Sunday, July 23, 2006

Major Nagging Question for 7/23

Why is it that Robin is the only teen sidekick left at Marvel or DC?

4 Comments:

Blogger mapletree7 said...

Because of The Gay. Batman and Robin are the only sidekick team that are name-recognition enough to survive the fear of The Gay.

Although what happened to Green Arrow's HIV+ chick sidekick?

7/24/2006 8:34 PM  
Blogger RAB said...

Is the question "why is there still a Robin?" or "why are there no other sidekicks?"

The answer to the first question is probably just the success of the TV show in cementing "Batman & Robin" into public consciousness. Robin will always be around both for nostalgia and marketing purposes.

The second question...well, Batman had one so lots of characters copying the success of Batman had to have one too. I don't think a whole lot of thought went into it. Beyond that, there's an idea that the whole premise of having kid sidekicks exist in the first place was based on the false assumption that young readers would need a young character to identify with. When it turned out that kids were perfectly capable of reading escapist stories and identifying with the adult characters, sidekicks stopped being created.

Unfortunately from a writer's point of view, sidekicks and partners really did serve another function beyond alleged reader identification. They give the lead character someone to discuss the action with -- "I don't get it, Wes! Why how did you guess the gardener was really the killer?" -- and a reason to deliver exposition without thought balloons or big captions. Since current comics scripting style devalues thought balloons and explanatory captions, we could actually use more partners and sidekicks for the heroes to talk with.

And also, partners made the heroes seem a little less socially maladjusted. Wertham me all the Wertham you want, but a solo Batman comes across as way more sick and pervy than one who interacts with his protege.

(You say endangering teens by teaching them to fight street crime is irresponsible? And yet in real life we send them off to fight in Iraq...)

7/25/2006 7:55 PM  
Blogger Tom Foss said...

I'd say that technically Supergirl and Wonder Girl enjoy sidekick status, even if only under the "solo-sidekick" model that Robin pioneered. Until a few months ago, we had Superboy and Kid Flash as well, and Batgirl, but that seems to have changed, and not necessarily for the better.

Unless things have changed in GA's book, Mia ought to still be around, and she's clearly a sidekick.

As far as why there are so few left, it's complicated. Marvel, at least since Stan Lee's time, has never been big on sidekicks. Bucky and Toro are long gone (several times over, at least in Bucky's case). DC, on the other hand, hasn't created any completely-new sidekicks in years, if not decades. I suppose you could consider Kon-El to be just such an original creation, since he isn't just filling the shoes vacated by a previous sidekick, and Spoiler was kind of Robin's sidekick.

As far as the sidekicks who have remained, most have either grown up or died, and most are casualties to "major event plots." Superboy gave gravitas to Infinite Crisis, while Bart Allen connected it thematically to the last Crisis, and ushered Wally out into the sunset so we could read needlessly morose Flash stories. Spoiler died to give War Games emotional weight, Cassandra Cain became evil to anger readers, Jason Todd 'died' because he was generally either unoriginal or unlikable, the most recent Aquagirl hasn't been seen since before IC, and everyone else I can think of (Sandy, Wing, Speedy I, Robin I, Batgirl I, Kid Flash I, Aqualad, Snapper Carr) either grew up or died.

As to why no sidekicks operate with their patron heroes, however, I can't say. I suspect it's because it makes the main heroes seem older, or because they don't have well-defined relationships or distinct enough personalities, or something.

7/26/2006 1:47 AM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Aha! Speedy!

What a good point, there IS a teen sidekick still out there!

Thanks!

7/26/2006 2:51 AM  

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