Why There are So Few Teenage Sidekicks in Marvel

The concept of the sidekick is far from being a recent invention. For proof, look no further than the fact that Heracles killed the Lernean Hydra with the help of Iolaus, who was the one who cauterized the stumps of the monster’s cut-off heads. However, considering the exact nature of the relationship between Heracles and Iolaus, chances are good that isn’t a comparison that the people behind superhero comics would like considering some of the accusations that have been made against them in the not so distant past.

Regardless, sidekicks were not a new phenomenon when superhero comics came into existence. However, the teenage sidekick seemed to have been popularized by DC Comics, which introduced Robin in 1940 with a couple of intentions in mind. First, Robin was supposed to “soften” the image of Batman, thus enabling Batman comics to bring in a broader readership. Second, Robin was supposed to provide a sort of surrogate for teenagers, which was supposed to serve much the same purpose. As it turned out, Robin proved to be a huge success, which is why a number of teenage sidekicks sprung up at around the same time. Generally speaking, most examples followed the same formula of a teenage sidekick to an older superhero, but it is interesting to note that there were some exceptions that were much more willing to experiment.

What Were Stan Lee’s Thoughts on Teenage Sidekicks?

It might come as a surprise to those who have become used to the Winter Soldier from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but Bucky started out as a teenage sidekick to Captain America in the comics. However, Stan Lee loathed the idea, which is one of the main reasons that teenage sidekicks aren’t as common in Marvel comics as they are in DC comics. In this, Stan Lee was opposed by Jack Kirby, who had a rather more positive opinion of the concept, which is why Bucky continued to exist for some time until he was killed off in the comics.

For a long, long time, the jokes among superhero comic fans was that no one stayed dead in superhero comics besides Bucky and Spider-Man‘s Uncle Ben. That changed in 2005 when a new series of Captain America comic books retconned matters so that Bucky wasn’t killed in World War 2 but instead recovered by the Soviet Union, with the result that he was eventually turned into the Winter Soldier. This in turn, became the basis for the version of Bucky that showed up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which has become widely known because of the movies’ success.

With that said, while Stan Lee loathed teenage sidekicks, the concept has become entrenched in superhero comics. A fair number of teenage sidekicks have gone on to become full-fledged superheroes in their own right, but teenage sidekicks remain as common as ever because they are part of the conventions that underlie superhero comics as a whole. For proof, look no further than the fact that there have been five Robins in the main continuity for DC Comics, with two having gone on to become Nightwing and Red Hood.

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