Jul 05 2011

Which love interests have been most effective/memorable? Discuss!

Published by at 12:13 pm under Character Development,Discussion,Romance

Feel free to discuss anything related to love interests.  For example, which love interests have you found most interesting?  What do you think distinguishes interesting love interests from forgettable ones?  If you’re familiar with a few superhero stories, how do you think their romantic love interests stack up against love interests in other types of stories? 

26 responses so far

26 Responses to “Which love interests have been most effective/memorable? Discuss!”

  1. Mynaon 05 Jul 2011 at 7:10 pm

    Hmmm… I’m not sure, but I do know that I want a love interest to play a main role in the plot, to help the hero, not just stand there and swoon, y’know? Like, I loved Spider-Man, honest, but MJ kind of annoyed me. She’s sweet as hell but whenever she gets kidnapped she did nothing to help herself… that one scene at the end of the second movie, when Spidey and Doc Ock were fighting, and she tried to smash Ock in the head with something, THAT was the first time I saw her do much in the way of fighting. Though even then Ock just threw her off. She’s an okay character in herself, but as a love interest, she’s kinda weak.

    Like, in Green Lantern, the love interest at least helped out (launching the missile thing at Paralax ‘fore GL could get killed) which was clever and showed she was more than just a pretty face. Idk, my two cents.

  2. Chris Newtonon 05 Jul 2011 at 7:23 pm

    The only way to make a “love interest” character interesting is to make them a character before they are pigeon-holed as a love interest. If the main character is a king and his love interest is the queen, she needs to be interesting and engaging on her own, not merely as an objective in the king’s romantic moments. The “love interest” aspect of the character needs to be secondary to the character’s presence and presentation.

    As to which love interest characters I’ve found interesting:

    Storm (Ororo Munroe) – in the Black Panther comics she fills the role of T’Challa’s love interest, but she actually is Storm of the X-Men, a spectacularly powerful woman with her own history, problems, and strengths independent of T’Challa and Wakanda.

    Scully from the X-Files – she played the role of love interest peripherally for Mulder, but her main role was to be his natural foil in almost every way.

    Hoodoo Mama and Ink from the latest Wild Cards books – both are love interests for Bubbles, one of the main set of Aces. Again, as above, they are their own characters before they are love interests.

    Genatrix from the same books – she was the love interest of a British hermaphroditic Ace, again with her own issues and story before she developed into a love interest.

    My rule of thumb is that the “love interest” characters should be fully fleshed out individuals whose story would be just as interesting without the romance between them and the main character they’re associating with.

  3. B. Macon 05 Jul 2011 at 7:39 pm

    “In Green Lantern, the love interest at least helped out (launching the missile thing at Paralax ‘fore GL could get killed) which was clever and showed she was more than just a pretty face.” Likewise, Pepper Potts had investigative prowess in Iron-Man and she had a major role exposing the villain’s plot. She also had some memorably witty lines when she shut down the reporter that had a fling with Tony Stark.

  4. B. Macon 05 Jul 2011 at 7:41 pm

    Chris wrote, “My rule of thumb is that the ‘love interest’ characters should be fully fleshed out individuals whose story would be just as interesting without the romance between them and the main character they’re associating with.” I find that very helpful. Thanks!

  5. Crystalon 06 Jul 2011 at 3:47 pm

    Hmmm…Can’t name any specific people at the moment (I’ll think of some more later), but here are some things that I’d like to see in a love interest:
    – A distinct personality. And, no, being ‘caring and supportive’ does not count.
    Please don’t have her get rescued by the hero all the time. I’d like to see her rescue the hero for once.
    – I’m with Myna : “…clever and not just a pretty face.” I like that.
    – I also like to see strong female characters who can step up and take charge once in a while. I hate it when the love interest just sits there and does absolutely nothing as the world blows up, or something equally disastrous. If there’s nothing she can do, then I’d like to at least see her try, instead of sit there and scream.
    – This kind of goes with the last one, but I also like love interests who are brave, but not to the point of stupidity.
    – I don’t believe in ‘love at first sight’, but, whatever. I guess it’s possible. But, y’know, I think that it would be more interesting if she grew to love him over a long period of time rather than just falling in love the second she sees him.

