Dick Grayson, Wally West, and James “Bucky” Barnes. They all have one thing in common. They all started out as sidekicks, and they eventually took over the mantle of the men they followed. When Dick Grayson spent years as Robin, then as Nightwing, and when Darkseid shot Bruce Wayne with the Omega Sanction, Dick put on the Batman cowl. Wally West was Kid Flash, and when Barry Allen sacrificed himself in Crisis on Infinite Earths , Wally stepped into his shoes and became the Flash. For years, Bucky was assumed dead after blowing up at the end of World War II, but he resurfaced a few years ago as Winter Soldier. When Steve Rogers was shot dead in the middle of the street, Bucky took it upon himself to wear the mantle of Captain America. They all also have one more thing in common. The men they replaced have either returned or will return soon. Where does this leave these characters?
Barry and Steve have both returned from the dead, and Bruce isn’t far behind. This leaves our sidekicks wearing the sheriff’s badge, as he strolls back into town. It puts these characters in an odd position. You have to respect your predecessor, but should you give it the mantle that you defended? One person who refused to give up that mantle was Jean-Paul Valley, when he took over for Batman, after Bane broke Bruce’s back. When Bruce was ready to return, Jean-Paul put up a fight. Obviously, Bruce won the battle and became the right, once again, to be Batman. What happened to Jean-Paul? He became Azrael, and eventually he died fighting crime. Another character who took over a mantle was Bart Allen. Wally had disappeared into the Speed Force and Bart took over the mantle of the Flash. As the Flash, the Rogues teamed-up and killed Bart. (Who returned later on) So, is the reward of replacing a character your ultimate demise? There are examples of the contrary, such as Jack Walker taking over for Captain America, and then becoming U.S. Agent. He has yet to die though, but recently come close to it.
These men really came into their own, embraced the mantle, and made it their own. They do not deserve an untimely death. But what will happen to them? At this point, Bucky seems to be keeping the name “Captain America” and there seems to be plans to keep him on a team, even though Steve is still running around. Barry is currently serving as a deputy Blue Lantern, but how long will that last before he is just The Flash again? What happens after Blackest Night and Brightest Day are over? As for Dick, the Return of Bruce Wayne is on the horizon, and when he returns, I’m sure he’ll want to be Batman once again. To quote the Highlander, “There can be only one.” History in comics has taught us this. Either these characters are going to die, or they’ll get new costumes and names. I don’t think they’ll have two Batmen running around Gotham, but who knows? As for Flash, there’s already Jay Garrick, Barry and Wally running around with that name. And as for Bucky, he’ll most likely get a name change.
We'll all just have to wait and see, and hopefully, the creative minds at Marvel and DC don't kill off these characters. They may not be loved by everybody, but they have a strong following.
If you were in charge, what would you do with these characters after their originals returned?
~Mat Elfring is a comedian, teacher, comic book writer, comic store employee, and worried about the future of these characters.~