Ramon Rand was born late into the life of his father Arthur Rand, something which he would regret his entire life. Arthur Rand did not pay much attention to Ramon. He was far too busy building his humble cosmetics company in into the largest chemical supplier in the nation. Arthur even told Ramon once that he viewed Arthurcorp as Ramon’s brother. As Ramon grew, he rebelled against his father by becoming a photojournalist for the alternative media, rejecting the world of big business. His specialty was ‘investigative journalism’, which he defined as shutting down big and powerful corporations with scathing exposés on animal cruelty and testing. Ramon may not have been as rich as his father, but he was relatively happy ‘sticking it to the man’.
One night however, Ramon dug too deep. Breaking into his own father’s company, Ramon “stumbled onto [an] illegal animal lab, a real horror show”. In a moment of carelessness, Ramon was knocked out by Randcorp employees and thrown into a vat of animal mush… left for dead.
It was this experience which gave Ramon his animal powers. Unable to handle the sudden addition of animal voices in his head, Ramon went crazy and started attacking people and eating animals in the park. Dharma discovered Ramon and, as Ramon describes it, “brought me back to being human”. Ramon joined Dharma’s Shadow Cabinet out of gratitude.
Ramon served consistently as a loyal member of the Shadow Cabinet for many years. Although he constantly questioned Dharma’s methods and motives, especially those which required killing, his sense of duty always forced him to complete the mission. He despised the lies and deceit Dharma demanded, but eventually grew to accept them as a necessity for the job. A perfect example of this is Sideshow’s first S.A.N.D. mission. (S.A.N.D. stands for search and destroy). Sideshow’s mission was to gain the trust of a cold blooded killer named Corpsicle to allow the other members of the team enough time to capture and kill him. In the final moments of the mission, he internally struggled with the notion of warning Corpsicle of his coming betrayal. Although he did not kill this man himself, his involvement left him with deep guilt and regret when Corpsicle was finally captured.
Sideshow’s deep loyalty to Dharma caused him to react more strongly than other members of the team when Dharma mistreated them. Ramon was enraged when Dharma refused to lend any Shadow Cabinet resources to help Ramon rescue his father. Arthur had been kidnapped by the eco-terrorists known as the Arcadian League for ransom, but Randcorp refused to pay. Sideshow angrily set off to rescue his father himself, but was joined by fellow Shadow Cabinet members Donner and Blitzen, much to his surprise. Donner and Blitzen helped Ramon with his personal quest infiltrate the eco-terrorists behind Dharma’s back. Ramon spent days researching and formulating a plan, throwing himself in direct danger to rescue his father. He hoped Arthur would accept responsibility for what happened to him, or maybe even offer an apology. Instead, Arthur tells Ramon that he was not part of the group which tried to kill him, but he approves of their decision. Arthur compared Ramon’s spying to ‘letting one child destroy the other.’ Rejected and miserable, Sideshow returned to the Shadowspire only to discover that Dharma had ordered Telesthene, the leader of the eco-terrorists, to kidnap Arthur. Dharma had anticipated Ramon would rescue his father and take out Telesthene, a Shadow Cabinet operative who was becoming a liability, in the process. This deception only widened the rift growing between Dharma and Sideshow.
The final straw came when Dharma sent his top Shadow Cabinet operatives on a mission against the Union of Separatist Scientists. When the mission had been successfully completed, Dharma prevented Mechanic from retrieving the team, leaving them to die in . Dharma did this to reduce the power of System, an international cabal, and remove the wildly unpredictable USS. After a harrowing journey to , the five discarded operatives made a pact to kill Dharma and form their own group to work together for their mutual benefit. Despite his initial loyalty to Dharma, Sideshow was the primary advocate for killing their former leader.
However, when the operatives finally returned to Shadowspire, Dharma explained his motives for abandoning the team. Iron Butterfly, Donner and Blitzen decided to abandon their plan to kill Dharma ( Iota had never supported it in the first place), deeming Dharma’s actions in the world’s best interests. Ramon however was still enraged and eventually succumbed to his animal instincts. He followed Dharma into his quarters and stabbed him with his bull horns.
Dharma notes this as the one possibility he never foresaw: “Even I could never trace the millions of potential actions that would occur to such a mind.” When Dharma is returned to life by Red Dog, he takes a new lease on life and reveals his true name and powers to the Shadow Cabinet. Sideshow remains bitter from the whole experience and leaves the team.
Months later, a new member of the Shadow Cabinet, Starlight, is sent on a mission to Sideshow’s hometown . Placed in several miles from her target, Starlight encounters Sideshow. He has sunk into a deep depression and turned to drugs and alcohol as a way of coping with the animal voices inside his head. Ramon was suspicious of Starlight’s motives, thinking Dharma sent her with the intention of bringing Sideshow back to the team. Despite his misgivings, Sideshow appeared at the last moment to save Starlight’s life during her mission. After this experience, he decides to sober up and rejoin the team.
