Dynamic Duos: Comics’ Top Five Partners in Crime Fighting

Sandman Mystery Theater #5Two heads are better than one, they say, but in the comics we’re often talking about the four fists that go along with those two heads. What would Batman be without Robin, after all? But sometimes there’s more to a partnership than just fighting crime. Here are the top five crime-fighting couples of comics and graphic novels.

1. Wesley Dodds and Dian Belmont, Sandman Mystery Theatre.
Set in New York in the 1930s, SMT owes a great deal to the pulp novels of days gone by. Wesley is haunted by precognitive dreams that show people in trouble, and investigates dressed in a suit and gas mask and armed with sleep pellets. Dian, the daughter of a prominent district attorney, falls for Wesley and eventually becomes his partner in crime solving. The series is rated mature not just for sexual subject matter but because of graphic violence. Despite the bleakness, there’s real joy in watching how Wes and Dian’s relationship grows and changes over the course of time.

2. Lois and Clark
So absolutely iconic is this couple that everyone knows who they are by their first names, even people who have never touched a comic book. The only reason they’re second on this list is because Clark is often busy off doing crime fighting rather than crime solving. But count on Lois to be busy investigating whatever corruption, crime or untruth needs to be uncovered.

Jessica Jones and Luke Cage with their baby3. Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, Marvel Comics
Jessica is a superhero turned private investigator. Luke Cage is Power Man, Hero For Hire, or was until he became one of the Avengers. Marvel writer Brian M. Bendis hooked these two up in Jessica’s series, Alias, and it’s lasted so far despite an unplanned pregnancy, civil war, alien invasion, and the problems of finding a nanny for the child of superheroes.

4. Ralph and Sue Dibny
The Dibnys were created as an homage to the original screen crime solving couple, Nick and Nora Charles of The Thin Man movie series. His body stretchy from ingesting a chemical concoction, Ralph’s nose literally twitches when he senses a mystery. Sue supplies the snark and common sense as they investigate. They’re not currently appearing and the last time they did, they were ghosts (shades of Topper!) but hopefully they’ll be back at some point. 

Black Canary and Oracle5. Black Canary and Oracle
They’re the Rizzoli & Isles of the DC Universe. Oracle (Barbara Gordon) tracks and investigates crime from her secret lair, Canary (Dinah Laurel Lance) goes out to stop it dressed in fishnets and black leather. It’s a beautiful friendship that one (in)famous panel indicates may be more than that, especially since Canary once said she had “all your germs” to Oracle.

Corrina Lawson is a writer, mom, geek and superhero, thought not always all four on the same day. She is a senior editor of the GeekMom Blog on Wired.com (www.wired.com/geekmom) and the author of a superhero romance series and an alternate history series featuring Romans and Vikings in ancient North America. She has been a comic book geek all her life and often dreamed of growing up to be Lois Lane.

Read all posts by Corrina Lawson for Criminal Element.


  1. Deborah Lacy

    Great post! Of course I love Lois and Clark. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Lloyd Cooke

    SMP “pulp novels of days gone by” Really? Why? It derives from Adventure Comics the Sandman series. Sandman may seem like a pulp hero, true. But there were many other comic book “mystery men” who did also: Midnight, the Mouthpiece, the Spirit, the Clock. Why bring up pulp at all?

  3. Corrina Lawson

    Why? Because even if you look at the covers, it’s clearly pulp influenced. There’s even an arc in SMT about pulp magazines and novels, which is a wink to what the creators were trying to do.

  4. Lloyd Cooke

    You can’t judge a book by its cover, have you heard? BTW, most pulp covers depicted much more action than SMT did.
    I’m familiar with SMT, Geekmom. Are you familiar with the original ’30s comic book series? Sandman already was influenced by pulp 70 years ago when comic publishers didn’t know if pulp mystery men or costumed superheroes were going to be big.

  5. Corrina Lawson

    I’m quite familiar with all iterations of Sandman, kook, from the original to the Kirby to the Gaiman (which crosses over with SMT). And, of course, the original pulps influenced the original Sandman, as they did Batman and a few other characters who later moved over to superheroes.

    But this is a series set in 1930s that obviously is a homage to original pulp magazines with some very dark and sensational subject matter.

  6. lovablekook

    Good! I’m glad to hear that. However, there were adutl themes & violence in this series that were never found in pulps. If a modern reader went back to pulp expecting something just like SANDMAN MYSTERY THEARTRE that person would be disappointed by the tameness.

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