We’ve discussed some of the generic things to keep in mind when experimenting with life as a bit player in a comic book. Ironically, it’s always much more dangerous to be a bit player in that kind of story, because the main characters, in spite of being in dangerous situations all the time, are equipped with plot armor that is likely to keep them alive through the entire story. So it might be a wise move to increase your overall importance to the narrative, if for no other reason than to help you keep your head on your shoulders.
Still, sidekicking is a tricky business. If done too well, you could wind up being the hero of your own series, which is great except it’s much more trying and comes with much less in the way of returns (see point #3 on the Minor Comic Book Characters list.) If done poorly you could wind up being the little guy in the next Batman and Robin clone. And the world honestly doesn’t need another Robin.
So what are some things to keep in mind?
- Do some research. If you’re given an option in which hero you work with* try and work with someone who’s archenemy isn’t a natural foil for you. For example, if you have hydrokinetic powers, turn down the offer from the guy who’s frenimies with the lighting mage. Sure, you’re not going to be as cool as the hero but there’s no reason to make things harder on yourself every time you encounter his archnemesis.
- On a similar note, diversify. Don’t use the same kind of power as your hero. That way, when an EMP bomb knocks out your hero’s power armor suit you’ll be able to drag them to safety with your telekinesis, rather than being just as stuck as he is.
- If someone you’re about to bring to justice tells you they’re going to reveal your hero’s dark past to you, don’t stop and listen to them. Punch them in the face and throw them in the paddy-wagon, then ask your hero if there’s anything you should know about.
- You and your hero will be shipped, regardless of age, gender, species or personal preferences. Get used to it, or find a different job.
- Keep in mind that heroing is an all ages, all genders occupation, and thus so is sidekicking. Even if you’re getting up there, keep in mind that Alfred was just as much Batman’s sidekick as Robin was. And if you ask me, he did a much better job.
- That said, as a sidekick, you have certain obligations to your hero. Food preparation, chauffeur services and psychological counseling are not usually among them, at least not until you and the hero have had a long and mutually beneficial relationship. Know how to set boundaries. And generally, it’s better to try and keep your secret identities as separate as possible. Unless, of course, you are the Incredibles.
- Work out an understanding of what your hero/sidekick dynamic will be ahead of time. If he’s expecting an Arthur Hastings it’s a good idea to mention that you’re actually a James Hathaway, and vice versa.
- While some people are sidekicks for life, it’s actually not the most common way for things to go. People change and sometimes retire or pass on, at least temporarily. It’s important that you have a plan for the future, discuss it with your employer** and take steps to fulfill it even while still a sidekick.
- Do your legwork. In all the rushing around from one crisis to another, heroes can’t always stay on top of all the technological, social and political trends in the world. While it’s not glamorous, keeping up with these details while the hero focuses on his archenemies lets you be helpful to your hero and buffs your plot armor to help you stay one step ahead of the bus.
While points one and two on the Minor Characters list still apply to you, to all that it’s important to add that you should avoid dating your boss’s children. The incredible amount of danger you will be in on a regular basis is bad enough, adding all the relationship baggage to it will be a lethal mix.
I hope this advice proves useful to you when you develop superpowers and take up the cape. Superhero Sidekicking can be a fun, exciting and fulfilling career choice, and if these tips help you make the most of it then I’m happy to have provided them. Just drop me a line and let me know how they worked out for you.
And maybe how I could get some of those superpowers myself…
*And what hero worth his salt wouldn’t give you an option?
**Unless your plans involve a turn to villainy.