Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 6: Review

From Goodreads.com

Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 6 by Kiiro Yumi

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Sweet and fun with lots of moments that make you smile. Plus, it’s a manga about why books shouldn’t be censored–which was particularly interesting in this installment since the story’s library actually decided to not include a magazine in their collection (one that specifically broke the law by printing the name of a minor serial killer). Yeah… talk about shades of gray and some interesting fodder for a debate/discussion. In short, this is a book that makes you think while also being a nice, sweet little rom-com. Not an easy balance to achieve, but it somehow manages it perfectly–which is saying something coming from someone who does not typically enjoy rom-coms.



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The Fade Out, Act Three: Review

From Goodreads.com

The Fade Out, Act Three by Ed Brubaker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

*This is the final book in a three-part graphic novel series.*

A pretty solid read. If I’m being honest, it was more “mature” than I usually prefer, but the story was still engaging. I wanted to know what was going to happen next and how the mystery would be solved–and if justice would be served. I won’t answer that question because… spoilers… but I will say if you want a gritty tale of ’40s Hollywood that deals with everything from murder and conspiracy to PTSD and alcoholism… well, then this is a book that will give you that in a well-written–albeit at times uncomfortable–way.



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Ms. Marvel: Review

I’m planning on adding reviews to Word-Maleerie! I write them anyways–because when you read over 200 books a year (not as impressive as it sounds; a lot of them are graphic novels), you need SOMETHING to help keep the stories straight. And I figured… what better one to start with than my library’s most recent Comic Book Club read!

From Goodreads.com

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This was a re-read for my library’s Comic Book Club. And… yeah, I loved it just as much as I did the first time. Maybe even more, since it was really fun to go back to where these characters first began and compare them to who they are now. I love a good character evolution, and Ms. Marvel is full of that! Plus, lots of emphasis on family and community, while still being a story about finding your own identity and…. well, just a darn good superhero origin. Seriously, if you haven’t read Ms. Marvel, I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND.
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I’ve been wanting to read Ms. Marvel for ages, and now I finally have. In short, I found the entire graphic novel… delightful. I LOVE KAMALA. She is nerdy and fun! I feel like she would be most readers if we lived in the Marvel Universe and got superpowers. (But not in a Mary Sue way. She is totally her own person and unique–which was kind of the whole theme of this particular volume–but just also very relatable.) I can’t wait to see what other adventures are waiting for Ms. Marvel!



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A bit of escapism, a bit of comradery… and a whole lot of fun!

I promise I haven’t fallen off the face of the Earth. (Yet, at least… with how crazy the world has been the past couple of years, I wouldn’t be surprised if gravity spontaneously stopped.)

So why haven’t I been writing? Well, like I said previously, I’ve been working on some new ideas for how the blog will be organized. But mostly… the past few weeks were spent enjoying a little bit of escapism. (Because we all need some of that these days, right?)

Recently, I attended the Cincinnati Comic Expo. My husband and I have a tradition of going every year, and after having to skip 2020 (for obvious reasons)… boy, were we excited to go back!

But attending a comic convention isn’t as simple as just… you know, going to to the convention. Oh no. If you’re a comic collector, like me, and if you have a nice little room that you’ve dubbed “nerdvana” specifically for nerdy memorabilia… well, you have to plan.

So the week prior was spent analyzing my collection and pinpointing which classic comics would be a part of my search. (Which also involves checking various prices, because a FAIR comic and a FINE comic have very different values… and if you don’t want to overpay–because who does?–then you need to really know the cost spectrum.) Then there was figuring out which Funko Pops I would search for, if I wanted to look for any action figures… etc., etc.

If you didn’t believe I was a nerd before… well, there’s no going back now, is there?

After the con, there’s time spent re-organizing collections (and wishing you had more shelf space) and updating Excel spreadsheets (because I’m not just a nerd… I’m also a dork… AND PROUD!)

So, yes, while I’ve been working on my plan for Word-Maleerie, Phase 2… I’ve also just been… well, being wholly and unabashedly nerdy.

Which I would recommend. 5/5 stars.

