The sidekick. The second banana. The partner. The lover. The servant. The houseboy …
There are historically many different types of so-called kicks, or characters purposefully designed lesser in stature than their starring protagonists. However, for the purpose of this spotlight list we will only concern ourselves with the concept of the heroic sidekick, a concept possibly dating back to the knight in shinning armor’s squire, ready to hand the necessary weapon of destruction to his master, not unlike the modern golfer and his typical caddy-shack servant.
You won’t find plucky comedy sidekicks here or characters that fall more into the “friend” category rather than proper sidekick. No Woozy Winks. No Pokey.
My only criteria for determining who would top the list was: How would the main character’s story feel without the sidekick?
Here then, we begin at the top with the greatest sidekick of all …
Imagine The Green Hornet without Kato …
Kato first appeared on The Green Hornet radio show in 1936. He was originally Japanese, but due to later wartime conflicts, he converted heritage to that of a Filipino houseboy. Possibly one of the most politically incorrect sidekicks by today’s standards … yet, due to the A+ star quality of Bruce Lee’s 1960’s TV performance … Kato is an immortal star in his own right, and hands down the coolest sidekick ever. Even Captain Action, one of the coolest toys ever, dressed up as Kato to get his kicks.
Next on the list, strangely enough, we have the Green Hornet’s great uncle’s (or thereabouts) sidekick!
The Lone Ranger, John Reid (first name varies depending on the venue), great uncle to Britt Reid (the Green Hornet) had an unforgettable “Indian” companion in the form of Tonto. I loved Tonto on the classic TV show. And what would the Lone Ranger be without Tonto? To paraphrase the Rat Pack: Lonely for long time.
Tonto first appeared on The Lone Ranger radio show in 1933. Most of these side companions were created for the main character to have someone to talk to. Listening to a narrator can get really boring. Having two characters in dialog is much more interesting, especially if they contrast, and Tonto’s Native personality was the perfect dissimilarity to the Ranger, yet they held in common a bond of brotherhood and honor. Sniff, sniff, makes ya wanna pull out your western hanky.
In our third spot of the evening (or day depending where you are in retro space) is an animal sidekick. What? You said no comedy! Heroes only?
But whom could be more heroic than a boy’s own super-powered puppy?
Krypto first appeared in Adventure Comics No. 210, dated March 1955.
Who wouldn’t want a devoted dog that can fly and shoot laser beams out of his eyes? Krypto is the coolest dog ever and a truly great sidekick that broke the mold. Krypto didn’t talk, but Superboy talked to him and he always seemed to understand what Superboy said. That’s super alien intellect, yo. Good boy!
Robin first appeared in Detective Comics No. 38, published in 1940. Robin was introduced so kids would have someone to identify with. This is a sort of strange concept, because in truth, a kid will always fantasize about being the main character: Captain Kirk, Luke Skywalker, Superman, and of course Batman. We used to get into fights in kindergarten as to who would be Robin. The kids willing to be Robin were always considered the bottom feeders, the followers. Anyway, Robin, again gave the main character someone to talk to and it did offer the fantasy that if your parents were tragically murdered, someday, Batman just might let you fight criminally deranged villains well after midnight.
To Robin’s credit, he inspired a plethora, no, a deluge of knockoffs, many of which were merely younger replicas of the title hero.
AQUALAD: SIDEKICK TO AQUAMAN
FALLOUT BOY: SIDEKICK TO RADIOACTIVE MAN
KID FLASH: SIDEKICK TO THE FLASH
SANDY THE GOLDEN BOY: SIDECKICK THE THE GOLDEN AGE SANDMAN
SPEEDY: SIDEKICK TO GREEN ARROW
WING: A KNOCK-OFF SIDE KICK TO THE CRIMSON AVENGER (who in turn was a carbon-copy but different color version of the Green Hornet)
WONDER GIRL: SIDEKICK TO WONDER WOMAN
Then, since sidekicks had become the standard, those heroes who didn’t have a younger version of themselves to babble on with gained an annoying comedic sidekick:
DOIBY DICKLES: SIDEKICK TO GREEN LANTERN
DYNOMUTT: SIDEKICK TO BLUE FALCON
WOOZY WINKS: SIDEKICK TO PLASTIC MAN
and others …
Our next featured sidekick was a coworker and fellow agent
AGENT 99: SIDEKICK TO MAXWELL SMART
First appearance: A TV show called Get Smart (1965). I call Agent 99 a sidekick because I think she fits all the main criteria. She didn’t exist on an equally billed status. If the show was called Agents of Control that would have been different. It was Get Smart and 99 was there as the “straight man” to Max’s comedy madness. Again, think about what the show would have been like without her. She was integral to the dialog, jokes, and fulfilled the hot female agent role, and she set the pace for other coworker sidekicks in the spy genre, such as Morocco Mole on The Secret Squirrel Show.
