Movies & TV / Columns

The Absolute Worst Comic Book Sidekicks 

July 30, 2020 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Snapper Carr

Welcome back! I’m Steve Gustafson and if you enjoy discussing anything comic book related, you’ve come to the right place. Each week we cover something in the industry and I always enjoy your input in the comment section below.

Previously on…

Last week we discussed our Favorite Comic Book Covers. Here’s what some of you had to say:

СЯ: “My top 5, steeped in personal nostalgia:

1) Giant-Size X-Men #1 – the introduction of the best X-Men team and debut of my all-time favourite superhero Nightcrawler. I never held a copy in my hands til i was in my 30’s, but i first saw it as part of the “Most Valuable Comics” subset of 1990 Marvel trading cards.

2) Adventures of Superman #75 – that iconic “flag at half mast” image of Superman’s tattered cape was a striking statement and really captured the tone of the death of the world’s greatest hero.

3) Spawn #1 – this one changed the game for me, as it was the first ever non-Marvel or DC book i ever bought. From a grocery store, no less. Man, i miss the 90’s, when you could find comics almost anywhere.

4) Marvels #4 – the first time i ever saw Alex Ross’ art. Immediately caught my eye and i’ve been addicted to his style ever since.

5) Batman: Death in the Family (TPB) – backstory: my dad’s legit first and middle names are Bruce Wayne, so it stands to reason he was obsessed with Batman and passed it on to me. I wanted to be Robin when i was a kid. Seeing Batman holding the bloody corpse of Jason Todd messed me up in a way i can’t really describe. Even today, it’s still powerful.

Dexter Plisskin: “I truly appreciate that you went with your personal favorite covers as opposed to the same-old/same-old that appear on EVERY stinkin’ “best covers” list!My top five favorites in chronological order:
1. DC Comics Presents #4 by Jose Luis Garcia Lopez. Superman and the Metal Men fighting Chemo. The weirdest super-heroes and super-villain I’d seen at that young age.
2. Avengers #181 by George Perez based on John Byrne’s interior art. Who the heck was this nerdy guy DARING to tell all these powerful Avengers who could and who couldn’t be a member? The first all non-action issue of a super-hero comic I ever bought.
3. Web of Spider-Man #1 by Charles Vess. I was sad to see Marvel Team-Up go, but, the painted cover hooked me.
4. Justice League International #16 by Kevin Maguire. His name is Wayne… BRUCE Wayne.
5. Avengers/JLA #4 by George Perez. Angry and battered, Superman makes a last stand… WITH CAPTAIN AMERICA’S SHIELD AND THOR’S HAMMER!!!”

rf: “crisis on infinite earths 7-iconic and much parodied cover,captain america annual 8,
captain america 230,
Incredible hulk 181,
x-men 100,
Amazing Spider Man 112,
Gen 13 variant cover Gen-Et,
and pretty much any Alex Ross cover”

Ken Wood: “Spawn number one definitely comes to mind for me. It’s the first comic I ever bought but it’s also one of the coolest looking comics covers ever.Jim Lee’s fold out X-Men number one cover is also extremely awesome.
Gen 13 number one by J Scott Campbell is a great one for me, as Gen 13 remains one of my favorite comics to this day and that cover is just great.
Hellshock part two, number one because Jae Lee is probably my favorite comic book artist. Anything by him is just amazing.
Green Lantern number 49, when Hal Jordan is wearing a lantern on every finger. I loved that run growing up and I always loved that cover. Brilliant.
Ghost Rider and Blaze, Spirits of Venom number six. Venom is probably the greatest anti-hero ever and this is possibly his coolest cover ever.”

El Atomico: “Marvel’s Secret Wars #8—Black Spidey, with battle raging on in the backgroundCaptain America #332–Captain America No More! Cap with his head and shoulders down was such a sobering image, and I loved the way the red stripes of the flag bled onto the floor
Also whenever Marvel would do one of those ‘Superhero Team A’ vs ‘Superhero Team B’ miniseries, it seemed like there was always at least one cover, usually the first, that was a shot at both team’s rosters about to collide in battle, I always liked those.”

D2Kvirus: “The Walking Dead 100 – the variant cover which was a wraparound showing Rick standing alone on top of a pile of corpses, not just random corpses but every character who had died in the comic until that point, with Morgan, Dale, Lori, Shane, The Governor, Amy and Judith all impossible to miss
The Wicked and The Divine 11 – up to that point the covers were headshots of individual Pantheon members, and so was issue 11…but it was a headshot of Lucifer, whose head had been exploded at the end of issue ten, and let’s just say the image was canonical

Tayo Jones: “I love the cover for The Flash 174. The rogues on the Flash title,standing over the body of Body is a great image.”
Thank you to everyone who commented!

