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Speedball Fans, Unite!

by  in Comic News Comment
Speedball Fans, Unite!

We can’t stand for this total desecration of our favorite character! We must pool our collective, self righteous fury in to a group with a snappy acronym that will demand, loudly (but solely through internet message boards) that Robbie Baldwin be returned to his past glory and that all mention of Penance be forever wiped from sacred Marvel canon! Also, we should make vague threatening comments about Mark Millar, Paul Jenkins, and Joe Quesada, I think. Ron Marz, too, even if he had nothing to do with it at all. Because we are angry at the treatment of a fictional character! Arrgh!Okay, I’m not that angry about what’s happened to Speedball. Really, I’m more bemused and disappointed than anything. Because, really, it’s Speedball; I have affection for the doofus, like I do all manner of oddball characters I grew up reading comics about, from Arcade to many lame Spider-Man characters (I want a Silver Sable and the Wild Pack ongoing! With a good creative team!) and many points in between from Marvel’s back catalogue they’d probably like us to forget; but it’s not like I passionately follow every Speedball appearence (although, before now, that would have been incredibly easy, since he’s had like 7 since the last time they cancelled New Warriors). I’ve really been trying to ignore Civil War, actually, even if I did just pick up a couple of its spin offs in the form of Warren Ellis’s Thunderbolts and Fraction and Olivetti’s Punisher War Journal.

It’s just sad to me to see yet another bright, shiny, fun, light hearted character but through the angsty meat grinder and churned out as another ridiculously grim and gritty version of themself like it’s still 1987 or something and they even have an excuse of not knowing better that this kind of thing really doesn’t work. It annoyed me when they did it to Ralph Dibny and all the other characters caught up in the various Crises, and it annoys me now that Marvel’s doing it.

I mean, beyond the fact that Penance is such an absurdly lame character design that he would really be better off showing up in an alternate reality issue of Nextwave (where it was still going on and not likely better off for having ended) and being played as a huge joke who died from blood loss because of those dumb spikes in his costume* or whatever (or, as Paul O’Brian mentioned, in a X-Statix or another Peter Milligan comic, because he’s very good at playing with ridiculous concepts and still making them work); and the fact that apparently his sudden lapse in to crushing angst makes no sense in the context of a comic I have no interest in reading; and, come on, what would his co-creator Steve Ditko think, if he could possibly give a crap about Speedball; I am just overwhlemed with one question; why?

I just don’t get the point. Maybe one will emerge. From my limited following of 52, it seems like they’re at least trying to do something with Ralph Dibny’s post Identity Crisis, which seems like something similar to the whole “Ostrander cleaned up Moore’s mess with Barbara Gordon” kind of thing, where there wasn’t neccessarily a plan to give the character a purpose after breaking them for shock value.

In the grand scheme of things, Speedball’s new direction is not something I will lose sleep over. He’s a character I sort of liked when I was 12, and in the grand scheme of things, that’s not worth a lot of aggravation over. I’m reading the first comic he’s showing up in, Ellis’s Thunderbolts (at least until one of us gets bored), so it’s not like I’m engaging in a Marvel boycott until he’s back to bouncing around like a spaz and making dumb jokes; I have no H.E.A.T like moral outrage or historionics in me for the ruination of Speedball, especially becuse, if someone really cares, they can always hit the reset button and bring shiny happy Speedball and the rest of the New Warriors back, or pull a Bendis and put him in the Avengers because he’s their pet character (okay, I’ll totally do that if I ever write the Avengers. Prowler and Rocket Racer, too. I will make people long for the days of Luke Cage, Spider-Woman, and Echo as charter members).

I just find it disheartening that this is the state of mainstream comics. That the “me too!” business model that has been prevalent since the early days of the industry still exists to the point where not only does Marvel copy all of DC’s annoying publishing decisions in chase of the dollar dollar bill y’all (remember Quesada’s whole “But we have to do variant covers!” thing?), but all of their dumb creative ones too. Except, instead of grim ‘n’ gritty Elongated Man (with Sue’s pregnancy test as an accessory for the action figure, surely**), we get the even dumber idea of grim ‘n’ gritty Speedball as a sadomasochist with an even dumber costume than the one he used to have.

It’s a sad state of affairs when a character’s better off in obscurity than they are appearing in a big crossover event and a comic written by Warren Ellis. I’d better stop, or I might lose my ironic detachment and get really angry over the fate of poor Speedball.

*- I can see this vividly in my head, too, with Immonen art and everything. And it’s hilarious. “I am Pennance and– Urk!” And he dies. That writes itself.

**- Did they do that with Ralph’s Identity Crisis figure? I really have no idea, and find the idea just plausible enough to believe it might have happened.

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