BUCKY: SIDEKICK TO CAPTAIN AMERICA
Bucky, created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, first appeared in Captain America Comics No. 1 (March, 1941). Yes, another sidekick character to fulfill the Robin role, yet Bucky became a very important character in the Marvel Comics universe, simply because Stan Lee didn’t like sidekicks. Logically, he knew they added an element of unreality to fantasy concepts that he was trying to ground in realism. Of course you can’t get too realistic with comic book superheroes or the whole premise becomes absurd. Consider the modern Batman moves. They all suck because they are afraid to play on the inherent humor of the comic book superhero. Who the hell is going to be taken seriously if they dressed up as a bat and attacked bad guys? I wouldn’t want the idea to be portrayed as something silly, because that in itself is a betrayal of the comic book reality, yet, the word “comic” should always be honored, a mix of humor and good ol’ American action is all comic books or comic book movies need. Stan Lee knew that, and he wisely killed off Bucky, and in doing so, created one of the most dramatic scenes of the silver age of comic books. The humor then had to be come from the interaction of the primary characters and not someone forced to be there for comedy relief or just someone to answer the lead man’s plot babble. In Bucky’s case, he was there to be Captain America’s pal, definitely someone to talk to, someone who knew him as Steve Rogers. This made Bucky’s death even more dramatic, because Bucky was actually one of the best sidekicks around. He wasn’t annoying.
RICK JONES: SIDEKICK TO THE MARVEL UNIVERSE
If there is such a thing as the sidekick slut—it is definitely Rick Jones. Rick Jones first appeared in The Incredible Hulk No. 1 (May, 1962). He became the regular Joe sidekick of the Hulk, then hung out with the Avengers and created a network of teen radio ham operators called the Teen Brigade, then became Captain America’s sidekick, briefly became the new Bucky, and then he became connected to the bronze age Captain Mar-Vell. Rick Jones and Mar-Vell would trade places as the superhero Captain Marvel using “Nega-Bands.” You go figure it out.
DYNA GIRL: SIDEKICK TO ELECTRA WOMAN
Dyna Girl first appeared on Electra Woman & Dyna Girl in 1976 as a part of The Krofft Supershow. It didn’t last long … but Dyna Girl was a really important sidekick because she was so much hotter than the lead character, Electra Woman. Sorry, Electra, but in 1976 you were a little mature for me and Dyna was Electra hotness!
GABRIELE: SIDEKICK TO XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS
Gabrielle first appeared on Xena: Warrior Princess in 1995. She clearly fits into the plucky comedy sidekick category as well as servicing Xena with somebody to talk to, yet, she warrants street cred due to her unspoken lesbian (mostly off camera) girl on girl action with her leading lady. Despite the multiple love interests introduced for both Xena and Gabrielle … the sexual tension was obvious and openly alluded to (and sometimes outright shown) throughout the series.
DR. WATSON: SIDEKICK TO SHERLOCK HOLMES
Dr. Watson first appeared in the premiere story of Sherlock Holmes, A Study in Scarlet from 1887. He makes the list mostly because he’s one of the oldest examples and my eyes are starting to burn from staring at the computer screen so long …
SANCHO PANZA: sidekick to DON QUIXOTE
Sancho Panza appeared in the novel Don Quixote de la Mancha written by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra and published in 1605. Considered by many to be the original sidekick, he takes us all the way back to where we began with this list in terms of the squire in servitude to his knight, and they did go on somewhat heroic adventures. So, we’ll leave it up to you, dear retro-readers. Do you think Sancho is a legit sidekick?
What’s that? You would have rather seen “Jailbait Jane,” sidekick to Paris Hilton? Damn, we always miss something or somebody.
And last, and yes, probably least, is …
SIDEKICK: sidekick to THE BLACK HORNET
Sidekick, a master of karate, is a character I recently created to team-up with the Black Hornet. The original concept here is that Sidekick (Wally White) is a white man sidekick character to the lead, black man character, both of whom are obviously inspired by our favorite team-up above in the number one spot: the Green Hornet and Kato.
You can visit the Black Hornet on his very own myspace page at: www.myspace.com/theblackhornet for information on when the Black Hornet and Sidekick will make their first appearances in the Secret Society series at Mystery Island: www.mysteryisland.net.
Well, looks like we’ve come full circle.
Who’s your favorite second banana?
STILL MORE SIDEKICKS!
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