Behind every superhero or supervillain, there’s a loyal friend or ally, tasked with helping that superhero save the world without getting themselves killed. And thus began the comic book staple of the sidekick: a close friend or ally, labelled a subordinate and rarely praised for their work. Which is B.S. After all, what would Batman be without Robin, or the Joker without Harley Quinn? Though many sidekicks become superheroes in their own right, their original purpose in the comic book world deserves some belated kudos. So, here are my top ten favorite superhero sidekicks of all time.
10Roy Harper / Speedy/ Arsenal (DC Comics)
Sidekick to: Green Arrow
Roy Harper, one of DC’s longstanding characters, is a classic example of the superhero sidekick. Mentored by Green Arrow, the teenage archer becomes Speedy, the young sidekick to Green Arrow who’s always ready to fight crime. Connected to various superhero fighting groups (Teen Titans, Justice League, the Outlaws), Speedy eventually takes on the names Arsenal and Green Arrow as an adult. He’s been most recently played by Colton Haynes for several seasons of The CW’s “Green Arrow.”
9Wally West / Kid Flash / The Flash (DC Comics)
Sidekick to: The Flash
Nephew of Barry Allen’s wife Iris, Wally West, finds himself with the same powers of superspeed after the freak accident that gave Barry his powers repeats itself. Due to dysfunctional home life, Wally bonds with his aunt and uncle and helps out The Flash as his sidekick, Kid Flash, when needed, learning the ways of superheroing. In The CW’s “The Flash,” Keiynan Lonsdale plays Wally, Iris’ brother, who becomes a full-fledged superhero and moves on to “Legends of Tomorrow.”
8Donna Troy / Wonder Girl (DC Comics)
Sidekick To: Wonder Woman
Donna Troy was created as DC’s young, approachable female superhero, calming concerned parents after the Fredric Wertham’s “Seduction of the Innocent” was published, a book that blamed comics books for juvenile delinquency (?). Like many comic book supers, she’s got her several origin stories but is always billed Wonder Woman’s awesome little sister. She has many of Wonder Woman’s own powers, along with a mental link to her sister Diana, and later moves on to become a Teen Titan. She recently made a live-action debut on DC’s “Titans,” played by Conor Leslie.
7James Rhodes / War Machine (Marvel Comics)
Sidekick To: Iron Man
James Rhodes, Tony Stark’s best friend, and U.S. Marine Corps lieutenant, plays devoted confidante and stand-in for Iron Man when Stark’s missing, injured or otherwise incapacitated. For his trouble, Stark makes him his own suit of high-powered armor, giving him the same powers of flight and strength. Because of his fighting prowess, he eventually becomes an Avenger, but make no mistake: Rhodes is Stark’s friend, first and foremost. He’s been played by Terence Howard, then Don Cheadle in the MCU, and will appear next in “Avengers: Endgame.”
6Cindy Moon / Silk (Marvel Comics)
Sidekick To: Spider-Man
Spider-Man has had many allies and sidekicks over the years, but my personal fave is Cindy Moon, a.k.a. Silk. Her origin story begins just a few minutes after Peter Parker’s; that fated radioactive spider that bites Parker also bites Cindy, giving them both spider powers. Unlike Parker, Cindy can’t control her powers and is imprisoned by the mentor tasked with teaching her how to harness them. Parker eventually learns of her plight and breaks her out, with Cindy going on to help him fight crime as Silk. The pair’s shared spider-senses cause some love and lust conflicts, with Silk eventually striking out on her own journey to find her family. She’s one of the only Korean American superheroes around, and as she’s relatively new (originated in 2014), she’s not appeared on screen just yet.
5Sam Wilson / Falcon (Marvel Comics)
Sidekick To: Captain America
Sam Wilson, in both the MCU and original comics, is a badass who deserves more credit. In the original comics, there’s a lot of drama with the Exiles’ island, Captain America, the Cosmic Cube and Redwing, a falcon he bonds with on said island. With a wing harness that allows him to fly, martial skills and various bird abilities ( it’s all birds all the time with Sam Wilson), the Falcon aids Captain America when he needs some major backup. The Falcon was also the first African-American superhero in mainstream comic books, conceived by Marvel powerhouse Stan Lee and artist Gene Colan. He’s played by Anthony Mackie in the MCU films and will be seen next in “Avengers: Endgame“ and a new Winter Soldier/Falcon TV series.
4Barbara Gordon / Batgirl / Oracle (DC Comics)
Sidekick To: Batman
Batgirl has had several names, but perhaps the best remembered is Barbara Gordon. Conceived during the 1960s Batman TV series, Barbara was brought on as the female counterpart to Batman; the librarian daughter of Gotham City police commissioner James Gordon, she plays sidekick to the Dark Knight alongside original Robin, Dick Grayson. After being shot by the Joker in the graphic novel “Batman: The Killing Joke,” Gordon is paralyzed and instead becomes Oracle, a badass techie providing intel and hacking services to other supers. She’ll probably be back on screens very soon in her own solo film, courtesy of Christina Hodson.
3Bucky Barnes / Winter Soldier (Marvel Comics)
Sidekick To: Captain America
James “Bucky” Barnes is probably the only reason Steve Rogers lived long enough to become Captain America. Though his origin story paints Bucky as a young Army brat who befriends a tiny, struggling Private Rogers, the recent MCU films present Bucky as Steve’s childhood friend, who protected him from harm in Depression-era Brooklyn. Bucky is Steve’s best friend and…possibly more in later years, though the recent MCU films have avoided a Steve/Bucky love affair. Bucky has also been billed as the Winter Soldier after a 2005 comic revealed he was captured and forced to become a Hydra assassin. He eventually becomes an Avenger and superhero in his own right, taking over the Captain America mantle in the comics. I’m guessing the Winter Soldier/ Falcon TV series will be a way for Disney to decide whether Sebastian Stan or Anthony Mackie will wear the stars and stripes after Chris Evans leaves the franchise. Stan will (probably) appear in “Avengers: Endgame,” since that “Avenger: Infinity War“ death probably won’t be sticking.
2Harley Quinn (DC Comics)
Sidekick To: The Joker
The only sidekick to a supervillain on this list, Harley goes all-in for The Joker as his girlfriend/sidekick. Harley was originally The Joker’s doctor at the Arkham Insane Asylum, but fell in love with him and dropped everything to be with him. Their rocky on-again-off-again relationship often makes Harley Quinn leave to team up with other villains like Catwoman and Poison Ivy, and is currently depicted as a solo antiheroine. But for years, she was The Joker’s righthand woman, ready to support The Joker’s deranged plans in any way she could. Margot Robbie most recently played Harley in David Ayer’s “Suicide Squad,” and will reprise the role in “Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn).”
1Dick Grayson / Robin / Nightwing (DC Comics)
Sidekick To: Batman
Batman and Robin are the peanut butter and jelly of the comic book world: where one is, the other’s sure to follow. After decades of helping Batman keep Gotham safe, Robin has definitely earned his title as the number one sidekick of all time; and though there may have been several Robins, original sidekick Dick Grayson gets top honors. Bruce Wayne first took in the orphaned acrobat as his legal ward back in 1940 and quickly trained him to be his partner in crime. Though he eventually grows up to become Nightwing, the leader of the Teen Titans and the Outsiders. Faithful, steady, and hanging on to Bruce Wayne’s every word, Dick Grayson’s Robin has defined the sidekick character since his first appearance and continues to be one of the most famous sidekicks of all time. He currently appears on DC’s “Titans,” played by Brenton Thwaites.