Sideshow’s reunion with his former teammates did not last long. Ramon was one of the Shadow Cabinet operatives Iron Butterfly chose to reveal her suspicions of Dharma to. Dharma had grown worried about the fate of the world to the point of mad obsession. He thought he could only save the world by taking control of everything and everyone, starting with System. To ensure he could not be taken surprise by Sideshow again, Dharma kept Ramon addicted to drugs to keep him in check. Dharma underestimated Sideshow’s strength. When Dharma attacked his own sister Plus to steal her energy powers, Ramon attacked Dharma to allow Mechanic the time to transport Plus to safety. Although he was once again caught off guard by Sideshow’s actions, Dharma was able to kill Sideshow with the powers he had just stolen from his sister.
In DC Comics
In 2008, Sideshow’s entire history was erased and he was reborn as a character in the DC Universe, along with the rest of the Milestone characters. Sideshow’s only appearance so far in the DC Universe was a background appearance in one panel of Dwayne McDuffie’s Justice League of .
He is shown as a member of the Shadow Cabinet who has fallen in the battle against Starbreaker. In this story, the Shadow Cabinet is described as a top-secret organization which has flown under the radar of even the keenest DC heroes.
Sideshow can change any part of his body into any animal part. He could change entirely into one animal, or (more commonly) become a chimera composed of several useful parts. Although the range of his powers appears to vary greatly, he openly admits to having his ‘little favorites’ which he uses more than others. Ramon enjoys his animal senses and often employs them when he is not on a mission. For example, he has been known to change his head into that of a dolphin. He explains that this is one of his ‘thinking animals’. On an actual mission, Sideshow is one of the most diverse operatives of the Shadow Cabinet. He is equally skilled using his powers for heavy brawling, stealth reconnaissance or undercover work. Sideshow has also proven he is able to survive in any habitat by changing into its native species. When the team was trapped in , Sideshow gorged himself on penguin meat which his colleagues refused to eat.
Due to the nature of his powers, Sideshow suffers from a unique multiple personality disorder. He often mentions being able to hear the voices of animals screaming in his head, urging him to act on his instincts. In one of his earliest appearances, an evil mind reader named Headmaster attempted to mentally attack Sideshow but found himself taken aback: “your mind – it’s like dozens of people – not prepared – can’t – AIIEEGH!” These conflicting personalities cause Sideshow to act unpredictably to the point that Dharma cannot anticipate his actions. In his first appearance Sideshow appeared as a straight-laced serious team leader, but in his very next appearance Ramon was a manic joke-cracking neo-hippie. Ramon has serious misgivings about murdering Corpsicle, but leads the charge to kill Dharma.
Ramon and the other Shadow Cabinet operatives are well aware of his mental issues. One of the most obvious signs of his mental state is the constant inadvertent shifting of body parts when he is not on a mission. Blitzen says that this “nervous shapeshifting” creeps some people out. Ramon constantly searches for a way to keep his animal powers in check. Although he tries to meditate to merge his personalities (or achieve “oneness” as he would say), in times of trouble he reverts to the use of alcohol and marijuana to calm his nerves.
Dharma: Although he would never admit it, in many ways Dharma serves as a father figure to Ramon. He was ‘adopted’ by Dharma soon after the ultimate betrayal by his father. Ramon feels that he owes a deep debt to Dharma and strives to please him, although he is not comfortable with most of his missions. Sideshow’s loyalty to Dharma is so apparent that Blitzen says most of the other members of Shadow Cabinet isolate exclude Sideshow because they see him as an authority figure like Dharma and Iron Butterfly. However, Ramon’s relationship with Dharma changed after he realized how we was being manipulated. After the mission to save his father, Ramon told Dharma: “Don’t ever play the surrogate father card again or I’ll kill you.”
Iron Butterfly: Iron Butterfly’s attitude towards Sideshow can best be described as thinly veiled contempt. I.B. is the most serious member of Shadow Cabinet and has a very rigid command style. This clashes with Sideshow’s constantly shifting and unpredictable personality. To sum up their relationship, I.B. once asked Sideshow: “do you choose your animal forms by annoyance value alone?”
Blitzen and Donner: Blitzen and Donner do not approve of Dharma’s methods. They show constant disregard for Dharma and Iron Butterfly’s orders. At first, they avoided Sideshow because they associated him with Dharma, but they accepted Ramon into Shadow Cabinet’s social circle when they helped him rescue his father. The trio have remained close friends since.
Mechanic: Initially, Mechanic seems sympathetic towards Ramon, but it is soon revealed his loyalty lies with Dharma. Mechanic set Sideshow up for Dharma on the mission to save his father and also left him stranded with the rest of the team in the Antarctic. However, Sideshow and Mechanic did cooperate to save Plus’s life from Dharma.
Plus: Sideshow initially regards her with suspicion because she is Dharma’s sister, but he eventually sacrifices himself to save her life from Dharma.