Tag Archives: Vigilante

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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The Myth of Superman Revisited

The Myth of Superman

When I was ten years old I lived in Caracas, Venezuela. My parents were both professors and liked to frequent bookstores in Caracas. I saw a cover that interested me because Superman was on the cover. The Spanish title of the books was Apocalípticos e integrados ante la cultura de masas by Umberto Eco. My parents bought me the book and I struggled with the Spanish but mostly looked at the pictures. Years later I would return to the subject matter of the book again!

Umberto Eco (Eco, 1972) analyzed the Superman myth in a very important article that makes several assertions about the Superman mythos and comic books in general.  I assert that this analysis is based on how the Superman story used to be.  Since then, the Superman story has undergone extreme changes that contradict Eco’s analysis.  This paper is an attempt to provide an updated analysis of the Superman mythos.  I agree with Eco that the Superman myth is of great importance.   The Superman mythos is perhaps the most important mythos in modern American culture.  Perhaps far more people can tell you the story of Superman than the story of Hercules.  Eco’s paper in turn is the most important analysis of this mythos and thus deserving an update.  This paper will also attempt to explain why the Superman mythos has undergone so many extreme changes since the time Eco analyzed the mythos.  The changes in the Superman myth tell us a great deal about how society has changed.

Eco asserts that Superman develops in an oneric climate were the reader does not know what has happened before.  Superman does not consume himself.  This cryptic phrase means that Superman unlike a character in a novel does not change from story to story and does not develop as a character.  Superman shares a timelessness with other mythic characters such as Hercules.  There is an illusion of “continuous present”.

This was true of comic books from their inception in the 1940’s through the 1970’s but market forces forced a change in this plot system.  The price of paper went up dramatically and so did the price of comic books.  Comic books became too expensive for young readers that outgrew the product.  According to a survey by DC Comics in 1995, the average age of comic book readers was 25 years of age.  Older readers do not like stories set in an oneiric setting but instead obsess over what is referred to in the comic book industry as continuity.  Superman is also a product of a particular comic book company, namely the afore mentioned DC Comics.

In the sixties Stan Lee revamped a comic book company called Marvel Comics that produced such titles as the Amazing Spiderman and the Fantastic Four.  One of his practices was to insert the comic book equivalent of footnotes!  The reader was given information in the form of a small box about prior comic books.  For example if Thor and the Hulk fought again.  Thor might mention their last battle and the box would have comic book issue information in a small box.  This practice soon became cumbersome and is rarely used today but the readers came to expect continuity in their comic books.  DC did ignore the Marvel continuity system for many years but eventually tried to deal with continuity issues in its own way.

One DC plot device was the creation of parallel Earths.  The Superman of the 1940’s had a very different history than the Superman of the sixties. DC explained these differences in continuity by telling readers that the Superman of the 1940’s came from Earth 2.  The Superman of the sixties was from Earth 1.  The two Superman’s could and did meet on occasion.    Readers and writers alike became more and more self-conscious of the issue of continuity and this has been a widely discussed topic in the letter’s column of comic book issues and comic book conventions. There are whole websites that feature elaborate explanations of how this issue or that issue might have occurred in Earth1 or 2 or some other Earth. The number of Earths became cumbersome for DC and there was an attempt to meld all the Earth’s in the Crisis of the Infinite Earths (1985) story arc that involved all of the DC titles.  An explanation of this story arc is beyond the purview of this paper but the point is that comic books are anything but oneiric since the time Eco wrote his critique.

Eco makes several claims about the civic consciousness and political consciousness of Superman.  Superman could take over the government rather than using his cosmic level powers to combat petty street crime.  Superman could effect the causes of crime i.e. social causes but chooses not to.  This is a fair characterization of Superman from his inception all the way through the 1970’s.  The actions of Superman are absurd.  Superman literally saves cats while watching the world burn.  The shift in the average age of comic book readers led to readers that recognized this absurdity and Superman had to be changed to fit the needs of these readers.  Superman was depowered.

