Behind every good hero is a sidekick! Sure the hero gets all the credit, but we know that behind the scenes, if not for the help of the sidekick, the mission would fail and the world wouldn't be saved. What makes a good sidekick? They have to be loyal, they have to be a good foil to the hero that they're partnered with, and they need to bring a key element to achieve victory that the hero doesn't possess. It can be their ability to remain calm during a crisis, or it could be their uncontrollable temper, either way the sidekick serves as an important factor in the success in the daily adventures of the hero.
Cartoons in the 1980s and 1990s gave us some amazing heroes on the small screen, such as Batman, Thundarr The Barbarian and the Ghostbusters (both the "Real" ones and the ones by Filmation), but what about their amazing sidekicks that helped them be the heroes they were destined to become? We've made a list and ranked the 25 most radical cartoon sidekicks from the 1980s and 1990s. How many on our list were robots? How many sidekicks were once the actual heroes themselves? How many gave viewers seizures? Read to find out!
- Lexington fan art in feature image by Rodrigo Goncalves.
In 1994, a runaway planet cracked the moon in half and sucked away most of Earth's atmosphere, leaving an apocalyptic wasteland. Thousands of years later, the planet was covered in monsters and we see the return of magic. You don't remember that runaway planet incident from the 1990s? Thundarr the Barbarian remembers!
If you remember Thundarr The Barbarian, you remember that it borrowed heavily from Star Wars.
Thundarr was a futuristic warrior who wielded a lightsaber-like weapon called the Sun Sword. His buddy was a Mok named Ookla that was reminiscent of Chewbacca. Growling and screaming was his way of communicating and no matter what, Ookla was at Thundarr's side through thick and thin. Other sidekicks offered emotional support or comedic relief, but Ookla just made noises and hit stuff, making him the perfect sidekick for a barbarian.
24 PETER PUPPY
Earthworm Jim! Through soil he did crawl. Earthworm Jim! A super suit did fall! The 1994 video game followed the misadventures of an earthworm who comes across an Ultra-high-tech-indestructible-super-space-cyber-suit. The rightful owners want the suit back, but Earthworm Jim has other plans for it, namely to kick butt and take his story from a video game to an animated series. Along for the ride was his sidekick Peter Puppy.
If you thought Earthworm Jim had issues, wait until you hear Peter's story. Due to a curse put upon him by a cat, Peter, when stressed, changes into a brutish monster in a similar way to Bruce Banner becoming the Hulk. To prevent his transformation, Peter says a mantra that is a modified monologue said by Paul Atreides from the Dune series. Like most sidekicks, Peter is loyal and kind and has the power to get Jim out of the stickiest of situations!
When Pokemon burst on the scene in 1995 it took the world by storm. How did fans react? They convulsed! In the infamous Electric Soldier Porygon episode, Pikachu used his electricity powers to fire upon some virtual reality missiles and they exploded in a pulsating flash of red and blue light, which sent almost 700 kids in Japan to the hospital.
The episode was banned and Pikachu doesn't like talking about it.
The "Pokemon Shock" incident never really damaged Pikachu's popularity, as he's one if not the most famous of the Pokemon characters. Pikachu was the first Pokemon that Ash Ketchum tried to capture. Although they fought at first, they eventually gain each other's respect and friendship. Ash went on to collect additional creatures, but Ash had a special relationship with Pikachu, with Pikachu becoming a sidekick to Ash.
22 TRACY THE GORILLA
Tracy the Gorilla was a member of the Ghostbusters. Wait, when was a giant gorilla helping Peter, Ray, Egon and Winston bust ghosts in New York City? In the mid 1980s there were actually two Ghostbuster cartoons running at the same time that had nothing to do with each other: The Real Ghostbusters and what would later be known as Filmation's Ghostbusters.
Filmation's Ghostbusters followed Jake Kong, Jr. and Eddie Spencer, Jr. whose fathers were Ghost Busters in a live action show made in 1975. Ironically Tracey was the brains of the operation and was responsible for making most of the ghost-fighting gadgets and weapons that the main characters employed. Tracey was also in the live action television show and worked with the dads of Jake and Eddie, but in the live action version he wore a beanie instead of a stylish yellow fedora.
How do you know Danger Mouse is a secret agent that doesn't mess around? Besides having an eye patch that makes him ultra cool, he's got the letters DM emblazoned onto his turtleneck. That's Danger Mouse, protecting the world from the evil Baron Silas Greenback with the help of his sidekick Ernest Penfold.
He's a cowardly hamster who hates being in the field with Danger Mouse and would rather be anywhere else.
Some sidekicks act like they're twice the size that they really are and ready to fight at the drop of a hat, other sidekicks are afraid of their own shadow. Penfold falls into the latter category. He's a cowardly hamster who hates being in the field with Danger Mouse and would rather be anywhere else. What makes Penfold a good sidekick? He overcomes his fears to help Danger Mouse save the day. Oh Crumbs!
