Marvel superheros and sidekicks

Captain Marvel was originally Fawcett. DC sued claiming infringement of their copyright on Superman (though the real reason was that the Big Red Cheese was outselling the Big Blue Boyscout). Though they technically never won the lawsuit, it managed to drag on well into the 50’s and bankrupt Fawcett, who eventually ended up selling their characters to DC.

Captain Marvel Jr. wasn’t Captain Marvel’s sidekick, and was never indtended that way. Captain Marvel was Fawcett’s only big character, so they cashed in on him by creating a family around him. Cap Jr. had his own title, and his own stories in the anthology titles (he was usually the lead in Master Comics.

Mary briefly had her own title, but mostly was relegated to the pages of The Marvel Family, where she had both solo adventures and team adventures, but she wasn’t really a sidekick. The Marvels either had solo or family adventures, for the most part.

Is this in response to


The Captain Marvel Brainiac4 is referencing is not the Fawcett/DC Captain Marvel, who was first by several decades. Marvel has had at least three characters known as Captain Marvel. The first (now I think retconnedly known as “Captain Mar-vell”) was an alien warrior and he’s dead. The second was a human woman with various energy powers (since scaled back and I believe now saddled with the rather dull name of Photon). The third is the genetically-manipulated offspring of the first and some hussy who stole his DNA.

If we’re going to bring non-Marvel and -DC characters up, I think Fawcett also gave us Bulletman and his sidekick Bulletgirl.

I also just remembered two would-be sidekicks for Spider-Man: Frogman and Spider-Boy, both every bit as awful as they sound.

More likely the OP:

Exactly. Marvel fans got to be their heroes while DC fans got to be the guy that hangs out with the hero. Imagine, you get to stand next to Batman while he defeats the Joker, you get to ride in the Batmobile while he races down the street, you might even get to hand him the item he needs to prove that Catwoman stole the diamond!

Compare to: you and Spidey both can’t get dates. You and the Thing can’t get any respect. You and Dr. Strange both go on psychedellic benders and make no sense!

I wonder if there’s any data whatsoever that backs up this commonly-held belief. I think it’s a bit of “conventional wisdom” clung to by folks charged with telling stories to children who don’t really remember what being a kid was like. Kids can fantasize about being anything and anybody. Hell, my girlfriend used to pretend to be Han Solo as a kid; no shrinking Princess Leia for her.

I’d think it was just as likely that people would avoid identifying with Robin precisely because he’s not a full-fledged hero—why would you pretend to be the sidekick when you can go all the way and pretend to be ass-kickin’ Batman?

Anyway, if I had to guess why sidekicks became so ubiquitous, I would say that, similarly to the Companions in Doctor Who, they provided writers with several convenient plot functions:

  1. Ask stupid questions, allowing the hero to a) appear brilliant, and b) explain something for the reader’s benefit that he wouldn’t normally explain if he were working alone;

  2. Get captured or otherwise put into jeopardy, necessitating a rescue; or

  3. Get separated from the hero, allowing the plot to unfold along two different narrative threads (Batman checks the warehouse where the Riddler is supposedly hiding while Robin follows the mysterious heiress Bea Fuddler).

On a certain level, I’ve always thought that on the whole, the Marvel heroes were cooler than the DC heroes because of the angst factor. With one exception- the Batman. Well, two exceptions- Batman and Green Arrow. And Nightwing…

Thing is, I also have a real preference for my superheroes to not have superpowers, and the Marvel Universe seems to have a dearth of non-superpowered heroes.

IIRC, one of the major reasons for the introduction of Robin was to soften the Batman’s image a bit. In the early Batman comics, he was pretty hardcore and the Suits at DC decided he needed a kid around to take some of the edge off, and maybe add a more lighthearted aspect. I understand that during the Golden Age, Batman and Robin used to trade quips during a fight.

I do think that there is another function for kid sidekicks that has not, so far, been mentioned in this thread, but which has become a factor in the Batman storylines, and to a lesser extent, the Green Arrow as well. Namely, the heroes becoming aware of their own mortality, and wanting to train a new generation to carry on the Fight Against Evil after they die/retire. Batman has just gone through Robin Mark IV for just this reason.

[slight hijack] There is a very funny scene in Green Arrow: Quiver on the subject at hand. On the flight home from Star City, on board an aircraft being piloted by the Batman, Arsenal (or, the Artist Formerly Known as Speedy), inquiring about Mia Dearden, asks…

Arsenal: And that girl? How old do you think she was?

Black Canary: Fifteen, sixteen-- why?

Arsenal: You just know he’s training her to be the new Speedy.

Black Canary: You think?

Arsenal: It’d follow the pattern: Train a kid for a while, then abandon said kid and go hang out with Hal. Classic Ollie. Man, I really hope I’m wrong. I mean, arent’ most heroes beyond kid sidekicks at this point in their careers?

Black Canary: (looking at Batman, who isn’t saying a word) Ahem…

Arsenal: Not… you know… that there’s anything wrong with that… oh, boy…

My initial reaction to this little exchange was, “yeah, and just exactly how is the next generation of heroes going to get trained? It’s not like any aspiring hero is going to be able to find a magic ring or get bit by a radioactive spider or somesuch and suddenly acquire all these powers.” [/slight hijack]

While I like my superheroes to have a limit to their powers (I abhor omnipotent characters like Superman), a superhero without *super *powers isn’t much of a superhero.

Close: the New Warriors. Their ranks included Firestar, Justice, Rage, Darkhawk, Speedball, etc. I always thought they were a neat team, and they even tried to do a bit of growing up with them by having Justice and Firestar join the Avengers during Heroes Return (Rage was a member before then, too).

Unfortunately, as usually happens with younger heroes, I’m pretty sure they’ve all fallen off the face of the planet by now.