Since superheroes have been around, sidekicks have been an integral part of the trope and dynamic of what it means to be a superhero. From the earliest days, there have been Robins to every Batman, Jimmy Olsens and Superboys to Supermen and even Jugheads to Archies. But the role of the sidekick has changed, and what may have once been a form of comic relief now offers a chance for something more. Modern sidekicks are often rich in backstory, sometimes more nuanced than the characters they’re supporting. In some cases, this means resurrecting a legacy character like Bucky Barnes and giving them a new lease on life. In other cases, its the passing of a mantle to a character like Damian Wayne or Sam Wilson or the sharing of an ability or skill in Wally West or Roy Harper.
But not all sidekicks are useful. Sure, some save the world from alien invasions, catastrophic events and crazed super villains, but others haven’t really gotten a chance to prove themselves, acting more in the background than anything. They’ve been neglected by their mentors, passed along in favor of a new sidekick, or sometimes just forgotten about altogether. Here are 15 comic book sidekicks ranked from least useful to most.
15 BUCKY BARNES
A lot of Bucky’s usefulness as a sidekick hinges on that of his mentor, Captain America. Bucky’s inauguration is kind of wild, when you think about it. A grown man brings a teenager into the thick of World War II alongside the Invaders, including Namor and the original Human Torch, Jim Hammond. He was soon after believed killed in action while the duo of him and Cap chased Baron Zemo.
Sure, Bucky Barnes would come into his own and prove useful later on, when he’s brought back as The Winter Soldier (though he’ll spend an early portion of that time as a pretty bad guy), but there’s not much to be said about Bucky or his Kid Commandos during their time of operation. When all is said and done, Bucky’s impact as a sidekick all occurred after his assumed demise, not beforehand.
14 ROY HARPER
Roy Harper is incredibly skilled at what he does, and his time as a mentee to Green Arrow, at least at the jump, was something special. Not to mention his role in forming the Teen Titans. But when the Titans disbanded and Oliver Queen began to neglect Roy, he began to fall into drugs and addiction.
Since then, he’s redeemed himself as a layered character with teams like The Outsiders and Red Hood’s Outlaws, and returned to former glory in the most recent Titans series. But as a sidekick, Harper caused a lot of trouble for Green Arrow, and as their relationship soured, so did their effectiveness as a duo. Like other members of the Titans, Roy Harper is better off as Red Arrow or Arsenal -- not as a sidekick.
13 DAMIAN WAYNE
What is there to say about Damian Wayne? Batman’s latest and youngest Robin is not only his son, but also the son of Talia al Ghul and the grandson of Ra’s al Ghul, essentially created as a means for Batman to be taken down by his own blood. Pretty sadistic, and when Damian joins the side of the light, it is a bit of an adjustment before he really gets it. You know, after he inadvertently kills and maims some people.
But Wayne isn’t the worst sidekick ever, proving useful in intense combat scenarios and strategic planning, though those plans often go out the window in favor of his brash personality and knack for rushing into situations that can and have gotten him killed. Though, he did have superpowers for a while, so we guess that’s useful.
As a sidekick, Garth was another wacky addition to the world of Aquaman in his early days. But as different arcs changed the dynamic between Arthur Curry and Garth, he became less of a sidekick and more of an adversary. Not in the traditional bad guy sense, but the two grew apart, and Garth felt betrayed by Aquaman.
Sure, it didn’t help that he was exiled, his father was killed (and his mother was involved) and his love, Tula, died, but Garth eventually bounced back and now finds himself in the pages of the latest run of Titans. His skills to communicate with marine life and wield magic are still put to great use, though, and he occasionally appears in the main Aquaman series to help out Arthur and Mera.
The Falcon, Sam Wilson, was one of many sidekicks that Captain America has had over the years. But Wilson met Captain America in a weird way, after being reprogrammed by the Red Skull in an attempt to take out Steve Rogers. Of course, Rogers helped break Wilson free and the two became fast friends and teammates, with Wilson now equipped with the ability to communicate with birds.
Falcon also got the ability to fly thanks to a harness and has had plenty of solo adventures since his days as a sidekick. But much like other sidekicks, he eventually made his own way, and even took over the mantle of Captain America during the latest All-New era of Marvel Comics. Now, he’s got a sidekick of his own in the form of the new Patriot.
10 RICK JONES
If Rick Jones is anything, it’s versatile. Rick’s days as a sidekick go all the way back to the formation of the original Avengers, with Rick essentially being the driving force for the team to come together. He would later spend time as Captain America’s sidekick and go on adventures with the likes of The Hulk, Captain Marvel and more.
Rick’s technical prowess and passion for being an honorary Avenger make him one of the best sidekicks out there, but he’s had a rough go of things. For example, there was that time he spent as A-Bomb, doing damage as a Hulk-like. He also played a huge role in the recent "Secret Empire" event, and while things didn’t turn out so great for him there, it further cemented his legacy as one of the best and brightest young characters in Marvel Comics.
Jubilee, when she was a sidekick, was only deemed one because of how other people saw the father-daughter relationship she had with Wolverine. Keep in mind, Jubilee could absolutely hold her own, fighting the likes of The Hand, Sentinels and more during her time as Wolverine’s unofficial sidekick. In that way, Wolverine was almost more useful to her than she was to him, assisting her in getting revenge for the death of her parents, and playing an integral role in fighting the likes of Omega Red and Sabretooth.