Bionic 6 was a cartoon that premiered in 1987 and featured the Bennetts, a family of bionically enhanced crime-fighters. The show is both reminiscent of the Six Million Dollar Man, as well as The Fantastic Four, since it depicted a super-powered family. However, if everyone is fighting crime and saving the world from the evil Dr. Scarab and his henchmen, who's going to clean the dishes?
F.L.U.F.F.I. was a giant robot shaped like a gorilla that did housekeeping for the Bennett family. Although he did on occasion help the Bionic 6 on missions, he spent a good amount of time back at the house eating the family's pots and pans (he had a thing for aluminum). If you're telling us the future consists of bionic families with robotic ape sidekicks, we're all for it! Drawing by ScottDalrymple.
It's always sad when you look at a cartoon you loved from your childhood, only to realize in retrospect that the show was kind of messed up. At first glance, Dungeons & Dragons was a cartoon about kids given magical powers fighting demons and monsters. Revisiting the show now, it feels like a bunch of scared kids fighting for their lives against creatures straight from their nightmares.
Uni serves as a small security blanket for all of the kids.
One comforting creature that the group of kids meet early on is a unicorn that they eventually name Uni. She doesn't really talk and her powers aren't too profound (she can teleport but only once a day), but Uni serves as a small security blanket for all of the kids. She gravitates most to Bobby, who arguably needs the most comfort since he's the youngest of the group at age 8.
Whereas the hero is the big personality you can look up to, the sidekick is sometimes a little more accessible, smaller, and down to Earth. Leader-1 was a GoBot that transformed from a robot into a jet. Turbo transformed from a robot into a car. It would make sense that their lovable sidekick would be in the form of Scooter, a little red vehicle with a heart as big as the GoBot Command Center.
Scooter was small in size compared to his fellow GoBots but was loved by all, even if his voice was a little grating at times. Scooter isn't a good fighter like his fellow Guardian Turbo but he does have the ability to make realistic holographic projections. He's a friend to robot and human alike, especially the young NASA cadet named Nick Burns.
17 LAUNCHPAD MCQUACK
"Let's get DANGEROUS!" Darkwing Duck premiered in 1991 as a spinoff of the popular animated series DuckTales, even though the show's creator, Tad Stones, claims that the two shows don't share the same timeline even though they clearly share characters. Darkwing Duck was not a direct spoof of Batman, but of the pulp hero The Shadow.
Darkwing Duck fought crime in the city of St. Canard with the help of DuckTales' Launchpad McQuack.
Darkwing sometimes worked with the agency S.H.U.S.H. against villains like Megavolt and Steelbeak. Launchpad is not only Darkwing's number one fan, he also becomes Darkwing's pilot. This is weird considering that they're both ducks (can't ducks fly?), but Launchpad after a number of adventures gets upgraded to full sidekick! Launchpad is an awesome pilot and unlike most sidekicks on our list, is very mellow and cool even under pressure.
Godzilla is one of the most famous creatures ever, notorious for destroying whole cities either with a swing of his giant tail or from a blast of his fiery nuclear breath. What would make The King of Monsters even more formidable? Adding his cute little cousin, Godzooky into the mix, of course!
The Godzilla cartoon that ran in the early 1980s featured Godzilla, human scientists on a research vessel, and Godzooky. Godzooky was nowhere as intimidating as Godzilla but had a lot of character. The little wings under his arm allowed him to fly, he adorably spits out puffs of smoke, and he can summon Godzilla if he or his human friends got into trouble. Godzooky was the cute reminder of the potential all sidekicks have: that one day they can mature and be as powerful as Godzilla!
The idea of a western in space is not a new concept. Star Trek, when it was initially pitched by Gene Roddenberry, was described as a "wagon-train to the stars." Borrowing a similar idea, the 1987 cartoon BraveStarr had a Marshal with shamanic powers come to maintain law and order on the planet New Texas in the 23rd century.
On a planet where you have to deal with apecats, solacows, and an ancient demonic broncosaur, you're going to need all the help you can get.
Weird times call for weird partners, and BraveStarr's sidekick was a cybernetic horse named Thirty/Thirty. He could talk, stand upright like a person and fire an energy rifle that he named "Sara Jane." What makes him such a good sidekick is that his look was based off of rocker David Lee Roth!
14 PINKY THE MOUSE
When your partner wants to take over the world, you're not going to just sit there and do nothing... you're going to help them! That's what a good sidekick does for their hero, even if the hero is actually a villain in the form of a lab mouse named The Brain. Pinky, his loyal sidekick, is loyal and sweet and kind, the exact opposite of what Brain is.
