What is the purpose of a sidekick?
The word itself arouses about as much sympathy as one would receive when he or she is referred to as a “second wheel” or “second class citizen” by a person with a title greater than their own. Of course, sidekicks were once a revered and respected commodity in the world of superheroes, yet have now somehow managed to dwindle and become far less impressive than they once were. However, the time in which such second-class heroes shined was not due to a combination of exotic formulas or odd narratives that placed the sidekicks in rare, sometimes unbeatable situations. Contrarily what made a sidekick such a crucial element to the superhero genre was the undying loyalty and unlimited assistance he or she gave to those they were serving alongside, and such a quality is not pitiful but admirable, some might even say, beautiful.
In 2004 Pixar released a highly popular film called The Incredibles, a story about a family with superpowers and how they were brought closer together by the extraordinary qualities they possessed. In addition to the family attempting to become stronger was the inclusion of a villain whose sole motivations for being sinister had derived from his willingness to serve as the sidekick to the film’s titular hero but was later shunned as a result. This sparked an outrage in the life of this sidekick and continued to further the stigma that characters in this position are a less inclined, less powerful, and an overall less impressive appendage when compared to the main superhero. In spite of this, though, the reason for the sidekick was one that was grounded in nobility, for what editors, writers, and artists were seeking to do was craft characters that would serve as the reader’s point of view when reading a comic book.
There are innumerable sidekicks presented in the realm of superheroes, with the most notable ones being Speedy, who served alongside the Emerald Archer, The Green Arrow, and Robin (who is likely comics’ leader in term of being the poster-boy for teenage sidekicks). In the silver age of comics editors were keen on creating characters with a more innocent perspective, hence why most of the sidekicks were characterized as being young and boyish. This changed the dynamic of the superhero and made room for stories where both hero and sidekick could work alongside one another in mutual respect in order to defeat the opposing power. Speedy assisted Green Arrow during his run-ins with various villains and Robin was Batman’s most loyal confidant and above all, his dependable, sincere, and a trustworthy friend. This was a compelling notion because readers themselves who, at the peak of the sidekick era, were young readers whose sole dream was to have a front row seat and watch as their favorite heroes fought crime, and, due to the age and personality demonstrated by the sidekicks, it would be like the readers themselves were literally dressing in costumes and battling alongside their favorite costumed crime fighter.
But that was a long time ago.
The sidekick reign in comics quickly soured and a new reputation and perception began to take shape. The innocent, boyish attitude of normal sidekicks no longer appealed to most readers, and like many other heroes during this time, those who possessed such traits were either tossed away or revamped and revitalized for a different brand of readership.
The key concept behind partnering any sidekick with any hero is the “dynamic” the two of them will share. This includes how the sidekick complements the hero and most importantly why the hero requires a sidekick in the first place. After all, not every superhero is given the privilege of having others work alongside them, so for the ones that do one must ask what the purpose is of possessing a partner and what is the necessity behind them? Truthfully, the importance of a duo is becoming less and less interesting, with the constant alterations of creative teams and editorial decisions from the high levels, so many sidekicks have now grown into their own brand of hero, and thus a struggle to maintain a partnership is becoming quite the challenge. However, for those who do possess the knowledge of the dynamic duo, Batman and Robin, one will see that the reason why they are brought together is because of the simple premise that both do not require one another for fighting crime as much as the fact that what they need above all else…is each other.
Batman needs Robin and Robin needs Batman.
Therefore, the sidekicks’ role is not just to accompany other heroes, but to also there to provide moral and philosophical support as well as perform tasks that only they can perform. When Robin is with Batman on his various missions Robin is there to perform certain duties that make his role as a superhero not only easier but better, more personal, which is why Damian Wayne being named as the new Robin provided a fresher, more honest take came with the launch of the new 52 Batman and Robin title. Now Robin and Batman were father and son and their relationship was explored in the same way that it was during the Dick Grayson-Bruce Wayne era, and although sidekicks still do not have to be blood relatives in order for the relationship to require meaning, the purpose and the ideas are intricate to there being a closeness between them.
In the end, superheroes are not superheroes if they don’t have someone who believes in their cause, a supporting cast that is always there to give them what they need, and in the case of the sidekick, such qualities are embodied by a male or female who take up the mantle of their favorite hero and follow them wherever they go. And whichever one readers decide to stand behind, the sensibility and devotion is what maintains that connection and what fuels the purpose behind all sidekicks, what makes them as much apart of the world as the heroes they choose to fight alongside.