Best Marvel Comics Sidekick Glow-Ups

Split image of James Rhodes as Iron Man and Sam Wilson as Captain America

Being a sidekick in the Marvel Universe is rough. In the DC Universe, being a sidekick is more like a mentorship program. They work alongside a hero for a while, and even get their own super-teams to work in. Marvel Universe sidekicks tend to be adults who find themselves dragged into the heroes’ missions. They might not even have powers.

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However, not every sidekick is made irrelevant forever. The longer they’re around, the more likely they are to get that all-important glow-up, if only so the creative team doesn’t have to write around them playing second fiddle to the titular heroes. Some heroic glow-ups are better than others, and characters like War Machine and Falcon have experienced the greatest evolutions.



10 Jack Flag

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Jack Harrison’s first appearance in the comics doesn’t help him stick out much at all. His costume isn’t particularly impressive, and even his origin issue isn’t really about him. The character didn’t quite make it through Civil War intact, and was for a time tossed into the Negative Zone prison.

After being freed by the Guardians of the Galaxy though, he became more than a member of Captain America’s help hotline. He joined the Guardians at a time when they were sorely lacking in members, helping them out during the War of Kings and The Thanos Imperative.

9 D-Man

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>d-man-wrestling in Marvel comics

Dennis Dunphy epitomizes “adult sidekick” in the Marvel Universe. For a long time, he barely had his own identity that wasn’t involved with the existence of another character. For a time, he was a member of the Unlimited Class Wrestling Federation, where he could use his super-strength without worrying about hurting people.

However, he went out into battle with a costume that looked like a mix between Daredevil’s classic yellow costume and Wolverine’s mask. Since then though, he’s created his own identity, buying some battle armor to “finally look cool,” according to him. Though he doesn’t spend a lot of time with the Avengers, he still uses his powers to aid those in need.

8 Kitty Pryde

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Kitty Pryde as Shadowcat

Kitty Pryde started out as the member of the X-Men that was always forced to stay home, because she was too young. Since she wasn’t skilled with her abilities, she became the teen mascot rather than a full member. In the years since though, she’s grown into one of the best leaders the X-Men has.

She’s proven capable of standing up to even the men and women she looked up to, if it means standing for what she believes in. Kitty’s time with Excalibur helped her learn to master her powers, and since then she’s been everything from a leader of multiple teams, including her own team of X-Men and the Guardians of the Galaxy.

7 Wong

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Strange #6 Wong walks down a dark street with a ghost dog

It’s true, Wong hasn’t yet reached the heights of his MCU self by becoming the Sorcerer Supreme. However, for Wong to be written decently at all is a vast improvement, considering he was unfortunately introduced solely to be a “servant.”

Over the years, he’s shown he isn’t afraid to stand against Doctor Strange for the sake of being his own person. He started out with no control over magic at all, but these days is a competent sorcerer thanks to his years of working alongside Stephen. Like his movie counterpart, it’s even been implied Wong could one day become the Sorcerer Supreme himself.

6 Jubilee

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Vampire Jubilee carries her baby, Shogo, while baring her fangs as drawn by Terry Dodson

Jubilee started out as the running joke on X-Men: The Animated Series. With powers that amounted to fancy fireworks, for a time it was hard to take the character serious. If anyone sticks around long enough though they’ll eventually be developed into a cool character, though.

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Jubilee went from Wolverine’s plucky sidekick to one of the core members of Generation X. Her time there caused her to become a more capable hero, as fans learned her powers were less “fourth of July” and more “exploding matter.” Even when she lost her powers she was still cool, briefly transforming into a vampire.

5 Rick Jones

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Rick Jones sits in front of Avengers floating heads

If nothing else, Rick Jones has proven he can be more than someone’s sidekick. Whether it was the Hulk or Captain America, for years he was just some tagalong. Years of working with heroes though has consequences.

His experience with the Kree Supreme Intelligence unlocked his psionic potential, making him incredibly powerful. Later still, Rick was experimented on and granted the ability to turn into a Hulk of his own, a blue-skinned creature he titled “A-Bomb.” Though he’s since lost these abilities, exposure to gamma energy now allows him to fly and manipulate other gamma radiation.

4 Kate Bishop

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Kate Bishop as Hawkeye

For decades, the only person anyone knew as Hawkeye was Clint Barton, former villain-turned-Avenger/Thunderbolt leader. When Kate came on the scene as a member of the Young Avengers, she was on thin ice with the main Avengers squad like the rest of the team.

However, her ability to work at the highest level in some of the most dangerous situations the Avengers have dealt with, changed the perception. Between her experience and training under Clint, these days plenty of people think she’s taken over the Hawkeye mantle. Ultimately, the two are proud to share the Hawkeye identity.

3 Bucky Barnes

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Bucky Barnes as Winter Soldier

Bucky Barnes used to be an example of why Marvel didn’t do teenaged sidekicks. But when Ed Brubaker brought him back in his 2000s Captain America run, he became more proof that there are no bad characters in comics. Everything began with a retcon that revealed Bucky was an active participant in World War II rather than some mascot figure.

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Then they explained that Bucky had been captured by Soviet forces and used as an assassin for decades. These days, he’s permanently free of Russian mind control, though he continues doing espionage missions for Steve and the Avengers. He’s even had the chance to be Captain America following Civil War.

2 James Rhodes

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Rhodey dons Iron Man armor with his face in shadows

James Rhodes was introduced as a simple helicopter pilot for Tony Stark. Over time, he became a new version of Happy Hogan for the character, hanging out with him outside business hours both for fun and on Iron Man business.

When Obadiah Stane forced Tony Stark into an alcoholic relapse though, Rhodey was forced to wear the Iron Man armor for the first time ever. Though that time was short-lived, a few years later he was offered his own armor in the War Machine. Since then, he’s done everything from been a soldier of fortune to fighting alongside the Avengers. Though War Machine could use a power upgrade, he’s become a necessary member of the superhero community.

1 Falcon

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Captain America Sam Wilson Vol. 1 Not My Captain America Cover

For decades, it was impossible to think of Falcon without first thinking “Captain America and,” as the character was never far behind Steve Rogers. Even as late as the early 2000s, the only chance of him getting a solo ongoing was sharing it as part of another Captain America comic.

In 2015, Marvel made a massive change to the character when they forced Steve Rogers to step down from the Captain America role. When Steve couldn’t do it, they passed the shield to Sam Wilson. Even better, rather than Wilson adapting to Steve’s ways, he incorporated the Captain America outfit and shield into his Falcon persona, becoming his own hero.

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