‘Kicks are for Kids

SidekickedWe love sidekicks. Whether we’re watching a television program or reading a superhero comic book, we inevitably root for the tagalong wingman. After all, the hero has already experienced his defining moment but the sidekick’s story is still evolving. And to us, that makes it more interesting. In the right hands, the story of Dick Grayson might very well be more compelling than that of Bruce Wayne.

But the sad truth is that no one else seems to share our affection for sidekicks. In the world of superheroes, they are an afterthought and are generally dismissed as superfluous adjuncts, gimmicks, and liabilities. More often than not sidekicks are used as tools for parody and bad scriptwriting. With some notable exceptions, they are disposable and oddly out-of-sync with the universe that surrounds them.

We’ve waited a long time to read a great sidekick novel and it looks like our wait is finally over. Sidekicked was written for a young audience. But it’s not dumbed down or hokey or stamped with some sort of lame parent/teacher seal of approval. It’s actually quite terrific.

At 13, the protagonist (Andrew Bean, aka the Sensationalist) is a fully developed character with a robust inner life. He’s a sidekick-in-training, but like all teenagers he’s actually “in-training” for the onset of adulthood. “When you’re a teenager,” says Andrew, “everybody is waiting for you to be something or somebody else. Are you the helpless nerd with the backpack on hoping you don’t get the snot beat out of you by the school bully? Or are you the helpless nerd with the mask on hoping you don’t get the snot beat out of you by the town’s crazy new supervillain?”

Unlike most superhumans, Andrew didn’t gain his powers via gamma rays or cosmic intervention. He was born with hypersensatia, a rare condition that gives him the ability to see, hear, taste, and smell beyond the ken of most people. His powers aren’t “combat compliant,” but he’s a valuable member of his town’s H.E.R.O. club nonetheless. His motto is: “I’m the Sensationalist, and I smell better than you.”

As a sidekick, Andrew is assigned to his town’s most powerful superhero. In his prime the Titan was nearly indestructible. He had fists of iron, nerves of steel, and a heart of gold. These days, however, he would rather cry in his beer all day than fight crime. So it goes. You can’t force someone to be crimefighter.

After butting heads with his mentor a few times Andrew eventually learns a valuable lesson in life: when trouble knocks on your door, sometimes you have to solve the problem yourself. This lesson, accentuated by the Superhero Sidekick Code of Conduct, helps Andrew gain valuable confidence and maturity. And it will undoubtedly serve him well when he eventually outgrows his sidekick status later in life.

[Sidekicked / By John David Anderson / First Printing: June 2013 / ISBN: 9780062133144]

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