That's What's Up: Why superheroes don't have sidekicks anymore
Each week, comic book writer Chris Sims answers the burning questions you have about the world of comics and pop culture: what's up with that? If you'd like to ask Chris a question, please send it to @theisb on Twitter with the hashtag #WhatsUpChris, or email it to email@example.com with the subject line "That's What's Up."
Q: Almost every major superhero had a kid sidekick of some sort once, but now they hardly exist anymore except for Batman, who already has a small army of them and still gets a new one every few years. Why does he get away with child endangerment while other superheroes don't? — J. Chow, via email
When you get right down to it, kid sidekicks are a lot like capes. They're an element that's so inextricably tied to the very idea of the superhero that they serve as a sort of shorthand for the entire genre. It's one of the reasons that you see them cropping up so often when non-superhero media, like sitcoms, inevitably turn their attention to comics. There's always a Fallout Boy to stand next to Radioactive Man, cape billowing in the wind, even though modern comics pretty much moved past capes and kids about 50 years ago.
As for why they're still so prominent in the pop culture idea of comics, though, that one comes down to a single word: Robin. And come to think of it, you can answer the question of why we don't have them anymore in the same way. In 1961, there was a massive shift in the idea of what a superhero could be that comes down to one single word. Although to be fair, that one does have a hyphen.