Which DC Sidekicks Deserve More Spotlight?
We all know Robin and his many forms. Batman’s sidekick is arguably the most famous of comic book sidekicks. You’ve no doubt also heard of Superboy, Kid Flash, and Wonder Girl too. But how about Pat Dugan, AKA Stripesy? Or Dex-Starr, an atrociously angry space-cat? If your answers are no, you might not be alone.
At times, the designation of “sidekick” has been treated as an insult. A sidekick, however, can be the difference between a successful mission and an utter fail — even super heroes can’t do everything on their own, after all. Here are some sidekicks who deserve renewed spotlight. The list ranges from sidekicks with hearts of gold to widely despised mascots, so grab your utility belt and buckle up. It’s gonna be a bumpy ride.
Red Arrow, the Super Hero Formerly Known as Arsenal AKA Speedy AKA Roy Harper
Green Arrow’s sharpshooting sidekick Speedy takes teen angst to a whole new level. This sidekick’s progression is fairly well known, similar to Nightwing’s high-profile hero status update. But there are some noteworthy details in Speedy’s journey that make him one of the most impressive former sidekicks. Raised on a reservation under the care of Brave Bow, Roy Harper was recruited by Green Arrow and Roy’s engineering genius is actually responsible for Oliver Queen’s impressive selection of trick arrows. Roy has always struggled with alcoholism and after the death of his friend Jason Todd, he sank into depression. Eventually his life choices led to a confrontation with Oliver. After years of serving under Green Arrow and some time in rehab, Speedy strikes out on his own to become Arsenal. As Arsenal, Roy does not limit himself to just bows and arrows and his brand of justice isn’t always anchored in mercy. For a time, Roy also serves in the Justice League as Red Arrow.
Stars & Stripesy Forever
Pat Dugan is notable as one of the only sidekicks who turns the typical hero-sidekick age dynamic upside down. First as Stripesy then as S.T.R.I.P.E., Pat worked tirelessly as an adult sidekick to teenage super heroes, lending his wisdom and loyalty in the most dire of situations. Originally a member of the Seven Soldiers of Victory, Pat Dugan became Stripesy alongside the Star-Spangled Kid. Together, these two fought super-villains such as Dr. Doome and the Injustice Society. After the Star-Spangled Kid’s death at the hands of the Injustice Society, Pat left the super hero world and remarried. His stepdaughter Courtney Whitmore would soon take ownership over powerful JSA artifacts and become Stargirl. With Stargirl, Pat would become S.T.R.I.P.E. (Special Tactics Robotic Integrated Power Enhancer), a mechanical guardian of his own invention.
Aqualad Makes Some Waves
The second iteration of Aquaman’s sidekick, Aqualad, has gone through various rebirths and retellings, all of which are compelling in their own right. Kaldur’ahm is a hybrid character in more ways than one. He is half Atlantean, half human, and his debut as a DC mainstay is shared by television and the comics — a medium origin story similar to Batgirl, who also debuted in the comics shortly before her first television appearance. Thus, there are two versions of this water blade wielding Aqualad — Kaldur’ahm of Young Justice and Jackson Hyde of the comics. Both versions agree, however, that Aqualad’s father is Black Manta, a detail which places layers of complexity to the character’s journey becoming a respected hero. Likewise, both versions of this Aqualad are queer, another level of depth for a sidekick whose story spans the seven seas. Readers can take a deeper dive into the second Aqualad’s story with the September 2021 release of Aquaman: The Becoming, as Jackson assumes the mantle of Aquaman.
A Starr Is Born
Everybody loves a sweet, lazy kitty that keeps their human company. And for a time, that’s all that Dexter was — until the fateful day when his human was murdered and Dexter could only watch in horror. The cat’s immense fury grew into an all-consuming rage, which attracted the attention of a Red Lantern power ring. The ring led Dexter to become Dex-Starr, a ruthless, furious feline whose adversaries were slashed with claws and sloshed with crimson Red Lantern vomit. Unfailingly loyal to Green Lantern’s enemy Atrocitus and a frequent purr-oblem of the Green Lantern Corps, crossing Dex-Starr is a catastrophic choice.
Rocket: A Force To Be Reckoned With
Rocket is another sidekick who has been featured in Young Justice, but the moving reality of her backstory — plus her impressive skills — merit increased recognition throughout the DC omniverse. Raquel Ervin was born in Paris Island, Dakota, a crime-ridden neighborhood where it can be tough to rise above the poverty. One night, Raquel and some friends break into a home not knowing that it belongs to Augustus Freeman IV, an alien who was long ago stranded on Earth. She witnesses him use his powers and she convinces Augustus that he has the opportunity to be an icon for the Black community. With her influence, Augustus becomes Icon and Raquel becomes Rocket, bestowed with an inertia belt that gives her control over kinetic energy for force fields, super strength, powerful blasts, and flight. Rocket is also a gifted writer who loves Toni Morrison and she often helps Icon to expand his moral perspective. Rocket herself becomes a significant icon for her community — she is the first teenage super hero mom as well as a capable ally on the battlefield, fighting alongside Icon as well as other heroes like Static.
If you’re a fan of the Silver Age of Comics or you’re familiar with the early history of the Justice League of America, then chances are you’re familiar with Snapper Carr — the widely hated, powerless teenage sidekick brought on in the 1960s as an attempt to draw in younger readers. In his first adventure with the JLA, Snapper does manage to help the League save the day against Starro the Conqueror, albeit through complete happenstance on his part (he uses lime on his lawn and it’s discovered that Starro and his race are weakened by lime). Readers soon grew tired of Snapper, who gets his name from his incessant finger snapping and is notorious for only speaking in “hip” lingo. His most famous storyline is the betrayal of the JLA after the Silver Age version of the Joker tricks him into revealing the location of the JLA’s headquarters. While annoying and initially unpopular, Snapper’s character does go on to return as an advisor and a hero in his own right. As the DCEU continues to develop, a betrayal of devastating proportions could be just the storyline to invigorate the film franchise.
As they say, there’s no “i” in team. But there is one in sidekick. The above characters prove that a super hero comes in many shapes and forms, sometimes from the sidelines where we least expect it. Super heroes will often be the stars of the show, but that doesn’t mean sidekicks can’t shine just as bright on their own.
Which DC sidekicks do you want to see more of? Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to Let Your Geek Sideshow!