I have been taken to task for not mentioning Bucky Barnes in my recent discussion of Captain America (see “The Sentinel of Liberty”), which was never meant to be a comprehensive analysis of Cap’s career in the first place. Upon reflection, I’ve realized that I feel no guilt whatsoever for that omission. In the Silver and Bronze Age comics that constitute my frame of reference, sidekicks were frowned upon at Marvel, with Rick Jones being a conspicuous but hardly representative exception. First, he was not allied to one specific superhero but gravitated among the Hulk, Captain America, the Avengers, Captain Marvel and Rom. Second, he usually neither wore a costume nor actually mixed it up in battle with said heroes, but rather was essentially a tagalong supporting character. Finally, in the case of Captain Marvel, Rick became much more than a mere sidekick when his use of the Nega-Bands enabled him to spell Mar-Vell in the Negative Zone, making him a veritable alter-ego.
Teen sidekicks were more of a D.C. (think Robin the Boy Wonder) and Golden Age phenomenon, and indeed, Cap’s wartime adventures in The Invaders featured not only Bucky but also Toro, the original Human Torch’s incendiary companion. In the contemporary stories, Bucky was seen only in flashbacks, usually in connection with Cap’s long-standing angst over his death, for which he blamed himself. Reason enough, thought Cap and many others—myself included—to refrain from putting other youngsters in the same kind of jeopardy. And quite honestly, I never thought they brought a lot to the table. So, no apologies for not bringing up Bucky. Why would I?