Superheroes have a tendency to enlist sidekicks to aid them in their fight against crime. It will usually be a teenager who they take under their wing to show them the tricks of the trade. The idea was used to give the kids reading someone to identify with, to help them imagine what it would be like to fight alongside characters like Batman and Green Arrow as a superhero. For some reason, the sidekick category soon expanded to animals. Dogs, cats, and other various animals were also introduced. Why? I don’t know. It’s not like the family dog needs a superhero character to identify with. For whatever reason, animal heroes became huge.
The most well known is Krypto. He’s a white dog from Krypton who Jor-El sent in a separate rocket ship. He landed on Earth when Clark was a young boy and he became the family dog. Because Krypto is from Krypton, he too has all the powers of Superman. He can fly, has heat vision and is invulnerable. Given how good Earth dogs can hear, I can only imagine the level of super hearing Krypto has. As silly as it sounds, it worked. This was the golden and silver age, remember, so wackiness was part of the game. Besides, young Clark should have a dog, it fits if you ask me.
This wasn’t the only superpowered animal to appear though, oh no, there were others. Just behind Krypto comes Streaky the super cat. OK, I’ll buy this one. Cats have their fans and they should get equal treatment as they too make great pets. It’s interesting to note that Streaky isn’t Kryptonian. Rather, he got exposed to a piece of Kryptonite and the radiation did it (because radiation was the source of all superpowers back then).
That’s reasonable, though. You have a dog and a cat. You don’t need more animals, right? Wrong. There was a super monkey called Beppo. I’m not even joking. Apparently, Beppo is a Kryptonian monkey who stowed away on Kal-El’s ship. Beppo was usually used to bring in some wacky high jinks that would be blamed on the young Clark. Given his ridiculous nature, he was phased out of comic continuity, although he has been referenced on occasion.
But that’s not all, oh no, there was also Comet the super horse. Really? They weren’t even trying anymore, were they? I’m surprised they didn’t introduce the super moose, super cow, super platypus and super chupacabra. You want to hear something that’s really disturbing. Supergirl had a romance with Comet … sort of. Comet acquired the ability to shape-shift, and she dated his human form. It’s acceptable on a certain level but still kind of unsettling. Comet is unique in that his powers have nothing to do with Krypton. Instead, his origin is rooted in Greek myth, which you would think would lend itself to Wonder Woman more than Superman, but hey whatever works, I guess.
Superman wasn’t the only one with animal sidekicks. Batman, the gritty urban avenger himself, had a canine sidekick as well called Ace the bathound. What’s odd is that Batman continually pokes fun at Superman for having a dog sidekick, yet he himself had one. Actually, Batman is worse because he put the dog in a mask to protect his secret identity. OK, it makes sense in the context of Ace’s origin, but it’s still kind of goofy even if they did manage to come up with a passable explanation. Also, let’s not forget that he’s teamed up with Scooby-Doo and the mystery gang not once, but twice.
On a random note, I still want to see a DCAU/Scooby Doo crossover where the Kevin Conroy voiced Dark Knight of the animated series teams up with the group to take on the classic Mark Hamill-voiced Joker. That’s entertainment.
Back to the topic at hand. Given the similarities to Superman, it’s no wonder that Captain Marvel had an animal sidekick. Yes, to aid him, Marvel enlisted Hoppy the Marvel Bunny. As you can tell, they were clearly running out of ideas.
Most of these characters have faded into obscurity. Streaky is still around, though sans superpowers. Really, Krypto is the only one who’s managed to stick around. Given the silliness associated with an animal sidekick, you have to admit, that’s pretty impressive.