Tag Archives: Ms. Lion

DC vs. Marvel: Sidekicks

This post will compare sidekicks of the DC and Marvel universes. Which universe has the best sidekicks?  First of all, what is a sidekick?  Wikipedia provides the following definition “A sidekick is a close companion who is generally regarded as subordinate to the one he accompanies”.  Wikipedia in the same article expands on the functions of a sidekick “Sidekicks can provide one or multiple functions, such as a counterpoint to the hero, an alternate point of view, or knowledge, skills, or anything else the hero doesn’t have. They often function as comic relief, and/or the straight man to the hero’s comedic actions. A sidekick can also act as someone more relatable to the audience than the hero, or whom the audience can imagine themselves as being (such as teen sidekicks). And by asking questions of the hero, or giving the hero someone to talk to, the sidekick provides an opportunity for the author to provide exposition, thereby filling the same role as a Greek chorus”.  A sidekick is not a villain’s henchmen or the romantic interest of a hero which is generally referred to as a companion.

The picture above got me thinking about sidekicks.  The picture is from page 199 of the graphic novel Bizzaro Comics (2001).  Bizzaro Comics is a hilarious collection of indie writers and artist’s parodies of DC comic titles.  This picture is from the story titled Without You I’m Nothing and follows the travails of obscure discarded sidekicks.  I am a comic book historian and do get a kick out of stories that use obscure characters like this story does.  I was not able to identify all the side kicks in the picture but have a partial answer key at the end of this post.  This post also attempts to provide definitive lists of sidekicks in the DC and Marvel universes and the Wikipedia definition was strictly adhered to.  Many obscure characters that have not been included in prior lists of this nature have been included in this post.  Below is a definitive list of DC sidekicks that will be discussed later.

List of DC Sidekicks

Superhero Sidekick First Appearance
Aquaman Aquagirl 1 (Lisa Morel) Adventure Comics #266 (November, 1959)
Aquaman Aquagirl 2 (Tula) Aquaman (vol. 1) #33 (May-June 1967)
Aquaman Aqualad  (Garth) Adventure Comics #269 (February 1960)
Aquaman Topo (Octopus) Adventure Comics #229 (October 1956)
Aquaman Qwsp Aquaman (vol. 1) #1 (January-February 1962)
Batman Ace the Bat Hound Batman #92, June 1955
Batman Alfred Pennyworth (Butler) Batman #16 (April-May 1943
Batman Bat-Girl (Bette Kane) Batman #139 (April 1961)
Batman Batgirl (Barbara Gordon) Detective Comics #359 (January 1967)
Batman Batgirl (Cassandra Cain) Legends of the Dark Knight # 120 (August 1999)
Batman Robin 1 (Dick Grayson) Detective Comics #38 (April 1940)
Batman Robin 2 (Jason Todd) Batman #357 (March 1983)
Batman Robin 3 (Tim Drake) Batman #436 (August 1989)
Batman Robin 4, Spoiler, Batgirl (Stephanie Brown) Detective Comics #647 (August 1992)
Batman Robin 5 (Damian Wayne) Batman #655 (September 2006)
Batman Robin Earth II (Richard Grayson) Detective Comics #38 (April, 1940)
Blackhawk Lady Blackhawk (Zinda) Blackhawk # 133 (February 1959)
Blue Devil Kid Devil Blue Devil #14 (July 1985)
Booster Gold Goldstar Lobo #5 (May ’94)
Booster Gold Skeets Booster Gold (vol. 1) #1 (1986)
Captain Marvel Captain Marvel Jr. Whiz Comics #25 (December 1941)
Captain Marvel Lieutenant Marvels Whiz Comics #21 (1941)
Captain Marvel Mr. Tawky Tawny (Anthropomorphic Tiger) Captain Marvel Adventures #79
Captain Marvel Uncle Marvel Wow Comics #18 (October 1943)
Captain Mid-Nite Hooty the Owl All-American Comics #25 (April, 1941)
Chameleon Boy Proty I Adventure Comics #308 (May 1963)
Chameleon Boy Proty II Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #72 (October 1963)
Crimson Avenger Wing How Detective Comics #20 (October 1938)
Flash Impulse (Bart Allen) Flash (vol. 2) #92 (June 1994)
Flash Kid Flash I (Wally West) The Flash  (vol. 1) #110 (December 1959)
Flash Kid Flash II (Iris West) Kingdom Come #3 (July 1996)
Flash Kid Flash III (Bart Allen) Teen Titans (vol. 3) #4 (December 2003)
Flash S’kidd Flash Flash vol 2 #235 (February, 2008)
General Glory Ernie the Battling Boy Justice League America # 46 (January 1991)
Green Arrow Amber Archer (Connor Hawke) Green Arrow vol 2 #0 (October, 1994)
Green Arrow Arrowette World’s Finest Comics #113 (November 1960)
Green Arrow Speedy  I (Roy Harper) More Fun Comics #73 (November 1941)
Green Arrow Speedy II (Mia Dearden) Green Arrow (vol. 3) #44 (January 2005)
Green Lantern Gen’ma Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century #6
Green Lantern Doiby Dickles All-American Comics #27 (June 1941)
Green Lantern Terry Berg Green Lantern (vol. 3) #129 (October 2000)
Green Lantern Thomas Kalmaku (Pieface) Green Lantern (Vol. 2) #2 (September-October 1960)
Icon Rocket Icon #1 (May 1993)
Johnny Thunder Black Lightning the Horse Flash Comics #1 (January 1940)
Joker Harley Quinn The Batman Adventures #12 (September 1993)
Justice League of America Snapper Carr The Brave and the Bold #28 (February-March 1960)
Justice League International G’nort (Green Lantern, Humanoid Dog) Justice League International #10 (February, 1988)
Knight Squire (Cyril) Batman #62,(December 1950)
Little Boy Blue Tubby, Toughy Sensation Comics #1 (January, 1942)
Martian Manhunter Zook Detective Comics #311 (January, 1963).
Mr. Scarlet Pinky the Whiz Kid Wow Comics #4 (1940)
Owlman Talon Teen Titans vol. 3 #38 (September 2006)
Plastic Man Woozy Winks Police Comics #13 (November 1942)
Robin Flamebird (Mary Elizabeth Kane) Teen Titans #50 (October, 1977)
Tomahawk Dan Hunter Star-Spangled Comics #69 (June 1947)
Sandman Brute The Sandman #1 (May 1974)
Sandman Glob The Sandman #1 (May 1974)
Sandman Sandy the Golden Boy (Sandy Hawkins) Adventure Comics # 69 (December 1941)
Space Ranger Cyrll Showcase #15, (July 1958)
Star Hawkins Ilda (Robot) Strange Adventures #114 (March 1960)
Star-Spangled Kid Stripsey (Pat Dugan) Action Comics #40 (September, 1941).
Superboy Pete Ross Superboy #86 (January 1961)
Super-Girl Comet the Super-Horse (Biron) Action Comics #292 (1962)
Super-Girl Streaky the Super-Cat Action Comics #292 (1962)
Superman Bo “Bibbo” Bibbowski Adventures of Superman #428 (May 1987)
Superman Jimmy Olsen Action Comics #6 (November 1938)
Superman Krypto Adventure Comics #210 (March 1955)
Superman Super-Girl Superman #123 (August 1958)
TNT Dan the Dyna-Mite (Daniel Dunbar) World’s Finest Comics #5 (Spring 1942)
Vigilante Stuff the Chinatown Kid Action Comics #45 (February 1942)
Wonder Woman Etta Candy Sensation Comics #2 (Feb. 1942)
Wonder Woman Wonder Girl 1 (Wonder Woman as a teenager) All-Star Comics #8 (December 1941),
Wonder Woman Wonder Girl 2 (Donna Troy) The Brave and the Bold vol. 1 #60 (July 1965)
Wonder Woman Wonder Tot Wonder Woman #105 (April, 1959)

