Oct 14, 2020
3 horrible superhero sidekicks
Ah yes, the sidekick: one of the most enduring concepts in superhero fiction. Dating back to the earliest days of the medium, the sidekick typically serves as a valuable backup for the hero himself (as well as an extra shootable target to distract the villains), an audience surrogate for younger readers, and an endless fountain of inappropriate gay jokes for modern readers. Because come on, there’s no way this panel didn’t set off a few alarms, even back in the ’50s.
However, not every sidekick is going to be a Dick Grayson; every now and then, you’re going to wind up with Jimmy Olsen. And not the good, modern Jimmy Olsen who actually does his job—I mean the terrible Silver Age Jimmy Olsen who spent all his time stumbling across aliens and getting turned into random monsters and going back in time to become an intern for Hitler and that kind of bullshit.
Here now are three of the worst sidekicks to ever appear in superhero comics.
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In 1938, Superman debuted and popularized the superhero genre, but the concept of a crime-fighting vigilante was much older, and preceded him with characters like the Shadow and the Green Hornet in radio serials and pulp stories. Detective Comics wanted to get in on that action, and would ultimately strike both gold and oil with Batman. However, their first foray into the genre was with the Crimson Avenger, a masked detective with a gas gun who was basically just a recolor of the Green Hornet, right down to the vaguely tasteless Asian chauffeur.
However, racially insensitive assistants were nothing out of the ordinary at the time, and the Avenger’s sidekick Wing (yeah, thats what they named him; thats like one step above just calling him Ching-Chong) didn’t really appear enough to cause much offense. That is, until costumed heroes became far more popular than detective-style characters, and the publishers responded by turning Crimson Avenger into a more conventional superhero, complete with a ridiculous costume overhaul. But the worst part is that they also turned Wing into a conventional sidekick who fought alongside his boss, and this is where things got really racist-y.
As if it weren’t bad enough that the costume made him look like he was advertising for an unusually terrible Chick-Fil-A, he was now a supporting character and therefore had a lot more dialogue, which reads like one of those pamphlets demonizing Chinese railroad workers from the 1800s. The Avenger really should have stuck with detective work; he never seemed to really adapt to the world of super-heroics. He didn’t even have a needlessly customized car, and he and Wing had to take the subway to get around!
You’d think that Wing would be the kind of character the publisher would try to forget, but you’d be wrong. The Avenger even brought him along when he joined the Seven Soldiers of Victory, a superhero group that was sort of the C-listers that didn’t make it into the Justice Society (to no one’s surprise, Green Arrow was a member). For some reason, no one objected to the Avenger bringing along his walking hate crime.
2. Snapper Carr
While superhero comics as a whole had gone belly-up during the ’50s when Congress decided that all of society’s ills came from comic books and not America’s hideously broken social system, a few characters remained in publication through sheer pop culture inertia. Okay, so it was mostly Superman and Batman, and they spent those ten years dicking around with Pink Kryptonite and Bat-Tampons, but considering what happened to all the other heroes, they got off easy. However, by 1959 DC had a surprisingly successful relaunch of the Flash (probably because this one wasn’t wearing a soup bowl with wings on his head), and decided to reinvent the Justice Society for a new audience under the name Justice League. The initial lineup consisted of Superman and Batman (who barely showed up at first, because they were busy with their own not-dead titles), Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, Aquaman, Flash, and Green Lantern. So you know what else this lineup totally needed? This jackass.
For some reason, the editors decided that kids wouldn’t be interested in reading about seven superheroes unless they also added an obnoxious teenage team mascot to identify with. Enter Snapper Carr, written by people who had clearly only ever seen teenagers through a telescope. Carr had stumbled across the League’s first mission against Starro the Conqueror, and instead of getting shredded into sloppy joes, he managed to help the team, so they kept him around. Which was to their everlasting regret, as Carr turned out to have a bizarre tick where he constantly snapped his fingers to punctuate his dialogue.
To say that Snapper Carr got old quickly would be like saying that milk ages like wine; the kid mostly just took up space and made annoying one-liners (which ironically would make him a perfect ’90s sitcom character), and was eventually phased out completely in the “Snapper Carr: Super Traitor” story arc where he’s tricked into helping publicly discredit the Justice League by a man named John Dough, who in reality was just the Joker in disguise. And not the incredibly dangerous, stabby modern Joker either; the Silver Age one who thought that a pie in the face was the height of villainy and mostly committed crimes based on bad puns.
3. Rick Jones
When Marvel emerged from the disembowled remains of Atlas Comics in 1961, Stan Lee decided to go a different route than what DC was doing, and focused on more relatable characters than the larger-than-life figures like Superman. The family dynamic of the Fantastic Four, and the feeling of being an outcast like Spider-Man or the X-Men resonated with kids at the time, but it did have the unforeseen consequence that Marvel didn’t really need any sidekicks, since the characters were either loners, part of a team, or teenagers themselves. However, this apparently didn’t sit well with the writers, because their solution was to make one kid be the sidekick of everyone.
Rick Jones was originally introduced as a random teen who snuck onto the site where Bruce Banner was testing out the new Gamma Bomb as part of a dare (teenagers in the ’50s and ’60s probably figured they might as well get acquainted with nukes before the Soviets forced them). As a result of having to save his dumb ass from getting turned into an ash outline, Bruce Banner got hit by the blast and was turned into the Hulk.
Feeling partially responsible (which is odd, since he was entirely responsible), Rick became the Hulk’s minder of sorts, which is even more dangerous than it sounds, because in the early days, Hulk was more of a violent sociopath than a dumb brute.
After his time with the Hulk, Rick would create the Teen Brigade (which we’ve mentioned in an earlier article), and then basically become the freelance sidekick of the Marvel Universe. Among his more notable stints is when he became the new Bucky for Captain America, which is really creepy if you think about it. If an older man wants to dress you up in his dead younger partner’s clothes, you should be calling Chris Hansen, not move in with him. He’s also been a partner of the first Captain Marvel, an “honorary Avenger” (which is just a nice way of saying “mascot”), and in what’s probably the most humiliating moment in a career full of them, the sidekick of Rom the Space Knight, a character who only existed as part of a merchandise tie-in with Parker Brothers. Thats like one step above being partnered up with the cast of My Little Pony. And not the current one that all the internet weirdos love—the ’80s one they crammed in between Transformers and Thundercats to trick you into watching.