Ode to the sidekick

Giving attention to those who are neglected

by Sean Tepper

Being a sidekick is tough.

Sidekicks don’t get any of the fame, they don’t get any of the glory and they certainly don’t make any self-respected super-villain cower in fear. While a sidekick is a big step up from the occasional helper, they are still perceived by the public as a supporting cast member, a Dr. Watson to the hero’s Sherlock Holmes if you will.

The fact of the matter is that sidekicks add a layer of depth to a hero’s character while inadvertently stabilizing them on an emotional level.

Think about it. Sherlock Holmes would have gone insane without Watson, Batman would be out of control without Robin and War Machine saved New York City when Tony Stark delved into his alcoholism.

This just goes to show you that sidekicks are more than just annoying dumb downed versions of their heroic leaders, they are used to either emotionally stabilize their partner by reminding them what they stand for or to have their partner’s back when the going gets tough.

Take Robin for example, who was originally created to be Batman’s Watson. The Boy Wonder is a necessary figure for Batman because he makes him more cautious and less willing to take deathly chances in fear of putting his young sidekick in even more danger than he already is (by simply being associated with Batman). A perfect example of the effect that sidekicks have on their heroic partners is in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker. While the whole Batman Beyond series was kind of a joke in itself, this dark and gritty tale shows the psychological effects that sidekicks possess.

In the movie, an elderly Bruce Wayne remembers how fifty years ago Robin (Tim Drake) was captured by the Joker. Along with Harley Quinn, the clown prince of crime brainwashed and drugged Robin and turned him into Joker Jr. While Bruce Wayne blames himself for what happened to Robin, it is very clear that Robin is the key to his emotional sanity seeing as how when he is abducted, Batman not only loses his temper and becomes emotionally unstable.

A less conventional type of sidekick would be James “Rhodey” Rhodes who is better known as War Machine. War Machine and Iron Man have a different type of relationship that Batman and Robin had, as Rhodes stepped into the Iron Man role to protect everything that Iron Man stood for.

At the peak of his alcoholism, Tony Stark‘s judgment became so poor that he entered a foolish battle with the super-villain Magma while inebriated. After suffering an embarrassing loss Stark revealed his true identity to Rhodes and passes. In no condition to battle, Rhodes puts on the Iron Man armor and defeats Magma. After the battle, Rhodes attempts to give the armor back to Stark, but Stark asks him to become Iron Man while he continues his life of alcoholism. Only after finding out that Stark faked his death, did he become War Machine.

While these two did not fight in many harmonious battles together, the point that is meant to get across is that all superheroes need a confidant in order to effectively maintain both their sanity and what they stand for.

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