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Off My Mind: Is Having A Sidekick Irresponsible?

Training for the future is important but is the risk worth it?


There is a certain appeal to the idea of a sidekick. For the veteran hero, it's an opportunity to train a young hero for the future. It's a way for them to become a mentor and pass on what they know. It's a way to ensure that, should something happen to them, there will be someone ready to replace them and continue the fight for justice. 
 
For the sidekicks, it's probably the time of their lives. They get to hang out and learn from a cool experienced hero. Provided they don't have to do child labor and clean all of the heroes gadgets along with other menial tasks, it's most likely a dream come true. 
 
The concept of sidekicks may seem important in preparing for the future and simply safeguarding the innocent but is it actually a bad idea? Are superheroes being completely irresponsible when taking on a sidekick? 
 == TEASER == 
Sidekicks are usually children. When they begin their crime-fighting career, it's at the cost of their childhood. In most cases, the child had a traumatic event occur in their life that made them a prime candidate for a hero to take them under their wing. A child deserves the chance to be a child. They should be in school and experiencing all the good and bad things that make a person who they are. Rather than help the child overcome the tragedy in their lives, they are thrown into the world of superheroes. The idea of wearing a flashy costume and working with a cool hero is a way to entice them to get into the superhero game. 
 
Being a sidekick often has dire consequences. The sidekick is often exposed to unnecessary dangers or even killed (even though they sometimes come back to life). Bucky Barnes got blown up, had parts of his body replaced with cybernetics and was brainwashed to become a killing machine as the Winter Soldier. Jason Todd was beaten with a crowbar, trapped in a warehouse that blew up and when resurrected, developed a twisted and sometimes sadistic persona. Roy Harper fell into the world of drugs while unsupervised and later got his arm ripped off. Tim Drake's parents were killed largely due to his being Robin. The original Aqualad, Garth, was cast away when Aquaman had his own child, he lost his wife and kid later and then had his heart literally torn and became a Black Lantern. And let's not forget Rick Jones who hung out with several heroes like Hulk and Captain America. Rick was exposed to a cancerous gas, got stranded in the Microverse and worst of all, got transformed and now calls himself "A-Bomb." 
 
The need for heroes is important in a world filled with supervillains. It's important for the hero to be properly trained to defend themselves and the innocent. The question is, should the training occur at such a young age? Is it right for a child to be torn away from their childhood experiences to become a servant for justice? Is it okay for them to throw away a chance at a normal life in order to risk everything for the thrill of becoming a hero? Should heroes be ashamed of themselves for putting children at risk?
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Edited by NightFang

I say only the best heroes or villains should have sidekicks, other wish they just become a bother.

Posted by FadeToBlackBolt

I think it's fine to have a sidekick, though they should be at least 15, and be armored up to an insane degree. That's mostly just a wish fulfillment plot device though. Hence why sidekicks are rarely below 18 in film.

Posted by ComicMan24

I had made a blog and I thread about it saying pretty much the same thing. In my opinion, they should have sidekicks, just older. For example Damian in now 10 years old, he is way too young for this. They should be at least 15-16 years old.

Posted by Nick-SV(ril)

In the case of Batman, even though he is probably of the unluckiest ones to have a sidekick, I guess it can be alright. The guy owns the world so he can pretty much provide anything for them and can keep a close eye as long as they are young staying in his Manor. But still, things can happen.

Posted by Neverpraying

Side kicks can be a problem. Sometimes they really help tho.

Posted by Decept-O

The concept of sidekicks dates way back to the Golden Age when comic book companies decided, in order to boost sales, they'd create young partners for their flagship heroes, a type of fantastic wish fulfillment for young readers. 
 
It hasn't always worked out for the best, has it?  How many sidekicks, as you point out, have had traumatic experiences?  Endangering the lives of minors.  Yeah, not such a good idea.   
 
