Superheroes Stay Single

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It used to be thought that superheroes had to be single in order to be interesting protagonists. After all, a single superhero is a mobile superhero; it's easier to suddenly drop everything to go fly into space and have adventures with the Space Princess of Neptune when you don't have a wife and kids waiting at home. And besides that, everybody knows that comic book readers are lonely, single guys anyway. So why bother them with something they can't relate to, like a committed relationship?

As such, superheroes afflicted with this trope are never, under any circumstances, allowed to settle down with anyone. (At least, not in the main canon.) Unlike the Celibate Hero, they may actually date, but expect them to say "It's Not You, It's My Enemies," and other excuses of varying plausibility. If they actually do show signs of planning to settle down with someone, expect the Cartwright Curse to rear its ugly head, resulting in the love interest getting killed off, Put on a Bus or otherwise removed from the hero's life before story's end or somewhere further down the line.

Compare Cartwright Curse, True Love Is Boring, and Shipping Bed Death, which may lead to this in more romance-focused works such as Lois & Clark.

Related to The Masquerade Will Kill Your Dating Life.


Examples

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     Comic Books 
  • The Silver Age Superman stories ran on this.
    • Eventually averted by the marriage of Lois Lane and Superman.
      • Zigzagged later: in New 52 universe reboot, because first, said reboot sent Superman back to unmarried status. Then, the situation came back to normal (married to Lois with a son as a bonus in Rebirth).
    • Averted in the Bronze Age by the marriage of the Earth-2 Superman and Lois Lane.
  • Superman's cousin Supergirl has never had a stable, long-lasting relationship. Her love interests usually are: cheaters; assholes; creeps; stalkers; manipulative bastards who are using her; or actual nice guys who break up with her and are put on a bus shortly after meeting her.
  • This was the mentality behind the destruction of the Spider-Man/Mary Jane relationship in One More Day. We'll just say this is one of the most iconic and well-known examples in the entire genre. Please refrain from adding further commentary on the subject.
    • Spider-Man is still married in the daily comic strip.
    • Before Peter and Mary Jane tied the knot, a marriage had been put off by killing off Gwen Stacy and by putting Mary Jane on the bus ca. 1980.
  • The Incredible Hulk ran on this for decades. Even after he was married in the early 1980s, most of the time he was estranged/separated from his wife (and then she died). But now he's got a whole family of Hulks.
  • Averted in Fantastic Four: barring the occasional character death, Reed & Sue have been more-or-less happily married for quite a long time.
    • Played straight with Johnny Storm and Alicia Masters, their marriage was undone by having Alicia Retconned to be a Skrull spy.
  • Batman and family:
    • Bruce himself falls squarely into this trope in nearly all incarnations. He's usually depicted as being Married to the Job, and his two most famous romantic prospects are Catwoman (a professional sneak-thief) and Talia al Ghul (the daughter of one of his mortal enemies.) In 2017, however, Bruce proposed to Selina, and she accepted. How this will work out long-term has yet to be seen.
    • Batman's proteges suffer from this trope as well. Dick Grayson and Starfire's marriage ceremony in a New Teen Titans issue was cut short by an invasion, and later on his engagement to Barbara Gordon fizzled out for no reason at all.
    • Tim Drake's long-term relationship with Stephanie Brown ended after she got brutally killed in War Games. She came back to life and they briefly restarted their relationship, but soon after she was sent back into limbo in the New 52 reboot.
    • Like Superman, averted by the wedding of Batman and Catwoman's Earth-2 counterparts.
    • Most attempts to give Cassandra Cain a love interest failed miserably, and usually resulted in said love interest being killed off. Given her bad luck (and some would argue bad taste) with men, it's no surprise that most Shipping involving her is centred around her female friends.
    • Batman Beyond, by contrast, completely averts it by introducing its protagonist in a serious dating relationship that he maintains throughout the series. "Epilogue" reveals that they will marry.
  • Green Arrow and Black Canary tried to avert this but the Mike Grell era signaled the end of their relationship. Their 2007 marriage proved to be unpopular and was quickly ended by the events of Justice League: Cry for Justice.
  • Cyclops married Madelyne Pryor, and their marriage went down the toilet and he became a widower soon after. He then married Jean Grey who is currently dead.
  • Grant Morrison deconstructed this in Animal Man, killing the titular character's family for drama only to bring them back at the end of the story.
  • Donna Troy's husband and child were murdered in a car wreck, arguably for this trope to be justified.
  • Cartoonist Lee Falk defies this trope. The Phantom married Diana back in the '70s (granted, this was after one of those decades-long Newspaper Comics courtships), had two children, and the family is still together today. As for Mandrake the Magician, Falk got him and Narda married off in a huge storyline than ran shortly before Falk's own death (and heck, Mandrake and Narda's 60-odd year courtship makes the Phantom's look like a Vegas wedding by comparison!). Mandrake and Narda are still together in their comic.
  • Captain America has rarely had a long-lasting relationship since at least the Golden Age. In the 1980s he was with Bernie Rosenthal long enough to become officially engaged to her; however she was eventually put on a bus. In the film Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow it is revealed he married Black Widow and had a son. These days, most people talk about him and Agent 13 as the best bet, but unfortunately both of them are Married to the Job, so it hasn't really been played up in recent years - except for some serious drama, like Sharon stabbing herself in the stomach and killing the baby she had hidden from Steve, because she had been captured by the Red Skull, the Skull figured out that she was pregnant, and she was sure he was going to use it for evil.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Diana and Steve Trevor dated steadily from the Golden Age until the 70's. He then spent the next 15 years getting killed or Put on a Bus, and then brought back, repeatedly. After the Crisis, George Perez retconned away their relationship completely and married Steve off to supporting castmember Etta Candy.
    • As of Wonder Woman (Rebirth), Diana and Steve are together again.
    • On Earth-2, Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor married, resulting in their child Lyta Trevor (Fury).
  • The Flash:
    • Barry Allen had his marriage to Iris West undone as part of the New 52 reboot, with the fact that it would open up more story possibilities cited as the main reason by DC. He is now with Patty Spivot. An unfortunate consequence is the removal of fan-favorite character Bart Allen in favor of his Darker and Edgier counterpart Bar Torr.
    • Wally West had his marriage undone by being removed from canon. Even when he returned, the Continuity Reboot meant that his wife doesn't recognize him.
  • DC wouldn't let Kate Kane marry Maggie Sawyer and not because of their sexual orientation, due to an editorial mandate that their characters cannot be married or have happy personal lives in their New 52 continuity (the reason Dan Didio personally said was that personal happiness should be sacrificed by the heroes for the sake of focusing on their "work"). It's one of the many issues Williams III and Blackman had that made them decide to leave their run on the comic (and in a twist of irony, DC had to make this mandate public knowledge to stave off accusations of homophobia).
  • DC Rebirth lampshades and deconstructs this, calling out the New 52 on the throwing out of old relationships and marriages. It begins steps towards mending this by having Aquaman propose to his pre-Flashpoint wife Mera, and bringing Oliver Queen and Dinah Lance back together. Also, the (married) Pre-Flashpoint Superman is now the main one.