If you’ve never wandered through a convention hall filled to bursting with all things comic, fantasy, sci-fi, and anime; if you’ve never wandered through crowds, elbow to elbow with fellow nerds dressed in quippy t-shirts or decked out as their favorite characters; if you’ve never sat in a hall as costumed fan after costumed fan strode onto the stage, with the audience cheering and applauding their skills; if you’ve never haggled over a comic right after a long conversation over DC and Marvel’s movies….

In short… if you’ve never let yourself just totally be among other people who are also just letting themselves be themselves… then please do. The first chance you get.

And it doesn’t have to be at a comic convention. It can be at a sporting event. Or in a gym. Or at a restaurant. Or in a theme park. People tend to think that nerds only exist “in a galaxy far, far away” or in Gotham City.

But we don’t. “Nerd” is really just a word that means passionate. I’ve met my fair share of sports nerds. Or roller coaster nerds. Or food nerds. They just tend to go by different titles: Jocks, or adrenaline junkies, or foodies.

But it all means the same thing: Loving what you love. Being who you are. And loving other people who are also just being who they are.

We need more of that. I’d say “especially these days,” but let’s be real: Humans have always had a tendency toward selfishness, or arrogance, or violence–or a million other pitfalls.

The good news is, we also have a tendency toward comradery and kindness.

And believe me: When you’re watching a costume contest, and every single person in the audience is showering the person on stage with love and with applause that says: “Wow, you made that yourself? You look incredible!”

That moment there is when a little bit of faith in humanity comes back.

So, yes, these past few weeks have been a time of escapism. But they’ve also been a time of so much more.

I’ll be writing more soon. I haven’t forgotten this blog or all of the wonderful people who read it. Truly from the bottom of my heart: Thank you.

But in the mean time… here are some Comic Expo pictures! (Specifically the costume contest because… yeah, that’s the most fun part. Also, please forgive if the photos are blurry…. You’d be surprised how fast people move on a stage!)

The Fastest Librarian Alive

Today’s nerdy blog is a little bit different…. A while back, my library’s writing group all drew random prompts. Fate was with me as mine was: If you could have any superpower what would it be? *cracks knuckles* I’d been preparing my whole life for a prompt like this. Today, I thought I’d share that story, mostly because: (A) It’s super nerdy; and (B) It was a ton of fun to write.

We’ll skip the origin story. As a dedicated comic nerd before I became an actual superhero—and, yes, I know how crazy that sounds, but hear me out—I know that origin stories are everyone’s least favorite. I mean, don’t get me wrong: You can’t have Batman without Crime Alley or Spider-Man without great power and great responsibility.      

          But we all know those stories. We want to get to the action, to the grit, to the “How will they save the day” and the “Does the day even deserve to be saved?”

          The latter is for edgier comics, though, and if my real life ever became a comic book, I doubt it would be all that edgy. I don’t think a 4’11” librarian can pull off the angst that, say… Daredevil can.

          That’s not to say I haven’t had some hard times in my life. But everybody has. Everyone has had wracking sobs and shaking fists. We’ve all been heartbroken and we’ve all been furious. The difference is whether we let those moments be our molds or our ladder rungs: Do they define us or do they lift us higher?

          I tend to lean towards the latter, because… well, like I said, I can’t pull off the doom and gloom.

          And besides the past is in the past… in the origin story. And this isn’t really an origin story. This is how Sarah Davidson became the fastest librarian alive.

          You wouldn’t think being a librarian has that many occupational hazards. (Though we tend to joke that the compulsion to take home a new book at the end of every work day is a real danger.)

          And, yeah, except for the occasional pulled muscle or papercut, things are pretty quiet.

          Minus the freak accident that gave me my powers: an early morning storm, a lightning bolt, and me working on the computer. I don’t know how, but somehow the electric shock that surged through the computer and into me… gave me super-speed!

          Super-speed is by far the best power. No more driving—because now running is actually faster! Plus, there are technically no speed limits for running. (But who would have guessed anyone would ever be hitting Mach 3?)

          Not that I can go my fastest. The speed would tear up the sidewalks.

          People are starting to talk about a strange blur throughout this normally quiet small town though. No one’s suspected superpowers… mostly because that idea is crazy.