Robin wins the best DC sidekick prize easily.  Robin is the first teenage super hero sidekick and if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery then Robin has been flattered to death.  DC went ahead and created an army of teenage sidekicks.  Eventually the teenage sidekicks of the major superheroes founded a teenage sidekick version of the Justice League called the Teen Titans.  The original Teen Titans included Aqualad, Kid Flash, Robin and Wondergirl.  Later still, Young Justice is created.  The Teen Titans and Young Justice meet in a giant sidekick crossover between their two groups.

The obvious absurdity of Robin is that crime fighting is dangerous work even for an adult like Batman and introducing a minor to crime fighting makes no sense whatsoever except as a plot device.  Batman’s villains were obviously very aware that Robin was the weak link and Two-Face even referred to Robin as the boy hostage.  The psychologist Fredric Wertham decided there was a homosexual subtext in the Batman and Robin relationship and wrote about this in Seduction of the Innocent.  Batman goes through a whole slew of Robins and eventually one gets killed brutally by the Joker with a crow bar in a Death in the Family.  Jason Todd is the lucky Robin to suffer death and the best part is that readers entered a poll to decide if he lived or died.  Truly a low point in comic book history but a lot of Batman issues were sold so all in all the project was a success.  Later Robin 4 (Stephanie Brown) in the identity of the Spoiler is even more brutally killed by the Black Mask with a power drill.

Of course no one really dies in comic books so Jason Todd return as the Red Hood and wants some payback from Batman for letting him die and secondly, and probably more importantly letting the Joker live.  The five Robins all get starring roles after Batman “dies”.  The ex-Robins have all become heroes in their own right.  I would argue that the Red Hood is an antihero not a villain.  Robin 1, Dick Grayson, has become Nightwing.  Robin 3, Tim Drake, becomes Red Robin.  Stephanie brown is resurrected from her power drill death and becomes Batgirl.  The male Robins are all potential impersonators of the dead Batman. The Red Hood gets in the act and kind of forces Dick Grayson to become the new Batman because if he doesn’t then the Red Hood will assume the role.  The potential heirs to Batman agree that the death of Batman should be hidden and one of them should pretend to be the original Batman.  This is similar to the Phantom, the ghost who walks that has the son of the prior Phantom assume the role of the Phantom so as to give the illusion that the Phantom never dies.  The Robins are basically sons of Batman but unfortunately there is more than one son i.e. more than one Robin and succession is not clear.  This jockeying between the Robins is largely covered in the Batman miniseries Battle for the Cowl but this power struggle affected all Batman related titles of the last year.  Dick Grayson does a good job impersonating Batman but doesn’t fool Commissioner Gordon.  The new Batman of course needs a new Robin and gets a psychopath kid, due to being trained by the League of Assassins since childhood.   This new Robin is the long lost son of Bruce Wayne and called Damian Wayne.  Confused?  Everyone is confused so don’t feel bad.  I am sure the writers of the Batman lines have cheat cards on their desks.  Will the barnacles of Batman history eventually sink the line?  Maybe!

Robin and his teenage copies at DC and even Marvel have so dominated the sidekick market in comic books that readers tend not to look at the broader literary concept of a sidekick when looking at comic books.  Another Batman sidekick is Alfred Pennyworth.  Alfred provides an alternate point of view to the audience as well as the ability to aid Batman when he is hurt.  Alfred has surgical skills gained when Alfred was an army medic.  Alfred was also in the theater and can pretend to be Batman when needed.  This is a rarely used skill of Alfred that is nevertheless crucial when someone is too close to discovering Batman’s identity.  Robin is presumably too small to provide a similar function and anyway Robin needs to be by Batman’s side so people don’t think Robin is pretending to be Batman.  Alfred Pennyworth can be extremely critical and sarcastic with Batman unlike the army of Robins.  Alfred provides an “adult” perspective about Batman to the reader.  Alfred has known Batman since he was a child. Alfred is aware of the how the killing of Batman’s parents made Batman a great crime fighter at the expense of a normal life.  The Red Hood has argued with Batman that most of his hard core rogues gallery only fear death and the fact that Batman does not kill and the fact that the villains know this limits the effectiveness of Batman as a crime fighter.  Batman may be able to instill fear in common criminals but provides more challenge than fear to the likes of the Joker.  In Batman #647, Alfred actually agrees with the Red Hood mentally but does not express his views to Batman verbally.