     Fanfiction 
  • Elizabeth Carson of the Whateley Universe has been married three times: two divorces and one husband killed by a supervillain. One of the divorces was apparently caused when one of their kids got superpowers and died from a burnout. She's single now, but has at least one (living) child and at least one granddaughter. (She's over seventy at the start of the series).

     Film 
  • The Mask movie ends with Stanley seemingly having hooked up with Tina. The animated series ditched the character of Tina, and both Stanley and The Mask rarely have luck in love. (and that's not counting the original comic, where just the fact that Stanley is killed by his girlfriend shows no one in their right minds would remain in a relationship with Big Head...)
  • The The Amazing Spider-Man Series took some serious heat for the fact I Let Gwen Stacy Die was played straight. Given the fact the relationship was one of the most popular things about the pairing and it was already on the rocks, many fans were angered and thus contributed to the series reboot.
  • The Highlander movies are notorious for killing all of Connor Macleod's love interests, including one love interest twice due to the soft reboots.

     Literature 
  • Zig-zagged with The Supervillainy Saga as Gary Karkofsky a.k.a Merciless starts Happily Married with his wife Mandy, only to have severe strain on his marriage occur due to his new life as a supervillain. He also has a lot of tension reignited with his ex-fiance, Ultragoddess, and old girlfriend turned henchwoman, Cindy. Similarly, Mandy's own exes play a role in the book as well as villains attracted to her. Mandy ends up killed, raised as a vampire, and then Gary has a child with Cindy due to a one-night stand while grieving. Gary gets back together with Mandy after her soul is restored but their relationship is never the same.

     Live Action TV 
  • During the original run of Doctor Who, this trope generally applied to the Doctor (and to most of the other characters too, as per The BBC's policy of "no hanky-panky in the TARDIS").
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel had a series of relationships throughout the show but as of the ending of the series, no one had a stable romantic relationship and quite a few characters had suffered the deaths of a partner.
  • Dexter in Dexter suffers this as his long-term love interest is killed off after five seasons, only for him to begin long term relationships with two other women that don't work out. This is a contrast to the books where Dexter is Happily Married despite being a Serial-Killer Killer.
  • Wonder Woman: In Season 1, Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor are attracted to each other, but she returns to Paradise Island and he eventually has a son with another woman. In The '70s she meets up with Andros II in "Mind Stealers from Outer Space" for her most difficult parting. Pete Johnson in "Knockout" comes complete with a son, Ted, who seems exactly the kind of boy who needs a super powered stepmother. Bryce Candle, the titular man from "The Man Who Could Not Die" was even a fellow immortal Superhero but both the Spinoff and Season 4 were were not meant to be.

     Video Games 
  • Terry Bogard in the OVA and movie adaptations of the Fatal Fury series get this Up to Eleven as they all end in the overly dramatic death of his love interest after he just gets over the deaths of the previous one. This is notable because the video games have him in a happy stable relationship with Blue Mary with no sign of his dead lovers.

     Web Comic 
  • Hero By Night - Jack's girlfriend Roz just isn't happy being with a superhero. David's love life, from what we've seen of it, looks just as bad.
  • In Supermom, this is averted in Liza's happy marriage, but she's very unhappy to find out that the comic book based on her exploits has turned her single again in its pages.
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