    Yeah…Those are my rules for a love interest, anyway.

  6. B. Macon 06 Jul 2011 at 4:15 pm

    “I don’t believe in ‘love at first sight’, but, whatever. I guess it’s possible. But, y’know, I think that it would be more interesting if she grew to love him over a long period of time rather than just falling in love the second she sees him.” Agreed. In general, I like to see all major relationships (romantic or not) develop over time. It gives readers more of a chance to get a feel for the characters and why they should care.

    Love at first sight does sometimes happen in real life, but it’s really hard to get readers immediately attached to a romance that sprang out of nowhere. At the very least, if you’re going down that path, have the love-interest make a REALLY strong impression in his/her opening scene.

    One example of love-at-first-sight that I found interesting was the graphic novel form of Scott Pilgrim. His romance starts out immature and impulsive and it only gradually develops into something that I think the average reader would want to root for.

  7. Torion 08 Jul 2011 at 4:43 pm

    I don’t know if this counts, but I’m sure everyone knows I’m going to say harley Quinn. What I love about her is that she can be a comic servant like a harlequin should be, and yet I still adore her. She devoted to those she loves and can often be a vicious little thing when she needs to be. She’s a great match for Joker because she’s the only one capable of surviving at his side. 🙂

    I often hate loves interests for superheros, though, because they’re often just stuck there for no reason. They aren’t people with their own personalities other than, as someone put it, ‘kind and supportive’ or whatever.

  8. brandonthbrokenon 09 Jul 2011 at 4:25 am

    Romance and superheroes is an unusual mix. Remember, comic books were originally written for young boys at a time when it was unusual for boy to like girls. Even Lois Lane was originally a comic foil in Superman stories, a stand in for the bratty sitter or “icky” girl, that Superman would outsmart every issue.

    Angst (emotional turmoil) is the draw for using romantic interests in a superhero story. Unlike action heroes, superheroes balance personal, professional, and social responsibilities with their superheroes lives. Under the right pen, romantic love interests can add new depth to bland characters, making them more relatable. Morrison’s Animalman run is famous for inducing a superhero was both married and a family man. Animalman’s personal life was critical to the story as his fight for animal rights.

    Nevertheless, angst is also a weakness of romantic angles. Writers often introduce love interests to show that character x cannot live a normal life (Dark Knight) or to kill them, furthering the hero’s story (Women in the Refrigerator). While losing a love interest can lead to new, exciting stories, losing a love interest removes an essential, human element from the series. After the death of ultimate Gwen Stacy, there’s period in Ultimate Spiderman where we see more of Spiderman than Peter Parker. Although the Superhero adventures are fun, readers loss the human stories that kept them reading for 50+ issues.
    I have more to add, but I’ll hold off on that ‘til later.

  9. VicNoiron 11 Jul 2011 at 6:10 pm

    I’m new to the site, but have enjoyed reading all the advice so far. Just wanted to give my two cents, as bad romantic interests are one of my pet peeves. As such, I’ll share my two favourite couples/love interests.

    My favourite comic book couple are the original, Golden Age Sandman (Wesley Dodds) and Dian Belmont as portrayed in Sandman Mystery Theatre. The series was written in the 90s, but is set in the late 1930s. It’s more a detective book than a superhero book.

    Not sure if people like spoiler warnings on this site, but consider this a mild one.

    He’s a gasmask, suit and fedora wearing detective, with a knock-out gas gun; she’s his romantic interest. Though, the pair are written so well, she could just as easily be the main character herself.

    Wesley is a rich businessman (though about as un-Bruce Wayne as you can get) and Dian is the daughter of the district attorney. They meet at a party and later find themselves meeting more often, due to their separate interests in a particular murder case. In short time, Dian (an amateur sleuth herself) manages to work out Wesley’s identity and this causes friction between them.

