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Speedball

Marvel Legends
by yo go re

Let's bounce.

When Robbie Baldwin is exposed to an extra-dimensional energy source, he becomes Speedball, able to project a kinetic energy field allowing him to bounce like a super-powered rubber ball!

Steve Ditko may not have drawn attractive people, like John Romita (who followed him on Amazing Spider-Man), but the guy absolutely loved drawing movement. You've got Spidey, obviously, but Doctor Strange gesturing wildly, Blue Beetle twisting himself all over the place, Question clambering through windows and getting in fights, Creeper doing whatever the Creeper does... and then there's Speedball literally bouncing off the walls. The character was originally developed for Marvel's "New Universe" imprint, but since that was supposed to be about subtle, grounded superheroes, Robbie didn't really fit, and he got punted into the normal Marvel U instead.

Ditko was also pretty good (usually) at designing costumes, and Speedball's is definitely distinct. It's a simple blue suit with differentiation at the neck, waist, boots, and gloves. That's not much, but the distinct part is the pattern those parts get. Apparently thinking a full body of intricate webbing was too simple and easy to draw consistently, Ditko gave this costume a thousand tiny, overlapping circles. Ah, simplicity! In the first few issues it was depicted as circles just floating in front of his face and hands, but they eventually realized it made more sense to have them trailing behind him as he moved.

The figure's head is new, and isn't likely to get used again. He's got a pair of goggles to protect his eyes (left over from the safety equipment he was wearing during the experiment that gave him his powers in the first place) ["zhe goggles do nuhzhing!" --ed.], which are actually a separate piece glued over the sculpted face beneath. Or, glued into it: don't expect to pry them off and find a pristine sculpt under there. Then he's got a wild mop of hair that's even bigger Ditko drew it in the '80s - this is totally a '90s version! Having it stick up like this also gives him a nice sense of dynamism and energy.

Because Speedball is so flexible, he uses one of the bodies with extra shoulder joints. And hey, this one has a hole in the back, too, in case you have any old Doop stands handy! Though speaking of "handy," why does the toy only have fists? Even the art of him on the box has splayed fingers, which makes sense for someone riccoheting around the room. Oh, wait: it's probably because there's no way to paint all his circles on an open hand. Some of the "bubble" energy effects would have been nice, though. And they also could have reused that one cat mold to make his pet, Neils. Neils had the same powers, and was a member of the Pet Avengers. Where's our Neils, Hasbro!

Robbie comes with the torso for this series' Build-A-Figure, the Controller.

This this release, we now have four members of the New Warriors: Speedball, Night Thrasher, Firestar, and Nova. So all we need now are Namorita and an appropriate version of Vance Astro. Plus a Silhouette, because she was cool. And eventually Rage and Darkhawk hung out with them a lot, too. So a few more characters and we'll be all set! Until then, remember that fellow Ditko creation Squirrel Girl has a big crush on him, so maybe they can hang out together.

-- 11/07/22


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