Behind every great superhero is a great sidekick. DC invented the comic book teen archetype when they introduced the figure who remains one of the best sidekicks, Dick Grayson as Robin in 1940's Detective Comics #38. He later teamed him up with Donna Troy, Garth, Roy Harper, and Wally West as the first version of the Teen Titans, the prototypical teen superteam.
The glory days of the superhero sidekick is in the past, but many characters that debuted alongside more prestiguous heroes and villains have gone on to have distinguished careers of their own, from Jimmy Olsen, to Harley Quinn, to a certain Boy Wonder. Here's our countdown of the best sidekicks of all time.
10. Jimmy Olsen
Oh, Jimmy. Always a second fiddle to Clark Kent and Lois Lane, but always trying to find a way to break out on your own. This classic character achieved fame with the uniquely specific title of Superman's "pal," making him a sidekick, if not usually as active of one as some other characters on this list.
With his red hair, camera and signature bow tie, Olsen is The Daily Planet's long-time cub reporter and photographer, often seen at first in tow of Lois or Clark in pursuit of their own stories. As time went on, Olsen got into some adventures of his own — although Superman is usually within earshot thanks to Olsen's signal watch.
Although not introduced as part of The Daily Planet staff in the first appearance of Superman, he made his official debut as a character in a Superman radio serial and was promptly fit into the then-growing DC pantheon of characters. Although he doesn't wear a costume or have superpowers like most of the sidekicks on our list, Jimmy Olsen is still a sidekick with a set of skills that can make him useful in some unconventional ways.
Comic books are home to a number of alien superheroes, but none are quite like this entrant. Lockheed is one of his race's bravest fighters, standing toe-to-toe against the Brood and becoming a legend to his people. But it was only when he joined the X-Men that he found his true place. Not bad for a small, purple dragon.
Lockheed was introduced in the early '80s as part of Chris Claremont's epic run on Uncanny X-Men, allying himself with Kitty Pryde while they were both imprisoned on an alien planet by the Brood. Since then he's almost always been by Shadowcat's side, whether she be a member of the X-Men, New Mutants, Excalibur or on her own.
Lockheed's had some brief solo dalliances with U.N.I.T. and the Pet Avengers, but his place will likely always be by Kitty Pryde's side — and he wouldn't have it any other way.
8. Rick Jones
Being a sidekick can be a temporary position, while others work in an assistant role for decades. For Marvel's Rick Jones, it's a juggling act between each of his various mentors.
Originally created as a straight man sidekick to Hulk in 1962's The Incredible Hulk #1, this orphan wandered into the gamma bomb that gave Bruce Banner his powers, and found a new friend. After getting fed up with the accidents that always seem to happen when you're rooming with a green-skinned goliath, Rick Jones attempted to start his own ham radio powered superteam called the Teen Brigade, and lucks into a radio broadcast from Loki that leads him to call some friends — who would eventually form the Avengers.
Over the years, Jones has been at the side of Marvel characters including the Hulk, the Avengers, Captain America, two different Captain Marvels and even Rom: Spaceknight. For a short time, he himself was able to become a gamma-powered monster named A-Bomb, though the ability to change into that persona was robbed of him by Doc Green, the last iteration of Bruce Banner/The Hulk.
7. The Newsboy Legion
Usually a sidekick is a single individual, but sometimes you need more than that.
Created by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon back in 1942, the Newsboy Legion were a group of orphans living in the darkest corners of Metropolis. Although they were never model citizens, they befriended cop-turned-superhero the Guardian.
In subsequent years they've been killed, cloned, and even pitted against an orphanage with ties to Apokolips. Though they haven't carried their own title or even kept a regular presence in comics since their debut 70+ years ago, the Newsboy Legion is a memorable group of sidekicks that any hero would be lucky to have.
6. Bob, Agent of Hydra
Deadpool has always been known as a bit of a loose cannon, so the idea of him having a sidekick might seem out of sorts — but not when you meet Bob.
Bob was a low-level member of the criminal organization of HYDRA, falling into the group after his wife bullied him into it in pursuit of a steady paycheck. Plugging along, Bob's life changed when he crossed paths with Deadpool while the latter was infiltrating HYDRA on one of his typically wacky missions. Using some highly skilled coercion tactics (read: torture), Deadpool turned Bob to his side and that's where he's been ever since — as much as Deadpool will let him.
Referred to occasionally as Deadpool's minion or pet, Bob's endured multiple gunshots, a case of scurvy and more torture at Deadpool's side. Above all else, the single deed that puts him on our list today was his frank determination in rescuing Deadpool's decapitated head after a face-off with Wolverine, and reassembling him.
