Let’s Hear It For Sidekicks!

brennan_faceshot.jpgtjay1.jpg Blame it on my cousin Millie.  She was a year older than I was, and when we played together as kids, she was the boss.   One of our favorite things was to play was make-believe boyfriends.  She got Batman, I got Robin.  She got Superman, I got Superboy.  She got the Lone Ranger, I got Tonto.   Do you get the picture?           

Maybe that’s why I’ve always had a thing for sidekicks.           

Hey, I know we all love alpha men.  But who would you rather take home for keeps?  The dashing, domineering hunk who grabs the spotlight every time?  Or the steady guy who’s always there watching his back, bailing him out of danger, holding his horse, tending his wounds, listening to his woman troubles and always being a true friend?   I’ll take a good sidekick any day.           

Sidekicks in the movies come in all shapes, sizes and ages.  There’s the codger sidekick—Gabby Hayes and the great Walter Brennan are examples.  There’s the goofy sidekick—Don Knotts, Andy Devine and Festus Hagan from Gunsmoke come to mind.  The ethnic sidekick—Tonto, of course, and a score of others.  Then there’s the junior sidekick—Robin and Jimmy Olsen fit here.  If you’re old enough to remember Red Ryder, his sidekick was Little Beaver, an Indian boy.             

A good sidekick is a true gem.  He’s usually patient and considerate, often humorous, likeable, decent, brave and resourceful, especially when it comes to getting the hero out of a jam.  There is just one rule he never breaks—he never, ever overshadows the hero.  Oh—and he never gets THE girl.  Not unless there’s a second girl or a second book.  Sidekicks in romance novels often do double duty.  If you make your sidekick handsome and appealing—say, the best friend, the younger brother, the cute young deputy—you can recycle him as the hero in a sequel.  Lots of authors have done that.  I’ve done it myself.  Give your hero a good sidekick, and readers will be clamoring for his story.           

Who’s your favorite sidekick, romantic or otherwise?   What other famous sidekicks can you think of?  Were any of them women?  Who would you pick as your own sidekick?  Let’s have some fun with this. 

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I'm an internationally published romance author, coming up on 40 novels and novellas. Most of my stories have been Westerns for Harlequin Historicals, but I set stories in other times and places as well. I'll also be writing contemporary stories for Harlequin Desire, with the first release in January 2013. You can learn more on my web site.

21 thoughts on “Let’s Hear It For Sidekicks!”

  1. Elizabeth, great post. For once I’m getting in on the conversation early, not after everyone has finished reading for the day. Glad to be the first to post a comment.

    Women? The persona of female sidekicks was Gracie Allen. Without her, George Burns wouldn’t have been anything but a funny ol’ codger. She made that team!

    From a writer’s point of view, I love to write my sidekicks. They always take on a life of their own, because as a writer, we don’t really expect them to fit to a certain mold (generally), so we can give them range that our hero and heroine can’t have. I believe a well rounded side-kick is as important as a hero, particularly in western historical romances.

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane. There were some really great sidekicks on TV, in movies, and in books. Phyliss

  2. Hi Phyliss. You beat me out of bed this morning. Loved your comment on the sidekick having range. And I forgot about Gracie, she was wonderful. George soldiered on after she passed away, but the act was never the same.

  3. A few times lately my husband and I have ended up watching the Rifleman. We didn’t watch it as kids, or precious little of it. To watch it now is pretty interesting.
    The unruly townspeople are always grumbling and getting up a posse or challenging poor old Chuck Connors about something.
    The show seems to be nothing but a short morality play with The Rifleman the center or wisdom and calm and righteousness. Oh, and if all that doesn’t solve his problems, he’ll just shoot you.
    The town sheriff…named Micah which struck us as an odd name for that old show…is his sidekick,
    but his main side-kick is his son. That’s fun.

  4. When you talk about women side kicks like Gracie Allen it made me think of Ethel on I Love Lucy, what a perfect foil, her common sense and her unwilling accomplice to Lucy.
    And Audry Meadows on The Honeymooners. I’ve heard her talk about the challenge of keeping up with Jackie Gleason’s madness. Remember that dry comic delivery while Gleason is pacing and ranting and waving his arms and she’s stand there and just smack him with one liners when he stops to breathe.
    Dale Evans to Roy Rogers. Plus who was that old guy with Roy who had the cracking voice…okay I googled it. Pat Brady.

  5. Double thanks for your two comments, Mary. And I remembered The Rifleman–it was one of my dad’s favorite shows. Having a son made the Chuck Conners’ character vulnerable–something the big, grim guy needed. And Micah is a biblical name–it’s the short book after the book of Jonah, and that’s all I remember about it. The name’s become trendy these days.

  6. I think I’ve written female sidekicks for my heroines more often than I’ve written male sidekicks. And I’ve turned a couple of them into books of their own. Don’t know why my guys are loners. Now you have me cooking up a sidekick.

  7. Hi Elizabeth,
    I like Boo-Boo on Yogi Bear, does that count?
    I know I’m aging myself. Yesterday I saw a game show where Ellen D was doing charades to get the girl to say “I DREAM OF JEANIE” and after the girl guessed sleep, dream, genie, etc, Ellen said, “You’re too young.” The girl never guessed right, she never heard of the show!

    I remember Mark on Rifleman- the boy was great and there was a lesson on every show, but in the end dear daddy used his rifle!! I must admit, I’m not a sidekick person. Give me the real thing. Can’t think of one I’d prefer over the hero. Except maybe Trigger in The Lone Ranger. 🙂

  8. Yeah, Cheryl, loners have their own vulnerability. Love ’em!
    And Boo-Boo, Charlene? Hey, why not? We can throw in Chewbacca, too. (And most of the posts I write show my own age–I can come up with stuff I think NOBODY remembers. And then our readers surprise me by remembering it, too).

