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Topic: When Sidekicks De-unique (Topic Closed Topic Closed) Post ReplyPost New Topic
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Lance Hill
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Posted: 13 February 2008 at 4:08pm | IP Logged | 1  

I read the Teen Titans Lost Annual the other day, and got thinking about the story behind Wonder Girl. Originally Wonder Girl was a younger version of Wonder Woman, as Superboy was to Superman. Later Wonder Girl teamed up with her older self, Wonder Woman, in "impossible stories". The writer of Teen Titans must have assumed that Wonder Girl was a separate character and she ended up slipping into the team and eventually got her own identity and origin.

This got me thinking about the rest of the team - Kid Flash, Aqualad and Speedy*. They were always intended as separate characters, but when taken away from their mentors were they really all that different from the original version of Wonder Girl or even Superboy? They were essentially just Flash, Aquaman and Green Arrow - but kids.

Robin was the only one on the team who stood out as anything unique. The radically different costume alone ensures that Robin has a different tone of character to Batman. The Boy Wonder would be hard pressed to strike fear into the superstitious and cowardly criminals of the world. He was not just a kid version of Batman.

But having said that, did Robin have any skills, weapons or abilities that Batman himself did not have? He brought something to the table in terms of personality and appearance, but what did he bring in terms of action and gimmicks?

How many successful super-hero kid sidekicks have there been who had their own powers and costumes? Are same-powered kid sidekicks a good idea? Are kid sidekicks in general a good idea? Should super-villains have kid sidekicks? Are younger versions of heroes, set in the past like the original Superboy, a good idea?

I'd love to hear people's thoughts on this.



*I never did understand this kid's code name, and there's a bit of a problem when a super-hero team has a character who can run fast and he isn't the one named Speedy.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 13 February 2008 at 4:17pm | IP Logged | 2  

In his wonderful book, THE GREAT AMERICAN SUPERHEROES, Jules Feiffer summed up the problem. Kids "all hated" Robin, he pointed out, because Batman had worked and trained all his life to become Batman, and Robin was ten years old and he was already Batman.

This is almost automatically a problem with kid sidekicks. Captain America has the Super Soldier Serum and months of intense training, but Bucky has a costume and (pre-retcons) he's as good as Cap. Speedy is as good as Green Arrow. Kid Flash is instantly as good as Flash. Aqualad. Captain Marvel Jr. Mary Marvel. Etc, etc.

Worst of all, as Feiffer also pointed out, the kid partners were created to give the primary audience -- kids -- someone to "identify with". But the kids wanted to identify with the adult heroes. The kid partners just got in the way.

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Aaron Smith
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Posted: 13 February 2008 at 4:24pm | IP Logged | 3  

Worst of all, as Feiffer also pointed out, the kid partners were created to give the primary audience -- kids -- someone to "identify with". But the kids wanted to identify with the adult heroes. The kid partners just got in the way.

***

I remember arguing with my cousin as a child. We both wanted to be Batman. Nobody wanted to be Robin.

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Monte Gruhlke
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Posted: 13 February 2008 at 4:29pm | IP Logged | 4  

I can't pretend to follow all the ret-conning, but wasn't Grayson already an acrobat with the circus? At that point, Batman may have only needed to teach combat skills.
I never thought Bucky was anything other than a youthful companion with no training other than what the ARMY already provided.

Whenever a side-kick is introduced, is there ever a sort of training period, or just an unnatural tendency to have them be smaller, capable knock-offs of the adults?

On a side note, JB - what led to Radio Girl being a sidekick for Torch of Liberty?
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Bob Neill
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Posted: 13 February 2008 at 4:34pm | IP Logged | 5  

Working backwards:

*I never did understand this kid's code name, and there's a bit of a problem when a super-hero team has a character who can run fast and he isn't the one named Speedy.

I'd love to read the real explanation, but I liked Fred Hembeck's take on it in one of those old 'Daily Planet' DC house ad pages from the late '70s-early '80s: Flash asked Green Arrow basically the same question, and GA replied, 'Because if I had a sidekick named Kid Flash, it would have really  been confusing!' The last panel is just Arrow turning and walking away while Flash, with a confused look on his face, says, 'Oh.'

Are younger versions of heroes, set in the past like the original Superboy, a good idea?

I thought Superboy was, but I can see where the idea could start to wear thin...surprised nobody in the '60s tried a 'Teen Lantern'!

Should super-villains have kid sidekicks?

If  we assume super-heroes have them, and it makes sense for a story, and isn't just a case of 'needing' a kid version, why not?  Have there been any notable 'younger versions' of villains in the past? Say, a 'Captain Nazi Jr'?

