Friday, February 22, 2013

Romance Act II

So you have your couple. Now things get interesting: You get to torture them.

Once you have your couple in mind, you need to build the romance. The best way to do this is through a series of misadventures calculated to get them to know each other. They need to overcome any prejudices about the other, be it racial, social, or any other stereotype; you need to show them that they belong together. There are the usual things to consider:

1)      They need to support each other. The couple needs to learn that they can depend on each other, that they have each other’s back. Consider Remy and Rogue: Remy needed to know that he could trust Rogue with his secrets, and he did through a number of adventures, including Rogue gaining his memories for a while. Afterwards she had dealt with those memories, which included his part in some of the darkest moments of X-Men history, they were able to talk about them. Not as visceral as the standard gain-trust-through-combat scenario, but it was more fulfilling. 

2)      They need to learn that each is the complement of the other. If one is a ranged specialist, the other is a melee master; they need to cover areas that the other doesn’t. This includes more than just things like combat, social skills, or even cooking; the couple needs to realize that where one fails, the other succeeds. They need to be able to handle a wider range of challenges together than alone; otherwise, there is no reason to match them up as a couple. This is why the Cyclops/Phoenix romance works; Jean may have a thousand ways to kick butt, but she needs Scott’s tactical skill to make the most of it. It doesn’t hurt that Scott isn’t exactly a lightweight on his own, having basically one of the biggest guns on the planet and a plethora of skills he can bring to bear on any problem. In short, her raw power is complemented by Scott’s skills.

3)      They need to be independent of each other. This goes back to the relationship has to be of equals; if one is dependent on the other, that’s a great Harlequin romance, but it’s boring to comics readers. We don’t like heroes that need to be bailed out on a regular basis; the damsel in distress may be great for other genres, but it’s sort of lame for readers who expect everyone to pull their weight. This is what made the She-Hulk/Wyatt Wingfoot romance problematical; Wyatt needed some firepower to equal She-Hulk. However, with his access to SHIELD firepower, resources, and social connections, he nicely complemented her physical prowess and legal skills. Either one can handle a variety of situations, and can help the other fight battles that are scaled to the other person. If one needs the other to function, it’s time to debate the pairing.

4)      They need to be bring something out of the other person. This is where Disney consistently gets it wrong; Cinderella and Charming may love each other, but they can’t sustain a series. Now, Mulan and Shang? That’s a couple to emulate: Mulan becomes the warrior she needs to be because of Shang’s tutelage as well as his belief in her, and Shang overcomes his chauvinist attitudes because of her. That makes them a more powerful couple. It’s the same as the traditional wild woman/straight man couple; he loosens up just as she learns that roots aren’t that bad.

Okay, now we have some goals. Guess we need some plot…

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