WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Jessica Jones Season 2, streaming now on Netflix.
While some fans were busy speculating whether Trish Walker might adopt her Hellcat identity from the comics in the second season of Jessica Jones, the Netflix drama stealthily introduced another classic Marvel hero. Well, kind of.
In the season premiere, “AKA Start at the Beginning,” Krysten Ritter’s hard-drinking, super-strong private investigator gets down to business, with a now-clean Malcolm Ducasse employed as her trusted “associate,” which requires she meet with a parade of prospective clients: an elderly mother searching for the son she put up for adoption, a woman who believes dinosaur people are taking over the government, a corporate whistle-blower, and a skittish, bespectacled man who’s convinced someone is trying to kill him because he has superpowers. Specifically, super-speed.
His name is Robert Coleman, but you may know him better by his alter ego. “My superhero name?” he tells an unimpressed Jessica. “The kids in school used to call me The Whizzer.” Perhaps the yellow hoodie should’ve given him away.
If you don’t recognize that moniker, don’t feel too bad. The Whizzer is a relatively obscure costumed speedster who debuted in 1941. The original version of the character, Robert Frank, was bitten by a cobra while traveling in Africa with his father, Dr. Emil Frank, who then uses an injection of mongoose blood in a desperate effort to save his dying son. This being a Golden Age superhero comic, the act not only heals Robert, but grants him superhuman speed (or, more accurately, “the mongoose’s speed”). And so he dons a yellow-and-blue costume, adopts the unfortunate identity of The Whizzer, and sets off to fight crime back home in the United States.
Like most superheroes, The Whizzer’s adventures ended with the 1940s. However, he was reintroduced in 1974 in Marvel’s Giant-Size Avengers #1, and was subsequently featured in The Invaders and, decades later, on the Spider-Man and Ultimate Spider-Man animated television series.
While Robert Coleman isn’t Robert Frank, he is The Whizzer. Or at least a Whizzer. He’s initially dismissed as a crackpot by Jessica, who insists he “take a lap around the block” to provide proof of his abilities. Unfortunately, Robert admits, “I can only speed when I’m scared. I’m a fear-based hero.”
Soon enough, however, Jessica gets that demonstration, as a frightened Robert zooms back into her office/apartment, this time armed with a gun and insisting that someone strong and fast — “a monster,” like Jessica and himself — is trying to kill him. Paranoid and medicated, Robert insists, “I don’t want to be what they made me.”
But, as the old saying goes, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you. The Whizzer proves the adage true after a skirmish with Jessica leads him to race out onto the sidewalk and beneath scaffolding, where he’s swiftly buried by construction debris and impaled by a metal rod. In other words, murdered. That, of course, spurs Jessica to take up The Whizzer’s case, which conveniently dovetails into her lingering questions about her past and her own powers. It also connects to Trish Walker’s radio talk show, of which Robert Coleman was a devoted listener.
Although The Whizzer’s origins don’t involve a cobra bite or mongoose blood — he got drunk on his 18th birthday, dived off the roof and woke up in a hospital superpowers — his story does involve a mongoose. Yes, Jessica Jones pulls out a Marvel Comics deep cut by not only giving Robert Coleman a pet mongoose (or a “goddamn mongoose,” as Jessica says while searching his cluttered apartment) but also naming it Emil.
Yes, after Dr. Emil Frank, the father of the Golden Age Whizzer.
Streaming now on Netflix, Jessica Jones Season 2 stars Krysten Ritter, Rachael Taylor, Carrie-Anne Moss, Eka Darville, J.R. Ramirez and Janet McTeer.
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