It's times like that you know who your friends are, and Bob must surely be a friend to Deadpool. Despite Marvel Studios owning Hydra and not Fox, Bob did appear in Deadpool - just as a generic henchman.
The youngest entrant in our countdown, Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.'s Hit-Girl carved a bloody swath through fans' minds when she made her debut in the 2008 miniseries Kick-Ass.
This 10 and 1/2 year old street vigilante didn't consider her age or gender a hurdle in becoming the best superhero she or her father, Big Daddy, could ask for. Trained since she was a toddler, by the time that we see her in comics, she's what lead character Kick-Ass describes as a combination of Rambo and Polly Pocket.
Unlike most sidekicks, she's the more front-and-center of her team, with Big Daddy taking on a more hands-off approach when they're out on a mission — and even starred in her own miniseries published by Marvel's Icon imprint, and had two film appearances played by Chloe Grace Moretz.
4. Wally West
Wally West wasn’t the first superhero sidekick, but in many ways, he might be the most successful, the platonic ideal of what a sidekick can accomplish. Like some of his compatriots – notably Dick Grayson, Donna Troy, and Roy Harper – Wally grew up to become an adult hero. Unlike those other characters, he actually assumed the mantle of his mentor’s identity (in this case, the Flash) for an extended run , in many ways even surpassing Barry Allen as the Scarlet Speedster.
But even before becoming an adult hero, Wally operated as Kid Flash, a young speedster who exemplified the exuberance and heroism of teen sidekicks. His origins were a little messy – he got his powers in a freak accident while Barry Allen was showing him how he got his own speed – but he quickly became a fan favorite, anchoring the Teen Titans for years, and becoming one of the first of his generation of heroes to step up to the big leagues.
3. Bucky Barnes
How do you go from being a hackneyed character of a bygone age to being one of most popular characters of modern comics? That's the story of Bucky Barnes, who in the past ten years years has defied all expectations, following his unlikely return from death.
For a span of almost 50 years, Bucky Barnes was a non-entity in comics referred to only in minor flashbacks and in jokes about Cap's plucky sidekick, considered along with Uncle Ben to be one of the only comic book characters that would stay dead forever.
That all changed in 2004 when Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting re-introduced the boyish sidekick as a clandestine operative for Russia dubbed the Winter Soldier in Captain America #1. Barnes went from ally to enemy and back again over the course of the first few arcs, eventually reuniting with Captain America and hastily pulled into duty as Cap himself, when Rogers was shot and believed dead post-Civil War.
For most heroes, the ideal sidekick is one that could someday step up and take over the role of their mentor. While Bucky wasn't the first or the last to take this career trajectory, of all the people on this list, he was the one that did it best — serving as Captain America from 2007 to 2011 and making a sizable contingent of fans reluctant to see the original Captain America return. Bucky continues to be a presence in Marvel Comics, leading a new version of the Thunderbolts. He’s also dominated the box office as a major character in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War.
2. Harley Quinn
Sorry Bucky, but you've lost out to the psychiatrist turned frequent psychotic Harleen Francis Quinzel — Harley Quinn.
Although in current comic books she's a sidekick to no one, she was introduced — and will always be remembered — for her hyper hijinks at the side of the villainous Joker. Originally introduced in a 1992 episode of Batman: The Animated Series as a relatively minor addition to the DC Animated Universe, she went on to be a signature part of the Bat-corner of the comic book world and beyond with frequent guest appearances, a popular solo series with multiple spin-offs, a spot as one of the ongoing leads in Suicide Squad, and significant roles to play across bat-books and even titles like Injustice.
Whether it be her playful demeanor, her distinct accent or her flippant penchant for crime, Harley Quinn's stolen more than one fan's heart over the years and has nabbed the number two spot on this list.
Dick Grayson. Jason Todd. Tim Drake. Carrie Kelly. Damian Wayne.
No matter which character inhabits the role, the superhero known as Robin is the definitive sidekick in comic books, and arguably to the world at large.
Created in April 1940 by Bob Kane and Bill Finger as an erstwhile and diminutive ally to the Dark Knight, Robin has become a hero and a mantle which has been shared by an elite group of characters.
As noted, several heroes have taken up the mantle of Robin, from the original Dick Grayson to current Robin, Damian Wayne. While some lasted longer in the mantle than others, the name and legacy of Robin has had more than enough greats such as Dick Grayson, Tim Drake and Damian Wayne to make this the clear number one pick.