John Byrne was given the task in 1986 to write a miniseries, The Man of Steel, that would reboot the Superman mythos.  Can a rebooted mythos be a mythos?  The new Superman that was much less powerful than the Superman of the sixties which in comic book jargon is referred to as the Silver Age Superman.  John Byrne destroyed one of the essential features of the Superman mythos.  Superman does not kill!  Superman will go to absurd lengths to even avoid killing animals!  Byrne had Superman kill (Superman, vol. 2, #22, 1988)!

Superman #22

Superman is on an alternate Earth that is the home of the Silver Age Superboy.  The Byrne version of Superman did not develop powers until much later and did not go through a Superboy stage.  The modern Superman faces Silver Age Kryptonians super villains from the Phantom Zone.   The Kryptonians  are far, far more powerful than him and have already destroyed the Earth of the Silver Age Superboy.  The modern Superman does not have the power to contain the Silver Age Kryptonians and must take radical action to prevent his own Earth from ever being destroyed.  Superman accepts the utililatarian logic of war that the lives of billions outweigh the lives of three villains.  Furthermore, the villains have killed billions already and deserve the death penalty.

The modern Superman is immune to the Kryptonite of this Earth and uses the Kryptonite of this Earth to kill the three evil Kryptonians.  One of the Kryptonians is a woman!  Superman kills a woman!  Does this mean Superman is not myth?  I would argue that the Superman mythos is so powerful that if you asked a dozen people if Superman kills that most of them would say “no” and that the mythos is more powerful than the comic book.  While this reboot was dramatic, Superman had undergone changes in the past and Eco was probably unaware he was largely dealing with the Silver Age Superman rather than the Golden Age Superman.

The Superman of the 1940s and part of the 1950s was referred to as the Superman of the Golden Age.  The Golden Age superman could leap over a building.  The Silver Age Superman could leap into a space.  The Golden Age superman could lift a battle ship.  The Silver Age Superman could move planets.  The Golden Age Superman was less powerful and also much more likely to take the law into his own hands.  The Golden Age Superman was not a boy scout and even killed.  In Action #2, 1938, Superman does kill a villain.  Eco is obviously unaware of this part of the Superman story.  The Golden Age Superman was actually a fugitive because of his vigilante activities until 1942.  Eco is therefore not discussing Superman but the Silver Age Superman.   The Golden Age Superman slowly became the almost all powerful boy scout of the Silver Age.  The Silver Age Superman was too powerful and too much of a boy scout for the eighties.  The Modern Age Superman is much less powerful than the Silver Age Superman and much more critical of his heroics.

The absurdity of the still very powerful Modern Age Superman following the orders of a US President almost to the letter rather than taking a more critical political role was explored in the Dark Knight Returns (1986). The Dark Knight Returns is a seminal miniseries about Batman.  In this series Batman starts to question whether or not super heroes should use their powers more directly to shape the social and political landscape.  The arguments between Superman and Batman become the argument between the absurdist Superhero Eco describes and a post-modern self-conscious hero in the form of Batman.  The Dark Knight Returns was a huge hit and led to a whole series of comic books that explored the theme of a modern versus post-modern hero.  Batman argues that in some cases super heroes have a duty to disobey governmental authority but what are the limits of such disobedience?  In the same year another title at Marvel explored this issue more directly.

In 1986 the 12 issue miniseries called the Squadron Supreme was published by Marvel and featured a thinly disguised Justice League of America.  Hyperion is the Superman of this group and he decides the Squadron Supreme needs to take over the world!  The Batman doppelganger is Nighthawk and he opposes this move by his former teammates.  Nighthawk is the President of the US who was under the mind control of an alien and created the horrible conditions of that Earth due to that mind control.  This is reversal of the roles of Batman and Superman in the Dark Knight Returns.  Still the Squadron Supreme will not kill.  When Nighthawk dies in a battle with the Squadron Supreme, Hyperion decides the Squadron Supreme has gone too far and Nighthawk wins a pyrrhic battle.