          But super speed also comes with speed brain—which means I can think as fast as I can move. That comes in handy whenever I’m typing—those two books I’ve been wanting to write? I finished them last week.

          Now I just have to edit them….

          Unfortunately, super speed did not come with super motivation.

          Plus, I can vibrate my molecules fast enough to go through solid objects. Locked myself out of the house? No problem!

          I can also vibrate quickly enough that I appear invisible… though I haven’t experimented with that much… yet.

          But that’s not even the biggest plus to super speed. The best part? Superfast metabolism. This speed is always a part of me, even when I appear to be still. And that speed needs fuel—10,000 calories per day fuel. I can lose the weight I want, and then eat whatever I want just to maintain my new figure!  

          And that is especially good news for a chocoholic.

          It’s been a couple months since I got my speed, and I’ve grown pretty accustomed to it. I mean, there was definitely a learning curve (namely passing out a few times because I needed to eat and then there was that one time I meant to go get my mail, but I ended up in Fiji….)

          I never had any patience, but now with super-speed always itching at me, I find it’s nearly impossible to be still. I get up earlier in the morning and then I get three times as much done as I used to. Dishes, no matter how high they’re stacked, take only 5 minutes.

          I spend the rest of my free time writing (and wearing out my keyboard) and reading (I’ve already read 200 books this year!) And at work, I can put books away in a blink of an eye. I’ve also already scheduled all the employees for the next five years! And I’ve outlined programming for the next ten!

          Huh… maybe speed brain doesn’t mix well with being a planner….

          Of course, most of the time there are fellow librarians around. And that means I can’t use my speed (which is like asking a seven-year old with a water pistol not to shoot it). But I manage. I think I’m doing a pretty good job of hiding my powers (as long as no one looks at the floor under my desk—there’s a pretty good sized hole from my incessant foot tapping).

          About a week ago, I started wondering how else I could use my super speed. I’ve gotten ahead at work, at home, and with my hobbies. I’ve helped around the house at my parents’, and I’ve even let my engineer brother run some experiments on me.

          But today, as I was sitting at my desk, double-checking the schedule for October 2022 for the tenth time, I couldn’t help but wonder if I could do something more.

          I’m a pretty… normal person. I’ve never been one to rush into danger. I’m more than a bit squeamish, and I’m very introverted. Even when just reading comic books, I would find myself wondering how the characters could take such colossal risks.

          But then I started paying attention to the sirens. This might be a pretty small town, but it’s surprising how often sirens blare.

          And that’s when it hit me: Every comic I’d ever read: “With great power comes great responsibility.” “Life doesn’t give us purpose. We give life purpose.” “It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.”

          What reason is there to have abilities if you don’t use them? And as I ran to the siren, I realized that was true of any ability, not just this strange super speed that had miraculously come my way. If you have the ability to write a story or give a speech that moves people, if you have the ability to open up young minds to the world around them, if you have the ability to make people laugh and forget their troubles—whatever it is, how can you not use it?

          This particular siren was just for a domestic dispute. Nothing I could help with. But there will be others—fires, or robberies, or who knows what—where my speed might be helpful.  

          I’ll keep an ear out, and my running shoes nearby. And in the meantime, I’ll keeping putting away books at lightning speed….          

Because I’m Sarah Davidson. And I’m the fastest librarian alive.


Note: I do not own any of the references to DC comics. I am simply referencing them in this parody work.

Welcome to the Wonderful(ly Insane) World of Comics

So… you’ve decided to start reading comics.

Ha.

Haha. Haha

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Welcome to insanity, my friend. You have over 80 years of material spanning various continuities in universes where science and magic coexist and death is like a common cold.

It’s a wild ride that will have you confused, frustrated, lost, angry, and a million other emotions….

And you’re going to love it.

Seriously, you will never run out of reading material. You’ll see favorite characters grow and evolve. You’ll learn about humanity in a way that could only be exposed in the outlandish plots of super-antics. You’ll develop preferences for certain styles and gain a real appreciation for this perfect marriage between words and art.

Plus, if you don’t like how a story is going, just wait long enough and either: (A) A new writer will take the reins, or (B) The universe will reset.

