Us nerds like nothing more than to banter back and forth on nerdy topics in Slack. Here is one of those chats, very lightly edited.
Who is your favorite sidekick and why?
Jason (Co-founder of Nerds on Earth and proud owner of a Marvel No Prize): Okay, so for our first ever weekly Slack chat, let’s start with this time honored comic book tradition: the sidekick! For every hero, there is a sidekick, riding along to do help, aid and assist the hero. So, who is your favorite sidekick and why?
Jennifer (Our resident Warrior Princess): Barbara Gordon all the way. Her first intro as Batgirl is awesome! You don’t see many females like her. Also, even after she is shot by the Joker, she doesn’t let that stop her. I mean, what a sidekick.
Ross (Sci-fi Author and Coffee Enthusiast): I dunno. I feel like she’s her own character, especially after the events of Killing Joke. Her time as Oracle really establishes her as someone who’s a peer of, rather than a sidekick to, Batman. And the recent comic run is trying really hard to set her apart from Batman (Fletcher, I think, is the author–the Batgirl of Burnside run and following).
Does Jimmy Olsen count as a sidekick?
Jason: So your point about Barbara is a good one; she has grown and advanced; well, at least before the New 52. Now, I have no idea. Does that mean all the really good sidekicks grow up and advance? Think if the line of Robins that kept growing. Or the various female characters Wolverine has mentored: Kitty Pryde, Jubilee, Armor, Idie and now, it appears young Jean Grey and Old Man Logan’s. Do sidekicks have to grow and advance?
And Jimmy Olsen is a great question. What makes for a great comic book sidekick.
And I think for my sidekick, I’m going way old school and a guy who was sidekick for 3 great heroes (The Hulk, Captain Mar-vell and Captain America): Rick Jones!
Jennifer: Barbara has grown and advanced. And I think that does show a good sidekick. For them to be able to break out from behind the hero’s shadow. The New 52 does that for Batgirl. Gail Simone is my hero for writing so well for Batgirl.
And I think Jimmy is a sidekick. He helps out, right?
Ross: I always think of Jimmy more of just being…sort of THERE, I guess. Getting into trouble. And he’s not billed as a sidekick, he’s billed as Superman’s “pal,” like they’re on more equal footing. It’s not “The Adventures of Superman and Jimmy Olsen,” it’s “The Adventures of Superman and His Buddy.” It’s a more casual relationship.
I know WHO Rick Jones is, I know WHY he’s important, but I haven’t read a ton of stuff with him in it.
As for sidekicks growing up, I think there’s a lot of merit to that. Not just the Bat-family (whose “graduates” include currently independent heroes Nightwing (well, just Grayson right now, but I can wait), Red Robin, Red Hood, Batgirl (or, if you want, Cassandra Cain/Black Bat, Stephanie Brown/Spoiler, and Barbara Gordon/Oracle, but we already touched on that), and Bluebird in Scott Snyder’s run (in fact, one of the main themes of Grant Morrison’s Batman, Inc. was legacy–you had a bunch of sidekicks taking their former boss’ positions. Scout becomes Dark Ranger, Squire becomes Knight, Raven Red will (probably) be Man-of-Bats…and that’s not even getting into Wolverine’s ladies, like you mentioned.
So yes, I agree to a thesis: the best sidekicks are the ones who are allowed to grow up and carry their own weight, independent of their “parent” hero.
Jennifer: And you can even see the growth is sidekicks outside of the comic realm! When I first saw the word sidekick my mind went to Gabrielle from Xena. She grew up and was able to hold her own. The rile of sidekick is to support while the hero helps them grow and become their own person.
Jason: So what is the moment when the sidekick becomes their own independent hero? For instance, Dick Grayson’s departure wasn’t under good circumstances. Is there a moment where it is obvious?
Jennifer: For Barbara’s I think The Killing Joke was her turning point. Again, not good circumstances. At all.
Ross: When they get enough fans to sell their own book.
Joking, but I think it is important to notice those circumstances. I mean, they’re splitting up. Is that, by nature, traumatic?
Parting such sweet sorrow, etc.
Jason: So, are there sidekick books that are making it? The obvious answer are the Bat Family. But I can’t think of a Marvel title that is sidekick related
Jennifer: I’m not huge on Marvel sidekicks.
Ross: Well, Marvel’s never been as sidekick-focused as DC. That’s probably a conversation for another time.
Jason: The most modern Marvel one is Amadeus Cho, who sidekicked Hulk and Hercules and now is the Hulk is his own title.
Ross: Currently, as from the Bat-family, Green Arrow’s sidekick Arsenal was running around with Starfire and Red Hood. Then there’s the Teen Titans and Young Justice, which is all about the sidekicks from all over the place, and those of been consistently pretty popular.
Oh I forgot about Amadeus Cho! Yeah, he’s gotta be my favorite.
Jennifer: So would Teen Titans and Young Justice still be considered sidekicks? Even as a team?
Ross: I would say that, yeah.
Jason: So it is interesting how many DC characters have obvious and sometimes even multiple sidekicks and that hasn’t been a Marvel thing. Captain America is the lone exception and his creation was during the same era as the major DC characters. The characters of the 60s were loners or assembled on teams.
So, potential closing thought: what major character could benefit the most from having a sidekick?
Jennifer: Besides me in everyday life?
Jason: Lol. I would totally Jason Todd it if I had a sidekick and that isn’t good for anyone!
Ross: It comes back to Batman, always. He needs somebody to bring him down, pull him back from that abyss.
Alfred usually takes that job. Incidentally, Alfred would be my real-life sidekick if I could pick. Cho’s awesome, but I don’t think he can cook.
Jennifer: Agreed. Batman needs someone young and pure hearted to keep him away from the dark.
But don’t we all? I know I do! Please find me a Batgirl, guys.
Ross: I’d still rather have Alfred.
Jason: And I’m going back to Rick Jones. Because he was a pop superstar; so probably I’m his sidekick really. Oh well. Always Robin, never Batman.
Jennifer: You just wanna wear the tights. Don’t lie.
Obviously, we’d love to have you weigh in in the comments. Who is your favorite sidekick, and why?