  9. Oh, I loved Cloud Dancing, Sully’s buddy, on Dr. Quinn. I wish Hallmark would bring that show back. (The seasonal DVD collections are a bit too hard on my checkbook LOL.) fabulous post, Elizabeth. As always, you fillies. I love being here at P and P.

  10. Oh yes–and that bittersweet romance between Dr. Quinn’s writer friend (was her name Dorothy? Dora?) and Cloud Dancing just broke my heart. Where she burned her precious manuscript to save him–I was almost in tears. Thanks for joining us today, Tanya.

  11. I remember when Star Wars first came out and at the end of it…you know Han Solo was sort of a side kick to Luke Skywalker…and I thought that my, my, my that Han Solo was so, so cool. And somewhere along the way I finally realized that I was NOT alone. I guess Harrison Ford worked for everyone, huh?
    And how about in the Lord of the Rings?
    The first we’d seen of the adorable Orlando Bloom and my daughter called him, “The disturbingly hot elf.”
    So there’s your major sidekick.
    Viggo Morrison was almost a sidekick to, since Frodo the Hobbit was the star.
    And yes, we have wandered FAR from westerns here.

    how about Gabby Hayes
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gabby_Hayes
    And Pat Buttram
    And Andy Devine…his voice was the Sheriff of Notingham on the cartoon of Jungle Book but he was in a thousand westerns as a side kick

  12. I remember both Gabby and Andy, Mary. Wasn’t Gabby Hayes the original sidekick to Roy Rogers? And does anybody remember the radio show that always ended with Andy Devine saying something funny and laughing–kind of a “HeeHeeHee”? (Now I’m REALLY showing my age).

  13. I loved this blog, Elizabeth! How fun to be hearing those names from the past.

    But darn it, Mary stole my suggestion of Ethel on I Love Lucy. And so many others have been mentioned, I feel like I’ve been living in a cave.

    Wish I had more time to watch TV.

  14. Hi Elizabeth, you’ve written a really interesting blog. Sidekicks are extremely fun to write. You can do most anything with them and they’re an excellent way to get information to the reader about the main characters. I have a sidekick in all my books as I’m sure you all have as well. Sometimes it’s a female and sometimes a male.

    The lead character in TV shows almost always has one or more sidekicks. My favorite show is NCIS starring Mark Harmon as Agent Jethro Gibbs. Oh my gosh, when he smiles and flashes those perfect white teeth my poor heart flutters up a storm. His number one sidekick is Tony DiNozo. Not sure if I spelled that right but Tony is such a fascinating character and a great foil for Mark Harmon. And yes, Tony always has Gibbs’ back.

    Have a great day, Elizabeth!

  15. Oh, I remembered a sidekick but I can’t think of his name. Who was the guy who played the cantankerous cook on Rawhide? He was short and wiry and wore that Confederate hat. Oh shoot! Anyway, he was a good sidekick for Clint Eastwood.

  16. I NEVER miss NCIS, Linda. The whole cast is so good and I love the way they interact. Can’t remember the cook on Rawhide, but I’d have volunteered to be Clint’s sidekick any old day.
    And since I know you work, full time, write full time and do a lot of work managing this site,Pam, I can see why you don’t have time for TV. Good for you!

  17. I love this post! I have always enjoyed a good sidekick. Gabby Hayes and Walter Brennan are two of my faves. Pat Buttram was also a good sidekick for Gene Autry. I also like Dale Evans, Ethyl (to Lucy), etc.

    And we actually have a cat named Tonto…I named it.

    Mr. Snuffleupagus (Big Bird’s sidekick) is I think where my interest in sidekicks began…LOL. And of course, BooBoo to Yogi Bear…love that bear! And Barney Rubble to Fred Flintstone.

    There were some nice animal sidekicks as well for the cowboys…their horses…Trigger, Silver, etc.

  18. I loved Medicine Woman too! It was a great show. Was Skully just the most prefect man?

    Did anybody watch Commanche Moon! I was wondering about ya’ll’s thoughts on the show

  19. Never thought of Tonto for a cat, Jennifer. What a cute name! I liked Tom Selleck’s bloodhound sidekick in his recent TV detective movies (what was his name??). It was so sad when the dog died.

    And I missed the last segment of Comanche moon but confess being a bit disappointed in Gus and Call. It was hard to to believe those two pups would mature into the wonderful Duval-Jones combo. Some of the other characters were wonderful. This may take the blog in a whole new direction but what did y’all think?

  20. I was diappointed in the whole feel of the movie, it was a downer and forget the happy ever after. If I want to be depressed I stay in the real world.

    The upside it had some very funny moments.

    Tom Selleck’s was Jesse Stone but don’t know the name of the dog. Love this movies.

  21. For my favorite sidekick I would take Frenchie, from the movie, “Destry Rides Again”. This 1939 film sidekick was played by Marlene Deitrich. She is very angry at Destry, played by James Stewart, and throws saloon chairs and bottles at him, early in the film, but near the end she thinks alot of him, where, during a riot in the saloon, where the bad guy, played by Brian Donlevy, waits unseen from the upper floor for the right time to shoot Destry. The gun is fired, but instead of shooting Destry, Frenchie is shot and dies in Jimmy Stewart’s arms. I rate this movie a 5 because it mixes the wild west with comedy. Marlene is a saloon singer and for a sidekick she is fun to watch. My sidekick that I would have with me would be Edgar Buchanan, the drunkard who is made sheriff in the same movie. He’s GREAT!

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