In short, reading comics is like when Ron tried to read Harry’s tea leaves in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: “You’re gonna suffer, but you’re gonna be happy about it.”

Wise words, Mr. Weasley.

But where to start? Like I said, there’s over 80 years of material. Now, that doesn’t mean you have to read everything. Comics in the ’40s, while good for nostalgia, aren’t exactly riveting.

If you want exciting stories that have equal parts action and character development, then you’re going to want to start with something more recent. Of, course, with comics, that means since about the ’80s (give or take). Personal taste will vary.

But, where to start? Here are some tips:

(1) #1s

I’m talking more about graphic novels here, which are several comic issues bound together. I recommend these because you can get an entire story arc in one sitting. Keep in mind, these #1s are not like first books in a series. For example, if you get started with Harry Potter, reading Sorcerer’s Stone is where you start, period. There’s nothing before or after. But, like I said, these characters have been around for decades. #1s represent a good starting point for a new “chapter” in these characters’ lives. Events and relationships that happened in the past will be referenced, but you’ll get some exposition along with it.

(2) Crisis Events

These tie directly into #1s. One of the reasons graphic novels may start over is because a crisis event is taking the universe in a new direction. (Other reasons may be more internal within the comic industry. But I’m sticking with more story-based restarts.) A “crisis event” is exactly what it sounds like. A terrible, universe-shaking something happens and the repercussions of it will shape all stories going forward. Here’s an example: DC’s New 52 started after the Flashpoint story line (during which the Flash royally messes up the timeline and then attempts to fix it). From then on, the next volumes were the result of the changes in the timeline. If you start at a crisis event and then go forward, you’ll have a pretty fluid story. (And these events are nothing new–Crisis on Infinite Earths is one of the most famous and it was published from 1985-1986.)

(3) Iconic/Hallmark Issues

Of course, there are some stories that, regardless of where you are in the continuity, will always be referenced. These issues or story arcs are ones that were historic in the comic community–whether because they tackled a serious, real-world issue, or because the stories deeply impacted how fans viewed the characters and their worlds. A few examples of these include:

Batman: “A Death in the Family”

Green Lantern/Green Arrow: “Snowbirds Don’t Fly”

Iron Man: “Demon in a Bottle”

Batman: “The Killing Joke”

Teen Titans: “The Judas Contract”

X-Men: “Days of Future Past”

Warning: These comics do tend to be heavy reads. If you want a crash course in how comics can be just as intense as a traditional novel, with psychological or societal themes,then these are solid places to start.

Alright… now you know what to look for, and while that criteria certainly narrows your options, you still have a veritable ocean of comics left. So now it’s time to start thinking critically. Ask yourself these questions:

(1) What characters do you want to read?

You can’t read everything. Believe me, I’ve tried. You have to figure out what characters most catch your interest. Start out with a few, and then, as become more comfortable with the format and world of comics, add some more. (Believe me, you’ll end up finding favorites you never thought you would. For me, Green Lantern ended up being a very happy surprise.)

(2) How involved do you want to be in the universe?

So, now you know what characters you want to read… but how involved in their world do you want to be? How tied into the overall universe? One of the many cool things about comics is that everything is connected. You might decide you want to focus on Spider-Man, but I guarantee you he’s going to cross paths with the Fantastic Four. Does that mean you start reading FF, too? Maybe. You might find out you like the team. (Johnny Storm and Spidey actually have a pretty funny friendship.) Or maybe you just stay a Spidey purist and just enjoy the FF when they show up. Either way is totally fine. But it can get a little more complicated than that… what about the rest of the Spiders? Miles Morales Spider-man? Spider-Gwen? Venom? Their stories will often directly affect what’s happening with good ole Peter Parker, or at least add interesting layers to who the Spidey character is. Honestly… there’s not right or wrong way to do it. Like with traveling, there’s nothing wrong with exploring one corner of the world and then adventuring outward as you get more comfortable. Maybe you start with visiting different places in your state, then you start taking road trips, then you try traveling abroad. Similarly, you can start with Spider-man titles (because there are multiple: Amazing Spider-Man, Peter Parker, Spectacular Spider-man, Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, etc.), and then maybe you decide you’re going to read more of the “Spider Family.” And then maybe you branch out into some of Spidey’s other super-friends. Of course, if you decide to just stick with the original, that’s perfectly fine, too–you’ll certainly never run out of stories and adventures with everyone’s favorite wall-crawler. Above all, just remember: This is supposed to be fun.

