Saturday, July 28, 2007

Sidekicks Aren't Just For A Villain's Target Practice

The sidekick is another major character that needs to explored. As an extension of the hero, the sidekick acts as an interesting character, especially if handled correctly.

There are three basic types of sidekicks. There apprentice heroes, who are trying to learn how to be a hero from a hero (Robin is obviously the stereotype here). Then there is the “accidental” sidekick; this sidekick always seem to be able to be in a position to help the hero, even though he definitely shouldn't be there (Penny and Brain, for example). Lastly, there is the character that could be a hero in his or her own right, but is somehow tied to the hero (Supergirl (aka Matrix, and the one that's an earthbound angel), when she was employed by Lex, for example).

Each type fulfills a different need, and by exploring that need you can determine which sidekick you should strive towards. The obvious quicky note: You don't need a sidekick. They fill very specific literary needs, and so they aren't right for everyone. Also, don't make the mistake of assuming that everyone likes the idea of a sidekick; when sidekicks were introduced as a sort of avatar for the boys that read comics, the concept was despised (everyone wants to be Batman, no one wants to be Robin). Bear that in mind when you debate one.

The apprentice is the sidekick of choice, especially among male heroes. The apprentice provides a continuation of sorts, and represents the hero's legacy. He is responsible for training the sidekick, and the sidekick becomes an extension of the hero. This doesn't mean that the sidekick can't evolve; rather, that when the hero evolves, the sidekick will be the physical manifestation of that. For example, when Batman was finally able to let go of his past, Dick Grayson was allowed to become Nightwing and become a hero in his own right. Of course, it was quickly realized that Batman needed Robin (without Robin, he became depressed and focused too much on his work; he needed Robin to keep him balanced), and so a new one was quickly found (of course, Jason Todd didn't work out, so Timothy Drake was brought in).

The apprentice is best used when the hero needs to have some sort of symbolic reminder of what he is fighting for, and has some deep issues when it comes to legacy or family. The sidekick is the physical manifestation of the hero's dreams of the future, and provides a link to the past. In short, this particular sidekick is best used as a symbol, but with a conflicting personality to its hero, and abilities based off the heroes (to further enhance the symbolism).

The annoyance is straight comedy relief. The hero keeps getting himself into weird situations, and neds to either be rescued or has to have some luck fall his way; the annoyance provides that escape or luck as needed. The idea is to demonstrate that the hero isn't the end all/be all, and that he has some definite flaws. Penny and Brain are the examples here; Inspector Gadget is always getting himself into danger, and being extracted or rescued by Brain, even as Penny solves the case and provides back-up for her uncle. In pulp, Tonto is probably a good analogue, as he is there to merely provide an extra set of hands for the Lone Ranger. As noted, only use this sidekick when you need comedy relief; it sucks if used for serious reasons.

The equal is the weird one. This character is the hero's inferior only in rank; in all other ways, she is the character's equal or superior. There's a lot of reasons for this, such as some sort of binding spell, the hero has something she needs, or that the sidekick is being punished; the bottom line is that the sidekick is subservient to the hero. Although it can be used for comedy relief, the best way is to show that the hero is still learning his way around, and that the sidekick is going to show him the way; a shaman or pathfinder if you will.

At any rate, have fun with sidekicks; used correctly, they can add so much to your comic. Used wrong, however, and they tend to kill it. So use them appropriately...

Hillary/Obama: Threatened by their own community?

Today, we live in a fascinating period of time. In just a few months the primaries will be upon us yet again, and we will be deciding who will represent the great parties of our nation. And those choices are most interesting for the Democratic Party.

The two front runners are Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and present some very interesting choices. However, of especial note is that they are being attacked most often by those that you would think that would have supported them the most: Hillary by women, and Obama by African-Americans. Although I have no problem with anyone being able to have their own opinion, it scares me when people are finding reasons to not vote for someone based on gender or race, and it especially scares when it has the feeling of running from their own gender or race in order to demonstrate their solidarity with the opposing side.

Obama has been slammed as not being “black”, and that, while he may be African-American, he is not black. Because his family hails from Kenya, and because he is a second-generation immigrant, it has been said that he has not had an “authentic” black experience, and even at the Youtube Town Conference, one of the questioners wanted to know if Obama considered himself “authentic” enough to be considered black. Obama is being judged twice: Once by his race, and once again by his background.

Because his father comes from Eastern Africa, and not Western Africa as most slaves did, and because he comes from the wealthy rather than the inner cities, a number of black columnists have debated his ability to represent the black cause. Rather than looking at his record, and using that as the means of judging him, they are looking at his race, and his background. I find the semantics issue amusing; you would have thought that the black community would have used Obama as a rallying point, but the black community has decided to tear him down, as he lacks what they wish in an “appropriate background”. And the viciousness of those attacks is beginning to foster a new generation of racist sentiment, as racists are now able to show that the blacks are just as concerned about race as they are, and that it's thus acceptable.

Hillary represents a weirder issue. Even feminists that supported her first as First Lady and then Senator, are not supporting her for president. Although some are doing it because of Hillary's voting record, and other because she would effectively be another “dynasty” president. It's interesting that Hillary is being held to a higher standard, not by men, but by women, and she falls short of that standard. Some are against her, in fact, because she is a woman, and feel that they shouldn't be forced to vote for someone based solely on the person's gender.

The thing that truly shocks me is that feminists dislike that she is playing by the same rules that the guys are, and winning with them. Rather than winning using some sort of imagined feminist ideals, she is kicking butt and taking names just as the guys do. And that's offensive to a lot of them; personally, politics is a game, and you win by playing the rules of a game rather than making new rules. And if the only way you can win is through house rules, then you may as well stay home. Hillary has not only played the game by the rules, but has kicked butt in them. And for this, she has been derided.

This is not to say that blacks should vote only for blacks, or women solely for women, but it feels somewhat incredible that they should feel forced to tear someone down because of a shared race or gender. And that's probably the scariest aspect of the next primary...