The sidekick is an interesting phenomenon in literature.
The sidekick can serve many purposes. Used in the myth of Gilgamesh, Enkidu the beast man serves as a juxtaposition to Gilgamesh. They share the same heroic qualities but they are very different men.
In Don Quixote, Sancho stands in for Cervantes to act as an anchor for the audience. He can observe and comment on both the absurdness of Quixote’s quest and the sort of lost nobility that the man is, for better or worse, trying to preserve.
Tonto, the faithful companion of the Lone Ranger tends to be cut from the cloth of the guy who does the dirty work. The noble and forthright Ranger doesn’t need to be adept and knowledgeable with Native American customs, because Tonto is. The Lone Ranger gets to stare off into the distance, cast against the vast horizon, while Tonto has to put his ear to the ground to listen for hooves or examine horse shit to see if they’re close to the rustlers. He has the skills that the Lone Ranger needs, but can’t be arsed to learn.
Then there’s the contemporary version, probably the one we’re most familiar with, the Robin.
The Robin is such a weird thing to sit and think about because it basically means, I love Batman, but I need him to love me back.
Not in a gay way, well not entirely, I mean let’s cut the shit, Batman’s a good looking man, but in the sense that if someone like Batman respects and acknowledges me, then I am validated. Sort of like all the hangers-on and entourage members you see around celebrities, but at another level, because Robin can save Batman.
Robin can save Batman. Bucky can save Captain America. Even Jimmy Olsen, who despite getting superpowers or time traveling every twelve seconds during the Silver Age, isn’t a superhero; he can save Superman, or at the very least, in his status as Superman’s Pal, be acknowledged by the world as someone very capable and important.
You could be Batman, or you could hang out with Batman as an equal. When you think about it, which would rather do?
Granted, comics have grown a bit more sophisticated, Bucky crossed over from youthful POV character to black ops badass that did what Captain America, by nature of him being a symbol, could not. Robin went from audience stand in to character who saved Batman from succumbing completely to the darkness that was his war on crime, and Batman in turn saves Robin from the tragedy of his family also dying in front of him by preventing him from becoming just another victim.
It’s complicated, and there’s a lot going on, but at it’s core, the sidekick still operates largely as a cypher for the audience to step into, but as I said, the role of the sidekick has changed and grown.
Largely due to the core audience of comics now being adults, and also due to time. There’s been like 90 Robins, maybe two of them are good, but that’s not the point.
Some sidekicks have their own titles, run their teams, and in some cases, it’s even better to be the sidekick than the hero he assists.
We’ll see you Thursday for that examination.
Posted on November 16, 2010, in Comics, History Lessons, Matt Loman, Movies, Pop Culture and tagged bucky, comic books, comics, don quixote, gilgamesh, heroes, Matt Loman, movies, robin, sidekicks, sumerian mythology to batman? making a run for king nerd, the lone ranger, tonto. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.