Going out clubbing? Always better with a wing man (or wing woman, to be P.C.)
Out for lunch? Way better with your best bud or gal than by your entire lonesome.
Jumping around flagpoles and kicking supervillains in the mouth at midnight? Maybe you should do that one alone. Maybe a “boy wonder”, a “sidekick” or a Bucky lookalike will kinda cramp your style. Go at it alone and avoid the whole lawsuit thing…Adopting a 13 year-old orphan into your monster mansion, dressing him in green shorts and have him run around town punching clowns and bird-faced wierdos? Have your counselor on retainer, my dear crime-fighting comrade.
From the ancient beginnings of superheroing (right about the time after the Great Depression and before World War II) creators -and specially publishers- felt the annoying need to accompany most of their greatest heroes with a young ´un…someone to make kids identify with the story.
Think of it: It does make a lot of sense! Just like those popular 80´s create-your-own-adventure books, you had the chance, as a 10 year old kid with no TV and radio just getting its big start, to live amazing adventures fighting crime: be it in Europe fighting Nazis, in Gotham City putting freakish villains away, or flying in the sky like a torch.
Of course, that was 80 years ago. And not even my grandpa lived to be that old, God bless his soul. So we are talking about a whole new ball game. Bucky - the cute little kid who ran around with Captain America - is reinvented as “The Winter Soldier”, a Cold War assassin brainwashed by the KGB. Robin, the circus kid with an ever-annoying smile on his face becomes four or five different characters, one of them a mercenary, the other one a 12-year old trained killer without a sense of humor…and three other ones I seriously can´t keep track of.
Should I go on? And I haven´t even talked about race yet! The Falcon was a smart move back in the 70´s for Marvel. Not the first black superhero for them (Black Panther, Luke Cage and Black Goliath were around at the time as well) but he was the first black sidekick. He made it into the Marvel studio movies as a really cool guy, way more fun than the street-wise, ass-bustin´, guy who talks to birds from way back then.
But I just want to know: If you were to…you know, dress up in spandex every night (thanks to your friendly neighborhood radioactive spider, millionaire inheritance, gamma bomb, what have you…) and go crime-fighting, maybe a wingman is not such a bad thing? I mean, you kick the evil leader´s ass on the front page of the newspaper, and in the background your sidekick´s getting his ass kicked by some random thug...it´s the dating game all over again. Right, girls? Surround yourself with a couple of “4s” and you´ll look like a “10”.
Worst sidekick names ever? Let´s just say “Aqualad” (any “lads” out there?), “Kid Flash” (pretty sure the last thing a kid wants to be named is “kid”) and “Wonder Girl” were not quite brainstorming gems, but at least you can make the connection back to the main hero. How did “Toro” (Spanish for a bull) become the sidekick of a synthetic android on fire (Human Torch)?
By the way, who was the first sidekick ever? I am inclined to ask Wikipedia, but I´ll wager on the Lone Ranger´s faithful wingman, Tonto, that in Spanish translates to “dumbass” (What were the show writers thinking?) On a side note, Tonto was known in Latin America as “Toro”, which as you now know, is a bull. On the other hand, choosing an American Indian so early on probably has done wonders for the political correctness of sidekicks everywhere.
Thank God at least some of the visionary writers and publishers in early comicdom decided not to give ALL of them a faithful buddy to carry their shield, batarang or whatever. Take Superman, for example. No sidekick. No wingman. No funny buddy in green shorts. Of course, when you can run faster than a speeding bullet, no sense in worrying about anybody cramping your style. On the other hand, he did have a whole bunch of superpets: Krypto the Super Dog, Comet the Superhorse, Streaky the Supercat, Beppo the Supermonkey. Oh, and Jimmy Olsen, too: no superpowers, but pretty cool watch…
The superhero craze in Hollywood has transformed sidekicks into heroes packing their own weight. Marvel has done it quite well with War Machine, Falcon, Winter Soldier and the Wasp -just to give a few examples. Although you never know…once they have made a movie out of every obscure character in the "Official Handbook"…from Doctor Fate to the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (I believe this one is actually in production)…maybe sidekicks will be the trend. Who knows? Anyways, if you see me around the rooftops of your town slowly climbing up a wall with an shark-repelent-fitted utility belt, and you happen to see a jolly sidekick coming up behind me… just shoot me.