The sidekick. That often annoying individual that follows the hero around, sometimes useful, sometimes not. The character is a staple of genre fiction. But sometimes the sidekick is more interesting than the hero.
After the cut are a few such sidekicks that outrank their bosses in terms of personality. Who will make the cut?
Sidekick to: Rocky the Flying Squirrel
Why like him more? This is a tricky one, because arguably Bullwinkle isn’t really a sidekick. But watch The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and the narrator often refers to Rocky as the hero and Bullwinkle as just a pal who accompanies him everywhere. That’s pretty much a textbook definition of a sidekick. And while Bullwinkle always got more screen time and all the better lines, he was always listed second after Rocky, so I’m going to count it.
Sidekick to: Captain America
Why like him more? Marvel heroes are known for being more morally and emotionally complex than DC heroes, who are basically good guys because it is right to be good. Tragic pasts and more real-world problems affect the Marvel heroes with one noteworthy exception–Captain America. Cap is that ultimate good guy, someone who stands for America but somehow never gets the country’s dark side to taint him. Winter Soldier is much more grounded in Cold War espionage and is a much darker character as a result. It’s not that Cap is dull; it is more like the former Bucky has a much more interesting story since he was revived, even if he technically had to stop being a sidekick to get that much.
Credit Jimmy with this one.
The Scooby Gang
Sidekick to: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Why like them more? I could never really get into Buffy the Vampire Slayer, mostly because Buffy herself, Whedonistic quips aside, wasn’t overly interesting. I found myself far more interested in Xander, Willow, Oz, Giles, Faith, and even Cordelia. Not Angel, though. He was a male Buffy. When the title character is the least interesting member of your ensemble, your sidekicks may be a little too colorful.
Sidekick to: Jerry Seinfeld
Why like him more? First, hats off to Jason Alexander for making George likable in the first place. That’s no mean feat. Second, this has more to do with Jerry Seinfeld’s acting ability than it does anything else. George’s lying, miserly ways made him a colorful character, while Jerry could, well, remember his lines. The same could also apply to Elaine and Kramer, by the by, but George was most clearly a sidekick to Jerry.
Sidekick to: Dangermouse
Why like him more? Penfold is a comedic sidekick, which means he often gets the best lines. Dangermouse is no slouch either, but Penfold’s cowardly exclamations like “Crumbs!” “Oh carrots!” and “Crickey!” make for a fun little guy, and who wouldn’t want to give the hamster in a hug and save him from a vicious frog and his crow sidekicks?
Sidekick to: Syrio Forel, Jaqen H’ghar, the Hound, the Kindly Man
Why like her more? See, this is where I get hate mail for even suggesting Arya is anyone’s sidekick. But Arya is still learning, and she bounces from mentor to mentor (arguably starting with Jon Snow giving her a sword and her first lesson), so I’m gonna count her. Syrio doesn’t last very long. Jaqen H’ghar may be cool, but in the books he vanishes pretty early. The Kindly Man is Nobody. The only one of these characters rivaling Arya for audience interest is the Hound when you get right down to it. Since she ended the last of the novels getting ready for an apprenticeship, she’s going to be a sidekick for quite some time.
Sidekick to: Dr. Evil
Why like him more? I found Dr. Evil a lot funnier than the fairly obnoxious Austen Powers. Giving Dr. Evil a tiny clone of himself was a minor stroke of genius, and Verne Troyer really made the character something.
Sidekick to: Wallace
Why like him more? For much the same reason Penfold outshines Dangermouse, Gromit really outshines dimwitted Wallace, a cheese-obsessed inventor. Gromit is smarter, usually saves the day, and never makes a sound. He wouldn’t even be the sidekick if he weren’t clearly depicted as Wallace’s pet.
Sidekick to: Frodo Baggins
Why like him more? Jim Butcher in one of his Dresden Files novels has a group of nine people going on a rescue mission. Harry Dresden refers to them as the Fellowship of the Ring, and everyone takes to it and starts picking out who’s who. Harry is dismayed when he gets picked as Samwise Gamgee until another member of the group points out Sam is the hero of the story. Frodo spends most of the story moping and eventually succumbs to the ring. Sam spends just as much time with the ring as Frodo, wears it a bit, but never hesitates to give it up. He’s devoted, loyal, and the only one not to be tempted by the ring out of the entire saga that spends more than five minutes with the thing. That makes him about as unique a character as Tolkien created.
R2D2 and C3PO
Sidekicks to: the various humans of the Star Wars saga
Why like them more? Sidekicks abound in Star Wars, with an honorable mention to Chewbacca. But the droids are colorful enough to appear in every film so far, playing well off each other and anyone else they might get paired with. As droids, they are essentially servants anyway, so they get pre-ordained sidekick status. Considering R2 doesn’t even speak a human language, that’s mighty impressive.
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