    However, through work on both their parts, they manage to work through it. She takes to wearing a mask herself and drives and aids The Sandman when necessary.

    I love them as a couple, but I think what most makes it interesting is that the both of them are on their own paths, with their lives intertwining because they are a couple.

    Wesley, haunted by horrific, mysterious visions, takes to the streets as The Sandman. A little older than Dian and possessing a large fortune, he is already on his career/detective path when we meet him.

    Dian, by contrast, is unsure of where she wants her life to take her. Over the course of the 70 issues, her desire to help people emerges first as a worker for charities and later as The Sandman’s partner. Her career path, originally geared towards more traditional female roles, is changed through her love of writing and her adventures to a desire to write crime fiction, along the lines of Raymond Chandler.

    In many ways, Dian grows more as a person in SMT than Wesley does. She has desires and wants, and her love of Wesley doesn’t eclipse those, but is simply another aspect of her personality.

    Of course, much of this could be put down to the fact that the pair are partially based on my other favourite couple:

    Nick and Nora Charles from The Thin Man series. He’s a former detective, now retired, after marrying Nora, who comes from a rich family. However, he does occasionally get dragged into cases against his will, though ususally at the insistence of Nora.

    One of the reasons I like Nora as a character is that, despite the fact that the book and movie series were made in the 1930s, she manages to be a stronger female character than many modern romantic interests.

    Though she is not as good at detective work as her husband (since she’s never been a detective), she is very intelligent and is able to match him witticism for witticism.

    One scene I always liked is when she wanders in on her husband, clutching a young woman to him in an embrace (she’s upset), all she does is give him a mocking look and offers the girl a drink. Or, upon finding that her husband is on his seventh drink, orders seven drinks for herself.

    The couple are best described by W.S. Van Dyke: “Here was something new and fresh and charming. A romance between a man and his wife.”

    Both couples work well because each brings something to it. It’s important, I think, that both members of a couple are as intelligent as the other, if not always in the same ways.

  10. K Perryon 13 Jul 2011 at 8:26 am

    My main hero is gay and at first he has no idea how his partner is going to react to the news and then after he tells him, his partner gets jealous of the time he is spending being a superhero.

  11. The Jedi Penguinon 19 Jul 2011 at 12:34 am

    “I don’t believe in ‘love at first sight’, but, whatever. I guess it’s possible. But, y’know, I think that it would be more interesting if she grew to love him over a long period of time rather than just falling in love the second she sees him.” Agreed. Love at first sight seems very fairytale-ish to me, and smacks of amateur writing. At least, when it’s taken seriously. And is true for both parties.

    However, “love at first sight” could be interesting if played with, deconstructed or satirised well. Like for example, character A falls immediately, but this becomes obsession in some way, and is unhealthy. It might even damage character B. (For some reason I’m not sure how good this example is). Or like, it’s pointed out how ridiculous the whole thing is. “We just met like 24 hours ago, and we like totally love each other forever and ever! Lets get engaged/married/have sex!” It’s not hard to make fun of.

    Another slight pet peeve of mine would be Stockholm Syndrome love. So, the bad guy captures you, and imprisons you, and does terrible things to you, so you love him? And he suddenly loves you back? What? It makes no sense to me.

    Basing love stories or interests off of such classic tales as Romeo and Juliet is somewhat ridiculous. Especially when they have good endings. Does anyone read the play? Come on now, research is nice…

    So well written love interests… It seems harder to bring these to mind than bad ones.
    I know I like when the love interest serves a purpose other than “good looking guy/girl to be seen a a status symbol”. Or in a romance novel who’s main goal is have characters A and B fall in love have both characters be fully developed and actually have a goal besides fall in love. (I ask what exactly are Edward and Bella trying to accomplish before they meet?).
    I also like when both the main character and love interest can hold their own, and one doesn’t completely overshadow the other. Both should be equally as interesting.

