One of the items on my writing bucket list was to have a sidekick. I didn’t know it was going to happen in this novel, but I had it on the checklist to consider as a possibility. And then Oswald happened and suddenly it was a reality.
DEFINITION: A sidekick is a close companion who is generally regarded as subordinate to the one he accompanies.
Wikipedia has this to say about sidekicks:
Sidekicks can provide one or multiple functions, such as a counterpoint to the hero, an alternate point of view, or knowledge, skills, or anything else the hero does not have. They often function as comic relief, and/or the straight man to the hero’s comedic actions. A sidekick can also act as someone that the audience can relate to better than the hero, or whom the audience can imagine themselves as being (such as teen sidekicks). And by asking questions of the hero, or giving the hero someone to talk to, the sidekick provides an opportunity for the author to provide exposition, thereby filling the same role as a Greek chorus.
I think Oswald performs a lot of those functions.
So who are our favorite all-time sidekicks?
TV: Barney Fife to Andy Griffith, Ensign Charles Parker to Lt Cdr Quinton McHale
Movies: Tonto to the Lone Ranger, Goose to Maverick
Literature: Sancho to Don Quixote, Dr. Watson to Sherlock Holmes, Samwise to Frodo, Fridy to Robinson Crusoe.
Comic Books: Robin to Batman, of course.
Wikipedia further notes that in contrast, “a villain’s supporters are normally called henchmen, minions, or lackeys, not sidekicks. While this is partially a convention in terminology, it also reflects that few villains are capable of bonds of friendship and loyalty, which are normal in the relationship between a hero and sidekick. This may also be due to the different roles in fiction of the protagonist and the antagonist: whereas a sidekick is a relatively important character due to his or her proximity to the protagonist, and so will likely be a developed character, the role of a henchmen is to act as cannon-fodder for the hero and his sidekick. As a result, henchmen tend to be anonymous, disposable characters, existing for the sole purpose of illustrating the protagonists’ prowess as they defeat them.”
SO WHY A KID?
The answer is: I didn’t plan it that way. I’ve really liked my kid characters, especially Meg in Return from Avalon (and Points West) and Jonah/J.G. in Strange Bedfellows. But Oswald was merely making a spot appearance when he successfully auditioned for the part of sidekick. Not to mention winning the hearts of all of my first draft readers (and perhaps a touch of mine as well).
When they start teaching my novels in Modern American Fiction courses at all of the best universities, one of the first essays will be to compare and contract J.G. with Oswald. Strangely enough, they are the same age. Again, not by design.
And won’t Oswald make a great character when Sir Kay comes out as a movie?