Love and Capes
The massive, blockbuster success of Guardians of the Galaxy and all of the other Marvel films in the last ten years is living proof of our love of superheroes. While the modern superhero has only been with us for a little under a century, humanity has always admired heroes with extraordinary abilities. We get to live vicariously through them and pretend that all the terrible things in the world can be prevented by a person who’s just a little bit more special than the rest of us. And yet…we like them most when we know that beyond their superpowers, they’re still human. The popularity of Incredibles proved that even as much as we love our superheroes, we like to know that they share the same concerns, fears and foibles that the rest of us do. In the webcomic Love and Capes, Thom Zahler combines romantic comedies, situational comedies and superheroes to create a story about how a relationship between a superhero and a normal person would really work. The series was originally published in 2008 and has since been collected by IDW into four volumes.
Love and Capes is a humorous look at relationship with a superhero that has all the elements of a romantic sit com. Mark Spencer is an accountant during his work days but spends much of his time as his alter ego The Crusader, saving Deco City from various menaces and supervillains. Just to make things a bit more complicated, he’s dating a young woman named Abby Tennyson, a clever and good-looking bookstore owner who has absolutely no idea that Mark is anything but an accountant. When Mark finally decides to let Abby in on his big secret, will it rock their relationship? What about supervillains, time travel, alternate realities and all the other crazy things superheroes deal with? Regardless of anything else, life is never boring when you’re dating a superhero.
On the website for the comic, Thom Zahler mentions that it was a love of the cancelled “Lois and Clark” television show that inspired him to write Love and Capes. And it’s easy to see that influence in the series. One of the things that the series does very, very well is the treatment of the relationship between Mark and Abby. Oftentimes with romances involving superheroes, the romance takes a backseat or is used for plot devices like creating a weakness for the superhero or forcing them to have to save their significant other. Love and Capes is a story about the relationship first and superheroes second. The issues that Mark and Abby run into are standard relationship trouble, with the added twist of having to deal with fantastical elements as well. This focus on the relationship rather than crime fighting (which largely happens off-camera) makes the relationship feel more like an actual relationship and less like someone forcing a love interest into a superhero story. I appreciated that it was one of the few superhero romances that really seemed to understand that the romance should have some depth to it and have normal challenges as well as super ones. The series also excels at giving little nods to superhero comics in the characters, plot lines and the way it makes fun of tropes you always see in those kinds of stories. It’s funny and very sweet. Unfortunately for me….a bit too sweet. I’m not now nor have I ever been a fan of sit coms. I don’t like the set-up, I think the jokes tend to be lame and mostly the format just makes it impossible for me to care about the characters. While I really enjoyed the way that Zahler handled the romance and the fact that it felt so much more realistic and better written than 99% of love stories involving superheroes, I just couldn’t get into the sit com set-up. I found myself getting annoyed with that element a lot over the course of the series. To give Love and Capes credit however, I think it’s mostly an issue of “it’s not you, it’s me.” Love and Capes handles the relationship between Mark and Abby spectacularly well, enough that even with my dislike of sit coms, I still enjoyed it.
Due to its strong reliance on the sit com theme, Love and Capes isn’t for everyone. It’s a very sweet, funny story about two people in love with each other and trying to figure out how to balance not only work and home life but the ups and downs of a being a superhero as well. It never feels like a token romance inserted to check off a box and will have plenty to please any fan of superhero stories. If you dislike sit coms as I do, this may be a more difficult read but it’s still a good one. Overall, I’d recommend Love and Capes to anyone wanting a fun romantic comedy with capes and enjoys (or at least doesn’t mind) the jokes and background of a sit com. Have you read Love and Capes or have thoughts on this rom com sit com (there’s a mouthful)? Let me know in the comments and see y’all next week for a special list in celebration of the premiere of the new Wonder Woman movie!