Are kid sidekicks in general a good idea?

In today's 'less than kid-friendly' comics? I doubt it. But if they're intended for younger readers, it makes sense.

Are same-powered kid sidekicks a good idea?

I don't think so...as you noted about Robin, it makes the story more interesting if the sidekick can contribute something different. Bucky fits that description, too; he didn't just take 'junior super-serum', put on a smaller costume, and carry around a little shield.

How many successful super-hero kid sidekicks have there been who had their own powers and costumes?

Not counting Jimmy Olsen as Elastic Lad...none.

 

Did Robin have any skills, weapons or abilities that Batman himself did not have? He brought something to the table in terms of personality and appearance, but what did he bring in terms of action and gimmicks?

Dick Grayson's acrobatic skills come to mind as something that Batman's crime-fighting efforts gained fom the partnership. I don't think Batman had been established as having any notable ability as an acrobat before Robin was introduced. But at some point, didn't certain writers play down Dick's family-taught ability, and give Batman credit for it as part of 'training' Dick to be Robin?

Edit: Monte partially asked that last question as I was typing.



Edited by Bob Neill on 13 February 2008 at 4:37pm
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Gregg Halecki
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Posted: 13 February 2008 at 4:37pm | IP Logged | 6  

I think that away from the "parent" hero, the sidekick really does become just a young version of the adult, complete with all of the skill and effectiveness that goes with it, but when you put them together the junior member automaticly looses some of their competance. Perhapse it is the writer's way of making sure we know how much "better" the adult is as being themself than the sidekick is at being them. It also makes a strange real life sense too though. About ten minutes ago I was having a discussion with my fiance about no matter how capable I am at doing ANYTHING, it always seems to go wrong around my father. I sell and install A/V equipment for a living, but for some unexplainable reason, I just could not get his new LCD TV to work right. I can replace my own toilet, but when I tried to do his last year, it leaked. The sidekicks seem to be the same way. I imagine that it is an unintended parallel to reality, but it is there anyway.
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Peter Svensson
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Posted: 13 February 2008 at 4:39pm | IP Logged | 7  

Comics featuring kids in an active role sold really well. I'm thinking of all of Kirby's boy gang comics, which sold like hotcakes back in the day. Now, the sidekick is an attempt to add that appeal to an adult superhero, but doesn't always work.

I did like the Star-Spangled Kid, whose sidekick was an adult. That was a cool idea.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 13 February 2008 at 4:39pm | IP Logged | 8  

On a side note, JB - what led to Radio Girl being a sidekick for Torch of
Liberty?



She chose to be! Some of you may recall that it was on a plane ride home
from Altlanta that I suggested to Frank Miller some of the elements that
became his female Robin. Those which he didn't use, I used in Radio Girl.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 13 February 2008 at 4:40pm | IP Logged | 9  

Comics featuring kids in an active role sold really well. I'm thinking of all of
Kirby's boy gang comics, which sold like hotcakes back in the day. Now, the
sidekick is an attempt to add that appeal to an adult superhero, but doesn't
always work.



The sidekicks predated the kid teams.
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Peter Svensson
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Posted: 13 February 2008 at 4:41pm | IP Logged | 10  

John, do you think your Wonder Girl deuniques Wonder Woman?
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Zaki Hasan
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Posted: 13 February 2008 at 4:44pm | IP Logged | 11  

I read Feiffer's book several years ago, and disagreed entirely with the notion that kids hated Robin.  I loved Robin when I was a kid.  The idea of being Batman's buddy was something I instantly "got."  The Mego Robin toy was the one I always lugged around with me, and I proudly wore a Robin pin to school.
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Stephen Sadowski
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Posted: 13 February 2008 at 4:45pm | IP Logged | 12  

 Actually, I couldnt disagree more.

 I was always more fascinated as a kid by Robin. While Batman was obviously an adult doing these daring deeds, Robin ( and ALL THE TEEN TITANS) were what REALLY caught my attention..even though they were still older than me, at the time..I found them not so much relatable( who spoke like THAT anyway??!) but just flashier and somehow cooler than their 'parents'.

 Now, perhaps, never having been raised by an adult male, I was living vicariously through Richard Grayson , but while I looked up to Batman, I wanted to BE Robin.

 As an aside..I used to  have nearly ALL the Mego action figures( and only afew years ago finally attained my HOLY GRAIL of teh TEEN TITANS figures) ..

 While they lasted a good long time individually, it was Robin that I probably had 10 of!!

 To this day, Richard Grayson is my favorite character in comics.


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