Ah, the Ultimate Universe, Marvel’s side project to see just how unlikable it can make its characters and still keep them popular. Deadpool became a humorless bigot, Hulk turned into a cannibal, and the Maximoff twins…got physical. Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch had always been close in the main Marvel Universe, but their Ultimate versions were full-blown lovers. They weren’t even subtle about it.
There’s a now-infamous exchange between Wasp and Captain America where she tries to explain their relationship in terms he might understand, only for him to be completely baffled about how such things could be considered acceptable. Frankly, so were the readers. The worst part of their romance was a sex scene in a garden where the twins got busy while Wolverine, who it had been hinted was their true father, watched on in voyeuristic fashion from a nearby bush. Because that’s not sickening at all.
13. YELLOWJACKET & WASP
For a long time in the early days of the Marvel’s biggest publications, Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne were the company’s “it” couple, as unshakable and iconic a romance as Superman and Lois Lane. They weren’t married at first because Hank was too shy to propose, but he concocted a gas that gave him a confidence boost, Nutty Professor style. Calling himself “Yellowjacket”, he and Janet got married.
But the Yellowjacket formula also wrecked havoc with Hank’s psyche and he slowly became more aggressive and violent. As his personal life began to freefall, he slapped his wife, a move that has defined his character ever since. While Marvel wants you to remember the slap and its after effects, they haven’t given much attention to the relationship itself, which started out sweet and loving but through substance abuse and the stress of life turned into a difficult and strained marriage.
12. CYCLOPS & MADELYNE PRYOR
Imagine you’ve gone through the incredible trauma of losing the person you loved the most in this world. Then you just happen to see someone who looks like a mirror reflection of your one true love. If you propose to them within a week and marry them inside of a month, then congratulations: you’re Cyclops!
Madelyne Pryor was so similar in appearance to the recently deceased Jean Grey that Cyclops overlooked minor things like personality and mysterious origins and wed her as soon as he possibly could. She almost immediately got pregnant and gave birth to the future hero Cable. Then Jean came back from the dead, Cyclops dropped his rebound girl and their child like a sack of potatoes, and Madelyne revealed she’d been a Jean clone made by Mr. Sinsiter the whole time anyway.
11. NIGHTCRAWLER & JIMAINE
Famously one of the most religious members of the Marvel Universe, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Nightcrawler would have hang-ups about getting intimate with his own sister. You’d be forgiven, but you’d still be wrong. When Kurt Wagner was brought to hell to stand trial for the murder of his adopted brother Stefan (don’t ask), he was defended by his adoptive sister, the witch Jimaine.
The story delved into Nightcrawler’s gypsy origins, depicting him, Stefan and Jimaine growing up together well into their 20s before tragedy struck. Kurt is found innocent and, upon returning to Earth, Jimaine revealed that she hadn’t been as long-lost as had been previously assumed and had, in fact, been disguised as Kurt’s girlfriend Amanda Sefton for some time. What is Kurt’s reaction to learning he’d been sleeping with his sister? Quite literally “Oboy!”
10. HAWKEYE & MOCKINGBIRD
Supposedly Marvel’s answer to the popular pairing of Green Arrow and Black Canary, Hawkeye and Mockingbird lacked their predecessor’s chemistry and interlocking personalities. Even if they weren’t an inherently boring couple, they were still extremely volatile to each other. At one point, Mockingbird is kidnapped, drugged and violated by Phantom Rider after a time-travel adventure. When she gets her vengeance and ends up killing Rider, Hawkeye is more concerned over her homicide than her traumatic experiences and divorces her.
Even worse, it was later pointlessly retconned in “Civil War II” that Mockingbird actually consented in her tryst with Phantom Rider and Hawkeye had used her now-senseless murder as a front, actually divorcing her for cheating on him. With Clint married to a civilian and Bobbi dodging around in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the MCU, Marvel seems to be working away from one of their worst couples in the mainstream.
9. HAVOK & ANNIE GHAZIKHANIAN
Romance is a bizarre and unique experience for everybody and there’s no set way for how it’s supposed to work. But it definitely isn’t supposed to go like this. Annie Ghazikhanian, or Nurse Annie as she came to be called, treated X-Man Havok when he was comatose and even moved into the Xavier Institute to care for him, despite harboring some anti-mutant sentiments.
While her patient was unconscious, Annie fell in love with him. When he woke up, Havok reciprocated her feelings because she took care of him which, quick reminder, was her job. Havok left his finace Polaris at the altar to pursue Annie, throwing away an established and solid relationship to be with a woman he barely knew. Throughout their brief relationship, Annie was still passive aggressively anti-mutant and actively flirted with Havok’s teammate Iceman. Truly, a match made by a concussed brain fresh out of a coma.
8. MAGNETO & ROGUE
Marvel’s “Age of Apocalypse” storyline was one of the defining stories of the company, as one might expect from a series that creates a whole new dimension for writers to play around with. In the world of Apocalypse, Rogue is a young freedom fighter working with Magneto’s X-Men who makes a promise to a dying Scarlet Witch to be a companion to the Master of Magnetism.
Her close relationship with Magneto, a 60-something year old man, eventually blossomed into a romance that saw her leave Gambit, marry the man almost three times her age, and have a son with him. Putting aside the age difference, the catalyst for their romance was Scarlet Witch’s last request. Imagine if you got married to your daughter’s friend, because your daughter told her to. It’s almost a good thing Wanda died because nobody could have survived a household that awkward.