By the year 1999 the world is ready for a super hero team that goes further than the Squadron Supreme.   The Authority has a team of super heroes flat out taking over the US government.  Again, if super heroes stage a coup are they still heroes?  The Authority is not presented as a rogue super hero team but rather as a super hero team that has decided to rebel against its absurdist role and are sane in an insane world.  The Authority does kick the Chinese out of Tibet.  The Authority does overthrow dictators violently.  Most of all, the Authority does terminate super villains, often brutally, rather than put them in jails that can’t possibly hold them.  The Authority occupies the Wildstorm universe that is part of the DC imprint but not part of the DC universe and is very much a “mature” title.

The absurdity of Superman’s boy scout persona was dealt with directly in DC universe in the Kingdom Come (1996) story line.  Magog kills the Joker after the Joker poisons all the workers in the Daily Planet including Lois Lane the great love of Superman.  Superman arrests Magog.  Magog is later acquitted of the death of the Joker by a court of law.  Presumably, the jury realizes the absurdity of trying to imprison someone like the Joker who will not stay imprisoned.  The legal system commits a blatantly illegal act.  In this story line, Superman then retires when faced with this fact.  This is assumed to happen in a parallel Earth rather than “real” Earth that the “real” Superman occupies

Overall, the extent to which a super hero crosses or does not cross two lines that define a super hero becomes a major theme of comic books in the new millennium.  One line is obedience to authority.  Super heroes obey the law.  Super villains do not obey the law.  This consensus was made official policy with the introduction of the comic code authority (CCA) that was adopted in 1954.  The CCA prohibited the presentation of “policemen, judges, government officials, and respected institutions … in such a way as to create disrespect for established authority.”  This code was adopted due to the fact that the readership largely consisted of youngsters.  The first defining characteristic of super heroes has been explored in the new millennium on a large scale.

The one enemy Superman cannot defeat!

Marvel had a multi series story line called the Civil War (2006-2007) that looks at how super heroes and communities of super heroes react to a superhuman registration act.  I found the story line a bit silly since the government does not attempt to ban super humans and super heroics but instead register super humans and have them work for the government the same way a policeman or soldier would.  Iron Man is the main proponent of this act and proposes this legislation to stop the banning of super heroes altogether.  The compromise strikes me as very reasonable and very American and I absolutely did not buy into the plot line extension that has Captain America leading the rebel super heroes who fight the act.  Worse, you have Nick Fury the ex-director of SHIELD, the Marvel equivalent of the CIA and the FBI put together, aiding the rebels instead of the government.  What hero was on what side of the Civil War plot line seemed fairly arbitrary.  The fact that the numbers were almost equal was also ridiculous.  More people will follow a law than not follow a law all other things being equal.

Plus, wouldn’t most super heroes prefer to get paid for their work rather than risking their lives for free?  The financial woes of Marvel super heroes is one of the themes that Marvel pursued early on rather than DC.  When the King Pin discovers Daredevil’s real identity in the Born Again plot line, he destroys his civilian identity professionally and therefore economically!  In the very first issue of Amazing Spider-Man, Spider-Man attempts to join the Fantastic Four for a pay check since he is teenager making minimum wage when he can even get a job and promptly leaves the Baxter Building, home of the Fantastic Four, when he finds out there really isn’t a salary.  One of the heroes that joins the government initiative does mention looking forward to getting health insurance for a change!  Under the super human registration act, the super heroes even get to keep their secret identities, they just have to reveal them to the government.  We are supposed to believe about fifty percent of all super heroes will rebel against the government and turn down a paycheck.

The second line a super hero cannot cross is not killing.  Super heroes do not kill!  This is what makes them heroes and not soldiers.  The fact that super heroes do not kill has a history.  The Golden Age Superman and Batman did kill!  As mentioned, Superman beat a robber to death in one of the earliest issues.  Batman killed a villain in his very first appearance.  However, a consensus was reached at DC that super heroes did not kill and more especially Superman did not kill.   A similar consensus was reached at Marvel Comics.  One and only one major super hero in the Marvel Universe, the Punisher, will cross the second line and kill super villains.

