There are a few things that made one of the most popular ages in comic book history truly Golden. This age gave birth to the modern superhero, a crimefighter whose arsenal of amazing abilities and single-minded pursuit of justice easily made them pillars of awe and inspiration among readers. While these moral figures first splashed onto the scene as solitary figures, the Golden Age quickly added another iconic character to its expanding roster of girlfriends, villains, oblivious civilians and fellow heroic colleagues — the sidekick, the superhero’s trusted friend and partner.
What’s Batman without his Robin to shine a light in the darkness of the night, Captain America without the tough Bucky Barnes to tackle the more violent side of war, or even Clark Kent without the plucky Jimmy Olsen to keep him down to earth? Sidekicks have almost always been brasher, bolder, and considerably younger than their heroes, arrested in time as children for hundreds of publications. It’s always a weird experience for comic fans when they find themselves growing older than these young characters. Thankfully, that’s where fanart comes in. The following artists have used their imagination to fill the age gap of our favorite kid sidekicks, and their attempts are pretty incredible.
15. DAMIAN WAYNE
Let’s start with probably the most well-known sidekicks in modern continuity: Robin, a mantle currently being filled by Damian Wayne. This half of the Dynamic Duo was first canonically introduced by Grant Morrison in 2006, revealing himself to be the deadly lovechild of Bruce Wayne and Talia al Ghul. For all his youthful adventures — which includes dying and coming back to life — Damian has remained trapped in the awkward stages of adolescence for well over a decade. He’s only just turned thirteen!
Of course, the comics have generously provided fans with glimpses of Damian in adulthood, as seen in Batman in Bethlehem, The Multiversity, and Batman Beyond. But if you’re looking for Damian in young adulthood, look no further than jbadgr’s interpretation. Her art truly has it all: the good looks of his parents, the injuries of his sidekick tenure, and his signature verbal tick.
14. JONATHAN KENT (AND DAMIAN WAYNE AGAIN)
Damian Wayne isn’t the only Super Son that fandom likes to imagine as all grown up — Jonathan Kent, the son of Superman and Lois Lane, has very quickly become a fan favorite. He’s lurked around the corners of DC canon since his birth in 2015’s Convergence event, but a good portion of readers have only just been introduced to the pint-size Superboy in DC’s Rebirth.
Jon spends the later stages of his prepubescence partnering with his father and Robin in their superheroic adventures, but fans are already eager to see what the future will bring for the latest son of Krypton. Happily, kasieli shows that his father’s Midwestern charm and penchant for minimal disguises are a family trait. Plus, we get to see a pretty accurate interpretation of Jon’s long-term interactions with his best friend.
13. CONNER KENT
Speaking of Superboys, comic fans have been longing for the original bearer of the name since his strange and still unexplained disappearance in Rebirth. Conner Kent truly was a product of his time, appearing in 1993 with all the panache and flair of a teenaged New Jersey greaser: bright tights, leather jacket, pierced ears, cool hair. His classic aesthetic was only matched by his friendship with Tim Drake and his tumultuous relationship with Superman, but both helped solidify his dark horse appeal.
His look and character history have been steadily revamped across his comics history, and this revamp has been pushed in the mainstream thanks to the Young Justice cartoon. But when fans imagine the Teen Titan in the prime of adulthood, they clearly prefer a throwback. Artist daddyschlongleg shows how amazing an older Superboy can be, and this writer hopes his inevitable return to comics looks just like this.
12. TIM DRAKE
Finally, to round out the Robins, we have the second youngest teenage boy to famously don the red tights. Tim Drake joined Batman in his fight against crime in 1989, and he’s the most recognizable Robin since, thanks to his appearances in Batman: The Animated Series and the Teen Titans comics. But by 2009, Tim took crimefighting into his own hands by becoming Red Robin.
Of course, DC has flirted with the idea of showing an older Tim. A future version has been terrorizing Rebirth canon lately as Batman and the Savior, though it looks like he’s been banished to his own timeline for now. But since fans know of Tim’s longstanding reluctance to take on the Batman mantle, a more realistic future for him looks like his continued tenure as Red Robin. Randy Green provides the mature Red Robin fans have been looking for, and this future looks incredible.