Batman is a serial teenage sidekick mentor and there is something very creepy about this.  Any “normal” person would not expose even one minor to extreme violence and certainly would not continue this behavior after the death of Jason Todd much less the subsequent death of Stephanie Brown.  Alfred has expressed dismay about the use of teenage sidekicks many times to Batman.  However, Alfred in the end is the dutiful butler who does what his master wishes despite any misgivings about such a course of action.  Alfred’s subordination to Batman’s wishes despite sarcastic remarks is what makes Alfred a sidekick rather than an equal partner.  Batman is not the only member of the Batman story line with a sidekick.

The Joker, Batman’s archenemy, has a sidekick!  Villains generally do not have sidekicks but henchmen, minions or lackeys.  Villains are generally egomaniacs and incapable of having long lasting meaningful relationships or so the theory goes. Villains see their henchmen as disposable cannon fodder.  The Joker generally treats those around him in precisely this manner but there is one exception and that is Harley Quinn.  Harley Quinn was a female psychiatrist that treated the Joker at Arkham Asylum and turned to the dark side rather than curing the Joker.  Harley Quinn is in love with the Joker but the relationship has clearly never been consummated.  The Joker obviously sees Harley Quinn as a capable sidekick even if Harley Quinn wants more.  Harley Quinn is a near superhuman gymnast who uses her skill with great combat effectiveness.  Harley Quinn wears a Jester outfit and became friends with Poison Ivy at Arkham were she ironically resided after her break down.  Harley Quinn provides comic relief to Joker stories that despite the name of the Joker were not very funny before Harley Quinn showed up.

The Joker had been jealous of Batman having Robin as a sidekick in the silver age and got his own one-shot sidekick in Batman #186 called Gaggy.  The main function of Gaggy was to provide comic relief to then Joker since such comic relief led to the Joker having great crime ideas.  Gaggy rather simplistically hated Robin and managed to knock Robin out with a head butt to the stomach.  Gaggy was never heard of after that one issue.  I think an issue in which Gaggy, embittered by being discarded by the Joker, targets Harley Quinn for assassination might be interesting.  Harley Quinn turns to Batman to figure out who is trying to kill her and clues are left that the culprit is a dwarf with a penchant for practical joke paraphernalia.  Since not an awful lot of characters fit that description, Batman deduces that the culprit is Gaggy!  Did I mention I like obscure comic book characters?  Batman’s sidekicks on the whole do not provide comic relief.  This is not the case of Captain Marvel.

Captain Marvel also has an army of sidekicks but largely for comic relief.  Mr. Tawky Tawny is an anthropomorphic tiger i.e. a funny animal that gets into all sorts of silly trouble Captain Marvel can save the tiger from.  Uncle Marvel is an older bumbling version of Captain Marvel.  Captain Marvel was always a sillier line than his doppelganger Superman.

Flash is another serial sidekick character that has gone through three Kid Flash characters.  Kid Flash was clearly inspired by Robin.  Super speed is a major power that is very much underestimated in comic books.  Basically you can hit the bad guy a hundred times and dodge whatever the bad guy tosses at you.  “Realistically” the foes of the Flash should stand no chance against the Flash.  Captain Cold has a freeze gun.  The Flash should be able to dodge anything the cold gun can come up with.  A teenager with super speed is still incredibly powerful despite being a teenager unlike Robin who has no super powers and even the inferior strength of someone who is younger.  Maybe a Kid Flash can only punch with half the power of an adult but a hundred punches later and even the toughest boxer is going down.

Green Arrow has had two teenage sidekicks named Speedy.  The first Speedy grows up to become a heroin addict, but recovers, and there is some suggestion that maybe crime fighting as a teenager might not be all that healthy psychologically and contributed to the heroin addiction.

Superman only has one teenage sidekick and that is Jimmy Olsen.  In the silver age, Jimmy Olsen was officially Superman’s best pal and again very creepy if you think about it.  Superman is perennially in his early thirties and if I saw some thirty year old hanging around a teen rather than a guy his own age then I would wonder exactly what function this teenager serves.  Jimmy even has a watch with an ultrasonic signal that allows him to call Superman when he is in danger.  Lois Lane does not have such a watch!  Teenage guy gets the watch but not the gal?  Maybe the silver age Superman had reasons for not marrying Lois Lane that had more to do with subconscious gender preference than any other reason.

Superman has a dog called Krypto.  In the silver age, Batman got a dog called Ace but there is no comparison with Krypto and Ace in terms of importance.  Superman in the silver age was Superboy and Krypto and Superboy were constant companions.  This is one of the healthier sidekick relationships in comic books.  Krypto cannot talk but can communicate to the reader via thought balloons that show what Krypto is thinking.  Krypto’s attempts to understand Superboy’s behavior using canine logic were pretty cute and comical and one of the few things that made the otherwise lame Superboy title work.

The current Supergirl has no hyphen between “Super” and “Girl” in her name.  The current Supergirl is a hot babe in a half shirt who has fled to the 31st century to avoid being a sidekick!  The silver age Super-Girl, on the other hand, was very much a sidekick.  She was teenager attending high school and was kept as a secret weapon for much of her silver age career.  Super-Girl was Superman’s cousin so no fear of hanky-panky that would make her a companion.  However, Super-Girl does try to match Superman up with an adult version of her on another planet!