(3) Are you more of a DC fan or a Marvel fan? Or do you prefer independent comics?

Now, this third tip is up to personal preference; it might not apply to you at all. It is totally possible to love all comics equally–Marvel, DC, and independent titles. But chances are, the more you read, you’ll start to develop a preference. I’m more of a DC fan. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have my Marvel comics I check out as soon as they hit the shelves. (Doctor Strange, Fantastic Four, and Spidey are all favorites.) If you do find, however, that you prefer the characters, worlds, or writing styles of one company over another, that will actually help. Continuities, parallel universes, clones, etc.–this all all happens within both Marvel and DC. It’s easier to be “dedicated” to one or the other. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to keep it all straight (the more you read, the easier it will be to balance all the many, many stories), but if you’re starting out, it’s helpful to have a focus. It’s kind of like picking a concentration for a major. If you’re majoring in communications, studying both journalism and media production will probably make your brain explode. But if you choose one, you can really dive into it. (Of course that, doesn’t mean you can take an elective or two in the other course–or you know, read certain comics from the other company.)

Remember: All of these tips are just general. I’ve been reading comics “seriously” for about five years now, and these are all things I wish someone would have told me. I didn’t know much going in except: (1) I like the MCU movies, and (2) Batman is cool. Honestly, picking books felt a bit like being plopped down in a foreign city and just having to choose streets at random.

My hope is that, if you’re new to comics, these tips will give you a bit of a map.

After all, you’ve got one fun journey ahead of you–and it’s full of people who love to share it! (Are there trolls? Yes. But most of us just like to “nerd out” over our favorite characters.)

So… dive in, find what you love, and then spread some love in the comic community. We’re excited to welcome you to this wild, crazy world.

‘Dreams Save Us:” Why Superman is More Relevant Now Than Ever

We don’t live in a “super” world.

Spend about 5 nanoseconds online and the first thing you’ll see is anger. Hostility. Intolerance.

That’s not to say that there aren’t good aspects of the internet. Scroll long enough and you’ll find heartwarming stories: Strangers becoming pen pals for the lonely elderly in nursing homes; shelter cats and dogs finding their forever homes; a community rallying behind a neighbor fighting cancer.

Sadly, the negative is always going to be louder. Haters gonna hate, as they say. But the good is still out there, always.

But what does this have to do with a nerdy blog post? Everything. Because if there’s one thing nerds know, it’s that heroes never stop being heroes. The good never stop fighting. They might falter. They might fail. But they always get back up.

And today I want to talk about the quintessential superhero, the one who started it all: Superman.

First appearing in Action Comics #1 in 1938, the savior from another planet captured the attention of the world: He was strong, he was fast, and he was always good.

From Superman: A Celebration of 75 Years (2013)

In a time when World War II was only a year away and the escalation of the Nazi party had the very basest, worst part of humanity on display for all to see, it’s little wonder that the idea of a superhero was so captivating.

In that historic first issue, Superman saves an innocent woman from being executed, stops a man from abusing his wife, saves a kidnapped Lois Lane, and begins an investigation into a corrupt Congressman (which was continued in issue #2).

Superman was pretty busy in that first issue, but it epitomizes who he is as a character: He helps, not only with the major country- or world-shaking problems, but also with everyday injustice.

But is such a character still relevant today? Is it realistic to believe in someone who helps whoever and however he can? Someone who is, simply put, a genuinely good person?

I think the day that we say “no” is the day that we stop believing in humanity. The day that we admit, at our core, we are nothing more than selfish, violent animals. The day that we throw our hands up and declare that we will never be any better.

I’m not willing to give up on us. And neither is Superman.

Characters like him are the mirrors that show us what we can be.