11. RIRI WILLIAMS
Marvel has a considerable lack of superhero sidekicks in comparison to DC. Stan Lee never warmed up to the idea of youngsters risking their lives in print, and the legacy has somewhat remained aside from notable exceptions like Bucky Barnes. But a recent superhero who doubles as a great kid sidekick has come to us in the form of Riri Williams.
When Tony Stark died in the comics, the intelligent Chicago teen filled the superheroic gap in her city by building her own suit and fighting crime as Ironheart. Now that Tony’s alive and back on the horse, Riri has joined him as his partner and sidekick to upgrade her superhero game. Their wacky dysfunction is hilarious, but this writer is already looking forward to Riri’s future as a solo hero in her own right — and thank goodness we have artists like chuekjai to imagine her future.
10. BILLY KAPLAN AND TEDDY ALTMAN
While Marvel isn’t too keen on kid sidekicks, the publisher is happy to follow the amateur exploits of teenage heroes-in-training. Take the Young Avengers, a team of superpowered teens who quietly stole the hearts of comic book fans in 2005. The Young Avengers mirrored their personas on Avengers like the Scarlet Witch and Captain America, but their backgrounds and youthful enthusiasm have made them uniquely endearing.
Take two of the team’s most popular members, Billy Kaplan and Teddy Altman. These two helped found the Young Avengers as Wiccan and Hulkling, respectively, and fandom fell in love with them due to their sweet queer love story. Comic fans know that this couple will be fighting crime together forever, as they eventually get married and take on the famous hero identities shown in cris-art’s fanart. But this writer can confirm that the two have never looked as good as they do here.
9. KATE BISHOP
If we quantify the Young Avenger’s legacy based on individual members’ popularity, then Kate Bishop blows all the competition out of the water. The memorable young archer really found her groove partnering with Clint Barton in the celebrated Hawkeye series in 2012, and soon after she shined in her own tragically brief solo run as Hawkeye until just this year.
Kate was one of the older Young Avengers at the time, so technically she’s not much of a teen sidekick anymore. But it’s clear that she still has a long way to go in her vigilante career, and she’s willing to reach out to former mentors like Jessica Jones when she needs help. Imagining a Kate Bishop who has mastered her superhero training takes a skilled artist who can capture her maturity and years of fighting, and Kevin Wada is the artist who can definitely achieve this progressive new look.
8. M’GANN M’ORZZ
One of the best recent announcements for superhero fans was the reveal that Young Justice will return for its long-awaited third season this year. We last left our teen heroes grappling with the tragedies and responsibilities of adulthood, ready to move from the shadow of their mentors and start their own superhero careers as a league of their own. And now the third season will continue their journeys… though the roster is a little different than many fans anticipated.
Certain members of the original team seem to be missing from this new season, such as M’gann M’orzz. It makes a little sense in canon, considering the final episode of Young Justice saw her leave to help other heroes on Mars, but fans are understandably worried that her character’s story will not continue in this revival. So, fans like jadenwithwings have taken the future of M’gann into their own hands.
7. MILES MORALES
Few teen legacy heroes have been quite as successful as Miles Morales. There were so many aspects of his 2011 creation that could have doomed this character. He lives in the Ultimate Marvel universe, and he became Spider-Man after Peter Parker’s controversial death. Couple all this change with Miles’ unique identity as a working-class Afro-Latino teenager, and backlash seemed inevitable.
But Miles has proven to be a strong new addition to Marvel Comics, and he is now even a permanent fixture on Earth 616. While his heroic feats are plentiful, he’s still a teen, and his inexperience still often leads Peter to look after him. Thankfully, it looks like fans will have many more years to see the kind of hero that Miles can be. In the meantime, artists like Nikki Dawes will keep imagining what Miles will look like as an adult — apparently, like Donald Glover.
6. MIDORIYA IZUKU
If you’re getting a bit bored with the Big Two’s superpowered teens, you should definitely turn to the world of manga for a bit of respite. There’s something to be said about seeing a staple of American literature reinterpreted through the eyes of other cultures, and the idea of superheroes allows for an interesting dialogue about cross-cultural values on morality and righteousness.