In Pinky and the Brain, fans watched the two genetically enhanced mice that lived in an Acme Laboratory carry out plots to take over the world. It was Brain that made all of the plots and his right hand mouse Pinky helped him carry them out. Sometimes a sidekick's role is to make the hero look good, and if a sweet, funny, childlike Pinky can look up to a guy like Brain, that makes him at least a little bit likeable, no?
If you like your superheroes indestructible, silly, and blue, then we have just the right person for you: The Tick! The Tick was a cartoon that premiered in 1994 and featured a 6 foot tall hero who's incredibly strong and virtually indestructible. He doesn't really look like a tick but then again, does Spider-Man look like a spider? Better yet, his sidekick is often mistaken for a bunny.
The Tick's sidekick is named Arthur and intended on looking like a moth but when his wings fold up he looks like a rabbit.
Arthur doesn't have super powers and was dismissed from his accounting firm due to mental health issues. It takes a lot of guts for a guy to have no powers and be sidekick to someone who's invulnerable. So why does he stick around? Because heroes don't quit and sidekicks stay with their partners until the very end!
When you think of the word sidekick, who else but Robin appears in your mind? Batman and Robin go together like peanut butter and jelly. Although there have been a number of people to take on the Robin mantle, does it really get any better than the Boy Wonder Dick Grayson? Batman: The Animated Series retitled itself to The Adventures of Batman and Robin in 1995 (its last season) to fully embrace Batman's partnership.
In the animated series, Dick Grayson had his classic origin story involving the tragic loss of his acrobatic parents. His costume resembled that of Tim Drake's but with the classic non-italicized "R" symbol on his chest. The animated series Dick Grayson is not as hokey as depicted by Burt Ward in the television show from 1966. It's not like the Batman can't handle any situation, but it certainly doesn't hurt to have Robin watching your back.
If you're worried that in the future robots will rise up and destroy their human oppressors, then you may want to cower in fear at Bending Unit 22, unit number 1,729, serial number 2716057, but you might know him better as Bender Bending Rodriguez? Still don't know who we're talking about? We're referring to Philip J. Fry's best friend, Bender.
Futurama's Bender is a robot that loves to drink, but that's due to the fact that he's literally fueled by the stuff.
Like any good sidekick, he spends just as much time getting Fry out of trouble as he does getting him into trouble. Bender has profound issue towards non-robots, but he legitimately considers Fry his friend and like any good sidekick will make sure he survives their adventures, unless it gets in the way of Bender getting beer.
10 MONTEREY JACK
Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers premiered August 1988 and instead of the two chipmunks bothering Pluto or Donald Duck, the two are now running a detective agency with several other animals. Their adventures take them all over the world and even off-planet. Who knew being an animal detective would be such an intense job?
One of the secondary characters helping Chip and Dale is Monterey Jack, an Australian mouse Rescue Ranger who acts as the muscle for the group. If Monterey is in smelling distance of cheese, he'll go into a mustache-twirling trance and make a mad dash towards it, not stopping until he satisfies his hunger. Despite his flaws, he's an important sidekick to Chip n' Dale, who during the Rescue Rangers cartoon are respectively dressed like Indiana Jones and Tom Selleck's character from Magnum, P.I.
Gargoyles was a cartoon that aired October 1994 and although it was produced by Disney, the dark tone and look was clearly targeting an older demographic. The show depicted a group of gargoyles that came to life after being frozen in stone for close to a millennium. Many of the voice actors on the show were former actors that appeared in the Star Trek franchise such as Kate Mulgrew, Michael Dorn, and Jonathan Frakes.
Heroes can't do it all by themselves; sidekicks need to do the necessary research and find information to relay to the hero so they can save the day. This is where the gargoyle Lexington comes in. Lexington takes it upon himself to learn the technology of the modern world (fortunately the series took place in 1994; we don't know how he'd fare with an iPhone). Lex has done such feats as built a motorcycle as well as using a computer to disarm security protocols.
Isn't it a little odd that the Ghostbusters would have a sidekick that was an actual ghost? In the 1984 film Ghostbusters the green ghoul that slimed Peter Venkman didn't have an official name. The crew called it Onionhead because of the odor and the film's co-writer Dan Aykroyd referred to it as "The Ghost of John Belushi." Ray and Egon would classify it as a Class 5 ghost.
In the animated series The Real Ghostbusters, Slimer is almost like a pet dog to the team.
However, Slimer is loyal to the gang and saves their lives on numerous occasions. Even when Peter Venkman gains superpowers and becomes Venk-Man, Slimer became his sidekick Super-Spud. Ray, Egon, Winston and even Peter eventually grow to respect Slimer, and he becomes a full member of the team.
7 PATRICK STAR
One could argue that people tuned in to SpongeBob SquarePants to see SpongeBob but stayed to watch his friend, neighbor and sidekick Patrick Star. Patrick has a poor memory, often shows strange common sense, and has no sense of smell (since he has no nose), but perhaps all of these bad traits were put in place to make SpongeBob look that much better?
