Robbie Baldwin


Robbie Baldwin

Superherobox


caption= "The Amazing Spider-Man Annual" #22 (1988). Cover art by Ron Frenz.
character_name=Robert "Robbie" Baldwin
real_name=Robert "Robbie" Baldwin
publisher=Marvel Comics
debut="The Amazing Spider-Man Annual" #22 (1988); as Penance - "Civil War Front Line" #10 (2006)
creators=Steve Ditko
Tom DeFalco
alliances=New Warriors
Damage Control
League of Losers
Thunderbolts
aliases=Speedball, Penance
powers=As Speedball: Forcefield generation
As Penance: Energy blasts|

Robert "Robbie" Baldwin is a fictional superhero character that appears in Marvel Comics. Originally known as Speedball and later as Penance, the character was created by artist Steve Ditko and writer Tom DeFalco, initially as a candidate for Marvel's separate New Universe imprint. [ [http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2005/11/03/comic-book-urban-legends-revealed-23/ Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed (column of Nov. 3, 2005] ] Baldwin first appeared in "The Amazing Spider-Man Annual" #22 (1988). Baldwin's origin and early exploits as Speedball were depicted soon after in a solo series. Baldwin has spent most of his time as a member of the superhero team the New Warriors. In the Marvel Comics crossover "Civil War", Baldwin's powers change, and he changes his name and appearance to Penance. Following this change Baldwin becomes a member of the Thunderbolts.

Publication history

Marvel Comics published ten issues of the monthly comic book series "Speedball" from 1988 to 1989. The series was primarily plotted and penciled by Steve Ditko, who also supplied the covers. It was co-written by Tom DeFalco and inked by several different artists.

After the series' cancellation, the Speedball character primarily appeared in "New Warriors" and its related comics, written primarily by Fabian Nicieza. Speedball continued to be the most consistent character through the second and third volumes of the "New Warriors".

Baldwin became a featured character in "", after it was revealed that he was the only New Warrior to survive the Stamford disaster. Baldwin's character underwent a drastic change in this series, in which his powers alter and he takes the name Penance, joining the Thunderbolts.

Fictional character biography

Robbie Baldwin is a high school student who becomes a costumed crimefighter after an accident at the Hammond Research Laboratory where he works part-time. When Hammond scientists try to tap into a mysterious other-dimensional energy source, the energy bombards Baldwin. Baldwin survives the experience but finds himself surrounded by energy bubbles and clad in an odd costume.

During a battle with some thieves minutes later, Baldwin discovers that his body now generates a kinetic energy field that protects him from impact and makes him a bouncing dynamo of kinetic energy. Calling himself Speedball, Baldwin becomes a crimefighter in his hometown of Springdale, Connecticut. ["Speedball #1"] Baldwin's father, a successful District Attorney, and his mother, a former soap opera star-turned teacher, have marital problems while Baldwin secretly leads his double life. This situation leads to domestic stress that escalates over time, driven partly by the conflict between Robbie and his father, who as District Attorney is expected to uphold Springdale's ordinance against costumed superheroes and has an extreme prejudice against these "vigilantes".

The energy source also affect Niels, a cat belonging to one of the scientists, giving him the same powers. Speedball makes a number of attempts to catch the cat, hoping that study of Niels would give him better control of his powers. He would later learn that a villainous scientist, Clyde, was also after the cat, hoping to gain Speedball-like powers, and had allegedly created most of the supervillains in Springdale to this end. Speedball would later adopt the cat.

The New Warriors

When Baldwin is shopping in New York City with his mother, he joins a battle between Terrax and a number of superheroes. The heroes become the founding members of the New Warriors, and Baldwin agrees to join the team. The commute from Connecticut to New York City is difficult — he is depicted jumping in front of a speeding train to get enough of a kinetic charge to bounce into the city — and Baldwin is frequently late for Night Thrasher's formal meetings. After Baldwin's mother discovers his secret identity, his parents' marriage ends and Baldwin moves permanently to New York City. Baldwin finds friendship with all of his fellow New Warriors, but his closest friendships were with Nova and Rage. After Baldwin is transported to the dimension his powers derive from, ["New Warriors", vol. 1 #50] Darrion Grobe joins the New Warriors as Speedball, although the other members think he is Baldwin. Baldwin returns from the kinetic dimension and begins a brief relationship with Timeslip.

Civil War

During the "Civil War", the New Warriors attempt to apprehend a group of supervillains in Stamford, Connecticut for their television reality show. Nitro, one of the criminals, creates an explosive blast that kills 612 civilians, including 60 children, as well as the New Warriors with the exception of Baldwin. This event triggers the push for superhero registration at the heart of "Civil War". ["Civil War" #1] Baldwin is presumed dead after the incident, but he is found alive after the blast launches him over 500 miles. ["" #1 (Aug. 2006)] Baldwin's kinetic field keeps him alive, but it "burns out" as a result.