Captain America beats the crap out of the Punisher when he joins the Civil War rebellion because the Punisher kills some super villains that want to also join the rebellion and arrive with a white flag.  Turns out the government is employing pardoned super villains to bring down the rebel super heroes so it is a fight fire with fire situation.  For Captain America you can cross the first line and disobey the government but cannot cross the second line and still be a hero.  Cap is a rebel but only to a point.  So lets get this straight Cap, violate Federal law ok, turn down pay check ok but kill scum not ok?  I think it would have been more interesting to see a third rebel group led by the Punisher.  Hey we are outlaws anyway, why not go all the way and do it right and kill the scum who the jails can’t hold anyway.

A really radical rebel hard core minority of super heroes armed to the teeth and trained by the Punisher versus a superhero establishment majority would have been an interesting story line.  Maybe it can be a What If graphic novel in the future.  What if the Punisher had led the rebels during the Civil War instead of Captain America?  A much more interesting exploration of crossing the second line, killing super villains, happened a year earlier in the Batman #635 and #636 over at DC.

In the Under the Hood (2005) story line, Batman faces an ex-Robin, Jason Todd returned from the dead in the form of the Red Hood who argues that Batman is a paper tiger since his rule about not killing is literally a fatal error.  The rogues gallery of Batman is one of the scariest around and I do have a hard time believing that his opponents care about a busted nose or going to jail at all.  If Batman is not a deterrent then how effective is Batman?  Any one over the age of ten realizes that ninety percent of law enforcement is about deterrence, via the threat of punishment, before the crime rather than punishment after the crime.  This is precisely the argument that the Red Hood makes.  Psychopath maniacs like Two-Face and the Joker think Batman’s code of honor is a joke pun intended.

When the Red Hood was Robin, the Joker killed him and the Red Mask was resurrected via cosmic means.  The Red Hood has “really” died in the Death in the Family (1988) story line.  Readers voted to have him killed!  The Red Hood hates the Joker and the demise of the Joker is one of the big goals of the Red Hood.  The Joker was the original Red Hood in the Killing Joke, often considered the best Joker story ever, by Alan Moore.  The Killing Joke may or may not be part of the current continuity, so there is a bit of inside Joke with Jason adopting this persona.  Incredibly, Batman tries to stop the Red Hood from killing the Joker.  The Joker is a mass murderer with hundreds of deaths under his belt largely due to mass poisoning who escapes from Arkham Asylum with ease.  He has shot the original Bat Girl for a lark and made her a permanent cripple.  The Joker has not just killed innocents but permanently injured one member of the Batman super hero family and killed another.  Sorry I am with the Red Hood on this one.  Kill the Joker!

The Red Hood is basically DC’s version of the Punisher.  DC tried a character rip-off of the Punisher called the Vigilante but he was pathetic.   I do think the Red Hood is a much more interesting character than the Punisher.  The Red Hood uses ironic dialogue while attacking Batman and blowing up bad guys that is much more interesting than the Punisher’s pseudo noire cinema dialogue.  The Red Hood, like the Punisher uses firearms but also uses exotic melee weapons that are not the Punisher’s style.  I find the armory of the Red Hood more interesting than the armory of the Punisher.  Go Red Hood!  I do a DC versus Marvel series on this blog and sooner or later will have to pit the number one vigilante of  the DC Universe, Red Hood, against the number one vigilante of the Marvel universe, the Punisher.  Comments ahead of time are welcome but back to the main topic.

