Whether a perky assistant, witless foil or suspiciously young and bendy 'wards,' (we're looking at you, Bruce) this article is a homage to those brave men and women who stood around looking like idiots while the actual hero saved the day.
Just The Facts
- Sidekicks have been around for a long time. Even Sherlock Holmes had one, although Watson's duties mostly involved looking impressed and scoring coke.
- When superhero comics gained popularity in the late 1930s, the superhero sidekick idea was born, probably in the hope that two lyrca-clad men hitting on college chicks would be less weird than one.
- Famous examples include Jimmy Olsen, who possessed amazing powers of red-hairedness and the shocking inability to put two and two together, and Kid Flash, who mostly went around torturing epileptic schoolmates.
Back in the 30's, distributers realised that kids would read a hell of a lot more if you took away most of the 'words' and replaced them with bright colours, punchy catchphrases and enough property damage to give Micheal Bay an orgasm.
Thus the notion of comic books was born.
Superhero sidekicks followed shortly afterwards, partly as a way to give younger readers someone to identify with and partly so stoner writers could extend a story run by shoehorning a new character, complete with powers, family, gadgets and an origin story.
'Ummm... yeah. Give him wings too. Fuck it.'
Typically, sidekicks have always been more of a DC staple than a Marvel one, with Captain America being portrayed as vocally against the notion of youthful sidekicks ever since his first assistant Bucky Barnes died in action during World War II. (Again Bruce, pay attention.) This sentiment would be more laudable had Captain America had not apparently named the plucky teenager after a horse. Captain America: badass name. Bucky Barnes sounds like the mascot of a fast-food chain.
'Would you like fries with that?'
Sidekicks have always been used to reel in the readers of the time, with the aforementioned Bucky's fervent patriotism being perfect for the 1940's era (The other suggested sidekick, Monsieur Non-Confrontational, didn't score nearly as well in preliminary market tests) and his 1960's replacement Rick Jones, an unemployed, laid-back musician who nevertheless worked with the Hulk, which probably led to some awkward clashes between Rick's live-and-let's-smoke policy and the Hulk's if-it's-still-moving-stamp-on-its-spine outlook.
For those people who are too promising for minionhood, yet a little too 'silver medal' to warrant being a hero in their own right, the position of sidekick offers a unique opportunity. Superhero sidekicks can look forward to the following:
- Standing awkwardly off-frame while the hero tongue-viscerates the leading lady.
- Ending up as a hostage due to his/her own stupidity.
- Getting to wear a costume mathematically calculated to be 40% as cool as the hero's.
Just as hot girls keep that one cross-eyed chick around to make them look that little bit better come mating season, so do superheroes pick that one kid who kept chewing desks back in elementary school, knock them up with some weird power, and move them into their apartment. From Gabrielle and Xena to Peter Puppy and Earthworm Jim, the sidekicks are usually slightly brighter, a lot less attractive and much more attainable. You know, if you're into talking animals. I'm not.
Someday, my hairy prince.
However, it's not all sunshine-and-boners for those trusty No. 2's. Far too often the hero is indestructable, but the annoying kid hanging on to his cloak isn't. Examples vary from the hilarious (Xander Harris dealing with a painful seven-year erection from his friendship with Buffy Summers) to the downright macabre. (Batgirl/Barbara Gordon being shot in the spine and paralysed)
Nothing I've come across compares (in my exhaustive ten minute research session) to the following video. Anyone easily unnerved should probably turn on their webcam as they watch so I can post an inane 'reaction' video. Impressionable children be warned, this is the price for working with Batman.
Okay. This has gone too far.
The Batman Problem: An Open Letter to Bruce Wayne
Far be it from me to give you advice, Bruce. I mean, you're a stand-up guy. Like most billionaires, you have a strongly-developed sense of social justice. But unlike most billionaires, you don't take the lazy route. You don't use your money to set up an orphanage, or open a Bruce Wayne wing at the local community college.
Pictured: The Bruce Wayne Wing
No, you save those millions, and instead buy a rocket car to bring you from location to location to beat the shit out of local criminals, a much better solution than dealing with why they're criminals in the first place. I'm also not going to give you advice because you're dangerously unhinged and a fantastic detective, and I have red hair and so couldn't hide in a hiding shop with a special low-priced deal on hiding.
But I'm not here to talk about that, I'm here to talk about how you treat your sidekicks. I mean okay, maybe you lose one in the course of duty. It happens. If he wanted a safe job, he should have stayed at home with his paren- Ah. I see. But consider the litany of horror that is your employment record.
Dick Grayson: Okay... let's see. Recruited at twelve after his parents died, you took him in, trained him in martial arts and gymnastics, and according to Wikipedia, 'created his costume, consisting of an orange tunic, yellow cape, green gloves, green boots, utility belt, green spandex briefs and bare legs.' Well I hear that's what all the twelve-year olds are wearing.
Jason Todd: Another twelve-year old circus child? *laughs nervously* You took him after his parents were murdered as well. You trained him in the same arts that you did Jason, and the two of you worked together until one of your work associates beat him to within an inch of his life and then blew up the building he was in, presumably because that was less work than aiming the crowbar properly.
Stephanie Brown: Well, she's female so that's a nice change, although you refer to her by the same name as the last two boys. That is, until she was tortured and left for dead.
Of course I'm not suggesting any of this is your fault. But it may be an idea if you kept a better eye on your sidekicks, or even better did not train them from a young age to fight with a modified frisbee against criminals with shotguns and nerve gas. It could be worse, I suppose. There are these rumors flying around about you and your young companions that... oh well never mind. I'm sure they're unfounded.