7. ANGEL & HUSK
From the Cyclops-Jean Grey-Wolverine love triangle to Professor X having a psychic crush on some of his students, the X-Men have always been a bit awkward with their approach to relationships. One of the worst examples of this was the relationship between the then-30-year-old Angel and the then-19-year-old Husk. Aside from the drastic age difference, their romance also boasts one of the most uncomfortable scenes in comics, with the two of them stripping and making love in midair in full view of the X-Men and Husk’s parents.
The two briefly left the X-Men together to continue their eloping, but eventually broke up, though were still seen to be interested in one another as recently as “Secret Invasion”. Even worse, both would trade down. Angel went on to date X-23, another much younger girl, and Husk started seeing Toad.
6. SHE-HULK & HULK
Marvel’s “Old Man Logan” story had some interesting ideas, like a post-apocalyptic, Mad Max-style world filled with decrepit old Marvel characters. It also had some really bad ideas, like Hawkeye hooking up with Spider-Man’s daughter, revising old Wolverine story lines, and creating a gang of gamma-mutated warlords who were the children of an incestuous relationship between Hulk and She-Hulk.
Though it was never shown directly on page, Hulk mentions that their relationship was born because they were the only two beings left who could properly satisfy the other. Because a genius like Bruce Banner and a reasonable modern woman like Jennifer couldn’t keep it in their pants apparently. Beyond the obviously disgusting incest angle, the relationship was only there to justify the existence of the Hulk Gang and to get the great visual of Wolverine popping out of Hulk’s stomach like a Xenomorph.
5. MULTIPLE MAN & SIRYN
Poor Siryn has to have the worst luck of all the X-Men. Her father, the original Banshee, is locked in some lab somewhere, she suffered from acute alcoholism, she’s lost her voice and, by proxy, her powers and she had one of the worst relationships in comics. She met and fell in love with Multiple Man while living with her father in Ireland and soon followed him to New York where they became founding members of X-Factor Investigations.
While on the team, Multiple Man got blackout drunk and used a duplicate to sleep with both his girlfriend and fellow teammate M on the same night, completely forgetting which one he’d been with. Siryn forgave him when she found out she was pregnant with his child. When the baby was finally born, it turned out to be just a clone and was reabsorbed into Multiple Man’s body.
4. NICO MINORU & VICTOR MANCHA
Marvel’s lauded Runaways series pitched a new team of young heroes who rebelled against their supervillain parents. Among them was Nico Minoru, a goth girl armed with a magic staff whose prickly personality and budding romance with group leader Alex made her a fan favorite. When Alex betrayed the team and ended up dying, Nico vocally swore off men for a bit.
That is, until she met Victor Mancha, cyborg son of Ultron and he joined the team after they helped him defeat his father. They first hooked up following the death of their friend and teammate, Gertrude, a move that even Victor described as “cheap.” They started dating soon after, but their relationship was short lived as a time travel adventure saw Victor making go-go eyes at a red head from the early 1900s. Nico pushed the two together, partially because Victor was starting to bore her.
3. MS. MARVEL & MARCUS
One the most notoriously awful pairings in Marvel history, Ms. Marvel, then Carol Danvers, once gave asexual birth to a full-grown man named Marcus. The story reads like a Kafka novel. One morning, Carol awoke to discover that she was three months pregnant through apparent immaculate conception. Her accelerated pregnancy saw her give birth a few days later to a son who almost immediately turned into a man.
He set about constructing a machine and explained that he was an immortal entity from the limbo dimension who had literally planted his seed in Carol’s womb so he could be reborn on earth. His plan failed and he was banished back to limbo, but not before Carol fell in love with him. She decided to return with him and became his lover. Thankfully, it was later revealed that everything that had happened was because of mind control.
2. CYCLOPS & EMMA FROST
On a certain level, Marvel wants you to remember Cyclops and Emma Frost. Their relationship was supposed to symbolize how he’d finally moved on from Jean Grey and how she’d fully cast away her villainous origins. This was not the case in execution. Their relationship technically started when Cyclops was still with Jean, albeit it was as a psychic fling rather than a physical one.
The real relationship began at Jean’s grave when her spirit psychically forced them to give into their feelings. Throughout their romance, Jean still played an active part in their love life with lots of implied role playing and costume wearing in the bedroom. Their relationship finally ended when they were both possessed by a portion of the Phoenix Force. To consolidate his control, Cyclops choked Emma out and stole her powers, which is a more than sufficient reason to break up with someone.
1. NORMAN OSBORN & GWEN STACY
Wow was “Sins of the Past” a weird Spider-Man story. A mysterious letter from long-dead Gwen Stacy sends Peter to investigate a pair of assassins, one of which bears a striking resemblance to his deceased ex-girlfriend. Over the course of the story, it is revealed that prior to her death, Gwen, a teenage girl, was having an ongoing affair with Norman Osborn, a man quite literally old enough to be her father, which resulted with Gwen secretly giving birth to twins.
The rest of the story wrapped up with one of the twins turning to the good side and a few more minor revelations, but all anyone could possibly remember from the series was that extremely illicit affair. Panels showing Norman’s creepy bedroom face certainly didn’t help.
Are there any other bad relationships Marvel would like us to forget? Let us know in the comments!