“I want a car. Chicks dig the car.”
“This is why Superman works alone.”
– Robin, Batman, Batman & Robin
Another reason is that most of the superheroes that have been adapted to cinema don’t have traditional sidekicks. In the comics, sidekicks are “only found among older characters such as Batman and Captain America, created at a time when simpler plotting did not let the real-world irresponsibility of placing an adolescent in danger impede the story…” (Burke, 18). To date, only Batman (and, arguably, Batman imitator Big Daddy) has ever been shown to have true sidekicks (Robin in Batman Forever, joined by Batgirl in Batman & Robin). While not all Secondary Heroes are sidekicks, this is certainly a contributing factor to their scarcity.
The second type of Secondary Hero is the one whose career began around the same time as the Hero. These are usually found in films about superhero teams, such as Iceman in the X-Men franchise and Johnny Storm in Fantastic 4. Even though they may become superheroes at the same time that the Hero does, their status within the film still makes them Secondary Heroes. Additionally, these characters look to the main Hero for guidance, even if they don’t have all the answers yet. These Secondary Heroes are often used to show an alternate outcome for the Hero, similar to the Villain. For instance, Johnny Storm decides to be more of a showboat with his powers while Reed just wants to help people. Johnny thus becomes a light mirror to Reed, with Dr. Doom (again, with the same origin) completing the spectrum.
The last type of Secondary Hero is one whom the Hero finds and/or recruits well into his own career. These Secondary Heroes will have an “origin and abilities [that] parallel that of the main hero…[and] whose presence [can] reiterate the hero’s origin for late-comers to the franchise” (Burke, 19). Robin and War Machine (from Iron Man 2) would be examples of these kinds of Secondary Heroes. It is common for these Secondary Heroes to start off as Confidantes, which allows for a more equal partnership.
The character and function of the Secondary Hero will likely change over the next few years. The inclusion of Kato in TheGreen Hornet and Bucky in Captain America: The First Avenger will provide new examples of sidekick/hero relationships, while Magneto’s function in X-Men: First Class will provide an interesting example of the Secondary Hero turning into the Villain. It will be very interesting to see how these new films change the idea of the Secondary Hero.