After awakening from a coma, Baldwin is arrested by S.H.I.E.L.D. and placed in federal prison. After he discovers his powers are still functional, Baldwin is taken to the new penitentiary called Negative Zone Prison Alpha. Reed Richards, the facility's creator, offers Baldwin the chance to testify before the U.S. Congress. On the Capitol steps, Baldwin is shot by an assailant and taken away in an ambulance. The panel in which Speedball is shot bears a striking resemblance of the iconic photo in which Lee Harvey Oswald was assassinated. [http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/rubyshot.jpg] Baldwin recovers from the wound (But bullet fragments remain inoperably lodged near his spine), and Richards determines that Baldwin's powers are evolving. Baldwin thwarts an escape from the prison and says that he will comply with the Superhuman Registration Act. Baldwin orders a new suit of armor that features 612 internal spikes that cause him constant pain, symbolic of the 612 deaths he feels responsible for (60 of which are larger and cause more pain, reminiscent of the 60 children who lost their lives of the 612). Baldwin removes his helmet to reveal himself to his old friend, and only has minor bleeding on his head ["Nova" vol. 3 #3] .

Thunderbolts

After his psychological and physical transformation into Penance, Baldwin joined Norman Osborn's new government sponsored Thunderbolts team. This team mostly comprises supervillains who are being forced to reform, or at least give the appearance that they have in public. Penance believes he fits in with the rest of his new teammates as a reforming supervillain. Ironically, Norman Osborn has expressed concern about Penance's sanity, albeit for selfish reasons.

Recently, after Nova returned to Earth, he was attacked by the Thunderbolts, who wrongly attacked him for being an unregistered superhuman. Robbie, however, held back, unwilling to fight his best friend. But as the battle escalated, he used his powers against Nova, but only to stop the fighting, not to harm him. Nova easily withstood the attack and was about to retaliate when Iron Man arrived and took the Thunderbolts to task for starting the battle. Later that evening, Robbie arrived at the home of Nova's parents and revealed his identity to his former teammate, who was shocked by the revelation. He apologizes to Nova for attacking him and asks him to join the Initiative. But Nova, shaken by how much things have changed in his absence, decides to return to space. He says goodbye to Robbie and asks him not to let the Initiative turn him into something he isn't.

Outside of "Thunderbolts", Penance is commonly portrayed in a manner more similar to that of a teenager throwing a tantrum. Squirrel Girl ["Deadpool/GLI Summer Fun Spectacular"] , who has romantic feelings for Robbie, is shocked at how much he has changed, and attempts to bring him back to his old self by explaining that none of this was his fault. He refuses to listen, however, insisting "You just don't "get it", do you? This self-punishment thing? It's too "deep" for you! See? I'm "deep" now!" while repeatedly banging his head on a wall. He also claims that his pet cat Niels is now "P-Cat, the Penitent Puss", who now wears a similar torture costume. To prevent fan backlash from an obviously over-the-top portrayal, the comic itself maintains "it's canon, fanboys."

At some point, Norman Osborn sends Bullseye and Penance to deal with a vigilante named Americop ["Thunderbolts: Desperate Measures"] , with Bullseye as team leader. Bullseye's mission is to cause Penance so much pain that his power would overload Americop, burning out most of Americop's nervous system. Penance is not happy about this and destroys an expensive device of Osborn's. Ironically, right after this, Osborn sends a memo stating that Penance is making progress. Doc Samson is assigned to give Robbie psychiatric assistance. During this time, it is discovered that Robbie still has access to his original forcefield powers, using them to beat back a mind-controlled Moonstone. ["Thunderbolts" #121]

Penance goes AWOL from the Thunderbolts for a short time, traveling to Latveria to bring back Nitro and make him suffer for the Stamford explosion. Revealing the true purpose of his suit, he forces Nitro into wearing it, beating and torturing him until he's on the brink of death. Then, he removes the biggest spike, the one close to his heart, and returns to the Thunderbolts team. ["Penance: Relentless" #1-5]

During the Skrull's invasion of Earth, the Thunderbolts are called in to defend Washington. During the battle, the Skrulls battling Penance shapeshift into skeletal corpses, and act as if they are the victims of the Stamford disaster. ["Thunderbolts" #123] Obsorn makes Robbie realize that none of the supposed corpses resemble the actual victims, and so Penance kills them all with a massive blast. ["Thunderbolts" #124]

Powers and abilities

As Speedball

Baldwin's body became surrounded by a repulsive force field after coming into contact with kinetic energy. Early in his career, the slightest touch, such as snapping his fingers, would turn on this field, but he eventually gained conscious control over it. The field repelled all energy that struck it, especially kinetic energy. As such, bullets, punches, and all other physical attacks bounced off him. A side effect of this, though, was that he, too, would bounce in the opposite direction. Baldwin often used this to his advantage, such as purposely running into a wall in order to gain momentum and thus hit an opponent with twice the force.