    Personally, Im working on balancing the love interests in my current project and developing both of them as people. I want to be able to flesh them out some so I can write about them for Camp NaNoWriMo’s August run

    (Apologies for the long excessive rant)

  12. Andrewon 10 May 2016 at 4:50 am

    I’m probably gonna get pelters for this but I prefer Superman and Lois Lane over Superman and Wonder Woman. Lois (nowadays) is savvy and smart, she makes Superman feel human as much as the Kents do. With the S/WW relationship, I honestly just feel it was rushed and as far as I’m concerned, the only thing I see about it is “We’re the two most powerful beings on the planet, let’s screw”

    But my all time favorite pairing would have to be Hal Jordan and Carol Ferris. Both are champions of their respected corps, both knew each other since childhood and both had a rocky, maybe even the rockiest, relationship, which does make them understandable. No relationship is perfect, they’ll be arguements, but they work around them

  13. B. McKenzieon 10 May 2016 at 7:26 pm

    “We’re the two most powerful beings on the planet, let’s screw.” This is why G-7 meetings are strictly confidential.

    “Lois (nowadays) is savvy and smart…” In the movies, I feel her direction could use more consistency there. E.g. “How many F’s are there in catastrophic?” And that was in a movie where she won a Pulitzer. She fares better in the cartoons, I think (e.g. compare her work as an embedded journalist / spy in Flashpoint Paradox vs. her half-assed investigation in Batman vs Superman*).

    *Paraphrased: “Hey, I know I have zero leverage and you’re a ranking official with no particular reason to stick your neck out for me, but will you stick your neck out for me anyway? I’d also appreciate if you don’t think too hard about working with a journalist that is literally in bed with the story.”

    I thought WW’s cameo role in BVS was more respectable. The line about the real sword hanging over a sultan’s bed was cleverly set up, I thought. (A similar setup to her verbally slapping around sleazy magazine publisher Harv Hickman on Greek sculptures vs. Roman knockoffs in Justice League).

  14. Andrewon 11 May 2016 at 1:33 am

    I think the writers made her mis-spelling as a sort of joke. There was one time in the comics where Perry White asked her why she doesn’t use spellcheck and she responded with “I don’t trust them”. Not gonna lie, I laughed when I read it. I also read that it was, I believe, Pre 52 continueity that she started her career at the tender age of 15

  15. B. McKenzieon 11 May 2016 at 4:48 am

    “I think the writers made her misspelling as a sort of joke.” A joke based on her being an idiot? In live action, she seems to get more idiotic moments than competent ones…

    Also, I think she consistently has a mental fog hanging over her that prevents her from figuring out that CK is Superman. She shares the fog with most Superman characters.

    Contrast to, say, Ben Urich, who figured out Spider-Man’s secret identity based on being a reasonably competent investigative journalist* that has worked with Peter Parker before. And Spider-Man wears a full-body disguise.

    *There aren’t any in Metropolis. I think the fog killed them.

  16. Aj of Earthon 11 May 2016 at 9:15 am

    Speaking of Ben Urich…

    I felt the love interest between Wilson Fisk and Vanessa Marianna in the first season of Netflix’s Daredevil was both effective as well as memorable. Especially given that this was our villain. I thought that creative decision in and of itself was superb–and then we get to understand this woman, and the two of them together…

    The best superhero romantic relationship I can think of in recent memory, for sure.

  17. Anonymouson 11 May 2016 at 9:58 am

    Hey I know this is not the place to put this but your the only person I’ve seen who might know is Daredevil getting a DVD release or do you have to get Netflix to watch it???
    And I’ve got to a agree with Andrew W.W. and Superman does feel like a “We’re the two most powerful beings on the planet, let’s screw.” moment but Lois’s asking how many F’s would have been funny if not for the fact that she seemed stupid the majority of the time.

  18. B. McKenzieon 11 May 2016 at 6:00 pm

    “The best superhero romantic relationship I can think of in recent memory, for sure.” I think Vanessa-Kingpin is very effective, but I slightly prefer Vanessa (Carlysle)-Deadpool because she gets more unusual decisions. Also, Morena Baccarin is a hurricane of charisma, skill, and charm. I think she and (the other) B. McKenzie are the two main reasons that Gotham works as well as it does. (Also, Gotham’s central plots and setting are generally strong, but line-by-line I think that many other shows are noticeably better).

