Why did so many kids get involved in costumed crimefighting? I mean, sure, it was because creators wanted to give their juvenile audience characters they could root for, but I think the question still stands.
However, most of the time the kid sidekicks are limited to one per hero. The Newsboy Legion had other ideas.
So, who were the Newsboy Legion? Well, first, let’s look at the Guardian. There have been a couple over the years at DC. Heck, I covered one before. The Guardian was originally one Jim Harper. Jim was a cop in the 1940s who decided too many criminals got away with their nefarious crimes, so he donned a colorful costume, picked up an indestructible shield, and went out to fight crime. He was created by writer Joe Simon and Jack Kirby in 1942 and…wait a minute. A nonpowered guy with a shield? From Simon and Kirby? That sounds familiar…
Anyway, Jim called himself the Guardian and patrolled the bad neighborhood of Suicide Slum, eventually revealed to be in Metropolis. What does this have to do with the Newsboy Legion? Well, they were a group of orphans who lived in the Slum that Harper eventually adopted. He became their, you know, guardian. They got their name because they made their living selling newspapers, and when they weren’t doing that, they were helping the Guardian fight crime while trying to figure out if he and Officer Harper were the same guy. They went by the names of Tommy (the leader), Big Words (the smart one), Gabby (the talkative one), and Scrapper (the tough one).
You know, Jack Kirby sure liked creating “boy” heroes. Just sayin’.
Now, these are the types of characters that could be just forgotten about given time, but when Kirby left Marvel and went to DC for a while, he actually brought the Newsboys (and the Guardian) back. That was the 70s, so he decided to add a member to their group, an African American boy who loved scuba diving. You get a lot of scuba diving done in the city. His name was Flipper Dipper.
Oh, but these guys weren’t the original Newsboys. No, these were the identical sons of the originals (plus Flipper Dipper). Did someone explain how genetics worked to the King of Comics at any point?
Then again, how many readers in the 70s remembered some characters from the 40s?
As it is, after the original Crisis, there was another change. The original Newsboys all went to work for Project Cadmus at some point, and the newer ones were their clones. That meant they could hang around with Superboy. Heck, they were responsible for letting that Superboy out in the first place.
Like a lot of the old concepts that made the DCU weird and fun, the Newsboys disappeared in the New 52 as near as I can make out. But the old Kirby concepts keep cropping up again and again, so I am sure they’ll be back. Heck, they did appear in an episode of Justice League Unlimited.
Fortunately, Cadmus did also see fit to clone the Guardian so there’s always someone out there to take care of those scamps. But that’s a lesson for another day.