A Sidekick

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.”


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?



14 thoughts on “A Sidekick

  1. Great post! made me think !One of my favorite sidekicks, Sam from LoTR. 🙂 The thinking part came in when I was making a connection of sort to Vogler’s Hero’s Journey. The MENTOR, that’s a role that could be played by a sidekick as well, and of course, that made me start thinking about movies/books with sidekicks who were mentors…

    Thought-stimulating post!

  2. Great post Rusty… I now have a lot to think about with my stories. Neither of them have traditional sidekicks, but both have characters that could be construed as sidekicks to another.
    So it begs the question, can the main character be the sidekick if technically they are subordinate to another? Can we construe Luke as a sidekick to Obi Wan?

    • I’m going to say, the main character can be a sidekick if the story is “a sidekick’s story.” But “technically subordinate” isn’t the determining factor; They have to be truly subordinate (almost everybody is subordinate to somebody–i.e., most main characters have a boss). So no, Luke isn’t Obi Wan’s sidekick.

      I’m going to put “write a sidekick’s story” on my writing bucket list. That would be a hoot to do, and right in my “beta male fiction” wheelhouse. If that constitutes stealing another idea from you, oh well. Sue me for a share of the royalties.

  3. But does ‘subordinate’ mean his/her place in the real world or importance in the story? Thinking of the TV show ‘Go On’ with Matthew Perry, his friend and BOSS Steven was definitely a sidekick.

    As soon as you write a ‘sidekick’s story,’ hasn’t the sidekick become the hero aka main character?

    • That was my first reaction as well. But after pondering on it a bit, I don’t think so. Suppose I rewrote this book from Oswald’s perspective. Oswald could be the “hero” of the story but still the sidekick as far as the character relationship was concerned, since Sir Kay does the major portion of the action.

      Probably be even clearer if it were Lancelot.

      • But which character does the reader connect with and see change and grow? I’m thinking it would have to be Oswald; else we are too distanced from the emotional arc. If it were to be Kay that changes, that would fall into the ‘classic’ sidekick-as-narrator, e.g., Watson to Holmes. Wouldn’t it?

      • If Oswald is the hero of the story, he would be the one who changes and grows. But the story would be of his role in life as sidekick. So Kay would still fall in love, fight the actual trials by combat, etc.

    • It’s been a few years since I’ve actually read him (rather than seeing numerous renditions in movies and TV) but doesn’t Doyle write from the PoV of Dr. Watson? The hero of those stories is still Sherlock Holmes is it not?

      So is it even possible to write from a sidekick’s perspective? Even if you wrote the story from Ozwald’s perspective, it would still be Kay’s story would it not? Just told through a different set of eyes right?

      • You could have the sidekick as the narrator. But having the sidekick as the hero would require a different treatment. It would be his story, living in the hero’s limelight, making his not necessarily appreciated but critical contributions, etc.

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