Eco makes two errors of fact in his paper.  Eco asserts that comic books are published weekly.  American comic books are published monthly and bimonthly.  Certainly this is the case with Superman and all the other comic book titles he mentions in his paper.  Generally, US comic books are reprinted weekly in Europe and this leads to problems since the entire series is quickly reprinted.  Eco mentions a comic book named Devil.  There is no such American comic book and the author suspects that perhaps Eco is referring to Daredevil.  Daredevil in Italian is titled Diablo or Devil but this is not the name of the title in English.  These are minor factual errors and do not detract from the general validity of his thesis.

Finally, is the story of Superman actually a myth?  A myth is timeless and the fact that the Superman story has been changed to make the story more current and marketable suggests the Superman story is an intellectual property driven by market forces and is not timeless unlike a myth.  On the other hand, many persons familiar with the Superman story may only be aware of an archetype, Silver Age, version of the Superman story that may be timeless because it affects some core element, Jungian(?), of the reader’s psyche unlike revisions of Superman.  The Superman Eco describes may be in fact the Superman most of the world still knows and identifies with.  I would assert that not all comic book heroes are mythic especially in the present but if there is one comic book hero that is mythic then that hero is Superman.


Eco, Umberto. “The Myth of Superman.” Diacritics. Vol. 2, No. 1. (Spring, 1972), 14-22

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DC vs. Marvel Western Heroes


This is the first in a series of posts that compare DC versus Marvel non-superheroes.  The second post compared war heroes (http://foxhugh.com/2009/03/21/dc-vs-marvel-war-heroes/).  The third post compared working women (http://foxhugh.com/2009/04/11/dc-vs-marvel-working-women/) What if DC cowboys and Native American heroes took on the Marvel cowboys and Native American heroes?  First, who are they?  The following is a list of major DC Western heroes: Arak, Ballon Buster, Bat Lash, Big Anvil, Black Bison, Brass Buttons, Captain Fear, Cinnamon, Dan Hunter, Don Caballero, El Castigo, El Diablo, El Papagayo, Firehair, Frenchie, Hawk, Son of Tomahawk, Healer Randolph, Johnny Cloud, Jonah Hex, Kaintuck Jones, Long Rifle, Lord Shilling, Madame 44, Miss Liberty, Nighthawk, Pow-wow Smith, Roving Ranger, Scalphunter, Serifan, Silver Deer, Stovepipe, Strong Bow, Super-Chief, Terra-Man, Tomahawk, Trigger Twins, Vigilante, Whip, Wildcat, Wyoming Kid. 


The Marvel list is a lot shorter and includes American Eagle, Annie Oakley, Apache Kid, Arizona Kid, Ghost Rider, Gunhawk, Kid Colt, Matt Slade, Phantom Rider (Modern West), Outlaw Kid, Rawhide Kid, Red Warrior, Red Wolf, Ringo Kid, Shooting Star, Tex Morgan, Tex Taylor, Texas Kid, Texas Twister, Two-Gun Kid, Western Kid, and Wyatt Earp.  When the two lists are put side by side we notice a couple of interesting differences between these two universes.


DC has some superhero type cowboys and Native Americans.  Super-Chief is basically a superman type Native American.  Terra-Man fights Superman.  Some Marvel Western heroes that are more superheroes than Western heroes and include American Eagle, Texas Twister, Red Wolf and Shooting Star.  The “Western superheroes” would absolutely destory the more traditional Western heroes with their superpowers so they are going to be kept off the contest roll call.


Marvel also has a couple of real life Western heroes in their universe unlike DC, mainly Annie Oakley and Wyatt Earp.  What both companies share is a list of very obscure characters.  Marvel Westerns are described as having a big three that include the Rawhide Kid, Two-Gun Kid and Kid Colt.  The three kids were united in the title Mighty Marvel Western that ran from 1968-76 and perhaps this was an attempt at some sort of genre synergy.


So a logical contest would be the big three of Marvel versus the big three of DC.  Number one on the DC list has to be Jonah Hex due to critical acclaim, popularity and longevity. 