Super-Girl has sidekicks in her own right!  Super-Girl has a super cat named Streaky and a super horse named Comet.  Somewhere in the Superman family there is a super monkey named Beppo but I am not really sure who he belongs to.  All the super animals unite with Proty to create the Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st century.  Years later Marvel will make its own group of superhero animal sidekicks.  Proty is the sidekick of Chameleon Boy who is a member of the Legion of Super Heroes of the 31st century.  Proty I sacrificed himself to revive the dead Lighting Lad but a Proty II soon shows up.  Proty I and II are aliens that look like blobs and can mimic just about any form.

That leaves us with Wonder Women’s sidekicks.  The silver age Woman had several sidekicks.  Etta Candy was a fat rather stupid college student who was supposed to be used for comic relief but was more obnoxious than funny.  The silver age Wonder Woman went through a rather silly phase in which she had adventures with herself as a Wonder Girl and Wonder Tot!  Wonder Woman used Amazonian technology to create films of herself that showed “what if” adventures with her younger versions.  I have to tell you I was maybe seven when a lot of these adventures came out originally and I was totally confused.  I assumed Wonder Girl and Wonder Tot were sisters of Wonder Woman and didn’t find out the “truth” until I was in my thirties.  Wonder Woman is probably one of those silver age titles that is really hard for modern readers to digest but the title had a fantasy quality that was very different from the more sci-fi quality of most silver age stuff and appealed to my young imagination.  Wonder Woman may go down in literary history as the only character that had two versions of herself as her own sidekicks. The graphic novel Bizzaro Comics (2001) does have a story with Wonder Tot and Wonder Girl racing to sit next to Wonder Woman during lunch and destroying half the Amazon city in the process.  Later, a more Robin like Wonder Girl was created as a sidekick.

Below is a list of Marvel sidekicks that will be discussed at the end of this list:

List of Marvel Sidekicks

Superhero Sidekick First Appearance
Avengers, Iron Man Edwin Jarvis (Butler) Tales of Suspense #59 (Nov 1964)
Captain America Bucky I Captain America Comics #1 (March 1941)
Captain America Bucky II (Rick Jones)  
Captain America Free Spirit Captain America vol. 1 #431 (September 1994)
Captain America Jack Flag (Jack Harrison) Captain America #434, (December 1994)
Captain Britain Jackdaw The Incredible Hulk Weekly #57 (April 1980)
Captain Marvel Falcon (Sam “Snap” Wilson) Captain America #117 (Sept. 1969)
Daredevil Foggy Nelson Daredevil v1 #1 (April 1964)
Deadpool Weasel Deadpool: The Circle Chase #1 (August 1993)
Deadpool Blind Al Deadpool #1 (Jan. 1997)
Deadpool Bob, Agent of HYDRA Cable & Deadpool #38 (May 2007)
Doc Samson Geiger Captain America vol. 1 #431 (September 1994)
Doctor Strange Wong Strange Tales #110 (Jul 1963)
Falcon Redwing (Hawk) Captain America #117 (Sept. 1969)
Franklin Richards H.E.R.B.I.E. (Robot) Fantastic Four #209 (August 1979)
Hulk Jim Wilson Incredible Hulk  v1 #131 (September, 1970)
Hulk Teen Brigade Incredible Hulk v1 #6 (March 1963)
Hulk, Captain America, Captain Marvel, Avengers Rick Jones Incredible Hulk v1 #1 (May 1962)
Human Torch Toro Human Torch Comics #2 (Fall 1940)
Inhumans Lockjaw (Dog) Fantastic Four #45, (December 1965)
Ka-Zar Zabu (Sabertooth Tiger) X-Men #10 (Mar 1965)
Fantastic Four Franklin Richards (Son of Reed Richards & Susan Storm) Fantastic Four Annual #6 (November 1968)
Fantastic Four, Franklin Richards Valeria Richards (Daughter of Reed Richards & Susan Storm) Fantastic Four vol. 3 #54 (June 2002)
Fantastic Four Lockjaw Puppy (Dog) Fantastic Four vol.3 #9.
Nick Fury Dum Dum Dugan Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos #1 (May 1963)
Shadowcat Lockheed (Small Dragon) Uncanny X-Men #166 (Feb 1983)
Speedball Niels, Hairball (Cat) Speedball #1
Spider-Man Jackpot Free Comic Book Day Spider-Man: Swing Shift (May 2007)
Spider-Man Ms. Lion (Dog) Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends #1
Spider Girl Scarlet Spider 3 (Felicity Hardy) Spider-Girl # 46
Taskmaster, Agent X Sandi Brandenberg Taskmaster Mini-Series (2002)
Thing, Captain America Demolition Man aka D-Man Captain America #328 (April 1987)
Wolverine Jubilee Uncanny X-Men #244 (May, 1989)
Young Allies Whitewash Jones Young Allies Comics 1941

The first sidekick on the list is Edwin Jarvis who is a butler at Avengers Mansion that in turn is owned and operated by Tony Stark.  Tony Stark is of course Iron Man.  Jarvis is an obvious clone of Alfred, Batman’s butler, but is much more one dimensional and provides comic relief rather than insight into the super heroes he deals with unlike Alfred.  Alfred was a medic during a time of war and may be old but is obviously tough and handles sensitive Batman impersonation missions.  Alfred would beat the crap out of Jarvis in any altercation.

Bucky is probably the most famous sidekick in the Marvel universe.  Bucky is Captain America’s sidekick from the golden age that was killed in the golden age.  In 2010, Bucky was resurrected after more than forty years just to make sure whatever faith readers had in comic book continuity was crushed once and for all so that suspension of disbelief via continuity would be rendered impossible once and for all.  Comic sales are down way down.  The recession and competition with other media are to blame but decisions like the Bucky resurrection don’t help.  Anyway, Captain America is put into suspended animation minutes after Bucky is “blown up” and the guilt Captain America feels upon reawakening in the silver age is a major part of the Captain America story line.  Captain America over the last forty years continually demonstrated how the trauma for the death of Bucky affected him mostly in the form of nightmares.  Batman has never shown this level of trauma about the deaths of his Robins.

