<i>by George Marston, Newsarama Contributor</i> <p>One of the complaints that fans often have about mainstream superhero comic books is their static nature. The iconic superheroes rarely change to any significant degree (or at least when they do they almost always eventually return to familiar ground) and age even less so. But there are some characters who have aged ... in fact, grown up right in front of our eyes. Characters whose whole lives have been laid out in front of long-time readers. <p><a href=http://www.newsarama.com/comics/10-early-dc-demises.html>With two comic book lives recently having ended too soon</a>, today we'll take a look at ten characters we've watched grow up, evolve, and change over the years. Some of these have been slow developments, some relatively quick, but with all of these characters, we've watched their journey. <p><i>Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's <a href=http://www.facebook.com/Newsarama><b>FACEBOOK</b></a> and <a href=http://twitter.com/newsarama><b>TWITTER</b></a>!</i> <p>
Oliver Grayson, AKA Kid Omni-Man, is a character we've seen grow up before our eyes - literally. Due to his alien physiology, Oliver, younger half-brother of the superhero Invincible, has aged from infancy to his teenage years rapidly. <p>He's also seen growth as a character, going from being a violent teenager, to fighting against an major alien invasion, to most recently poisoning his own brother with a virus meant to infect the Earth. There's still time for Kid Omni-Man to find a heroic path, but those chances are dwindling.
Vic Stone, better known as Cyborg, may be the first Teen Titan on our list, but he's certainly not the last. While many of the Titans have evolved substantially over time, Cyborg is one of the few non-legacy characters who managed to hit the big time. <p>Starting his career right out of high school, Vic Stone was a key member of the Teen Titans during their revival in the early '80's. After years spent off and on with the team, he finally graduated to the Justice League, and, in the New 52, is actually one of the League's founding members.
Another former Teen Titan, Roy Harper's superheroic youth was filled with more hardships than most. Raised by his often-distant mentor Green Arrow, Harper's career began as Speedy, the teen archer. After struggling with drug addiction, Harper rejoined the Teen Titans, a group he helped found, eventually taking the name Arsenal. Later, he finally graduated to the Justice League, taking the name Red Arrow in deference to his former partner. <p>Sadly, Roy's life took another tragic turn when his daughter was murdered by the supervillain Prometheus, sending him spiraling back into drug use and depression. When DC relaunched and revamped its characters with the New 52, much of Roy's troubled history was altered, and while he's still Green Arrow's former sidekick, he now spends his time with Red Hood and the Outlaws as a troubled anti-hero.
Johnny Storm may have started a little older than some of the characters on this list - and, let's be honest, not done too much growing up - but he was still a teenager at the start of the Fantastic Four's career. Even though Sue Storm's kid brother was already a daredevil and a thrill-seeker, he was also one of Marvel's youngest heroes. <p>In the days since the FF got their start, Johnny's grown up more than most characters, going from being a 19 year old daredevil, to a celebrated hero, to the CEO of the FF's corporation, to a warlord in an alternate dimension. While he still remains a kid at heart, Johnny Storm is widely seen as one of the Marvel Universe's premiere heroes.
Bucky Barnes was originally depicted as being even younger than later tellings of his story cast him. As the kid sidekick of Captain America, Bucky's presence on an Army base was a little strange, but when he jumped into action alongside Cap, he proved himself over and over again. It wasn't until years after Cap and Bucky's final golden age appearance that the story of Bucky's "death" was told. Though he was believed to have perished while disarming a missile in mid-flight, he was rescued and brainwashed into becoming a Soviet spy. <p>After emerging, the story of his youth, his captivity, and his tormented adulthood were told in several flashback tales. Eventually, Bucky even took on his mentor's identity, until secretly passing the mantle back to the original Captain America, and coming into his own as the Winter Soldier, one the Marvel Universe's premiere super spies.
Batman has taken more sidekicks under his wing than any other hero, by far. While many of his sidekicks have come into their own, only a few have truly grown up with readers. Tim Drake, considered by many to be Batman's greatest sidekick, is one of those characters. <p>When he was introduced in the old DC Universe, Tim earned the mantle of Robin by deducing Batman's secret identity and gaining entrance to the Batcave, proving to Batman that he had the detective skills necessary to follow in his footsteps. Tim was the first Robin to be featured in his own series, where he quickly proved he had what it takes to be a solo hero. Eventually, Tim graduated to the mantle of Red Robin. In the New 52, things have changed, and Tim was <i>always</i> Red Robin, never bearing the "Robin" title solo. He was also recruited by Batman after trouble with the law put his family into witness protection. Either way, Tim has truly grown into something greater than simply a more experienced hero's sidekick.
Katherine "Kitty" Pryde was younger than the original X-Men were when she first joined the team. One of the youngest - and first - recruits of the all-new X-Men, Kitty quickly found a home among her fellow mutants, striking up a friendship with Nightcrawler, a distant romance with Colossus, and learning from Wolverine. <p>Kitty eventually moved on from the X-Men, maturing and coming into her own as Shadowcat among the British mutant team Excalibur. She also trained as a spy with S.H.I.E.L.D., rejoined the X-Men, and went through the death, rebirth, and corruption of her longtime lover Colossus. Most recently, she was even made headmistress of the Jean Grey Academy, a position she has already vacated to look after the time-traveling younger selves of the five original X-Men.
Wally West idolized the Flash as a young boy. When his aunt Iris invited him to meet her boyfriend Barry Allen, little did Wally know he'd be taking the same journey that Allen himself -secretly the scarlet speedster - had taken years before. Gaining the same super speed as his mentor, Wally West began a life of fighting crime as Kid Flash. <p>Years later, when Barry died in battle, Wally became the first of his generation of heroes - most of whom were sidekicks - to claim the mantle of his mentor, becoming the one and only Flash. Wally spent years as the Flash, defining a role for himself outside of his mentor's shadow and truly becoming the fastest man alive. With the return of Barry Allen as the Flash in the New 52, Wally remains unseen. His hardcore fans still long for his return, though they've had few hints about him so far.
From wallflower to wall-crawler, that's the Peter Parker story. Peter Parker was only about 16 when he became Spider-Man while still in high school, and quickly discovered the perils of trying to balance his home life with his secret crime fighting. <p>Unlike many young heroes, Parker never had a mentor and was never a sidekick, instead growing and learning on his own how to be a hero. As he grew older, entered college, became a teacher, and finally a research scientist, he never escaped his struggles in balancing his personal life and his life as a superhero. Now, despite his body being stolen by his archenemy Dr. Octopus, Peter's spirit remains somewhere deep in Ock's consciousness, struggling to make sure that his nemesis doesn't misuse his identity.
Dick Grayson is, perhaps, the best example of a character who has quite literally grown up in front of readers. Grayson started his career when he was barely more than a child, being taken in and trained by Batman in the early days of the caped crusader's adventures. Grayson grew up fighting crime alongside Batman, forming a bond with Superman, and co-founding the Teen Titans along the way. <p>After decades of adventures as Robin, the Boy Wonder, Dick Grayson finally earned an upgrade, taking on the mantle of Nightwing, shedding his identity as Batman's sidekick, and working to become his own hero. Though Grayson has briefly taken up the cowl as Batman several times, most recently after Final Crisis when Bruce Wayne was thought dead, he always returns to his own identity, struggling to maintain a relationship with his former mentor while still forging his own path.