The unthinkable had happened in Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Scandal in Bohemia. Sherlock Holmes showed palpable signs of being in love with a woman. But as creators of incredibly popular fictional characters know all too well, the lives — never mind the love lives — of their creations have a life of their own as demanded by peering-in readers. Thus, started and ended any possibility of developing a (violin-strained, cocaine-laced?) romance between Sherlock and the lovely Irene Adler and all was right between Dr Watson and his partner in crime-busting. (“To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex,” wrote the relieved Watson.) A similar cataclysmic event has happened in the comic book world, the nature of which is the exact opposite of the one that befell Holmes. The 21-year marriage of Peter Parker a.k.a. Spiderman and his red-haired belle Mary Jane Watson has been dissolved. And more strangely, eerily reminiscent of Ekta Kapoor television soaps, Peter’s memories of ever being hitched have been wiped out.
As far as Marvel Comics storyboards go, having a girlfriend or a wife can contribute to a fair amount of drag in an otherwise fastpaced, inked and coloured row of panels. Some of us will remember the gloom that most of us shared when Lee Falk’s Phantom a.k.a. Kit Walker got married to saccharine blonde Diana Palmer and ended our complete devotion to the Ghost Who Walks. Superman a.k.a. Clark Kent a.k.a. Kal-El, despite ‘unofficially’ being married many times over to Lois Lane (no comic book describes any marriage), can be forgiven for that kind of transgression as he was killed in 1993 and — again like Holmes — resuscitated.
Superheroes with full-time ‘baggage’ can be grating for the comic book aficionado. The ladies should either perform the role of mysteriously attractive adversaries (Tania al Ghul vis-a-vis Batman a.k.a. Bruce Wayne) or be downright absent (Betty Ross Banner, wife of the Incredible Hulk a.k.a. Bruce Banner
is killed early enough for us not to know bhabiji). With Spiderman, it’s all very homely and Hum Log. Which can be warm and nice as an alternative to the lonely superheroes out there, but a tad fluffy for getting on with the job of busting the chops of villains. And why did Peter and Mary split? To save the life of Peter’s Aunt May by making a deal with arch-villain Mephisto. Well, hopefully that means Spidey won’t waste his precious time now kissing women while hanging upside down in the rain.