In the first silver age appearance of Captain America (Avengers vol. 1, #1) Captain America runs into a teenager he mistakes for Bucky, Rick Jones.  Rick Jones is the side kick of the Hulk but this doesn’t stop him from later becoming Bucky II.  The Hulk is not too pleased with this and this leads to altercations between Captain America and the Hulk.  The Hulk has a point.  Bruce Banner was exposed to gamma ray radiation while saving Rick Jones and became the monster called the Hulk because of Rick Jones.  Yeah, Rick Jones owes his life to the Hulk’s alter ego but heck Captain America has wavy blonde hair and also is not a monster, literally, so Rick Jones decides to become Bucky II.  Rick Jones is not a very loyal sidekick and becomes Captain Marvel’s sidekick later on.  I guess Captain Marvel’s wavy silver hair beat Captain America’s wavy blonde hair.  Rick Jones is currently a Hulk type called A-Bomb and is really digging not being a sidekick anymore despite having Hulk monster type problems.  Captain America has had other sidekicks beside Bucky I and II including Jack Flag and Jackdraw.  Heroes in both the DC and Marvel universe seem to either have slews of sidekicks or no sidekicks. Are sidekicks addictive?  For the records there have been several Captain Americas with their Bucky sidekicks but I am only dealing with the Steve Rogers Captain America.

Foggy Nelson is a sidekick of Daredevil.  Foggy Nelson is the law partner of Matt Murdock the alter ego of Daredevil.  Foggy provided a great deal of comic belief in the beginning but has matured into a more competent brilliant lawyer that is an asset to Matt Murdock.  Foggy has an incredible case law memory and might even superior to Matt Murdock as a lawyer but does not have the confidence of Matt and is therefore generally not the lead lawyer.  Without Foggy, the law practice of Matt Murdock would have gone down the toilet during his many, Daredevil caused, MIA stints.  Foggy Nelson has a paunch and food related jokes are his comic relief contribution.

Deadpool is a hilarious anti-hero that has had several equally hilarious sidekicks including Weasel, Blind Al and Bob, Agent of Hydra.  My favorite is Bob, Agent of Hydra.  Bob is a parody of henchmen and the number one lesson he learned from Hydra was “hiding behind each other”.  Under pressure, Bob tends to shout “Hail Hydra”.

Doctor Strange has and adult Asian manservant from Tibet named Wong.  Wong may not know much magic but he is a master martial artist.  Wong is fairly subservient compared to other comic book sidekicks.  If you do visit Doctor Strange at his Sanctum Santorum in New York then you have to get past Wong first.  His role as a literal gatekeeper gives him some power that a lesser servant would not have.

Marvel decided to transform the son Reed Richards and Susan Storm from a typical omega level angst driven mutant to a Calvin type character, as in Calvin and Hobbes, character with great success.  Franklin is a side kick to the Fantastic Four that provides a child’s perspective of the Fantastic Four as well as comic relief.  Franklin is also a scientific genius who can modify his dad’s super science gadgets but generally his attempts to improve dad’s gadgets lead to disaster.  Franklin has his own sidekick, H.E.R.B.I.E. the Robot. H.E.R.B.I.E. provides a logical to the point of absurdity perspective to the childish antics of Franklin. H.E.R.B.I.E.  constantly tries to convince Franklin H.E.R.B.I.E. to leave his dad’s lab alone but he is ultimately a subordinate that is then forced to try to clean up the mess created by Franklin.

The Hulk got over the loss of Rick Jones and adopted Jim Wilson.  Jim Wilson was an inner city, Black teenager that very poignantly died of cancer later.  Doctor Strange has an Asian sidekick.  The Hulk has an African-American sidekick.  The Lone Ranger has a Native American sidekick, Tonto.  Does anyone see a pattern here?  My next post will be titled DC vs. Marvel: Multicultural Heroes and I will examine the issue of race in the DC and Marvel universes in detail.

In 2009, Marvel untied all the animal sidekicks into a team called the Pet Avengers.  The Pet Avengers are a rip off of the Legion of Super Animals over at DC.  The Legion of Super Pets was played straight and this was probably a bad decision given the absurdity of the concept.  The Pet Avengers is a silly title with lots of comic relief and one of my favorite current titles.  I am not sure how far you can go with this concept but so far so good.  The members of the Pet Avengers include Redwing a hawk of Falcon, Lockjaw a giant dog that can teleport of the Inhumans,  Zabu a saber tooth tiger of Ka-Zar, Lockheed a small dragon that is a sidekick of Shadowcat, Hairball a cat belonging to Speedball and Ms. Lion a dog belonging to Spider-Man.  The team includes Throg is a frog with lesser versions of Thor’s powers and is not a sidekick of Thor but a hero among his frog tribe in his own right.  The interplay between the animals is what really makes the team work.  Krypto and Streaky were a dog and a cat in the same legion but the fact that dogs and cats don’t get along was never really explored.  Hairball the cat thinks Ms. Lion is an absolute idiot and worse, a dog!  Ms. Lion is the only one on the team that doesn’t have super powers is very much the pampered house dog of Spiderman’s Aunt May.  Ms. Lion claims the right to membership based on her sidekick status alone.

The sidekick status of the members is highlighted in one story of Tails of the Pet Avengers: The Dogs of Summer #1.  In the story titled“Garbage Grief”, Franklin Richards teams up with the Pet Avengers flanked with his own sidekicks H.E.R.B.I.E. and Puppy.  Puppy is a miniature version of Lockjaw complete with his powers of teleportation.   In this story Puppy does manage to teleport the Pet Avengers to deal with a giant humanoid garbage creature that Franklin created more or less accidentally. So this is a sidekick crossover albeit on a much smaller scale than the DC Teen Titans/Young Justice crossover.  Another treat of this particular issue, is that the origin of Puppy is finally dealt with.  Puppy has been a fixture of the Fantastic Four for a while but his origin has not been dealt with until this issue.  Turns out Puppy is the grand pup of Lockjaw and is a present of Franklin’s future self to himself in the past.  In another issue, Tails of the Pet Avengers #1 has an adventure with Redwing the hawk titled “Birds of a Different Feather”.  Redwing the sidekick of Falcon is chased by a pigeon that wants to be a sidekick of Redwing.  Redwing refuses this offer at first but the pigeon pulls a masterful guilt trip to change the mind of Redwing.

