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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 Shipping Bed Death, which may lead to this in more romance-focused works such as Lois and Clark.

Related to The Masquerade Will Kill Your Dating Life.


Examples of Superheroes Stay Single include:


Comics

  • The Silver Age Superman stories ran on this.
    • Eventually averted by the marriage of Lois Lane and Superman.
      • Undone by New 52 universe reboot.
  • This may have been the mentality behind the destruction of the Spider-Man/Mary Jane relationship in One More Day. 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 until recently. 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.
  • The Fantastic Four — Averted: barring the occasional character death, Reed & Sue have been more-or-less happily married for quite a long time.
  • Batman falls squarely into this trope in nearly all incarnations, but Batman Beyond 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 recent marriage proved to be unpopular and was quickly ended by the events of Cry for Justice.
  • X-Men — Cyclops married Madelyne Pryor, only to abandon her and become widowed soon after. He then married Jean Grey who is currently dead.
  • Animal ManGrant Morrison Deconstructed this, 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 hasn't had a long-lasting relationship since at least the Golden Age.
    • Not quite true. For instance, in the 1980s he was with Bernie Rosenthal long enough to become officially engaged to her; however she was eventually put on a bus.
    • He also marries Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch at one point
    • Though in the film The Avengers: Next Generation. It is revealed he married Black Widow and had a son
  • Wonder Woman 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. After the approaching Flashpoint reboot, who knows what his new status will be?
  • 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.
  • Barry Allen undid his marriage (hopefully unintentionally) as part of the post-Flashpoint reboot, with the fact that it would open up more story possibilities cited as the main reason by DC.

Live-Action TV

  • Supergirl — In spite of Kara having a few relationships on the show, she's single and hasn't settled down with anyone.
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