Patrick may not be the smartest pink starfish in all of Bikini Bottom, but he's smart enough to know a good friend when he sees one. No matter what the misadventure that SpongeBob goes on, Patrick is there with him. He does have some redeeming qualities: for a starfish Patrick is super strong, is an excellent driver, and can regenerate any lost limbs.
6 APRIL O'NEIL
Not to get political, but we guarantee that April Harriet O'Neil, broadcaster for Channel 6, delivers fake news. You'll recognize her by her red hair and yellow jumpsuit. April was the first to report about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, four gigantic turtles that lived in the sewers, ate pizza and knew martial arts. Needless to say the general populace was wary of the Ninja Turtles at first, but April was an advocate for the Turtles and their ability to do good for the people of New York.
April was often captured by Shredder and used as bait to trap the Turtles when they tried to rescue her, but she was more than just your classic damsel in distress. She's served as a default public relations person for the turtles and on numerous occasions helped publicly expose criminals that were endangering the city.
It's absolutely normal for a sidekick to get in over their heads, and that's exactly what happened to Snarf. He signed on to be the babysitter for a young Lion-O. The ThunderCats are forced to flee their homeworld and Lion-O's suspended animation pod didn't stop him from aging physically, so although the leader of the ThunderCats has the body of an adult, he still has somewhat the mind of an impulsive kid, meaning Snarf has to continue to babysit him.
Snarf also has great resistance to mind control and magic.
Snarf can't fight, but he can communicate with the animals on Third Earth to help the ThunderCats in times of need. Snarf also has great resistance to mind control and magic, possibly due to the Snarf race being considered inherently good. In the 2011 reboot, Snarf was shamefully reduced from sidekick to pet. His real name is Osbert!
4 BRAIN THE DOG
Inspector Gadget may seem like he's the hero that saves the day, it's actually the work of two important people behind the scenes that help him do his job and prevent him from getting killed. Penny, Inspector Gadget's niece, uses her computer skills to help solve the crimes, but their dog, Brain, is the one that does all the hard work in the field.
Like most cartoon dogs, Brain can walk like a person, wear disguises and pass for a human.
He works with Penny to make sure Gadget completes his missions without dying. The animated sequel Gadget and the Gadgetinis premiered in September 2001. In the sequel, Brain was replaced by a mini-robotic version of Inspector Gadget. It turns out Brain had retired because after all those years of adventures, he had gained a fear of gadgets! No sidekick deserves that!
He-Man fought villains with such silly names as Stinkor and Trap Jaw, but for the most part they were covered head-to-toe in intimidating layers of muscles upon muscles. He-Man had allies like Man-At-Arms and Man-E-Faces that were equally as buff, but He-Man's true ace in the hole was not a fellow strong man. We're talking about Trollan named Orko.
Orko was not as muscular as his friends; he would skip leg day at the gym because he technically didn't have legs.
Instead, he'd levitate off the ground using his magical abilities. He was a floating magical dude who constantly had his face covered by a giant hat and purple scarf. He's saved He-Man's butt on numerous occasions and proves that sometimes brain can be more powerful than brawn!
It's only natural for people to root for the underdog, but how about rooting for the little dog? When it comes to Scrappy Cornelius Doo, it doesn't get much tinier than that. He's the kid of Scooby's sister, Ruby-Doo, and whereas Scooby wants to run from a monster or ghost, you're guaranteed to see Scrappy run towards the ruckus, shouting "Puppy Power!" He not only saved Scooby's life from time to time, he also saved the show's ratings.
Scrappy-Doo's character was added to boost Scooby-Doo's sinking ratings, and although he did provide the show with a boost and receive his own spinoff show, many felt adding Scrappy made the show "jump the shark" so to speak. He went from sidekick to antagonist in the 2002 live action Scooby-Doo. He may have lived long enough to become the villain, but for a time he was the hero and sidekick that Scooby-Doo deserved.
1 BRUCE WAYNE
Robin was an excellent sidekick to Batman, and Bruce Wayne was a good sidekick as well! The 1999 animated series Batman Beyond gave audiences a new and interesting premise: Bruce Wayne, now too old to act as Batman, had passed the mantle onto Terry McGinnis, who wears an advanced suit of bat-armor. McGinnis fights crime in the field while Wayne now takes on the Alfred role providing information and aid from the safety of the Batcave.
The idea of Bruce Wayne being anyone's sidekick is almost inconceivable, which is what makes Batman Beyond so bold and daring.
Such a jarring role reversal made for compelling drama and fans marveled at what could be described now as Old Man Bruce. It's inevitable that Bruce would be too old to be Batman, but clearly he's not too old to fight crime, and seeing him as a sidekick to a younger Batman was done with grace and heart.