I also have to mention the Incredible Hercules that ran from 2008 to 2010.  Hercules is teamed up with Amadeus Cho.  Amadeus Cho is really smart, mutant level smart but Hercules is Hercules!  Normally Amadeus Cho, the brainy, sixteen year old, nerdy teenager, would be the sidekick but an argument can be made that Hercules is the sidekick even if Hercules would smash anyone who suggested as much.  In one issue Hercules is up against his old enemies the Amazons.  Amadeus Cho is captured by the Amazonians.  Amadeus Cho is referred to as the eromenos of Hercules (Incredible Hercules #121, 2008) by the Amazons during his captivity.  Amadeus Cho is not happy with this appellation at all.  This is one of the few issues that points out the obvious, when older men have sixteen year old guys as buddies then there is usually one sort of relationship at work going back to Greek times.  This is an intelligent comic book line that turns the sidekick conventions upside down in an extremely funny manner.

The most famous teenage sidekick of Marvel is Bucky but Bucky is not nearly as important to comic book history as Robin.  Probably getting killed in the golden age for plus forty years didn’t help the career of Bucky at all.  Marvel has other teenage sidekicks like the golden age Toro but all and all Marvel does not have the rooster of well known teenage sidekicks that DC has. DC also wins in terms of teenage sidekick teams.  DC has the aforementioned Teen Titans and Young Justice.  Marvel has teenage teams including the Young Avengers and the Runaways but they are not sidekick teams but teams of teenage heroes.  In many ways Marvel sidestepped the need for teenage sidekicks by making more teenage heroes than DC.  Spiderman began his career in high school.  The X-Men operate out of Xavier’s Academy which trains teenagers.  The New Mutants are teenagers that go to Xavier’s Academy and are not sidekicks.  I think overall Marvel may have been smart to make teenage heroes to fulfill many of the teen identification functions of teenage sidekicks.

DC just has a lot more sidekicks than Marvel period.  DC has 71 sidekicks on their list.  Marvel has 34 sidekicks on their list.  Beyond numbers, DC has a rooster of more famous sidekicks especially in the teenage sidekick category.  DC and Marvel have pursued different strategic approaches to the use of teenage sidekicks in their respective universes.  Marvel, however, is doing great things with animal sidekicks with the Pet Avengers and funny sidekicks like Franklin Richards and H.E.R.B.I.E.  Unfortunately, a two year trend does not negate the fact that DC has historically had the most and best sidekicks.

DC wins the sidekick wars!

Answer to DC Sidekick Quiz

1. Stripsey

2. Proty

3. Doiby Dickles

4. ?

5. Streaky?

6. Brute

7. Qwsp

8. Glob

9. Cyrll

10. Mr. Twaky Tawny

11. Zook

12. Ace the Bat Hound

13. Wing

14. ?

15. ?

16. Ilda

17. Skeets

18. ?

19. ?

20. ?

I do wonder if some of the sidekicks I can’t figure out are actual sidekicks in DC comics.  Number 5 might be Streaky the Super Cat but looks more like a mouse than a cat.

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DC vs. Marvel: Battle of the Super Pets

Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers

Recently, Lockjaw and various super pets of the Marvel universe had a cosmic adventure in Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers.  I am old enough to remember the Legion of Super Pets of the silver age of DC comic books fondly and couldn’t help but notice many similarities.  Because of these memories and the recent Marvel title, I was inspired to write this post. Heroic pets have existed in other media.  In particular, Lassie and Rin Tin Tin existed in film and television but the invention of comic book super heroes led to the very particular super pet.  A super pet is the animal sidekick to a super hero.

Krypto

Probably the most famous super pet is Krypto, Superman’s super dog from Krypton.  Krypto has had many solo adventures in DC comic books and even his own animated series on the Cartoon Network that started in 2005.    The series is regular who’s who of evil super pets.  Some of the evil super pets include the Joker’s hyenas Bud and Lou, Catwoman’s cat Isis, The Penguins trained birds (Artie the Puffin, Griff the Vulture, Waddles the Puffin), and Lex Luthor’s pet iguana Ignatius.

Krypto inspired a whole list of super pets that now appear dated.  I think one explanation of why super pets where so popular in that period but not now is that quite simply the median age of comic book readers during the silver age was much lower than now.  Younger readers like stories about animals and pets more than older readers.  A lot more children’s books are about animals and pets than adult books.  The success of Krypto apparently inspired many more DC super pets.

Beppo

Beppo the Super Monkey from Krypto showed up later.  Krypto had super intelligence for a dog which meant he had human intelligence on Earth.  This in turn means Beppo should be pretty smart, a lot smarter than Krypto, that’s for sure, but we never see any evidence of this difference in intelligence in the Super family stories of the time.  The way these two animals show up at Superboy’s doorstep is hilarious.

Jor El, Superman’s father, presumably a great and compassionate man, rockets his sons pet dog into space to test his rocket to Earth!  Beppo is also rocketed into the void by Jor El.  I think if my dad used my dog for a dangerous experiment that led to the dog’s seeming demise, then I might be a little angry about this.  Superboy never shows any ill feelings about his father’s actions whatsoever.  I can accept Beppo being hurled into the void since he is a monkey and we assume specifically purchased to test the rocket. Krypto is another matter.  Can’t Jor El find some stray dog at the dog pound on Krypton?  Jor El has to use his son’s pet dog? Given that Krypto and Beppo have human intelligence you would also assume they would hate Jor El but this point is never brought up either.

