I was thinking about side-kicks the other day, and how they’ve really evolved in the last few years. I can remember Superman’s supporting cast consisted of Lois Lane and that photographer. Most of the adventures revolved around rescuing one of them (mainly Lois), while back at the newsroom Clark Kent was the flunky that Lois had to teach. At least Clark wasn’t always the hero but still – boring.
DC and Marvel both exploited the idea of having teens as the side kick. Robin, Batgirl, and Bucky Barnes all started off as the lesser partners who weren’t quite mature enough to be on their own and needed a little paternal help. It always felt like Leave it to Beaver with action sequences.
Ugh the stereotypes right? At least Bruce Lee’s actions for The Green Hornet switched things up a little bit, making the rich guy the side kick to his manservant. Not that that was planned. Can you imagine anyone setting up a t.v. series with an Asian lead in the sixties. Ooh, I’ll leave that one alone Bruce.
But that just brings up another stereotype – the comic relief. I always thought Porky Pig and Daffy Duck did it best, but heroes were so heroic that it was believed their stories needed a little comedy to lighten things up. Buck Rogers and Tweeky anyone?
What’s happened in the last few years? How about the recent Spider-Man series, when the “side-kick” was just as smart as the hero and just as brave. How about Batman, where Lucius Fox is every bit as heroic and intelligent as the hero, and wiser. He just doesn’t have the same toys. He’s also older. Or Superman, where Lois saves him about as much as he saves her. Or when Trinity went on a mission knowing that her blind lover (Neo) needed a driver but that he was the only one who had a chance of surviving.
The list goes on and on, but what we’re seeing is that the spotlight is no longer entirely on the hero, it’s being shared. And because of that, the heroes are being given a little more depth. They have real relationships with these people, and they hurt when their allies die. I think it’s a great maturity in the comics and I can’t wait to see how it continues to develop. After all, with Ant-Man, Doctor Strange, and a plethora of independent DC movies promised out in the next few years there will be plenty of opportunity. Who knows, Star Wars might even try its hand. The imitation of Akira Kurosawa with R2-D2 and C-3PO played out nicely and the introduction worked well in Episodes 1-3, but seeing more depth with Chewbacca, or something unexpected with Skywalkers heroes or the villain’s minions would be great fun.