This week we discuss our…

Worst Comic Book Sidekicks
If you haven’t seen it, I just ranked every single villain from the 60s Batman tv show. In doing so I had plenty of time to see how the dynamic worked between Batman and his trusty sidekick, Robin. 
Look, we love our superheroes. From powers to motivations, we follow the adventures of Superman, Spider-Man, Batman, Captain America, and the like because of the stories, artwork, and inspiration. Superheroes take the spotlight each month but sometimes they don’t do it alone.

Enter the sidekick. A crucial element for some. 

The sidekick goes back to the beginning of the comic book industry. At the start, they were used for comic relief and then over time they became more helpful, sometimes complicating the superheroes life as well. We all are well versed on Robin, Bucky, and Jimmy Olsen but what about the ones who didn’t quite cut the mustard?

Let’s start with the ones who will cause the most controversy. You know the ones I’m talking about. The ones that were blatant racial stereotypes that everyone laughed at and over the years started to cringe when discussed. Guys like Wing, Whitewash Jones, Chop-Chop, Ebony White, and Green Lantern’s Thomas Kalmaku, otherwise known as…Pieface. They played to every cliche possible and while you can say they were a product of their time, the less said about them, the better. They are acknowledged so let’s move on. Quickly. 

Spider-Man isn’t known for having a sidekick and that’s for good reason. Until 2012 and we were introduced to Alpha. Andy Maguire has the “regular kid given superpowers by lab accident” origin but completely flopped when it came to fan reaction. Not a good idea at all and he was quickly discarded, waiting for some brave writer to dust him off in the future.
Note to future writers: Leave Alpha where he is. 
Let’s turn it back to Robin. Many have worn the Robin uniform. Some longer than others and some did a better job than others. Honestly, playing sidekick to Batman is a tough job and one that requires skill, toughness, and patience. Jason Todd learned all this the hard way. Todd was always the black sheep when it came to Robins and not just on the page. Fans didn’t warm to him and got the opportunity to show it. For 1988’s Batman: A Death in the Family storyline, DC Comics held a telephone poll to determine whether or not Jason Todd would die at the hands of the Joker. How did it end up for him? He was killed off by a margin of 72 votes (5,343 for, 5,271 against). Lucky for Jason, he was brought back from the dead and handled pretty well but that doesn’t take the stink of his first run.

Plastic Man might not be on the A-list but that doesn’t mean he deserved to have Woozy Winks as a sidekick. More annoying than funny, he was given a late 90s spin that fell flat.

Another one who fell flat is Uncle Marvel. Around since 1943, Uncle Marvel was a criminal who lied his way into the family. He got the reboot treatment as well but he was a character who never fit in and did more damage to the Captain Marvel family than good. I’m surprised they haven’t killed him off in a big storyline to get the Marvel characters more attention. 

While some out there may like him, Snapper Carr has always been the poor man’s Jimmy Olsen to me. While you can split hairs and say he functioned more as a mascot, I have no qualms throwing him on this list. Snapper was included in the JLA’s first appearance at the suggestion of DC executive Whitney Ellsworth who, believing a reader identification character for young readers was needed, directed that a “hip-talking” teenager modeled after teen idol Edd Byrnes’ character Kookie on 77 Sunset Strip be added to the story. That’s all you really need to know.

Wonder Woman can claim Etta Candy, who was created in 1942, hung around for several years and then disappeared until the 90s. Given a complete makeover, one could have never guessed her former sidekick life.

When it comes to sidekicks, I believe Captain America has the distinction of having the worst history of sidekicks of all time! The original Bucky was silly and thanks to his reinvention into the Winter Soldier, that has been forgotten. What can’t be forgotten is names like Nomad, Jack Flag, and D-Man. Oh, and let’s not forget about Free Spirit. Another Captain America classic sidekick and another product of the 90s.

The Fantastic Four’s H.E.R.B.I.E. deserves special mention. H.E.R.B.I.E. was created for the 1978 Fantastic Four cartoon to replace (?!?!) the Human Torch because they couldn’t use him due to copyright issues. How does that happen? Anyways, he made his comic book appearance in 1979 and while never given a huge role, deserves a spot on the list.
I was tempted to make this a Best & Worst Sidekick list but Marvel doesn’t really have enough Best nominees to make it worth it. DC has a whole team of them. Still, share your suggestions below!

That’s all the time I have. See you next week!