Dogs are supposed to have a sense of smell 1,000 times more powerful than a human being.  Both Superboy and Krypto have super smell but presumably Krypto’s super smell would be a 1,000 times more powerful than that of Superboy.  Superboy fought some pretty sorry villains, mostly petty crooks, compared to Superman, and many times the Super Boy bad guys gave him the slip since he had super powers and they didn’t.  Superboy never ever used his own sense of smell to track a crook.

The use of super smell is pretty much ignored during the silver age by both DC and Marvel.  A current poll at the Comic Vine puts Superman at the top of the super smell list

(http://www.comicvine.com/super-smell/41-19/)

One could argue this is a recent development and Superboy did not have super smell but his dog could still be used to track bad guys.  Later Wolverine, a Marvel superheroe, will use super smell to pursue bad guys and figure out the true identity of a shape shifter.  Mystique, is an enemy of the X-Men, and can change her appearance and thus fool the other X-Men but not Wolverine as demonstrated dramatically in the first X-Men movie.  Superboy never used Krypto to track a bad guy down using scent.  Instead Super Boy relies one hundred percent on flying around and using his super vision and if the crooks are smart enough to hide in a lead shielded place then they get away.

Steaky

Supergirl later acquired a super cat called Streaky.  Streaky was a normal Earth cat that was exposed to X-kryptonite and acquired super powers.  Streaky was not poisoned to death but instead became a super cat.  Super girl also managed to acquire a super horse called Comet.  Comet was not from Krypton but was a centaur turned into a super horse by Circe, the sorceress, and this meant that Comet was invulnerable to Kryptonite. Comet had the power of telepathy unlike the other super pets.  Just as a horse is more powerful physically than a man, Comet was presumably more powerful physically than Superman physically.  This meant Comet was the most powerful character of the Superman family.  Comet as a character is worth analyzing more closely.

Comet

Comet was in love with Supergirl!  Comet even had an affair with Supergirl when he was temporarily a man.  Supergirl also rides Comet into battle.  Interestingly, Superman never rides Comet.  I don’t think most men would like to literally ridden by the object of their affections but maybe I am wrong about this. I suppose, sooner or later, the DC Imprint, Vertigo, will do a reboot of Comet or even all the super pets, with more mature themes explored.

The Superman family inspired the creation of a Batman family.  Superman is a family guy.  Batman is at his best when he is a loner and does not need a Batman family.  Batman associates perhaps but not a family.  Oh well, they had Batman fighting aliens in the same time period. If Superman has a dog then so must Batman.  Batman adopted a dog called Bat-Hound.  Bat-Hound was a normal German Sheppard that wore a mask.  Actually, Bat-Hound was not the stupidest member of the silver age Batman family by any means.  Police use police dogs and Batman is kind of a super policeman and the ability of a dog to act as a hound and follow a scent could be useful to Batman in a pursuit situation.  Batman did use Bat-Hound to track criminals using the dog’s sense of smell! Very recently, Batman used the current incarnation of Krypto, who has normal canine intelligence, to track down a crook with his sense of smell. Further proof, if needed, that Batman is smarter than Superman or at least Superboy.  Bat-Hound and Streaky did appear on Krypto’s animated series.

Other superheroes of that time period also had super pets but they were extremely minor characters.  The Atom had a bird that he rode to battle called Ms. Mina.  Aquaman has a regular aquarium of finny friends but I would put the giant seahorses Aquaman and Aqualad rode at the top of his super pet list.  This lack of Justice League super pets meant that a Justice League of Super Pets was not possible but the creation of a super pet club was possible using another angle.

Proty II

Superboy and Supergirl belonged to something called the Legion of Superheroes in the 30th century.  There were over 20 something legionnaires but only one super pet in the bunch.  Chameleon Boy had a super pet called Proty II.  Proty II was a big yellow blob that could shape shift.  Not much of a super power I supposed but adding him to the Legion of Super Pets meant that club wasn’t exclusively a Superman family club.  Proty also had the power of telepathy like Comet.  Poor Proty, surrounded by super pets with at least a half dozen super powers and all he can do is shape shift.  The situation was probably difficult for Proty to say the least.  Supergirl meets a descendant of Streaky, called Whizzy, in her first adventure with the Legion of Superheroes and the descendant can talk unlike Streaky.  This character is never seen again but logically a talking super cat would be a welcome addition to the Legion of Super Pets.

Adventure Comics 322

I have included the cover of Adventure #322 above.  Comet and Proty are the only two members that have telepathy as a superpower and very appropriately are the only two talking to each other via thought balloons, the comic book version of telepathy.  The plaques at the table conference table give Krypto and Streaky names but Comet and Beppo are simply referred to as super-horse and super-monkey and their names are not used.  I guess only some pets rate an actual name on their plaque.

Lockjaw

Lockjaw is the leader of the Pet Avengers.  Lockjaw can teleport, has super strength, and is a giant.  The Avengers consist of Lockheed, Redwing, Ms. Lion, Zabu, Niels the Cat, and Throg.  The biggest difference between Lockjaws team and the Legion is that Lockjaw’s team has pets that do not have super powers.  The members that have powers are Lockheed, Zabu and Throg.  Zabu is a sabretooth lion.  Lockheed is a miniature dragon about the size of a cat that can fly, has very tough hide and can exhale fire.  Throg is a frog version of Thor and probably has about one tenth the power of Thor or maybe even a lot less.  The other super pets are normal animals.  Niels the Cat aka Hairball, generates a kinetic energy field, like his owner Speedball, and this means he can bounce around and is super slippery.  Cats are pretty slippery anyway so I think catching Niels would not be easy.

Redwing is a hawk that works with the Falcon and at least has super hero experience.  Ms. Lion is a rather silly dog that belongs to Aunt May, the Aunt of Spiderman, and would probably get destroyed in a fight with even a normal street mutt. Ms. Lion has ribbons in her hair!  However, Ms. Lion did sacrifice her life to save Hairball and was only revived later by the power of the infinity gems.  So how would a battle between the Legion of Super Pets and Lockjaw’s Super Pet Avengers turn out?  The two super pet teams have both claimed a particular park in the New York as their territory.  Krypto and Streaky have clearly marked the park as their territory!  The Marvel Avengers try to argue that the park should be open to everyone but Krypto promptly responds human concepts such as sharing territory have nothing to do with animals that live by a different code.