Of course, that mirror might accomplish such a feat in different ways as culture changes. In 1938, Superman just lived up to his name. He was super and he made us want to be super, too.

Nowadays, comics are a little different. Superman is still super, but he reminds us of humanity’s potential in a very different way.

In Action Comics #775 (2001), the story “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice, and the American Way?” pits Superman against a new gang of “heroes.” Known as The Elite, they are powerful and, collectively, stronger than Superman. At first, Superman is happy to have more people willing to fight the good fight. But the story takes a dark turn when The Elite kills terrorists.

Superman appeals to them, saying that it is not a hero’s duty to be judge, jury, and executioner. To do so opens the door to anarchy and violence, rather than justice.

The problem? The public loves the Elite’s no-nonsense attitude. They embrace the revenge that the Elite represents. And Superman quickly becomes little more than a joke in comparison.

From Superman: A Celebration of 75 Years (2013)

Of course, Superman still believes in justice. And he worries what might happen if the Elite stops killing terrorists and turn their attention instead to others. What if they change their mind on what constitutes a danger? What if they become overwhelmed by power and start attacking innocent people? And, a part from that, they have still broken the law by abandoning due process.

Of course, they refuse to come quietly. Consumed by popularity and publicity, the Elite want to broadcast Superman’s attempt at arresting them.

As predicted, they are more powerful and they defeat him. Or so it seems.

Suddenly, Superman returns, proclaiming:

“I’ve made the mistake of treating you people like… people. But now I understand better. I understand what you are. And how to deal with you.”

Seemingly enraged and insane, Superman murders the members of the Elite and (using his heat vision) lobotomizes their leader, the telekinetic and telepathic Manchester Black.

Key word: Seemingly. It turns out that Superman staged the whole thing. No one was killed, and he only gave Black the equivalent of a psychic migraine.

The comic ends with Superman flying away, declaring:

“Dreams save us. Dreams lift us up and transform us. And on my soul, I swear… until my dream of a world where dignity, honor, and justice become the reality we all share–I’ll never stop fighting. Ever.”

More recently, the story arc The Oz Effect (2018), has Superman fighting his father, Jor-El, who was saved from Krypton’s destruction and brainwashed. Unlike his son, his time on Earth was spent among the worst in humanity. He warns Superman that the world is ending, and then manipulates people around the world to give into their worst desires (prejudice, violence, etc.).

The arc ends with Jor-El reaching out to his son, admitting that he is being controlled by a more powerful force. Superman returns to his wife and son, his mind spinning over what he has witnessed. Is it possible that the planet he has spent so much of his life believing in and fighting for truly is a lost cause?

The final image leaves the reader with only one thought:

We’ve created a job too big for even Superman.

From Superman, Action Comics: The Oz Effect Deluxe Edition (2018)

Now, back to the original question: Is Superman still relevant?

Absolutely. As long as we can strive for better, as long as we need a reminder that we truly are capable of even more than we imagine, as long as we need a beacon to confirm that, yes, there is still good in the world.

Superman may be fictional, but the ideas and hopes he represents are not. As he said, “Dreams save us. Dreams lift us up and transform us.”

The good news: We don’t actually need a visitor from another planet to save us. We just need ourselves–one act of kindness, one selfless thought at time.

The Man of Steel reminds us that, even though we might not live in a super world, that doesn’t mean that we can’t be super people.

Up, up, and away.

———————————————————-

Sources: Superman: A Celebration of 75 Years (2013) and Superman, Action Comics: The Oz Effect Deluxe Edition (2018).

My Top 10 Favorite Superhero Sidekicks

My first foray into the sensational stories of superheroes came in the 5th grade. TV Land had just begun playing the 1960s Batman series, starring Adam West and Burt Ward. My dad had called my brother (only about 5 at the time) into the room, thinking that his son would naturally fall in love with the cheesy action.

But it wasn’t his son who got hooked. It was his daughter.

I regaled my father with questions: Why does Batman fight crime? Who are his villains? And, of course: Can we watch it again tomorrow, “Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel?”

But my favorite part of the show was always Robin. (I am not ashamed to say that Burt Ward was my first childhood crush. Take that, Backstreet Boys!)