Take the world of Boku no Hīrō Academia, where most people are born with superhuman abilities known as “quirks.” The 2014 manga follows the young and quirkless Izuku (nicknamed Deku) on his quest to become like his legendary idol, All Might. His journey is pretty heartfelt and inspiring, which probably has to do with Izuku embodying every superhero fan’s childhood fantasy of being a hero. Plus, Deku is just too adorable, especially when artists like min-min-minnie capture how endearing he will remain in his future hero persona.
5. CASSIE SANDSMARK
Even the most knowledgeable comic fans might not realize that Wonder Woman has had her fair share of sidekicks over the years. Her first sidekick was Donna Troy, who was created by a powerful sorceress to be Diana’s doppelganger and childhood playmate. She eventually moved onto become her own hero by the name of Wonder Girl, and won some in-universe popularity by joining the Teen Titans. One of her canon fangirls just so happened to be a young Cassie Sandsmark, who in 1996 oh-so-coincidentally gained superpowers thanks to her secret father, Zeus.
Donna eventually passed down the Wonder Girl mantle to Cassie, and most comic fans know her thanks to her rotating spots on the Teen Titans and Young Justice teams. Fans aren’t yet sure if she’ll reappear in Young Justice’s third season, but that hasn’t stopped artists like Promethean-Arts from imaging her new modern look.
4. BART ALLEN
Of course, we can’t let the girls from Young Justice have all the fun when it comes to their superheroic futures. We know that Bart Allen will be reappearing in the third season of the show, so fans will get to see how he adjusts to life as the new Kid Flash following Wally West’s death. Technically, we already know what an older Bart looks like, and while it’s certainly not bad, well… sometimes this writer thinks fanart looks a little better than canon.
Avataraandy certainly took a lot of interesting liberties with a young adult interpretation of the character, and the payoff is pretty realistic. This Bart has the signature millennial undercut, the multiple ear piercings, the overly expensive drink and a host of tattoos for each of his favorite heroes. This is definitely the kind of look fans could expect from the grandson of the Flash.
3. CASSANDRA CAIN
Even when Batman’s not specifically collecting Robins, he has a fondness for taking young kids with potential under his wing to help foster their development into superheroes. Comic fans have recently seen him do this mentorship act with Duke Thomas, who protects Gotham by day as The Signal. But Batman has also created a contingency plan for his eventual retirement, and in canon has groomed Cassandra Cain to take on the Batman mantle when he is gone.
Cassandra first found her way to Gotham in 1999, when she was nothing more than an abused child assassin. But Bruce Wayne’s love and support helped shape Cassandra into Batgirl, and then eventually the Black Bat. DC continuity has rebooted her origins a few times now, unfortunately removing her strong bond with Bruce in the process, but fans like raspbearyart clearly prefer the confident woman she was turning into.
Yes, this is another Kevin Wada rendition of a teen superhero in their prime. But you can’t blame us when Wada consistently brings some beautifully drawn concepts to the table. It seems almost impossible that he could make Kaldur’ahm even hotter than he is in Young Justice, but here we are folks. And considering we once again don’t know his future status on the show, fans definitely need something to appreciate.
As Aquaman’s teen partner, Aqualad was a quiet and steady presence in the popular cartoon. Interestingly enough, this version of the character only exists in animation; the comics premiered an Aqualad by the name of Jackson Hyde around the same time Young Justice premiered in 2010, but the two had entirely different backstories and personalities. However, Jackson has slowly begun to replicate his animated counterpart, given his popularity among fans… which is another thing we can appreciate.
1. THE INCREDIBLES
After nearly 14 long years, fans of Disney’s The Incredibles — which at this point is probably all superhero fans — will get to enjoy the sequel film this summer. One of the surprising things about the plot is that The Incredibles 2 won’t jump years into the future, but will instead follow the Parr family mere seconds after the events of the first film. This allows us to immediately see them as they adjust to their new lifestyle.
Still, some fans are a little bummed that they won’t get to see their favorite characters more established in the crimefighting family affair. But when all else fails, fanart helps. Votric’s interpretation is beyond unique, especially with the interesting creative choice of letting each Parr child get their own variation of their parents’ costume. Here’s hoping we see designs as cool as this one in The Incredibles 3.
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