Comet knows what is going to happen next and wants nothing to do with the events that will follow.  Comet has known Krypto for years and years and knows that he is ruthless when it comes to defending his territory.  Comet, as mentioned, is a centaur in animal guise and has had it hanging around a bunch of animals.  Comet is also thousands of years old and is sick of baby sitting the other super pets especially Beppo who he suspects was driven insane by his years alone in space.  Beppo is not the only member of the super pets that might have psychological problems.  Comet is sick of Krypto’s obsession with dinosaur bones that are obviously rock and not bone.  Comet is sick of Streaky getting high on catnip all the time. Comet is sick of being ridden by Supergirl, actually he doesn’t mind that part so much but still. Most of all Comet is sick of how all of them refuse to learn how to use a toilet.  The Legion headquarters stinks to high heaven.  Comet flies off to a far off planet governed by intelligent horse creatures that have achieved space travel and are more advanced technologically than the humans on Earth.  Comet misses Super Girl but when elected king of the planet, due to his many super deeds, gets over it.

The Legion of Super Pets looks at the sorry underpowered Avengers team that is giving them a hard time.  All the other animals on Earth have enough sense to treat them like the top dog, top cat or whatever and decide and example needs to be made once and for all. Streaky goes after Zabu the sabretooth and Zabu puts up a valiant struggle but Streaky is about a million times stronger than Zabu and invulnerable to boot.  Streaky grabs the back of Zabu’s neck with her teeth and rattles him like a rag dog until Zabu’s neck is broken.  Streaky feels a little sorry since Zabu was kind of hot.

Krypto chases Niels all over town and despite superspeed and superflight and super smell has a hard time even touching Niels much less fighting him.  Krypto loses interest in the chase and Niels gets away to fight another day.  Krypto returns to the park and bites Ms. Lions throat and she promptly dies.  Throg zaps Krypto with lightning and the lighting actually hurts due to its magical origin and the vulnerability of Krptonians to magic that may even be higher than that of normal humans.  Krypto decides to not take any chances and uses his ultimate weapon, heat vision.  Krypto zaps Throg with his heat vision.  Even Thor would be in trouble but a frog is especially vulnerable to heat vision.  The amphibian quickly dehydrates and dies. Streaky flies after Redwing, the hawk, and swats him out of the sky with fatal results to Redwing.

Lockheed flies towards Streaky and breathes fire all over Streaky.  Streaky is grateful since the flames remove a lot of dirt she had accumulated during the battle.  Superman uses a super flamethrower at his Fortress of Solitude to clean his uniform and Streaky always thought this was a pretty good idea.  Streaky has never told Krypto that she finds his body smell to be too much and wishes he would learn to clean himself with his tongue like she does.  Streaky slashes Lockheed throat with her claws and Lockheed bleeds to death.

Proty turns into a bush and avoids the battle.  The Avengers don’t have a chance!  Krypto tells the rest of his team to hold off on attacking, the leader, Lockjaw since he wants to save that pooch for last.  Krypto is going to teach Lockjaw who is top dog once and for all. The Legion surrounds Lockjaw.  Lockjaw looks at the mutilated bodies of his friends and vows revenge.  Lockjaw teleports the Legion and himself to a Kryptonian style planet and all the super pets lose their powers except Proty.  “If only Comet hadn’t abandoned them”, thinks Krypto just before he loses his super intelligence and the ability to formulate full sentences.

Lockjaw has super canine strength in his jaw and at one time locked down on the Thing’s arm and the Thing could not get away.  I would estimate Lockjaw is eight feet from nose to tail and probably weighs in excess of six hundred pounds.  Basically Lockjaw is a giant bulldog.  Lockjaw chomps all the Kryptonian super pets to death.  Proty turns into a local shrub in order to hide from the wrath of Lockjaw but Lockjaw as a dog easily sniffs him out and chomps his head off or rather the upper part of his body since Proty doesn’t really have a head.  Lockjaw promptly spits Proty out of his mouth since Antareans taste like plastic mixed with detergent.  Lockjaw doesn’t mind eating the odd robot now and then but Proty just doesn’t taste good.

The Marvel team wins but a terrible cost!

After I wrote this post Marvel published The Marvel Pets Handbook.  The writers of this handbook graciously admit that their “Distinguished Competitor” (DC) had a head start in the super pet area but that Marvel is taking the lead in this category and I have to agree.  The handbook includes entries for

Ant-Man’s Ants, Ape, Aragorn, Beasts of Berlin, Bill & Don, Blaze the Wonder Collie, Brightwind, Cerberus, Collector’s Creatures, Cosmo, Cr’ree, Currs, Deuce, Devil Dinosaur, Diablo, Droog, Ebony, Freki & Geri, Frogs of Central Park, Garm, Giganto, Hell Storm’s Demon-Steeds, Hellcow, Hellhorse, Ina & Briri, Kerberos, Kraven the Hunter’s Menagerie, Krill, Lobo, Lockheed, Lockjaw, Man-oo, Max, Mole Man’s Monsters, Monkey Joe, Munin & Hugin, Niels, Nimo, Old Lace, Outcasts, Princess Python’s Pythons, Preyy, Puppy, Red Ghosts’ Apes, Redwin, Saint, Sassafras, Sleipnir, Strider, Tippy-Toe, Toothgnasher & Toothgrinder, Valinor, Valykrior Steeds, Vixen, Watchdog, Zabu, and Zar.  There is even an appendix of Cowboy Horses of the West and another appendix of miscellaneous pets.  This handbook should really be titled “Marvel Animal Handbook” since the entries go way beyond just super-pets and mention just about every animal that has ever appeared in the Marvel universe and had a name and even some unamed animals.

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Transportation

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