Jonah Hex

Jonah Hex first appeared in the seventies, not the fifties and sixties like most comic book Westerns, and has managed to survive to the present.  This is largely because Jonah Hex is an anti-hero and has had more interesting plot lines and superior artists and writers than other comic book heroes.  I have written about Jonah Hex in another post (http://foxhugh.com/2008/05/19/the-lone-ranger-vs-other-fictional-gun-slingers/).


Number two in the DC pantheon would be Tomahawk due to longevity.  I was born in 1957 and first started reading comic books in 1964 as detailed in my Comic Book Autobiography (http://foxhugh.com/about/comic-book-autobiography/).  I remember Tomahawk fondly.  As a kid I always saw Tomahawk as a Davey Crockett/Daniel Boone copy because he wore a coon skin hat.  The series was set interestingly in the revolutionary war rather than the Wild West but when I was young I noticed the coon skin hat more than historical details.  I actually owned an imitation Davey Crokett coon skin cap so of course I would read a series with someone with such a hat on the cover!  Daniel Boone, the Disney TV series, was also very popular when I became aware of Tomahawk.  I was surprised to find out while researching this post that the Tomahawk series lasted from 1950 to 1972 for a total of 140 issues!  This may be some sort of record for a Western comic book.  This means Tomahawk came before the Disney movies and TV series, to my surprise.  Tomahawk even appeared the 2008 series The War that Time Forgot

Bat Lash


Number three on the DC list is Bat Lash due to critical acclaim but not longevity.  Bat Lash won the Alley Awards in 1968 and 1969 for best Best Western Titles. Bat Lash only lasted eight issues.  I also picked Bat Lash because he actually appeared on an episode of Justice League Unlimited alongside Johan Hex in “The Once and Future Thing”.  This means Bat Lash has not totally joined the ranks of Westerns in comic book limbo.   Bat Lash was inspired in part by spaghetti Westerns of the time and I love spaghetti Westerns and this is my list!  Last but not least I have some vague memories of the issues I read as a kid and the same cannot be said of other Western fare I read when I was young.  Bat Lash is the weak link of my DC selection and I welcome comments.


The DC heroes face off against the kids of Marvel but Jonah Hex is missing.  The Marvel kids outnumber Bat Lash and Tomahawk, brought to the Wild West via a cave that allows time traveling or whatever, and manage to send them running for cover and they are pinned down.  Suddenly a stick of dynamite is tossed from a second story window and lands right in the middle of the Marvel kids and blows them into little pieces.  Jonah Hex is no fool.  He does not fight great gunfighters like the Marvel kids head on.  Bat Lash and Tomahawk are sickened by this dishonorable victory and ride away vowing to never associate with Jonah Hex again!  Jonah Hex could care less.

Another interesting contest would be between two supernatural Western heroes.  DC has El Diablo.  There is more than one reincarnation of Diablo but the Wild West version is host to a minor demon. El Diablo showed up alongside Bat Lash and Jonah Hex in the afore mentioned  Justice League Unlimited episode “The Once and Future Thing”. El Diablo could actually be the third most significant DC Western hero rather than Bat Lash.  The host of the demon is in a coma and the body only moves around when the demon roams the West seeking vengance. 

Phantom Rider

Marvel’s supernatural Western hero is the Ghost Rider, not the one with the bike, but the one with a horse.  The horsey Ghost Rider was retroactively renamed the Phantom Rider by Marvel but sorry the name on the comic book cover is the correct name no matter what Marvel decides later on.  The Ghost Rider wore a phosphorescent costume and was not a ghost at all.  Even minor demons can defeat fake ghosts so that match goes to El Diablo.  Now try to keep this straight, the story plot device of El Diablo is very similar to the Ghost Rider that rides a bike.  The modern Ghost Rider is also possesed by a demon.  The bike Ghost Rider is about a thousand times more famous and relevant than the horsy one but the horsey one does make an appearance of sorts in the Ghost Rider movie as the caretaker (Sam Elliot) who was a Western version of the Ghost Rider.

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 Other DC vs. Marvel Posts

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War Heroes


Western Heroes

Women in Refrigerators

Working Women

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