The following contains spoilers for Spider-Man #10, on sale now from Marvel Comics.

Sidekicks are as old as literature itself. Throughout history, famous fictional characters often partnered up with assistants who would support the former’s exploits and offer a counterpoint to their perspectives. From Don Quixote’s squire Sancho Panza to Sherlock Holmes’ friend Dr. John Watson, their chemistry not only gives the hero a foil but also gives readers a relatable focal point in the narrative. In the early days of superhero comics, the companies that eventually became DC and Marvel Comics created kid sidekicks for their popular characters. Their aim was connecting with an untapped younger demographic, teaching them valuable life lessons while giving them relatable role models.

Robin, the Boy Wonder, was the first major sidekick to grace the medium. His popularity paved the way for Bucky Barnes, Speedy, the Boy Commandos, Etta Candy, and many others. While some have survived the test of time, many have vanished out of print. However, looking back, kid sidekicks now feel like child soldiers forced into the personal crusades of adults. For a long time, Batman’s use of minors in his war against crime damaged his legacy. Now Spider-Man is the latest superhero to come under fire for endangering super-children. Although Spider-Man never had an official sidekick, Spider-Boy’s presence nevertheless complicates matters for the friendly neighborhood web-slinger.

RELATED: Mary Jane’s Debut As Jackpot Gets Second Printing

Spider-Man Wants To Distance Himself From Spider-Boy

Spider-Boy is the latest spider-themed hero to swing his way into the Marvel universe. Spinning out of the recent “End of Spider-Verse” event, Bailey Briggs landed on Earth-616 and discovered that no one had any previous memory of his existence. This upset him since he realized that neither Peter nor Miles remembered him or the countless sacrifices he made for them. Edge of Spider-Verse #3 (by Dan Slott, Humberto Ramos, Wayne Faucher, Edgar Delgado and Joe Caramagna) trapped Bailey in a lonely life. He lives in the NYC charity organization F.E.A.S.T., but due to reasons unknown, no one knows who he is despite his regular presence at the shelter. Bailey doesn’t seem to have a family, and the only friends and loved ones he knows are from F.E.A.S.T., making it especially hard for him to cope with the loneliness of a new world. As a hero, however, Spider-Boy can hold his own even against the biggest and meanest of henchmen.

Where Spider-Boy’s story deviates from most Spider-Totems and sidekicks his unilateral decision to assist Spider-Man. In Spider-Man #10 (by Dan Slott, Christos Gage, Mark Bagley, Edgar Delgado and Joe Caramagna), Peter is overwhelmed by his out-of-control Spider-Sense when Bailey drops in to deal with Electro. But even the supervillain finds the situation preposterous, calling out Spider-Man for endangering the life of a kid and using child labor in his heroic pursuits. As he denies the allegations, the Web-Slinger cannot stress enough the ridiculousness of taking on a child as his partner when he cannot even care for a simple houseplant. Peter lays down clear boundaries on the issue with Bailey, ruling out every possibility of a professional partnership. Although he is unfamiliar with Bailey’s circumstances, Peter is adamant about keeping the young boy at arm’s length and he makes his stance on taking on a kid sidekick abundantly clear.

RELATED: Batman and Robin Will Introduce a New Version of Hush

Spider-Man Refuses To Take A Page From Batman’s Playbook

Over the years, the Bat-Family has grown as more of Bruce Wayne’s wards have joined its ranks. Although Batman’s compulsion to give a roof over every orphan he comes across stems from his tragic past, their eventual fate as soldiers in his crusade comes from the way he views vigilante justice as the only way to cope with loss and trauma. Dick Grayson was the first to fall down the rabbit hole, followed by Jason Todd, who died in the line of duty. While Grayson has set the gold standard for teenage heroes and sidekicks as Robin, he was still a grieving child when Bruce found him. As an adult, Batman has indoctrinated far more children into his war than any other superhero. He has trained them in dangerous weaponry as part of his self-defense routine and put them in harm’s way on countless occasions. For all the good that Batman has done, he’s still employing child soldiers to this day.

In contrast, Spider-Man refuses to take on a sidekick, especially one so young. The fact that he had a previous working relationship with Spider-Boy in an erased timeline doesn’t matter to him. He doesn’t want to burden a kid with the added responsibilities of being a superhero, an ideal he’s had trouble upholding at times. This separates Marvel’s Spider-Man from DC’s Batman by a mile. Bruce Wayne adopts sidekicks in almost every timeline where he survives. Even after Jason’s death, Bruce trained Tim Drake, Stephanie Brown, Cassandra Cain, and Duke Thomas, all underage kids forced into vigilantism by fate. The fact that Peter Parker wants to keep Bailey from suffering this way obviously gives him the high moral ground but it’s complicated by the fact that Spider-Boy is still alone in a violent, metahuman world.

RELATED: Spider-Man Comics Need To Start Distancing Themselves From Multiverse/Spider-Verse Events

Kid Sidekicks Are Hugely Polarizing

The emergence of kid sidekicks in comic books during World War II was not a coincidence. However, with child soldiers suffering in war zones around the globe today, it’s hard to shake off the obvious horrors associated with using children in a fight against dangerous supervillains. Most young superheroes in comic books use their powers to protect the community of their own volition. However, sidekicks who idolize veteran heroes and their way of life need a better way to find their path in life than reproducing their role models’ mistakes.

It is not like Spider-Man never had a sidekick in his life. When a high schooler named Andrew Maguire (an intentional reference to past live-action Spider-Man actors) received cosmic energy powers in a freak accident, Spider-Man decided to train him as a superhero named Alpha. But Andrew was too much of a hothead for Peter’s liking, and they parted ways. Since then, Peter has stuck to his solitary lifestyle, assisting younger heroes in their missions in the odd crossovers but never adopting them, metaphorically or otherwise. However, Spider-Boy seems determined to challenge Spider-Man’s resolve on this point and Peter will have to handle this deftly to avoid harming the child psychologically while he’s trying to protect him physically.

 Spider-Man didn’t know he had a sidekick and he’s concerned about taking a child into his war on crime, even though Batman paved the way for him.  Read More