  19. B. McKenzieon 11 May 2016 at 8:52 pm

    “is Daredevil getting a DVD release or do you have to get Netflix to watch it?” AFAIK, a DVD release hasn’t been announced. Some Netflix series (e.g. House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black) have been released on DVD.

    If you were considering buying the series on DVD, my short-term solution would be getting a subscription to Netflix ($10 for a month, I think) and then cancelling towards the end of the month. That’d be much cheaper than the DVD series would have been, and while I like Daredevil a lot, it’s probably not a masterpiece many people would want to rewatch years later. (I’d give season 1 a 7-8 out of 10, but I think season 2 is mainly of interest for creative forensics – what went wrong, why/how, potential solutions, etc).

  20. Aj of Earthon 11 May 2016 at 10:04 pm

    “…and while I like Daredevil a lot, it’s probably not a masterpiece many people would want to rewatch years later.”

    Oh I don’t know about that. I finished up season 2 not too long ago, and while my largest critique was lack of sufficient explanation concerning the what/how/why-should-I-care Black Sky bit (also whiny Foggy), I would totally revisit it. Would even have a season 1 & 2 marathon for season 3 drop, whenever that would be. Definite replay value there.

    “I slightly prefer Vanessa (Carlysle)-Deadpool because she gets more unusual decisions.”

    Ah, still haven’t seen Deadpool yet. I’ll be on the lookout there.

  21. Anonymouson 12 May 2016 at 9:17 am

    “Would even have a season 1 & 2 marathon for season 3 drop” THAT’S MY Deal!!! I like doing the marathons and even if I don’t pay attention to half of whats going on, I some times write/cook/work while having a TV playing for background noise.
    And plus I have it there so if I get confused about something I don’t half to pay a monthly deal to watch it.
    Does that make sense or am I just being weird.

  22. Anonymouson 12 May 2016 at 9:22 am

    “I slightly prefer Vanessa (Carlysle)-Deadpool because she gets more unusual decisions.”???
    I liked the relation ship a lot but I didn’t see many decisions that most of the people I know wouldn’t make. “Romantic”, trying to hide spoilers and keep it PG, scenes not with standing.

  23. B. McKenzieon 12 May 2016 at 7:45 pm

    I think that most superhero love interests would have been pleasantly surprised to discover that their boyfriend wasn’t actually dead. I think Vanessa’s actual response was “You ass!”, which I thought was a more effective way to escalate a conflict with the MC in a natural and not inflated/contrived way. More natural than most of the protagonist vs. protagonist conflict we’ve been seeing this year (e.g. Batman vs. Superman and probably Civil War). Also, she’s helluva more assertive with Deadpool than I could ever imagine seeing from (say) Lois Lane.

  24. Anonymouson 18 May 2016 at 8:35 am

    Not the biggest fan of Smallville but the Lois on it would.

  25. B. McKenzieon 18 May 2016 at 8:58 pm

    Would what?

  26. Anonymouson 03 Nov 2017 at 10:46 pm

    A very good comparison of superhero love interests in my opinion was done by Nostalgia Critic in a video on the Spider-Man films, where he compared Mary-Jane Watson from the Sam Rami trilogy to Gwen Stacy from the Amazing-Reboot. The link to the video is here if you want to watch the whole thing (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KP2GMV8aKaY) and you can skip ahead to 18:22 to watch the part I’m talking about but if you don’t have time for that, here’s a paraphrased version of why the film version of Gwen Stacy was a more effective and memorable love interest than the film version of MJ:

