Sidekicks are the spice you throw into a novel to liven up a bland hero. Who else is going to contradict your hero’s bold morality, joyfully argue for the benefits incurred by walking away from this noble quest, then pull their fat out of the fire when they get in over their head? Bruce Campbell knew the answer in Sky High—so say it along with me now, children…
But freed from the need to be nice to people, sidekicks get all the best lines. Which is why I’ve rounded up the five snarkiest sidekicks in all of literature to bring you some of the wittiest, most lovable buddies you could ever hope to have at your side.
Silk, of David Eddings’ Belgariad series
It’s a matter of some debate what’s sharper – Silk’s throwing knives, or his tongue. In a beloved series where even the dullest character gets off a couple of solid zingers, the Drasnian Prince manages to steal the show by masking a surprising streak of melancholy sentiment by relentlessly needling every authority figure.
He’s short, he drinks too much, he’s descended from a nobility that he wants nothing to do with – and sorry, Tyrion Lannister, I know you think you deserve a slot here, but the truth is you stole Silk’s style wholesale.
Yardem, from Daniel Abraham’s Dagger and The Coin series
“Is this the day you throw me in a ditch and take command of the company?”
“Not today, sir.”
The shaggy-eared second-in-command of Marcus’s company is fiercely loyal to his captain, even (and perhaps especially) when he’s trying to steer his boss away from unwise decisions. Yardem is the quietest of the snarkers here, but as opposed to his brutal combat style, his comments are like an assassin’s arrow – fired when you least expect them, unseen before they hit, and unerringly accurate.
Tybalt, King of the Cats, from Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series
Tybalt would doubtlessly bristle to be considered a sidekick, but he does have the habit of showing up just when he’s needed. Admittedly, there’s a bit more sexual tension here than with most sidekicks, who tend towards a platonic ideal – but even if there is smoldering romance aplenty, Tybalt’s affection for Toby won’t quell Tybalt’s marvelously barbed one-liners.
Leonard Pine, of Joe Lansdale’s Hap and Leonard series
Being gay and black isn’t winning Leonard any prizes down in Lansdale’s heavily-stylized Deep South. But Leonard’s unapologetic refusal to be ashamed of who he is, and his endless loyalty to his platonic lifemate Hap Collins, makes him a man who’s always going to be there when the shit goes down – if only so he can tell Hap how they both saw this coming. (And I can’t wait to see who they cast for the role of Leonard, as the show just got green-lit for a six-episode series.)
Bob Howard, of Charles Stross’ Laundry Files series
“But wait!” you claim. “Bob’s the main character! He’s the dry-witted computer hacker in charge of fighting both Cthulhu and Great Britain’s bureaucracy! Hell, Bob’s writing the book in first person!” Yet I suspect if you were to ask his long-suffering girlfriend Mo O’Brien – she of the killer violin and several deadly skills, who is endlessly hauling Bob’s fat out of the fire – you’d see things from an entirely different perspective. And if you’ve read all the way through to The Jennifer Morgue, there’s some considerable evidence that the universe itself concurs with Bob’s eminent sidekickdom.
Ferrett Steinmetz brings you a rare specimen of the female snarky sidekick in his upcoming novel Flex, where a chubby, kink-friendly videogamemancer teams up with a straight-laced bureaucromancer. Flex is available from Angry Robot on 3/3, along with copious amounts of magical drug-dealing. Ferrett blogs about puns, politics, and polyamory, and can be found Tweetering as @ferretthimself.