Saving the world isn’t easy. When a hero falls back into their bed at the close of a long, exhausting day, it’s nice to have someone there to squeeze. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, Paste presents a list of the best significant others in comics—the ones who may not even have powers of their own, but are there by the hero/ine’s side, in brightest day and in blackest night. (Green Lanterns don’t have a great track record with girlfriends, actually, so you won’t find any of them here.)
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10. Alicia Masters
Introduced as the Thing's girlfriend, Alicia Masters is a blind sculptor who adores Ben Grimm's soft, inner nature. While "blind sculptor" leans pretty heavily on clichés for blind characters (was that Alicia in the Lionel Richie video, "Hello"?), Alicia's genuine love for clobberin' fool Ben is enough to turn even the hardest of hearts to mush. One thing Tim Story's Fantastic Four movies got really right? When it came time to cast Alicia Masters, Fox went with elegance-personified Kerry Washington.
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9. Ramona Flowers
As the tea-drinking, hair-dying, package-delivering love interest of titular character Scott Pilgrim, Ramona is legend. Often unfairly labeled a "manic pixie dream girl," Ramona's got her own stuff going on, which is part of what makes her such a great wake-up call for Scott. Although Scott sees his life as a series of boss fights, Ramona's imperfections are part of what clues Scott in to the healthier, more mature way to deal with his feelings for her.
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8. Detective Patrick Gleason
Witchblade readers mostly think of Detective Sara Pezzini's love life as a series of breakups and make-ups with mafia drama-king and badness avatar Jackie Estacado, a.k.a. The Darkness. But when Sara's assigned a new partner in her professional life, he proves to be… refreshingly normal. He's cute, he's blonde, he (usually) doesn't have any powers at all, and he even gets a little insecure about his girlfriend singlehandedly maintaining the balance between the light and dark halves of existence. Ultimately, he never lets it get in the way of being a supportive sweetie, even during Sara's universe-shattering pregnancy. Jackie who?
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7. Francine Peters
Strangers in Paradise
In a book where everyone's mundane and everyone's in love, it's hard to tell who counts as the sweetheart without superpowers. But with soulmate Katchoo's violent history—assassinations and organized crime—girl-next-door Francine is definitely the sheltered one. Francine's not perfect (that's one of the great things about Strangers in Paradise: no one is) but she provides a stability that Katchoo has never experienced from anyone or anything else in her life. Sometimes, coming home with blood on your hands, all you need is a soft, cuddly partner who wants to eat ice cream from the carton and complain about what she wore that day.
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6. Steve Trevor
Wonder Woman's very own dude in distress is an Air Force pilot who crash lands on the Amazonian island of Themyscira. Diana decides, for some reason, that she likes the guy. While I have a hard time imagining her being the sort to stay in bed late into the morning snuggling, she seems to really like that he's brave (or ditzy) enough to get himself captured again and again. He's got a habit of calling her "angel," which might sound condescending—until you realize she literally flies around, saving his life. If the wings fit, I guess.
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5. Kyle Jinadu
After his marriage to Canadian mutant Northstar, ski manager Kyle Jinadu seemed poised to be part of Marvel Comics' first gay A-list couple. While we unfortunately haven't seen much of Kyle since the ceremony, the Astonishing X-Men cover featuring their nuptials sent shockwaves around the nerd world—and beyond. As one of the first depictions of same-sex marriage in mainstream comics, the cover of Astonishing X-Men #5 has been celebrated by many, condemned by some (losers), and, most adorably, recreated by real-life Marvel fans.
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4. Abby Arcane
Technically, Abby Arcane has powers, but as her lover is Swamp Thing—a sentient walking wetland—she can fairly lay claim to being the mundane one in the relationship. In the bayou swamps near her home, Abby encounters the monstrous avatar of all green plant life, formerly the human Alec Holland, and falls in love. Under writer Alan Moore and a small team of artistic greats, the story of Swamp Thing became a tale of coping with expanded consciousness: from being just one organism to becoming a hivemind in love. Swamp Thing's devotion is Abby's refuge, her feet in his mud, napping in his vines and generally being his companion when most of humanity fears him. In their version of marriage, Swamp Thing shares his world with her via a hallucinogenic yam, and trust me—you haven't cried that hard over a vegetable since you last chopped onions.
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3. Mary Jane Watson
The Amazing Spider-Man
So, Peter Parker's a huge nerd, and his well-meaning aunt tries and tries to set him up with an Ann-Margret lookalike, but he's too busy saving the city. Not exactly the most believable of love stories, but over the years, MJ has gone from a one-layer super-model girlfriend to the definitive Spider-Man love interest in the eyes of webheads. It's easy to throw shade at MJ as a way of praising Peter's first love, the brilliant Gwen Stacy, but there's no competition needed. Death makes angels of us all, doesn't it? Gwen's got her own revival, and it's important to remember that when Gwen died, MJ lost a friend. In Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's Spider-Man: Blue, MJ comes across Peter recording himself telling the story of his love for Gwen. There's no hate, no anger at her discovery. In this moment, MJ is love—for Peter, and for Gwen.
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2. Pepper Potts
From secretary to CEO, damsel in distress to armor pilot, standing by Iron Man's side to becoming the power behind his throne, few characters have taken the wheel like Pepper Potts. Like many superhero girlfriends, she was created as eye candy, spending her time away from the typing pool to fawn over the dashing Tony Stark. In recent years, she's piloted her own armor under the name Rescue, carried an arc reactor in her chest, teamed up with Maria Hill and Black Widow for life-threatening secret agent work and led the attack against Tony's brief spell as the douchey "Superior" Iron Man. Like Alfred Pennyworth in Louboutins, Pepper is the glue that holds Tony Stark together, but more than that—she's the key that starts his heart.
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1. Lois Lane
The original. For almost 80 years, Lois Lane has stood alongside Superman as a coworker, lover, sometimes-wife and friend. From her appearance in the very first issue of Action Comics, Lois was always intended to be Superman's love interest, but her character was rooted in so much more. Inspired by women like Nellie Bly, Lois has always been a journalist who cares less about her reputation and being nice than she does about getting the story. The archetypal "mundane girlfriend" who possesses more strength of will than her superpowered boyfriend, Lois has been in movies, on TV and even on Broadway. In the Injustice video game and comic series, it is her death that changes the entire DC Universe. She is the human heart of Superman, and his story is much less without hers. In many ways, she is all of humanity standing beside him.