Despite this, I've always liked Tim Drake when he was Robin and even more now as Red Robin.  I also throw in Roy Harper, but perhaps he needs a new name, say "stumpy"?  OK, that's bad.  
 
Its a mixed bag.  This is where DC and Marvel diverge sharply.  While yes, Bucky Barnes was Capt. America's sidekick, he did "blow up real good" and was INTENDED to remain dead.  Not many sidekicks in the Marvel U.  Yes, there are  others but really, DC seems to hold the winning streak in this area.  
 
I can do without sidekicks for the most part.  

Posted by ironshadow

Having underage sidekicks is irresponsible, it would be OK if the sidekick has superpowers but having an underage virgin with no superpowers is just insane.   

Posted by imaginaryman

I think the world still needs sidekicks, I mean look at the current more recent JLA roster weren't the former titans now the current JLA. Although in casting sidekicks I believe that's where the problem lies. I think they need to be mentally and psychologically tested, not anyone can just take up a cape and be a hero, consider all the pressure they are under a normal kid would not be able to cope, its not just the bravery its the wisdom and peace of mind that makes a hero a successful hero

Posted by Mainline

Even as a kid I never really understood the wish fulfillment rationale of the child sidekick.  There was Batman or Cap or even Spidey... idols who one day I might become if I really put my mind to it, came across the right scientist, or had a curious accident.  In the meantime I'd study their adventures in preparation for one day when I too would join their ranks. 
 
But that snot nosed Robin and Bucky they were already better than me with a headstart I'd never overcome... I wasn't born into the circus or extensively trained by the military at a young age.  Those jerks were just reminders of my abject failure to be a superhero in the here and now.  Wally was different.  If only I continued to be a huge fan, one day I might get the very same powers the very same way. 
 
Of course, I'm joking, I think kids separate reality from fiction more than given credit, but the point still stands that I think most kids would rather imagine themselves in the role of the mentor than the sidekick which is why even as a kid I didn't really find the concept appealing.  Ironically, I find it more interesting today because it is a reflection of said mentor's skills as a parent, teacher, mentor, partner, guide, disciplinarian, etc. which is great character fodder and because writers have to come up with increasingly complex rationales in modern storytelling to justify the endangerment raised by the article.  Heck, Wally's kids were chronological infants but they managed to provide a rationale!

Posted by enemymouse

this got me thinking, has there ever been a sidekick promoted to superhero as a result of all this training?

Posted by KurtWagner
@enemymouse: 
 Dick Grayson ok.
Posted by DEGRAAF
@enemymouse said:
"this got me thinking, has there ever been a sidekick promoted to superhero as a result of all this training? "

Dick Grayson, Bucky, Wally West, Donna Troy
Posted by darkwolverineUSMC

Yeah. I always hated the whole sidekick thing! Dick Graysen and Bucky seems to be the only ones that ended up in a good position, picking up the mantle of their previous counterparts. But even Bucky went a little crazy and was the Winter Soldeir for a while.

Posted by scourgexlvii
@enemymouse: I don't really know what you mean by that, Lots of heroes have: 
Kid Flash (Both Wally West and Bart Allen) to Flash 
Robin (Dick Grayson) to Nightwing then even after that to Batman 
And if you count Heroes like Bucky becoming Cap, or Speedy turning into Arsenal then Red Arrow, despite there being problems in there, they both were promoted, and, It's because of their training that they are heroes. 
I could probably list more, if I looked longer, but I think the point is made.
Posted by Mainline

To answer the original questions: 
 
- The question is, should the training occur at such a young age? 
 
It depends.  For the two most iconic and famous child sidekicks (since we're not discussing adult sidekicks like Kato) Bucky and Robin it's really difficult to justify their field training at such a young age given their [lack] of powers.  Writers may be able to create specific justifications (like self-destructive or suicidal tendencies which were only stemmed by such reckless behavior- a lesser of two evils but not all that good itself) but as a general rule it's clearly too young.