While with the Warriors, Baldwin gained far greater control over his powers via a combination of experience in battle and Night Thrasher's mentorship off the battlefield. Whereas previously Baldwin could barely bounce in the direction he wanted, he eventually became more proficient at controlling his leaps and using his powers in various ways, such as to deliver impressive blows, and even to project a stream of kinetic energy from his bubble field at a distance. He eventually learned to mentally "throw" the bubbles that surrounded his field to use as concussive force attacks. He was able to somewhat deflect Siena Blaze's electromagnetic attack that "no one short of the Hulk could have withstood", as well as resist the omnipath Gamesmaster's telepathy, one of the few people in the world to do so [ New Warriors #46] .

As Penance

After the events of Stamford, Baldwin believed his powers to be burned out. However, they still exist, but now only manifest when he feels pain. While his powers are still kinetically based, they no longer appear to manifest as a "bubble field." Rather, his powers seem far more explosive in nature. In order to stimulate his powers, his Penance suit constantly rakes his flesh. Baldwin tolerates this to an almost masochistic degree, once stating that he would 'Wear [the suit] all the time if I could'. It's surmisedFact|date=November 2007 that his new powers are actually stimulating his masochistic impulses, or that the contrary is possible: Baldwin's survivor's guilt led him into a combination of his kinetic energies and the cutting practice.

Other versions

Exiles

In a reality where the Hulk, after being sent into space, kills Annihilus and leads the Annihilation Wave to Earth; Robbie (as Speedball) is one of the remaining superpowers, alongside Quentin Quire and his Exiles. ["Exiles: Days of Then and Now" #1]

House of M

Robbie appears as a member of the Wolfpack. He appears in his Speedball costume. ["House of M: Avengers" #3]

"Marvel Team-Up: League of Losers"

Speedball features in an arc of Robert Kirkman's "Marvel Team-Up" (vol. 3), featuring a group of C-list heroes dubbed "The League of Losers". A group of heroes including Gravity, Darkhawk, Dagger, Araña, X-23, Sleepwalker and Terror (although Araña dies along the way) go to the future to prevent the villain Chronok from stealing Reed Richards' time machine, Chronok having come to the present and already having killed all of Marvel's major heroes.

It's revealed Chronok is from the same time period as Kirkman's Mutant 2099; the group stays with him and his mentor Reed Richards to wait for Chronok. The team defeats Chronok, but at the end of the story, Richards reveals they can't go back to their present, due to time-travel and alternate timelines. The group decides to stay in the future, satisfied with the impact they made, however unnoticed. Mutant 2099 suggests reforming the Avengers or the "Fantastic Nine".

Due to the Marvel Universe's method for resolving time travel paradoxes, the League of Losers' actions created an alternate universe. This is the alternate future visited by Squirrel Girl, a superhero with a crush on him, in "Deadpool/GLI Summer Fun" (2007). She tries to convince him to return, suggesting that no-one would mix him up with the Penance from her time, but before he can decide, the 2099 version of Mr Immortal, Squirrel Girl's GLI leader, tells her she needs to return to the present.

Marvel Zombies

A zombified Speedball participates in a multi-zombie attack on the castle of Doctor Doom; where a few human survivors where hiding. Later, he is seen in the ruins of New York. He is one of the many casualties in the conflict waged against the Silver Surfer, ending up torn apart by the Power Cosmic.

Marvel Apes

In the Marvel Apes universe,a chimp version of speedball appears alongside an ape-hero called Ape X,the two seem to act as partners and are both Avengers.He seems loyal to them,but at the end of the second issue he is seen with a group of what would usually be considered "his enemies".He asks Marty Gibbon about the human version of Speedball,but Marty doesnt have the heart to tell him about the Stanford incident.

MC2

An older version of Speedball exists in the MC2 universe, and appears sporadically in the "Spider-Girl" series and related miniseries. At some point he became a member of the Avengers, but has since left the team

Ultimate Speedball

An Ultimate Marvel version of Speedball is mentioned in "Ultimate Spider-Man" #81. In "Ultimate Spider-Man Annual" #2 (2006), an overweight man in a Speedball costume is depicted in police custody.

In other media

Video games

*In the videogame (which was only released in Japan), Speedball makes a brief appearance between levels to talk with Spider-man.

*Speedball is mentioned in the "Ultimate Spider-Man" video game. While racing the Human Torch, Spider-Man jibes: "Speedball is faster than you!" Also mentioned in the game while Peter researches himself on a website on mutants. One article is noticed by Peter with Speedball claiming "He's the coolest guy since the Ultimates."

Trivia

*Baldwin's religious affiliation is Presbyterian [ [http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/Speedball.html The Religion of Speedball] ]
*Baldwin's mother co-starred in a soap opera with Mary Jane Watson, the ex-girlfriend of Spider-Man. ["New Warriors", vol. 1 #32]
*Mike Deodato Jr [ [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_Deodato_Jr Mike Deodato Jr] ] in Thunderbolts comics series based Baldwin's appearance on actor Edward Norton [ [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Norton Edward Norton] ]

Footnotes

External links

* [http://www.coreyblake.com:16080/nwcc/characters/founders/speedball.html Robbie Baldwin's chronology]
* [http://www.coreyblake.com:16080/nwcc/characters/inactive/speedball2.html Darrion Grobe's chronology]
* [http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=98158 Paul Jenkins on Penance]


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