Side kicks are what transcends a character or film or book from being merely good to greatness. Its the chemistry between the protagonist and the sidekick that makes stories immortal.
The protagonists get the glory and the immortality, the sidekicks only a sidenote, but hey, they are the true stars.
Writers use side kicks as foils, as a means to glorify the protagonist; too often we see the sidekick complement the qualities of the protagonist or fulfill some need, some vacuum in the character .
Well, writers apart from Uderzo and Goscinny of course. There are sidekicks and then there is Obelix. It is Obelix’s simplicity, friendship and love for both Asterix and Dogmatix that make him probably the most endearing and lovable of all characters (which frankly is a superb feat considering the motley crew of Asterix characters). In fact, it is Obelix, and not Asterix, who is the heart and soul of the series, though Asterix is the “hero”.
So Obelix is all on his own as far as characters go, he has stolen the show.
There are 2 other memorable sidekicks who “stole the show” so to speak – Samwise Gamgee and Huckleberry Finn.
Though Frodo is the ‘ringbearer’, its Sam who makes everything possible; he did not go on the journey because of some token of grand heroism or to save the world, he goes just to help and support his friend and boss. Its a simple reason and something with which we can all identify.
Huck Finn starts off as a lackey/friend of Tom Sawyer but blooms into a hero on his own. Robin from Batman is somewhat similar.
Let’s look at some others, based on their roles in the story.
1.Sidekicks complementing the hero’s knowledge, skills etc.
In this category, we have to start with Mr. Spock and Captain Kirk, the perfect mix of calmness and hotheadedness, of emotion and logic; the only time things went tits up was when “Khhhhhaaaaaaannnnnnnnn” etc.
Simon Scarrow’s Quintus Licinius Cato and Lucius Cornelius Macro in the Eagle series and Willie Garvin and Modesty Blaise are other perfectly complementary partnership.
The best partnership would probably be between Brother Michael de Causton and Matthew Bartholemew in Susanna Gregory’s series set in 13th century Cambridge.
And then there is the defective detective himself Adrian Monk, who is incapable of functioning without the assistants Sharona/Natalie.
Buffy and Willow’s relationship may fall here as well.
2. Sidekicks as comic relief/the straight person to the hero’s comedic actions.
This is perhaps the most widely used trope in stories – the comedy sidekick to the straight hero or vice versa, just think Jatayu and Feluda, Kato and Green Hornet, Lone Ranger and Tonto, Captain Haddock and Tintin, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. Jeeves and Wooster would probably fall in this category as well.
3. Sidekicks as a connect with the audience
A sidekick often acts as an emotional conduit between the hero and the audience; they are the people that the audience can relate to also act as someone that the audience can relate to better than the hero.
This is perfectly captured in both Holmes and House [and to a much lesser degree Gill Greesom of CSI (well House and Greesom are modeled on Holmes so)]. They don’t really have or care for basic social courtesies or behaviours; social norms sometimes baffle them; the pursuit of truth is all they care about. These guys are brilliant no doubt, but as basic human characters, taken in isolation, they do not come out well.
So why do we love them?
It is because of the love and trust and warmth that the elicit from Watson and Wilson. It makes us search for and find any redeeming characteristics in these characters.
4. Sidekicks filling some void in protagonist’s life
The relationships between Potter and Weasley, Batman and Robin/Alfred, Inspector Rebus and Siobhan Clarke all fall under this category.
Potter needs a family – Weasleys give it to him; Batman need a father figure, Alfred plays that role; Rebus needs someone in his life as he has screwed up every other relationship, Siobhan a his detective partner provides that.
One relationship which has redefined the protagonist/sidekick equation is the one between DI/DCI Roberta Steel (sidekick) and DC/DS/DI Logan McRae (protagonist) in Stuart MacBride’s series set in Aberdeen. I don’t think there has ever been a potty mouth chain smoking lesbian slob sidekick before this.
Terry Pratchett’s Discworld gives us all these types of relationships, though only about 3 characters can legitimately claim to be sidekicks.
First up, Ponder Stibbons to Archchancellor Mustrum Ridcully (a mixture of categories 1 and 2)
Then, Nobby Nobbs to Fred Colon (firmly in category 2)
And finally, Nanny Ogg to Granny Weatherwax (firmly in category 3)
The relationship between Commander Vines and Captain Carrot is also an example of a perfect complimentary partnership; the ever cynic and depressed Vimes is offset by the ever optimistic and encouraging Carrot.
Well, like all great heroes and superheroes, I have a sidekick as well. However, this being my life, my sidekick is, well, this guy – Gaylord Pantpisser Tablelover Lipstickwala Guddudow.
As those of you who know him know, this is a man who is so gay and lives so deep in the closet that the post office delivers his mail in Narnia. He also has an unhealthy touchy feely relationship with his table and obsesses about lipstick.
And he wants to be my stunt double.