- Is it right for a child to be torn away from their childhood experiences to become a servant for justice? 
 
This is a cultural thing.  As Americans we sort of take it for granted the idea of the great "American Dream" of self-determination.  However, that's not really how a lot of the world works in practice or how it actually thinks in many cultures.  It's not at all uncommon for a child to be raised in a home with a given destiny, trade, profession- even a mate- set before them and in the cultures that enjoy that it's seen as a good thing.  Rather than forcing the young and inexperienced to strike out on their own with no understanding or wisdom what the right path is for themselves (letting the blind lead the blind as Americans would say), the young defer to the wisdom and experience of those who have gone before to provide a prudent path, a purpose, and a destiny... surely this reasoning isn't too distant from us as that's more or less the comic book child sidekick rationale in broad strokes! 
 
To put it another way, there's millions of children in the USA who have their childhoods "torn away" out of pure circumstance and necessity... destined to be felons or dry cleaners or grocers even without a playboy billionaire coming into their lives like a tempest... so I imagine there are far worse fates than being drafted into a discipleship based on justice.  Even if we think children are entitled to a childhood they're not guaranteed it in this world. 

- Is it okay for them to throw away a chance at a normal life in order to risk everything for the thrill of becoming a hero? 

Posed that way, of course not.  However, I don't really think there's such thing as a "normal life" for any one individual (only as an aggregate but what does that mean to the individual who has to live it?) and particularly for those sidekicks with powers it's questionable whether they really have a chance at a normal life at all. 

- Should heroes be ashamed of themselves for putting children at risk? 
 
Depends on the hero, the child, and the risk.  In the real world, Robin and Bucky's situation is unconscionable, but in the comic world martial arts allow you to fight off dozens of men several weight classes above you in a single battle, to swing from roof top to roof top all night without fatigue, to be impossibly stealthy, etc.  For all intents and purposes, mere mortals in comic books have super powers.  With those powers it becomes a little more reasonable even if not altogether advisable. 
 
On the flipside, sidekicks like Kid Flash make perfect sense (ignoring the foolishness of setting up the chemicals exactly as before) and follow the Marvel mutant ethic we're all familiar with by now.  Essentially, if one has extraordinary and potentially dangerous abilities (or even merely benevolent ones that require guided training for their full potential to be realized) then of course there's a strong rationale for training.  Whether that's field training again depends on the weighing of the relative risks and benefits.  It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to do field training for a kid who develops non-combat powers, but for a speedster who's Rogues gallery actually has a "no killing" policy it's pretty reasonable.  It'd be a greater risk to let a fanboy who you know is going to engage in superheroics anyways go out there without any training, field experience, or mentorship. 
 
Then there's kids like Irey and Jai West who (before Wally cured them of their speed disease, which Johns- apparently forgot and "cured" them again in Rebirth) were terminally ill changing the risk analysis.

Posted by ImperiousRix

I'm of the mind that a hero should never directly recruit their sidekicks.  As was said, it's usually the case that sidekicks are troubled kids or tragic orphans whom the hero takes under their wing.  However, this should be ALL the hero truly intends to do; to raise them in a loving home and to make sure they have a childhood.  If the kid gets to be older and wants to do their part in the hero-ing business, then there will be plenty of time for them to be trained and become a hero. 
 
My favorite example is Mia Dearden.  When Ollie Queen rescued her from being a teen prostitute, he wanted to make sure she got and education and got to have a childhood.  However, because of the troubled life she'd led, Mia was a lot more interested in helping Ollie (she found out the first time she met him that he was Green Arrow).  Ollie greatly disapproved, and tried everything he possibly could to keep her out of "the business", but her resolve proved too strong.  Because of her age, and because she was so set on it, Ollie eventually set her up as the new Speedy, albeit with a very reluctant and sheltered attitude about it.

Posted by Mumbles

side kicks are good for walking all over them.  better if they get shot or die instead of the main characters.

