Remembering Robin: Our 5 Favorite Superhero Sidekicks

February 27, 2013

SPOILER – don't read any further unless you want to have a major character death spoiled for you!

You've been warned.


Okay, now that this is out of the way, as The New York Post reported Monday and is official as of today's release of Batman, Inc. #8, Damien Wayne is dead.

DC has a legacy of teen (and in the case of Damien pre-teen) sidekicks that dates all the way back to the Golden Age. It's sort of a staple for many of its heroes, particularly with the company's emphasis on legacy. Some are there under the pretense of being a protégé, groomed to take over the mantle of the hero when s/he retires. Others are there simply to lend a helping hand. A few are just…well, there. But almost all of them rank as some of our favorite comic book characters, period.

In memory of Damien Wayne, we'd like to take a look at our Five Favorite Sidekicks in Superhero Comics.

ROBIN (all versions) -Hero: Batman

We'd be remiss in not starting this list off with Robin. Not only because it was the impetus for the piece, but because the role of Robin is all but synonymous with the word "sidekick."

There have been numerous versions over the years. The original, Dick Grayson, is still kicking around as Nightwing and for a brief period took over the role of Batman when Bruce Wayne "died" (he was actually temporally displaced).

Dick Grayson was eventually replaced by Jason Todd, who was initially popular but then became decidedly less so when he was reimagined after "Crisis on Infinite Earths" in 1985. DC Comics announced a 1-900 phone poll for fans to call in and choose whether he should live or die, and the result was Todd's death at the hands of The Joker. He was often touted as one of the few deaths in comics that was considered permanent…until he was brought back as The Red Hood in 2005.

After a few years, a new Robin by the name of Tim Drake appeared. Unlike his predecessor, he was embraced as the new gold standard for sidekicks. He was also the first and thus far only Robin that was more of a detective in the vein of Batman himself, getting the role after he became one of the few people to figure out that Bruce Wayne is Batman. In 2009 he struck out on his own as Red Robin.

Tim Drake was briefly replaced by The Spoiler, Stephanie Brown, who was killed during the "War Games" crossover. At times DC has said that she was never officially considered Robin, but that tune seems to have changed in recent years. Stephanie Brown was eventually revealed as surviving her apparent death. She became Batgirl for a spell and had her own monthly title, which ended after 24 issues.

That leads us to Damien Wayne, a creation of Grant Morrison. Damien was the lovechild of Bruce Wayne and Talia al Ghul, referencing a story from 1989 that revealed Talia had an infant child but had been subsequently left out of continuity. Having been raised by the League of Assassins, Damien struggled with his morality and often crossed the line into killing and maiming his enemies, including peeling off the face of The Joker.

We'd be remiss in not mentioning Carrie Kelley, the new Robin that appears in the seminal Frank Miller story "The Dark Knight Returns." She only survived within that mini-series and it's (objectively not nearly as good) sequel, but she remains one of the most interesting characters in comics history.

Got all that?

ARTHUR -Hero: The Tick

Whether it's in the form of the original comic series, the animated series, or the all too short-lived live-action sitcom on Fox, The Tick has served as a brilliant satire and tribute to superhero comics. So of course The Tick had his very own sidekick, Arthur, a timid accountant who reluctantly becomes a hero. He's intelligent and serves as a grounding force for The Tick, but his only real power is the ability to fly with the assistance of a full body suit patterned after a moth.

BUCKY BARNES -Hero: Captain America

One of the original sidekicks of the Golden Age, Bucky Barnes was Cap's eager teenaged buddy who helped Cap in his adventures. In hindsight, the idea of a kid that young being thrown into dangerous combat situations and secret missions was kind of disturbing, but in the context of the time and atmosphere of the wartime effort, it was played up as patriotic. When Cap was brought back during the Silver Age, Marvel retconned Bucky's story and had him die while trying to prevent a bomb on a plane launched by Baron Zemo from striking at Allied troops.

He was brought back during Ed Brubaker's run on "Captain America" as The Winter Soldier. It was revealed, through the story, that Bucky had barely survived the crash. The Soviets were able to patch him up, complete with a bionic arm, but the explosion had given him amnesia. He was used as a Soviet agent and kept in cryogenic stasis in-between missions, which prevented him from aging.

When Captain America learned that Bucky was still alive, he revived his memories with the aid of the cosmic cube. Bucky was overwhelmed and fled, but eventually re-emerged as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. After Captain America's assassination at the end of the 2007 "Civil War" event, he took over the mantle Captain America before being seemingly killed during Marvel's 2011 "Fear Itself" storyline. It was later revealed he had survived with the aid of the Infinity Formula, returning to the title of Winter Soldier and a covert operative.

Boy, between the identity crises and fake deaths, sidekicks sure do have a lot of issues. Get it? Because comics? See what we did there? Yeah.

KID FLASH -Hero: The Flash

Kid Flash, real name Wally West, is one of the few sidekicks in history to ever have truly come into his own and permanently take on the mantle of the regular hero. He replaced his predecessor, Barry Allen, when Barry died during Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1985. The practice of a new hero under the old cowl had been done before, but never before or since did it become so quickly embraced as the new status quo. Wally West continues to have his fans. When Barry Allen was finally brought back for "Final Crisis" in 2008, it wasn't entirely embraced. West had been The Flash for so long that most people had actually grown up with him as the Flash, and so if anything the return of Barry Allen was seen as disrupting the status quo.

The only other character to regularly take on the Kid Flash mantle was Bart Allen, Barry's grandson from the future who was originally known as Impulse.

SPEEDY -Hero: Green Arrow

The first iteration of Speedy, Roy Harper, was an orphan. When Green Arrow saw Roy at an archery competition he was judging, he became impressed with the boy's aim and even more impressed when he helped him thwart a robbery.

Like Robin, Roy eventually became a ward to his hero. But unlike Robin, he left the hero game behind to join a band and became a drug addict. The story was a first for DC and highly controversial for its time. He eventually went clean and became a hero again, alternately operating as both Red Arrow and Arsenal.

The second Speedy, Mia Dearden, emerged from a troubled and abusive childhood to become a student of Connor Hawke (who himself had a brief run as Green Arrow). She took on the mantle of Speedy and badgered Green Arrow to take her on as his sidekick. Unfortunately he still carried guilt from what happened to the original Speedy and repeatedly turned down her offer. Eventually, he relented.

The character gained some attention from the mainstream media when it was revealed she was HIV positive.

Sidekicks come and go, and then come back. The only constant seems to be that they are continually used despite the insanity in putting a child at risk. Not that it bothers us as fans. We put aside then human beings can't fly and bend steel, so it's not like they're asking too much of us.

Besides, they've resulted in some of the greatest comic characters of all time.

And be sure to visit next Tuesday for a video interview with the cast of 21 and Over!

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