For years, I didn’t realize that superheroes had their own genre. I thought that Batman was just Batman. A little later, I discovered the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies and fell in love with everyone’s favorite wall-crawler.

I graduated from ’60s Batman to the ’90s’ Spider-Man: The Animated Series, which aired every Saturday morning on ABC Family (which is now called Freeform, so yes, I know, I have dated myself).

Even then, I didn’t know that Spider-Man was part of a much larger superhero universe. Whenever some other crimefighter–Iron Man, Punisher, Daredevil–would guest star, I thought they were simply new characters designed for the cartoon. I didn’t know they had their own stories!

Then came college and my then-boyfriend who introduced me to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. From there came all of the other ’90s cartoons I’d never watched: Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, Teen Titans, etc.

And then the dizzying world of comics. Of trying to read graphic novels in just the right order to fully appreciate the massive, titles-spanning story being told. Of trying to catch-up with an industry that has been around for 80+ years. Of seeing how these timeless characters have changed with the coming decades and learning to appreciate those changes as pieces of history. (Even the ones that didn’t work out–seriously, who thought giving Superman a mullet was a good idea?)

But my favorite parts, still to this day, are the sidekicks. The mentees looking to the established heroes for guidance. The next generation.

And it’s probably all thanks to Burt Ward.

So… holy nostalgia, Batman!

It makes sense, then, for my very first comic-related blog to be a list of my top ten favorite sidekicks. And, for the nerds out there, yes, I’m going to be very specific (e.g. I won’t just say “Robin,” I’ll clarify which Robin). And to those less nerdy out there… yes, there are multiple Robins.

Buckle up. It’s time to head to Nerdville.

(10) Batgirl (Barbara Gordon)

I wondered whether or not to even include her on the list, considering that Batgirl (Barbara Gordon) has become a hero in her own right, protecting Burnside. Plus, she always kind of started out on her own. She decided to become a hero and then Batman recruited her, rather than the other way around. However, she did also help expand the Bat Family, turning the dynamic duo into a terrific trio. In that way, it only seemed right to include her. Batgirl has overcome every challenge that stands in her way–from fighting crime to overcoming trauma at the hands of the Joker–and she is equal parts brain and brawn. If you’re a villain, you don’t want to be punched by Batgirl, but you REALLY don’t want her hacking into your computer.

(9) Kid Flash (Wally West II)

For years, I was more of a Marvel fan until I came across the animated show Young Justice. From there, I started reading DC comics, and found that I was a bit more of a Bat than I was an Avenger. It’s little wonder then that a lot of my favorites come back to Young Justice. That said, I was a little uncertain when I saw they were rebooting the Kid Flash character–making him a completely different person. But I have to say… it really works. Wally West II comes with unique challenges, and now that Wally West I is back in the universe (for you non-nerds… it’s a long story), things are even better. I love watching the two Wallys interact with each other, often in a very brotherly way.

(8) Ms. Martian

Remember what I said about Young Justice? I fell in love with Ms. Martian: Her enthusiasm and energy, and then later her command and control. I loved watching her grow more and more comfortable with herself, going beyond “Hello, Megan!” to a true, Justice League-caliber hero.

(7) Robin (Tim Drake)

Tim Drake–the true detective of the Robins. The one who, in many ways, actually takes after Bruce Wayne the most. I’ve not read as much with him as I have others, but every time I do, I enjoy seeing his very analytical mind attack each situation. He’s a force to be reckoned with mentally. And while his more controlling nature gets on my nerves from time to time, he still has that “light” to Batman’s “dark” that makes him an interesting and engaging character.

(6) Speedy (Roy Harper)

I have a soft spot for those “lost” characters. And Roy Harper, who was the vessel DC used to address the drug epidemic in the landmark issue “Snowbirds Don’t Fly” (1971), is a prime example of one. Since that issue, he’s had to deal with addiction, alcoholism, and just about every obstacle writers could throw his way. Hot-headed and stubborn, he keeps pushing ahead even after he trades his sidekick days as Speedy for his adult persona Arsenal. With trucker hat and tattoos, he embodies all that is “bad boy” while still also being a hero. Whether he’s a Titan or an Outlaw, he always seems to have to prove himself–sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing, but always relatable in his desire to rise above his own demons.