Posted by WolfMonkey

in the case of someone like damian, it's good that he become a sidekick because of his birth and background. in the case of someone like tim drake? he had no place being a sidekick other than he knew who batman was and he wanted to be one, and bruce was lonely without a robin. so no, in most cases there's no reason for a child to be a sidekick. there are some exceptions though. however, if the person's already in their late teens (such as robin from the original batman film series) then i see no problem with it

Posted by primepower53

People like Batman need a Robin, otherwise there would be a hhole in their life. something would be missing.

Posted by HaloKing343

It's like Big Daddy and his sidekick Hit Girl. Once Big Daddy passes, he needs somebody to replace him.
Posted by DMC

I think it's important for young heroes to be sidekicks because as we all know, kids need guidance.  And training at such a young age will only make them better heroes (or villains) when they grow up. It's like Gymnastics, or any other sport or profession that requires blood sweat and tears and years of dedication and focus. The earlier you start the better. 
 
Typo:  beaten with a crowbar  : P

Posted by 614azrael
@Mumbles:
So u would rather every Robin die takeing a bullet when Batman returns giving there lives for him?
U would rather Bucky have a knife get lodged in his head to spare Captain America? Supergirl should she be the one who finaly eliminates Doomsday an in doing so has every bone broken in her body? Would u rather instead of Wolverine dieing nobley by givin his life as a cure for say an improved tecnovirus, we simply let the young X-23 give her life? U seem to be playing on the notion that the character must go on an the symbolism is not the emportant factor, do u truely think the side kick should be the canon fodder an not an aprentice
Posted by NXH

hahah. who did the picture of the skeleton bucky and robin?

Posted by gui22

That was the reason camp hammond was created(now it´s over but still there is avengers academy,sort of...the guys are afraid they go mad).

Posted by DarkSyde79

DC (more than Marvel) always thought that you needed a child's POV to add to the experience of the reader. So initially I doubt they every thought about the fact that these where children being put into these positions. In the end, I don't think the issue is as much about sidekicks as children/teenage heroes. In the end, someone of some authority finds out and probably should tell them that this is not proper behavior. If anything, they should at least train them properly and keep them outta harm's way. I guess tha's why I like a book like Naruto, although there are child heroes in the book, you feel as though they're a lil' more prepared and look'd after than comics... sometimes. :oP 

Posted by longbowhunter

I love sidekicks, but its a left over tradition from a simplier time. No one pictured Robin, Bucky, or Toro being in any real danger 60 + years ago. Now thats ALL we can see. It like letting a 11 year old be a cop. Put it like that and its easy to see why sidekicks are a bad idea (in the real world at least). 

Posted by -Vigil-

Who cares if it's a bad idea? Sidekicks are typically WAY cooler than their mentors. If there weren't any sidekicks, I wouldn't enjoy nearly so many comics.

Posted by G-Man
@NXH said:
" hahah. who did the picture of the skeleton bucky and robin? "
I think it was Todd Nauck and I think it appeared in Wizard. I could be wrong on both. Funny that both are obviously not skeletons today.
Staff
Posted by ColinHill

Yes having a kid sidekick is irresponsible....by real world standards.  But as people often forget, comics operate very differently than the real world.  I think the idea of the kid sidekick is kinda cool, as a kid I wanted to be Robin, I liked him better than Batman(still do).
 
Besides, it's not like the kid sidekick is a recent idea, it's a carry over from a more innocent time in comics, and DC is the only one that really does it.  And some o those tragedies you listed happened to the heroes once they reached adulthood and left their mentor's shadow.
 
So yeah it's irresponsible, but it's just a staple of comics.

Posted by haydenclaireheroes

I think in the hero business you need someone to trust and I think the best person to trust is your sidekick.  

Posted by blaakmawf

They should have to be of age and of sound mind. Of course that would make them more like a hero-hero team than hero-sidekick.

