In many ways, the role of a superhero (or supervillain) sidekick is a thankless task. You get less recognition from the public – both in the fictional universe you inhabit, as well as in the real world – while your more famous boss hogs all the limelight.
On the face of it, sidekicks playing second fiddle makes a certain amount of sense. After all, not only is it their role to support their more experienced mentors, but sidekicks are also traditionally the less powerful element of their respective crimefighting (or crime-committing) partnership.
But that isn’t always the case. Indeed, many comic book support acts actually boast abilities and skills as impressive as those of the spandex-clad headliners they assist, if not even more so. Time and again, these poor souls struggle to escape the shadows cast by their superhero and villain head honchos – even when they finally break out on their own.
In honor of these unsung heroes (and as a tip of the hat to their villainous counterparts), we’ve pulled together this list of 16 Sidekicks Way Stronger Than Their Superheroes. Let no one ever mistake these talented guys and gals for mere human shields or cringing cronies again!
Don’t get us wrong: the Big Daddy of the Kick-Ass comic books is a capable brawler. But there’s a reason why he tends to delegate the majority of the close-quarters fighting to Hit-Girl, unlike his big screen counterpart. What is that reason? Because she’s just that much better at it than him.
It all comes down to one thing: time spent training. Whereas Big Daddy started his combat education as an adult, Mindy McCready began learning to fight from early childhood, effectively transforming her into a living weapon. That’s why – despite the significant age gap between the pair – Hit-Girl is so much more effective in armed and unarmed melee combat.
Funnily enough, Hit-Girl’s youth is the source of pretty much her only weakness – and the one area where Big Daddy trumps her – as she is not yet a fully grown adult and thus physically weaker than her grown-up opponents.
15 Kid Flash
It’s almost hard to remember, but before Wally West got promoted to the top job himself, he was the Barry Allen’s junior partner. As Kid Flash, Wally’s top speed – and consequently, his other speed-related abilities – was demonstrably inferior to that of Barry. Even after he assumed the Scarlet Speedster role, Wally struggled for some time to match, much less better, his mentor’s power levels.
However, our hero eventually discovered that his attempts to exceed Barry’s maximum velocity were being stunted by subconscious psychological issues he was suffering from. Once he accepted that not only was the then-deceased Barry not coming back (spoiler: he came back), but that surpassing his achievements was nothing to be ashamed of, Wally really hit his stride. Not only did he become a truly worthy successor to the Flash mantle, but the fastest speedster ever, too!
14 Harley Quinn
When you’re partners in crime with someone as flamboyantly homicidal as The Joker, it’s hard to stand-out – even when you’re as outrageous as Harley Quinn! Owing to her sometimes-boyfriend’s unmatched notoriety, the former Doctor Harleen Quinzel tends to get dismissed as the lesser threat of the pair. Yet in many ways, she as deadly as the Clown Prince of Crime – if not deadlier.
Sporting the same immunity to toxins as her darling “Mister J”, Harley is arguably the superior hand-to-hand combatant of the two. Throw in her disorienting gymnastics and – depending on the comic book continuity we’re talking about – Poison Ivy-enhanced physique, and this deranged harlequin is a force to be reckoned with.
Harley may never be quite the Joker’s equal as a criminal mastermind or master manipulator, but in terms of physical prowess, the cards have been dealt in her favor.
Rocket Raccoon and Groot represent one of those team-ups where both parties bring a lot to the table. In Rocket’s case, the feisty critter is super handy with a gun, a whizz behind the wheel of a starship, and a tactical genius to boot. Yet this pales in comparison to the raw might of his tree-like companion.
A literal force of nature, Groot doesn’t need to rely on high-tech hardware to bring his enemies to their knees. Rather, as a member of the Flora Colossus species, he can exert his will over surrounding plant life, which he can manipulate to suit a variety of offensive and defensive purposes. But perhaps Groot’s most valuable asset is his ability to regenerate from practically any injury, which has enabled him to cheat death more than once!
Batman is rightly regarded as one of the greatest martial artists in the DC Universe, but according to comic book scribe Tom King, the Dark Knight Detective isn’t actually the best fighter in the Bat-Family. According to King, Batman ranks third, with the original Robin (and current Nightwing) Dick Grayson coming in ahead of him!
This might seem controversial to fans, but the logic here is fairly solid. Not only did Bruce Wayne teach Dick Grayson everything he knew about hand-to-hand combat from a young age, but Grayson also possesses gymnastic skills that put even his mentor’s acrobatic prowess to shame.
