(This is a bit more altered from the original.)
Part Two: "I think I got brain damage"
Just in case I ever write an academic paper on Runaways (I wish), I'd like to point out that one of the positive nerd characters is Victor Mancha, who has the same first name as Chase’s dad. Characters don’t usually have the same name, so what’s up with this? Notably, Chase resents Victor Mancha because a)he thinks that his nerdy girlfriend is going to leave him for Victor because Victor is nerdier/smarter than Chase, and b)as he admits to Victor, Victor is exactly the kind of son Chase’s dad would have wanted.
Gert was my favorite character when I started reading Runaways, but somehow Chase's love for her made me love him so much that I started liking him even more. Their relationship is pretty close to being my OTP of all time, regardless of genre--I right now cannot think of anything I love quite that much.
It's not exactly groundbreaking for a more "normal" teenager to fall in love with another kid who's geeky/alternative/fat. I do give props for Gert actually being fat sometimes, depending on the artist. But what I really love is how their personal insecurities/stigmas (dumbness for Chase and "ugliness" for Gert) interact so that they're not just opposed in the obvious way, but on every level.
Gert, who is super intellectual, is sure despite all evidence to the contrary that Chase wants to leave her because she’s fat. Chase, who is super conventionally attractive, is sure despite all evidence to the contrary that Gert wants to leave him because he’s dumb. I think the reason Gert/Chase is my OTP to end all OTPs is that neither of them actually cares about the thing the other person expects them to care about. They are awesome, not just on their own, but through each other–because they’re both awesome for being able to see that someone so different from them is awesome. Their awesomeness increases the more they love each other! It’s an infinite awesomeness loop!
Chase, before kissing Gert for the first time: I think I got brain damage ’cause suddenly you’re the hottest chick I’ve ever seen.
Gert, reassuring Chase that she’s not going to leave him for Victor: The smartest man in the world is the one who knows that I’m the best girl alive. I’ve only got four-eyes for you, okay?
Quoted because I love them so much, and emphasis on the intersections that shape their relationship. Obviously both quotes are jokes, but still they’re worth looking at. Chase is “brain-damaged” but “the smartest man in the world,” while Gert is “four-eyes” but “the hottest girl I’ve ever seen.” The first quote sets up Chase as being dumb for loving Gert, while the second quote says the opposite. Or does it? Is it Chase’s dumbness, his identity as inferior to his parents and Gert, that makes him “smart” enough to see Gert as hot instead of as the way she sees herself (inferior to Karolina and Nico)?
It has to be addressed that enemies of the Runaways often refer to Gert as ugly and fat, and mock Chase for having her as his girlfriend. There aren’t equivalent scenes with enemies telling Gert, “Your boyfriend is stupid.” Chase’s hatred of himself for being dumb is at least as deep as Gert’s discomfort with her body, but it’s Gert who is much more regularly attacked for her identity. I think this is a fair portrayal–because while of course there is violence and hatred of “dumbness” in the world, especially among nerds, it’s nowhere near as intense as hatred of fatness, which exists in both nerd culture and mainstream culture. Chase is more personally affected by his stigma, but he’s the more privileged person in the relationship. Which I think he doesn’t always understand.
Just one more thing: at the end of BKV’s run, Gert/Chase both arguably find some kind of peace away from stigma. Chase, who identifies as “bad” just as much as he identifies as “dumb,” carries out a complex plan and comes to identify as “innocent.” (It doesn’t hurt that in during the course of his plan he defeats Victor Mancha with logic, and that the two people he defeats are the two supposed threats to Gert/Chase.) Gert seems completely sure that Chase loves her, and refers to her conventionally attractive, skinny future self as “boring” and “a threat, not a promise.”