Posted by Michiel76

Well we all know the real reason, in the real world publishers use sidekicks to appeal to the younger crowd to buy comics and hence more cashflow. So if we the readers decide it's not oke to do this and stop buying the comics i think sidekicks would disappear very quickly. 
 
But then again i like sidekicks there was a time that a sidekick could die and stay dead while the main hero would never really die. Ah good old times. 
 
Hmm basically i'm saying i like seeing kids get the snot beat out of  'em
yeah i have "issues"

Posted by GT-Man

I love the pic of bucky and robin wheres that pic from?
Posted by Yummylee

Kids these days...first it was brickin' windows while throwing profanities and now it's gliding across rooftops with Batman.

Posted by Final Arrow

side kicks rock.... they draw fire, hence why most of them have brighter costumes then their counterpart!!! 

Posted by Deadknight

Where is that picture of Bucky and Robin from at the top of the article? 
Posted by Captain13

There's no problem with sidekicks. There's a problem with child sidekicks. These heroes should know better than to put children in harms way. Why don't they just start training 18 year olds?

Posted by charlieboy

i often like the sidekicks better than the original hero. i like robin and batgirl way more than i do batman. they just have younger heroes so younger readers can relate. like when i first started reading x-men i identified with kitty pryde because she was around my age at the time. and you know what? kitty is still my favorite. i think young heroes are a good thing. don't blame the sidekick. blame the writer doing messed up crap to them...
Posted by Druid

Not every sidekick is young though. The Tick's sidekick, Arthur, for instance. lol
 
Most sidekicks are lame and I think the whole idea is just a carry over from another era. 
 
The last sidekick I liked was Invincible's little brother Oliver. I think I enjoyed that instance because it's not the usual sidekick dynamic.

Posted by caderoger

 sure they are putting the kids in danger! this is immoral, wrong and UNREAL! (honestly, we shouldn't care about it) 
 
but really GMAN, if you hadn't read it yet, look for BRATPACK by Rick Veitch. it has a lot to do with that subject.

Posted by DavHigg

Better than eatin cheeto and getting fat.

Posted by Luthorcrow

The real question is do sidekicks still play with today's modern sensibilities.  Clearly the answer is a flat no.  The minute you add an underage sidekick it either becomes comical or a bit twisted.  Let's be honest, Robin, Bucky, they all suck.  The only portrayals of sidekicks that I can think of that didn't blow was Frank Miller's Dark Knight and Kickass.

Posted by zombietag

that cover with robin on the front is really cool looking

Posted by B'Town

I wonder what Damian Wayne would be doing for kicks if he wasn't Batman's sidekick?  That's a scary thought.  Robin needs to be the sidekick.  I think it keeps him in check, gives him an outlet with Batman looking out for him.   
 
The only sidekick I know much about is Robin and they've all needed their Batman, I think.

Posted by ChrisWilliams

You gotta remeber its the kids choice to be a sidekick its not like there forced into joining the superhero business
Posted by GraphicCasualFreak

I really don't like Sidekicks.  I do like Harley Quinn, Donna Troy(I REALLY like her), Hit Girl, and Dick Grayson(Most of the time).  But honestly, the idea of the sidekick is SO 1940s it's sad.  Also, as Batman has found out on more than one occasion, things can go bad VERY quickly when you have a sidekick.  I can understand the reason they were originally created but I think the time of the sidekick has passed.  You wanna be a hero, wait to you grow up... LOL!

Posted by difficlus

yea its ok, it happens in real life all the time...

Posted by Hamz

It's irresponsible if the sidekick isn't learning and being educated by the experience. It's a risky business but if they can get something meaningful out of it then it's worth the risk. 

Posted by Dark Walker

Being a sidekick is like being a child star in the real world, it might be a thrill of a lifetime but if you don't have a watchful mentor, or an over protective one, you could end up at the bottom of the barrel like so many or rise above like few have. 

Posted by jordama

On a side, think of all the X-Children that have lost their lives in the name of Mutant rights.
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