Monday, July 12, 2010

Only Batman Gets A Sidekick Anymore

It just struck me recently that the only super hero with a sidekick anymore is Batman. Oh sure the companies try to have young heroes in the mold of the older versions, but they are never the traditional sidekick. The closest I can think of is Speedy in Green Arrow, but since GA has gone all Robin Hood in the magical forest, she is more on her own. The kids have their own groups and sometimes they get a solo book, but no longer are they sidekicks.

It probably is due to a bunch of different reasons, but it is odd that Batman still gets to have one.
I think one reason is that comics were thought to be a young boy’s medium, so the kid sidekicks that proliferated books during the Golden Age were to give us a point of view character. I mean Sandman was turned into a gaudy hero and given Sandy as a sidekick. Poor Stripsey was the adult sidekick to the Star Spangled Kid, but kid sidekicks were everywhere.

Once the silver age started up DC continued the process heavily and we had Kid Flash, Wonder Girl (not really but that is another story), Robin, Speedy, Aqualad, Zook (okay not a kid sidekick), but there were a lot of them floating around. They became almost laughable after a certain point, but also set the stage (unintentionally) for a lot of generational stuff that ended up making the DCU a lot richer in my view.

Marvel avoided all of that for the most part. Where DC seemed to think everyone reading a comic was 8-12 years old and based on some stories with an IQof 80, Marvel ripped up the rule book and wrote books for a slightly older crowd. They made the books more realistic and therefore sidekicks made no sense. Spider-Man was a teen-ager, but his own hero as was the Human Torch. Bucky in a piece of what we now call retro-con was killed in WWII. The Wasp, while a sidekick was an adult woman and a partner to Giant-Man. We didn’t have Iron Lad or Kid Thor in the MU.

Now over the years the next generation of heroes have been still had their time in the sun. Teen Titans, New Warriors, New Mutants, Young Justice and many others, but essentially away from their adult counterparts. Heck for the most part they either get their own series or are relegated to being a supporting character at best. Apprenticeships and other methods of learning trades have given way to more formalized schooling in many professions, so we have seen the advent of companies having schools or what not to try and prepare the next generation of heroes. Also we know longer send children into dangerous situations (unless climbing Mt. Everest or sailing around the world) like we did and modern sensibilities make kid sidekicks an anachronism.
On the surface it is extremely silly to think a super hero would rush out to fight bad guys with a young child next to them, so the sidekick has become a thing of the past, except for Batman and Robin. In fact the current Robin is perhaps the youngest hero and the youngest Robin there has been for 40 years and yet somehow in Batman it works. Logically speaking Bruce and Dick are smart people with a lot on the ball in a more realistic portrayal they would never endanger a child and would die themselves to save a young child. Yet within the context of the comic it works and I’m not 100% sure why it does.

I have always had the thought process that when we suspend our disbelief going into a comic; it still has to hold an internal logic. So I can believe Captain America is stronger and more agile and is a human who has been enhanced to almost super human levels, but I could not believe he was hanging on the side of a jet in Civil War. I have always had a problem with super breath making things frozen as all my none super breath does is cool down a hot liquid a little faster it does not and would never freeze anything. Internal logic must still hold true and characterization needs to stay within the parameters of what has been firmly established. Devin Grayson was rumored to want to make Dick Grayson gay at one time and that would not be true to what has been firmly established. Making Obsidian gay was fine as there was nothing established with that character in regards to his sexual orientation. My point being comics still have to make sense in the context of the book itself. Robin should be another moment that doesn’t make sense and should pull me out of the book, but he doesn’t.

I guess for better or worse Robin will always remain as the last sidekick as a ying to Batman’s yang. In All Star Batman we saw what appeared to be the beginning of a story line showing why Robin was so important to Batman. I thought Frank was telling a story showing how Batman would have become a crazed psychopathic vigilante without Robin to ground him. Grant has used his Robin to be the darker side of the equation, while Dick’s Batman is more hopeful and a better mentor for Damien then Bruce would ever have been. Again it is the only kid sidekick that still exists anymore and works. I just hope it remains Dick and Damien as they have been the best Batman and Robin as a team in many decades.

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