Batman will always be the most brilliant strategist amongst his allies, but when it comes to fighting, it seems that the Dynamic Duo’s rankings have evolved from “Batman and Robin” to “Nightwing and Batman."
And if you're wondering who ranks above Batman and Nightwing? Keep reading!
Black Tom Cassidy, the dastardly cousin of heroic X-Man Banshee, is no slouch in the power department. By channelling his mutant powers through his cane (or any other wooden object he can lay his mitts on), Cassidy can fire potentially lethal heat and concussive force blasts. The Irishman is also a decent hand-to-hand and edge weapon fighter, and a competent tactician as well.
But these abilities barely register when you consider those of Black Tom’s occasional enforcer and BFF, the Juggernaut. As his name suggests, Juggernaut is virtually unstoppable, owing to the mystical gifts bestowed upon him by the otherworldly Crimson Gem of Cyttorak. Among these endowments are superhuman strength, invulnerability (including to telepathic attacks), and – most important of all – nigh-uncontainable momentum.
10 Scarlet Witch
For a guy who preaches equality among mutantkind, Magneto sure does tend to treat his followers like lackeys. During his time as the leader of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, among those the Master of Magnetism bossed around like a pseudo-sidekick was Wanda Maximoff, aka the Scarlet Witch, which seems a little baffling in hindsight.
Now, the Scarlet Witch was still far from reaching her full potential at this point in her career – and it’s worth bearing in mind that Magneto is himself one of the most dangerous mutants on the planet. Nevertheless, at their height, Wanda’s reality-warping powers – whether you attribute them to a biological or magical origin – are quite literally world (or even universe) changing. Next to that, bending a few spoons seems a tad insignificant, really.
So here we are, at last: the identity of the Bat-Family member that Batman writer Tom King ranked as better than all the rest – Cassandra Cain, the third Batgirl!
Much like Batman himself, Cassandra is an exceptionally skilled martial artist, trained by several of the world’s greatest masters. What gives her the edge over the Caped Crusader is her unique ability to “read” any opponent, essentially allowing her to predict their next move.
Unfortunately, acquiring this talent had its drawbacks. Programming her brain to function this way came at the cost of developing her language skills, initially rendering her incapable of communicating verbally or through the written word. She’s subsequently managed to obtain these life skills as well – meaning not only can Cassanra kick Batman’s butt, she can talk trash as she does it now, too.
During her days as a rookie member of the X-Men – and before she lost her mutant powers – Jubilee frequently paired up with Wolverine, effectively serving as his sidekick. Interestingly, despite Wolvie being the best there is at what he does – aided by his razor-sharp claws, unbreakable skeleton, animal senses, and healing factor – people tend to overlook how much more powerful Jubilee was than him.
It’s easy to dismiss Jubilee’s energy blasts as mere “fireworks” – and yes, she could generate those. But as she began to establish greater control over her abilities, Jubilee’s pyrotechnics grew intense enough to cause serious property damage or severely debilitate an enemy.
If this still doesn’t seem like much compared to what Wolverine’s capable of, then try this on for size: her former teacher, Emma Frost, believed that Jubilee had the potential to mimic the effects of a nuclear bomb.
7 Mercy Graves (Lex Luthor)
Lex Luthor prides himself on using his near-superhuman intellect to outwit - and thus defeat - more physically powerful foes than himself. That said, Luthor is far from afraid to get his hands dirty and mix things up on the battlefield as required – typically with the use of his iconic green and purple warsuit.
Yet take away that hardware and throw him into the ring against someone like his arch-nemesis, Superman, and his quick thinking is only going to get him so far.On the other hand, his personal assistant and bodyguard Mercy Graves – thanks to her Amazonian heritage – can trade blows with heavy-hitting aliens and metahumans unaided.
Sure, her boss may be a million times cleverer than her – and his genius means he rarely finds himself at a disadvantage – but when it comes to pure physical power, Mercy is hands-down the more dangerous of the two.
6 Old Lace (Runaways)
Gertrude Yorkes is no different from your average teenager in almost every regard, bar one – she shares a physic connection with her pet dinosaur, Old Lace. Although this is admittedly an amazingly worthwhile gift to possess, it’s her only real superpower.
This means that between Gertrude and OL – as the genetically-engineered Deinonychus is nicknamed – it’s not hard to see who actually represents the most direct threat, should the duo be divided.