In the years since their team-up, Jubilee has been doing her own thing, though a bit of a far cry from her original intent. Of course, we're mainly talking about the fact that she’s now a vampire, though she has passed on her parental insight to an adoptive kid of her own, Shogo.
8 LYING CAT
While the characters in Saga aren’t traditionally categorized by cape comic terms, Lying Cat might be the closest to a sidekick the series has got. That being said, she is absolutely one of the most useful characters on this list, not only defending The Will in battle, but serving as a living, breathing lie detector. If someone -- anyone in range spits out a lie during conversation, whether its with body language or actual words, she instinctively responds with “Lying…”
She has also undergone incredible character development to become a fan-favorite character from Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ award-winning series. She’s made even better by the fact that we learn that “lying cats” have a strict set of rules to follow, but because of Lying Cat’s demeanor, she defects and forges her own path.
7 BARBARA GORDON
Barbara Gordon is definitely the loosest interpretation of “sidekick” on this list, but her role in essentially improving the lives of a collection of superheroes is mostly unmatched. As Batgirl, she proved that abilities could be taken beyond that of a Robin, even going so far as to debate with Batman over who his real sidekick should be. Later, tragedy struck.
Barbara Gordon was paralyzed from the waist down during the events of The Killing Joke, shot at the hands of The Joker. She then became Oracle, utilizing a computer-like intelligence to strategize, support and plan for the Bat Family. Her time spent here was unbeatable, and though she has returned to the Batgirl role, she brings all of her knowledge and skills as Oracle along too.
As the sidekick to Britt Reid, The Green Hornet, one begins to wonder who the true Green Hornet is when all is said and done. Kato is a martial arts master who sidelines as a valet for Reid, though most of his time is spent taking down bad guys and, more often than not, saving Reid’s skin by getting him out of tough situations.
Sure, a lot of this might have been exaggerated by the portrayal of the characters in 2011’s Green Hornet film with Seth Rogen, but it did an ample job in showing us who the true hero is. In that sense, Kato is one of the most useful sidekicks, transcending what it means to be one, and taking names while doing it.
5 HONEY BADGER
While Gabby may be the newest addition to this list, her time as a sidekick has more than proven her worth as a fighting force in the Marvel Universe. As one of Laura Kinney’s (X-23) clones, Gabby retains the healing factor and claws of her biological inspiration, but she has the added ability of not feeling any pain. Despite this, she’s a gleaming hope of wonder that makes every story she’s a part of ten times more interesting.
She’s also grown a lot as a character and in turn helped Laura grow, someone who previously felt like she had no family. With Gabby joining X-Men Red and seemingly sticking around for a while, we can’t wait to see what else is in store. Also, she brings along Jonathan the actual wolverine. He’s great.
4 CASSANDRA CAIN
Much like Barbara Gordon, Cassandra Cain has never officially adopted the idea of being a sidekick to anyone, though she is often categorized as one. Her stint as Batgirl proves her to be one of the fiercest, most passionate fighters in the DC Universe, and while an eventually reboot would retcon her time as Batgirl, the groundwork is still there.
Cassandra Cain was reintroduced a couple of years back in Batman & Robin: Eternal, and became Orphan by the end of that series. As Orphan, she’s basically Batgirl without the cowl and moniker, acting as an agent of the Bat Family, proving to be incredible deadly (though now uses restraint) and layered as a character. Plus, we get some really great interactions between her and Clayface in Detective Comics.
3 DICK GRAYSON
As a sidekick, Dick Grayson is often the one to beat. From the jump, he had acrobatic skill and speed, and his empathy with Batman after suffering through a similar tragedy led to a strong connection between mentor and mentee. But Grayson was also an integral part of Batman’s early career, and the success of him as the first Robin led to the wide expansion of the Bat Family we see today.
But Grayson is also a worthy successor, useful to Batman’s degree and then some. When Bruce Wayne was unstuck in time, Grayson took on the Bat mantle, working with Damian Wayne as a new-and-improved Batman and Robin. As a Robin, he’s one of the best. As his own hero, he’s even better.
2 TIM DRAKE
As far as sidekicks go, it doesn’t get much better than Tim Drake. For everything Dick Grayson could possibly lack, Drake makes up for it in strategic planning, combat skills and the ability to think incredibly quick on his feet. He’s also one of the only Robins to truly embrace the identity, realizing that he doesn’t want to become the next Batman -- he wants to be better.
As Robin, he was iconic in Grayson’s absence, cementing his place for many fans as the perfect counterpart to Batman. Recently, Drake’s return from the dead had him learning he’d one day become Batman, despite his best attempts to avoid it. While it hasn’t happened yet, we don’t think Drake in the Batsuit would be nearly as bad as has been foretold.
1 WALLY WEST
All sidekicks should dream to one day be Wally West -- you know, aside from the whole “trapped in the Speed Force” thing. His time as Kid Flash was met with almost universal praise, so much so that Wally West would eventually usurp Barry Allen and become the main Flash of the DC Universe. When DC shook up its publishing line with the New 52, the original West was nowhere to be found.
But the fastest there is returned in DC Universe Rebirth, and has since tapped into his roots as a pal to Barry Allen, a best friend to Dick Grayson and founding member of the Titans, and even an occasional mentor to the new Kid Flash, the other Wally West. He’s survived the unthinkable, and that makes him one of the best sidekicks there is.