I’ve been doing this column for a while now, week in and week out except for a brief period when I was on vacation, and many times I think up who I am going to write about the Saturday before the column goes live. Not so this week, since last week’s entry on the original DC Comics’ Sandman had a sidekick with a somewhat interesting biography of his own.
This time we’re looking at a character originally called Sandy the Golden Boy.
Before I go any further…why are so many superhumans made out of sand in comic books? Did someone decide sand was an awesome power? Did they want to piss off Anakin Skywalker? I mean, there was a Superman clone or copy or something made out of sand at one point…
Sure, Wesley Dodds wasn’t made out of Sand. He was a guy with a gas gun and prophetic dreams who originally wore a really cool costume. Why did he change the really cool costume for a generic one? Well, his sidekick talked him into it.
See, Wesley first appeared in Adventure Comics #40. #69 of that series premiered Sandy. Sanderson “Sandy” Hawkins was an orphan who was moving to live with his only living relative, namely Dodds’ longtime love interest Dian Belmont. Somehow, as these things happen, Sandy and Dodds decide to fight crime together, possibly while keeping the whole thing a secret from Dian, and Sandy, now calling himself Sandy the Golden Boy, encouraged Wesley to put on a more traditional superhero costume.
Now, plenty of superheroes had sidekicks in those days. Clearly Sandy is ripping off Robin the Boy Wonder with the whole “orphan ward” bit. Since sidekicks tended to take the forms of either so-so comedic relief, less effective female versions of the male hero, or a plucky young boy, Sandy hit the best possible option for a Golden Age hero’s sidekick. And it wouldn’t be too much trouble to have forgotten Sandy even when the Justice Society characters were being revived in the Silver Age and beyond.
But during those Justice League/Justice Society crossovers, someone decided to do something with Sandy. They made him a monster.
It seems Wesley was working on some sort of new sand-based gun weapon when the thing went off early, exploding in Sandy’s face. And, because there was radiation involved, Sandy turned into a giant, sand-based freak.
As it turned out, Sandy’s evil was temporary, but Wesley didn’t know that and had the poor kid in suspended animation for a while, giving Dodds massive guilt when he found out even as he raced for a cure, which seems odd when you consider that Dodds was some sort of millionaire playboy type, not some sort of super-scientist.
Fortunately, Sandman did eventually find a way to somewhat cure Sandy. He at least looked human while still being a silicon-based life form. That allowed Sandy to do some stuff with seismic waves and turning his body into sand and neat stuff like that. Equally fortunately that Sandy was a forgiving type.
As such, when Wesley was killed by the evil Mordru, Sandy, now going by the superhero name Sand, took his old mentor’s place. He even started having the prophetic dreams himself, and gave himself a more Sandman-appropriate look.
That Sand would eventually add a fedora and cape, so, you know, he did what most sidekicks don’t: he actually replaced his mentor.
Think about it for a minute. I recently finished the first volume of the Immortal Iron Fist series, where the concept of previous Iron Fists was introduced. The Iron Fist of the early part of the 20th century had a sidekick of sorts in the form of Wendell Rand, Danny Rand’s father. The older Iron Fist repeatedly told Wendell that Wendell would never be the next Iron Fist, to the point where even Wendell believed it. There have been periods when Dick Grayson has replaced Bruce Wayne as Batman, but those periods are always temporary and everyone involved pretty much knows it. Wally West did take Barry Allen’s place for a while as the Flash, but then Barry came back for some reason. Even with Marvel getting on the legacy train more and more, we see heroes sharing superhero names as opposed to sidekicks taking them over. Maybe it was because the JSA actually aged on Earth-2, but somehow Sand took his old mentor’s place, and there wasn’t much demand to bring Wesley Dodds back.
Until, you know, the New 52 brought Wesley Dodds back. Sort of.
Maybe there just isn’t room for another silicon-based superhero. Anakin Skywalker finally won.