Sure, Old Lace predominantly attacks in accordance with Gert’s wishes (and later, those of fellow Runaway, Chase Stein). All the same, when it comes down to it, we’d much rather take our chances going head-to-head against a teen, rather than the razor sharp claws and teeth of a prehistoric killing machine!
5 Cassidy (Preacher)
As the host for angel-demon hybrid Genesis, Jesse Custer is able to compel anyone who hears his voice to follow his commands (provided they can understand him, that is). Coupled with his redoubtable skills as a marksman and brawler, the good Reverend is one tough customer.
But even Custer has acknowledged that – were he to be stripped of his mind control abilities – his innate human strength and speed are paltry when stacked up against the supernatural equivalent of both exhibited by his vampiric best friend, Cassidy.
Indeed, the only reason that Custer was victorious when the two buddies faced off was because Cassidy – being so much more powerful than mortals like Jesse – had never bothered learning how to throw down! Had he received similar combat training, there’s no doubt that in a fair fight, Cassidy would almost certainly have come out on top.
Kitty Pryde’s mutant phasing powers allow her to pull off some pretty awesome feats. Thanks to her special gifts, she can render herself – plus any person or object she is making contact with at the time – completely intangible, in order to pass through solid matter. In addition to her phasing abilities, Kitty is also a proficient martial artist, computer science expert, and competent pilot. All in all, a rather formidable figure.
But that’s nothing compared to Kitty’s sidekick Lockheed – an honest to goodness alien dragon! This scaly little guy can breathe devastating fire blasts and fly at considerable speeds. He’s also immune to telepathic assault – unlike Kitty, who’s only somewhat resistant to it – and is generally known for fighting above his weight.
Kitty might be able to do more interesting things with her powers, but she ultimately doesn’t pack as much punch as Lockheed.
3 Dan The Dyna-Mite
If there’s one thing you can almost always count on when it comes to alternate comic book universes, it’s that circumstances are going to be way worse than they are in the mainstream reality. The Golden Age mini-series – which re-imagines the history of the DC Universe’s vintage superheroes – is a prime example of this, as exemplified by the fate of Dan the Dyna-Mite.
In this timeline, Danny Dunbar’s mentor TNT has died, leaving him distraught. He signs up to take part in a government experiment designed to give him seemingly limitless strength, speed, and invulnerability, plus the ability to fly.
It does work, and Dunbar (now going by “Dyna-Man”) becomes far more powerful than TNT could ever have dreamed of. The catch? Danny’s transformation was all part of a nefarious scheme by baddie the Ultra-Humanite, who secretly betrays the poor kid, swapping his brain… for Adolf Hitler’s!
2 Kid Marvelman
There’s an old saying that “practice makes perfect” – and this is undeniably true in the case of Marvelman’s former sidekick, Kid Marvelman. Much like his former ally, Kid Marvelman could trade his ordinary mortal form for that of his tremendously powerful alter-ego. However unlike Marvel Man, one day the Kid decided never to switch back, instead using the intervening years to hone his powers to the point they far exceeded those of his mentor.
On the downside, there’s another old saying that applies to Kid Marvelman: “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” As the one-time child superhero’s abilities evolved to near god-like proportions, his mental state deteriorated at an alarming rate. By the time he and Marvelman encountered each other again, Kid Marvelman was a terrifying and seemingly unbeatable sociopath. Indeed, both times Marvelman and Kid Marvelman fought, it was only luck or assistance from other powerful allies that saved the day.
1 Emma Frost
Sebastian Shaw, Black King of the Hellfire Club secret society, is another guy with a penchant for treating his supposed peers as subordinates. Back when Emma Frost was the White Queen – and technically on equal footing as Shaw – he always treated her as an unofficial sidekick, there (along with the rest of the Inner Circle) to do his bidding.
Frankly, this makes no sense. Admittedly, Shaw is a clever operator, and his mutant gift for absorbing energy in order to dramatically boost his physical prowess is nothing to sneeze at. To be honest, he’s not really in Emma’s league, power-wise.
In addition to her ability to assume a diamond form, Emma is an “Omega-Class” telepath, which makes her one of the most powerful proponents of telepathy on the planet! It’s pretty obvious that the only reason why Frost was following Shaw’s orders was because she wanted to.
Did we miss out on any sidekicks who are more powerful than their superheroes? Let us know in the comments!