Kid sidekicks are a thing for many heroes. Usually they’re supposed to be someone for the young reader to identify with. And while not every superhero has had a kid sidekick, on the DC most of the major ones did. In fact, the Justice League had one once for some reason.
His name was Snapper Carr. And oh man, was he painful to read about.
Snapper Carr at his best was a character that someone made with the best of intentions to appeal to younger readers.
In his original incarnation, that’s really all I have to say about him.
In the pages of The Brave and the Bold #28, the Justice League of America appeared for the first time in a story written by Gardner Fox and drawn by Mike Sekowsky. The concept was basically the same as the old Justice Society of America from the 40s. Though today those teams look like some sort of all-star superhero team, the concept then was much different: showcase the lesser known heroes in the hopes of promoting them. Fox had actually written many of those Society stories, and since he was still working for DC, he was a natural pick. The basic premise was that some major threat would hit and the League would assemble, break into smaller groups, and deal with the threat before coming back together in the end to save the day as a group.
Meanwhile, Superman and Batman would both be too busy to show up and help out, given cameos at best in many cases. Since the book was about promoting lesser heroes, and those two were doing just fine, they were members who at first rarely bothered to actually show up. That was actually the same back in the Society days too, truth be told.
So, here was the Justice League at their first meeting: Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Green Lantern, Flash, and Martian Manhunter. Supposedly, Fox only included Aquaman because he didn’t have any other heroes to throw onto the team. As it is, Aquaman reports the sighting of a giant alien starfish, creatively named Starro, looking to take over the Earth. After the group splits up to deal with Starro, Flash encounters a young man named Snapper Carr. Starro is giving off some mind control whammy stuff or something, but Snapper seems to be immune for some reason. So does his whole town, despite the fact Starro is hanging around nearby.
After a quick chat, Flash figures Snapper of all people must have a clue on how to beat Starro. He’s not wrong. Snapper was spreading lime on his lawn to kill some weeds, and lime turned out to be Starro’s weakness. The League used the stuff to beat Starro, set up headquarters near the town in question (Happy Harbor, Rhode Island), and for completely baffling reasons made Snapper an honorary member or a mascot or something.
Snapper in many ways is the prototype of all that’s wrong with an older person trying to write what a young person speaks like. Snapper’s dialogue is full of slang that might have been dated by the time Fox committed it to paper. More likely, it wasn’t dated because no one ever spoke that way in the history of the human race. Snapper, real name Lucas, gained his name due to a habit of perpetual finger snapping. Fox was a man in his 40s when he started writing about the JLA. I have my doubts that Fox could have written what teenagers spoke like even when he was a teenager, but he certainly didn’t know what one sounded like in 1960.
Even more baffling was how often Snapper was an integral part of saving the day. Snapper had no powers, no training, and was mostly there for…OK, I don’t know why he was there. Audience identification seems the most likely, but why would anyone want to identify with Snapper when there was a legitimate superhero sitting next to him?
It also didn’t help that Snapper was also the only person in the League with distinctive dialogue. Characterization for the individual members of the League was never really a priority, so each member’s dialogue, when not referring to specific skills or powers, was more or less interchangeable. Even the famous curmudgeon Green Arrow was no more distinctive than any of the others. Snapper’s odd slang let you know when he was talking.
I can’t overemphasize how baffling it was for Snapper to get precedence the way he did. One such example came from an annual two-parter that generally had the League and Justice Society from Earth-2 do a team-up of some kind. One year, T.O. Morrow of Earth-2 learned from his future forecasting machines that he was going to die unless certain actions were taken against the League and Society. He started by eliminating the League using his fantastic technology. Half the League (Hawkman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Atom, and Snapper) were “killed” when their romantic partners (Hawkgirl, Mera, Steve Trevor, Jean Loring, and some girl named Midge) came in to kiss their respective partners, only it wasn’t the real deal but killer androids that instantly killed the Leaguers. After the other Leaguers were likewise disposed of, the Red Tornado, visiting from Earth-2, realized he could wake up the original batch by getting the real romantic partners to kiss them and wake them up, Sleeping Beauty style.
Obviously, this works. The revived Leaguers rush off to stop Morrow. They leave their loved ones behind…and here’s where it gets screwy. Hawkgirl was a legitimate superhero herself. She was Hawkman’s partner. She could have gone along. She didn’t. No one seemed to even think of including her. The same could be said for Mera, since she had some actual superpowers, but she wasn’t much for adventuring in those days, so leaving her behind wasn’t as big a deal. They stay behind while wishing the menfolk (and Wonder Woman) good luck against impossible odds.
Who did go? Snapper Freakin’ Carr.
Fox must have had something for Snapper, because Snapper stayed the entirety of Fox’s run.
What that means is he left the book within an issue or two of Fox’s departure, where the Joker tricked him into betraying the League. Ashamed of himself, Snapper left the team. His appearances with the League, when not in flashback, were sporadic from there and even occasionally had him being tricked by yet another villain.
Snapper since then has bounced around the DCU. During the Invasion storyline, he gained the power of teleportation by snapping his fingers thanks to alien experimentation. From there, he acted as a mentor to aspiring heroes, like an Hourman android from the future and the Young Justice team. He’s even joined Checkmate, DC’s international superspy agency.
Actually, the best explanation I ever got on why Snapper was there came in Justice League Year One, a post-Crisis rewrite of the League’s origin, where Black Canary replaced Wonder Woman, and Superman and Batman weren’t even pretending to be members. Snapper there was some kid that got hired as tech support who ended up helping out, but not going off to fight supervillains. That makes a heck of a lot more sense than some random teenager from the nearest town got to hang out with the Justice League because he was doing lawncare the day an alien starfish invaded.
Snapper did manage to make it into Justice League: The Animated Series, though not as a member. Snapper was a TV anchorman seen sporadically reporting news about the League or whatever menace they were facing. He didn’t use stupid slang. He just reported fantastic stuff for the news, the kind of stuff that would sound too fantastic outside a superhero world. Reporting on the fantastic, that sort of thing doesn’t fly in the real world.