From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

Ten Fantasy Sidekicks Who Could Do Better

Fantasy movies often suffer from Hero Syndrome. Held hostage by the plot, the hero is trapped; their behavior becomes erratic, their moral code tedious, their dialogue overblown. Luckily for us, behind most heroes is a loyal and clever sidekick, delivering jokes and advice (and desperately updating their resume when they think no one’s looking).

Below, we run down ten fantasy-movie sidekicks who can (usually) do better than the hero they’ve got. Spoilerphobes beware!

1. Zula, Conan the Destroyer

It’s hard to leave your hero when you owe him a life debt for saving you from a forced deathmatch, so it’s understandable that Zula stands by Conan through thick, thin, and mirror-monsters. But that has to be the only thing keeping her with Conan’s ragtag entourage: any all-powerful warlord who doesn’t recognize a virgin-sacrifice trap when he’s asked to escort one isn’t the sort of guy you put your faith in.

Job Prospects: She ends up the captain of the guard under a new ruler. Upgrade!

2. Penny, Inspector Gadget

There has to be a special ignominy in knowing you’re the brains behind an operation when you still can’t watch a PG-13 movie without an adult present.

Job Prospects: As soon as she’s beyond those pesky child labor laws, the world will be her oyster.

3. Sarah, The Crow: City of Angels

The young Sarah from The Crow was a natural sidekick; streetwise, nudged the plot along, offered an outsider’s perspective, wrapped up the story when the hero couldn’t. Sadly, by the second movie, she had been turned into an ineffectual Goth nymphet whose job description was: “Coo at Vincent Perez in between his fight scenes. When alone, stare at the ceiling.” She deserved better from minute one of City of Angels.

Job Prospects: Why she was never a Crow is beyond me. Sadly, by now, it’s probably beyond her, too.

4. John Coffey, The Green Mile

Because seriously? (…seriously?)
Job Prospects: I’m going to go with ‘Not Great’.

5. Mystique, X2: X-Men United

So, she’s got the brains, she’s got the looks (she’s got anyone’s looks!), and she’s ruthless. In the X-Men comics, these qualifications land you a gig as the head of the Brotherhood of Mutants. In the movies, you get to break your boss out of a plastic prison. What exactly keeps her playing second fiddle to Magneto in the movies? (Probably his voice; those dulcet tones can lull you into anything.)

Job Prospects: She’s a shapeshifter with combat training. I’m guessing she can do pretty much whatever she wants.

6. Boromir of Gondor, The Lord of the Rings

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: eldest son of a storied family entrusted with protecting an ancient city against the encroaching bad guys is summoned away from the front lines to a worldwide Council – and gets guilt-tripped into escorting the real hero. Awkward. It should come as no surprise to any HR manager that Boromir’s job performance declines; it happens any time someone knows they’re undervalued. Luckily, Boromir pulls out all the stops when the group needs him, and proves he’s a serious team player.

Job Prospects: Ummm.

7. Lady Kluck, Robin Hood
Robin Hood and Maid Marian had eyes only for each other. Marian’s lady-in-waiting Kluck managed to wrangle Maid Marian, Merry Men, and current events at court. Plus, she can fend off a cadre of soldiers with some football moves and cut a rug with Little John all night. There’s no one in the movie you’d rather follow around for two hours.

Job Prospects: Her chances with the NFL are excellent.

8. Mani, Brotherhood of the Wolf
Because nothing says “I can do better than this” like doing all the hero’s fighting for him in pouring rain and mud while the hero hangs out inside with Monica Belluci.

Job Prospects: Um.

9. Ardeth Bay, The Mummy

Ardeth is the leader of a group of elite warriors who have spent centuries perfecting their skills for the heat of supernatural battle. Somehow, he ends up explaining things to graverobbers for two hours. For this he went to Magi College?

Job Prospects: Not bad, since against all sidekick odds he’s still alive when the dust settles. I suggest going back to the job he already had, where he was the boss and not Expositron 2000.

10. Phillipe “The Mouse” Gaston, Ladyhawke

Good news: there’s probably something in the Sidekick Union bylaws that regulates how many times a day a hero can make death threats against a sidekick, and Etienne Navarre is racking up fines like you can’t even believe.

Bad news: The Mouse runs from your fights, gets a crush on your beloved, talks like it’s 1985, and repeatedly alerts the bad guys to your presence. It would be hard to find a hero who wouldn’t want to kill him.

Job Prospects: Sure, he was invaluable in solving that problem, but something tells me once that contract is up, he’ll be pencil-pushing for a long time.

Sadly, the ranks of the underserved second bananas are far longer than I can address. If you carry a torch for a sidekick who could do better, sound off!

Genevieve Valentine’s fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, Strange Horizons, Fantasy, Federations, and more. She is a columnist at Tor.com and Fantasy Magazine. Her first novel, Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti, is forthcoming in 2011. Her appetite for bad movies is insatiable, a tragedy she tracks on her blog.

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