    Okay, to be fair, let’s talk about some the good things about the film version of Mary-Jane: she is supportive, when she’s not dicking Peter around, though to be fair he does it just as much to her as she does to him; she is given a bit of an interesting backstory with her coming from a broken home; and Kirsten Dunst does everything in her power to make this an interesting character. But aside from that, she is a tool: she is something for Peter Parker to chase. She’s someone for him to save, someone to always be concerned about, someone to look at him in awe, someone to always give him pity. In short, she’s only there to make Spider-Man look good. She’s not a character; she’s a character’s girlfriend, someone to be appealing superhero arm candy. Someone to look pretty in Spider-Man’s arms.
    Now to be fair, the comics have written her much better over the years and have given her a truly defined identity. But the movies? No, she still kind of sucks in those. It doesn’t help either that the romantic dialogue given makes it practically impossible for them to have any chemistry to begin with.
    MJ: “You’re taller than you look.”
    Peter: “I hunch.”
    MJ: “Don’t.”
    Also the fact that she’s dated every male character who got two seconds of screen-time in the films: Flash Thompson, Harry Osborn, that guy she was going to marry in the second film. Seriously, who was that guy again?
    J. Jonah Jameson: “My son, the astronaut.”
    Oh yeah, how could we forget what an impact that guy made.
    In the Amazing Reboot we got Gwen Stacy, who is just so much more interesting. She’s a science genius, she’s got a good sense of humour, she’s constantly helping Peter in every way possible, and I mean actually help; not just cheering him on or saying ‘you have my support’ but actually getting involved in the action and coming up with scientific reasonings to defeat the villains. She hits Lizard over the head with a trophy then holds him off with an improvised flamethrower later, helps mix up the antidote to the Lizard formula, figures out that magnetising Peter’s web-shooters will stop Electro frying them, hits Electro with a car and resets the electrical grid to help Peter defeat Electro. Remember what happened the one time Mary-Jane tried to help? She tried to hit Doc Ock from behind with a piece of wood but got smacked aside without him even turning to look at her.
    Also, I’m just gonna say it: Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy? They’re just so adorable.
    Peter: “This is the most cliched hiding place you could have chosen.”
    Gwen: “Oh I’m sorry I didn’t take us to the Bahama’s of hiding places!”
    I had no trouble believing the two characters were in love; their chemistry on screen was great, possibly due to the fact that the actors were a real couple.
    Gwen: “I’m coming with you! You know you need me, and I am coming with you!”
    Peter: “Alright you’re coming with me! Shut the thing! (webs her hand to the car bonet) Sorry, I love you, don’t hate me!”
    It’s a million times better than the forced romantic dialogue from the first film.
    Aunt May: “you saw her for the first time, you grabbed me and said ‘Aunt May! Is that an angel?'”
    If by angel you mean a lifeless statue that does nothing but looks pretty.
    The only time we see Mary-Jane start to form her own character was in Spider-Man 3, when we see for once she needs support given to her instead of the other way around. But even then, that’s done so much better in the Reboot. Gwen’s off to Harvard, she has huge opportunities ahead of her, and if anything Spider-Man’s going to work around her schedule. In the Rami trilogy, we’ve still got to wait TWO WHOLE MOVIES before MJ even figures out that Peter is Spider-Man. This gives very little time for the relationship to bloom because they’re constantly going back and forth whether or not they even want to be in a relationship, and that’s no fun. We want to see them like each other, we want to see them get along, we want to see them go through actual relationship stuff. And in Spider-Man 3 we started to, until we got that whole BS about Harry forcing them to break up and then we were right back to the same BS we started with before.
    If they’d followed through and killed off MJ in the first film on the Brooklyn Bridge like Gwen in the comics I probably wouldn’t have cared that much. But because of how likeable Gwen and Peter’s relationship was in the Reboot film, it was a legitimately sad departure when she died. The Rami film may have been much closer to the original comic book scene in terms of the conflict between Peter and the Goblin, but in the Reboot film we not only got the tragedy of losing somebody dear to you, but also of being so close to saving them yet ultimately resulting in their destruction. And that’s a much more tragic and heartbreaking angle. Why? Because the film version of Gwen Stacy would still be an interesting character even if you took Spider-Man out of the equation entirely; Mary-Jane however, would not be.

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