02 03 Nerd Lunch: DC Reboot: Hard Times for Sidekicks 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

DC Reboot: Hard Times for Sidekicks


Now here's Exhibit A in support of the argument that DC Comics should be doing a full-scale Year One reboot: the original Teen Titans, everybody's favorite sidekicks. While the sliding timescale does tend to . . . slide around, and confuse things, the general assumption in current continuity is that these kids got started at around 14 years old, and have been in the business for about 10 years.

Maybe the whole idea of a sidekick is an anachronism, a holdover from an earlier era when typical readers were closer to Robin's age and could enjoy the fantasy of being Batman's junior partner. But look at what these characters have been dragged through, mainly because no one knows what to do with them anymore:

Speedy faded into obscurity for a decade or so, then famously came back long enough to be a heroin addict. He turned into an edgy weapons master called Arsenal, knocked up a super-villain, and ended up a single dad. When his mentor Green Arrow died, someone else replaced him. Roy later joined the JLA (the varsity!) as Red Arrow. And then a lazy writer got bored, and killed Roy's kid, and had him lose his arm, and become a relapsed junkie / cyborg / murderer.

Aqualad was sidelined for many years, until they decided to butch him up by sending him to a pocket dimension where he aged several years and developed a pretty sweet new power set. Under the new name of Tempest, and with the excellent writing of Peter David, he became sort of Lancelot to Aquaman's Arthur. He got married, he had a kid . . . and then he and his family disappeared, and Garth never found them, and pretty much no one could be bothered to give him a status quo (Aquaman himself has been a problem these past few years). And now he's dead.

Wonder Girl . . . well, where do you start with Donna Troy? She got married, had a son, got divorced, and ex-husband and son died. She lost her powers, got a job as a space cop, lost it. Her origin had been revised and rewritten so many time it's actually a formal part of status quo that she remembers all of her multiple contradictory origins. She was Wonder Woman for a little bit, and now she's in the JLA with a few of her peers . . . but Wonder Woman's origin is being overhauled, and for WW's younger self / kid sister / protege / magical duplicate, that means we'll soon be back to asking . . . who is Donna Troy?

Kid Flash was how it SHOULD be done. After his mentor Barry Allen died in the mid-80s, Wally West became the new Flash, and for twenty years, he earned it. He got married and started a family. And it was all good. In fact, even killing him off in a new Crisis (like his predecessor) was not a bad development . . . it made sense thematically, and it set up an opportunity for another runner to step into his shoes. But DC got cold feet, and the new guy wasn't working out, and so we ended up with a weird story where the new guy gets BEATEN TO DEATH, the Wests return from a stint in another one of those fast-time dimensions, and Wally has a couple of seemingly pre-teen kids as his new sidekicks. But then Barry Allen came back, and now Wally is a man without a comic book, The [Other] Flash.

Robin became Nightwing . . . and thanks to some good creative handling, he's avoided the kind of drastic character-wrecking status quo changes suffered by all his peers. He moved to his own city and developed his own rogues gallery and supporting characters, while still intersecting with Batman's world on a regular basis. Remarkably, he was slated for death in the Final Crisis reboot a few years back, but saner heads prevailed. He replaced Batman, and when Bruce Wayne got better from all that dying stuff, he remained as the Gotham City Batman, while Bruce travels the world to deputize local crimefighters as the local Bat-people. And all this has been good stuff . . . but it's hard to see where they go from here, with Bruce outing himself as Batman's financial backer and the Batman Family growing every month. Dick Grayson gets more pages than Wally, but ultimately he's The [Other] Batman, just as sure as Wally is The [Other] Flash.

Incidentally, all five of these guys have been replaced in their original sidekick roles (heck, Batman has been through four other Robins since Dick left for college), so there's no going back to a simple senior partner / junior partner dynamic.

In the mid-90s, DC was onto something interesting . . . earlier heroes like Green Lantern, Flash, and Green Arrow were killed off and replaced, and the new guys took over. That's when I started reading DC Comics, and I liked that feeling that there were real changes in this universe, a real progression, a passing of the torch. What happened? Aging nerds, daddio. Aging nerds insisted that the older characters return from the dead, get de-aged, and knock their replacements back to sidekick status.

And the same things have already started to happen to some of their replacement sidekicks --- poor Tim Drake, who was a terrific Robin for 20 years, has been replaced; Stephanie Brown is seemingly not needed as either Robin or Batgirl; Cassandra Cain went from new Batgirl to bad guy to limbo; Bart Allen was artificially aged, became the new Flash, got beaten to death 12 issues later, and then the Cosmic Reset Button was pressed.

So this is why DC needs a full reboot: if these kids are never going to be allowed to become the grownups, then they will mostly be sidelined until something horrible happens to them, just so the REAL heroes can react. Don't do that anymore. Let them be fourteen again.

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