(5) Robin (Jason Todd)

Remember what I said about those “lost” characters? Well, you don’t get more lost than Jason Todd: the Robin that fans hated. First DC retconned him, giving him a new backstory and personality (which was much better than Dick Grayson, Pt. 2–but with red hair!). The new, edgier, and angrier Robin still didn’t get much love, however, so when DC came up with the idea to have fans vote for an issue’s ending by calling one of two numbers, they decided to use Jason. At the end of a dramatic issue where Jason was beaten within an inch of his life by the Joker, an explosion destroys the building he’s in right before Batman is able to get there to save him. Fans were given the option: Call number A for Robin to live, call number B for him to die. And with that… Jason Todd became the first Robin to die. (He would not be the last.) Years later, we get a resurrected Jason Todd who is angry at Batman–not for failing to save him, but for allowing the Joker to live. Jason argues that Batman’s “no killing” philosophy doesn’t amount to much if evil men either continuously escape or circumvent the law. He claims that any lives the Joker destroys also leaves blood on Batman’s hands. From there, Jason goes from antagonist to antihero, eventually finding peace with Batman over their differing viewpoints. It’s a strange (and often strained) relationship, but it’s also one of the most interesting in the Bat Family. If you want to see a roller coaster of character evolution, then Jason Todd stories are definitely some you’ll want to check out.

(4) Robin (Damian Wayne)

Like “lost” characters, I also have a soft spot for those who are always having to strive to be better people. And Damian Wayne is a prime example. Raised by the League of Assassins until he was 10, his moral compass is more than a little bent. Once he began living with Batman (his biological father), Damian learned to value life, but… he’s still being raised by Batman. Not exactly a normal childhood. While his entitled and aggressive nature can be annoying at times, I still love watching him grow and change as he learns how to be a son, brother, and friend. (Also, he’s basically Batman-in-miniature and watching him team-up with Superman-in-miniature is equal parts amusing and adorable.) Cue transition to #3!

(3) Superboy (Jon Kent)

Superman-in-miniature. He teams up with Batman-in-miniature. And he’s beyond adorable. I’m a huge fan of familial themes, and you don’t get stronger ones than with the Kents. I love watching their family confront each challenge that comes their way, watching Jon grow, and also seeing his interactions with other heroes. (He’s Superman’s kid after all; that’s kind of a big deal.)

(2) Kid Flash (Wally West)

Wally West is always going to be my favorite Flash. I fell in love with the character in Young Justice, and since then, I have devoured everything I can read with him. He’s funny and charming, but also deals with a lot of doubt. After all, he had pretty big shoes to fill after Barry Allen was killed in Crisis on Infinite Earths. I love his “bro” friendships with Dick Grayson and Roy Harper, and I even enjoy his romances. In my mind, there is only one other character who is more quintessentially “sidekick” than Wally… and he’s coming up next.

(1) Robin (Dick Grayson)

Of course my number one is Dick Grayson, the very first sidekick. As the first Robin, he set the standard for the superhero mentor/mentee relationship: (1) Be a complement to the hero he fights alongside (in his case, the “light” to Batman’s darkness); (2) “Graduate” to become a hero in his own right, separate from his mentor (specifically, Dick became Nightwing). Nearly every character on this list follows that (or a very similar) pattern, but Dick Grayson was the one who started it all. Not only does his character come with a ton of history, but his role as an optimist and “big brother” in the Bat Family just makes him even more likable, clinching his spot at number one.

And that’s it: My Top 10 Favorite Superhero Sidekicks. Obviously, a pretty DC (and Bat)-heavy list. I did look up Marvel sidekicks in case there were any that I was forgetting, but sadly those I found (Bucky, War Machine, Falcon, etc.) just didn’t make my Top 10 list. I’d also argue that DC approaches “sidekicks” in a fundamentally different way than Marvel, lending itself to a more traditional definition of the word (where the characters are more like apprentices.)

I would however love to hear other thoughts. There’s nothing I enjoy more than a fun comic book conversation!