Real Name: Robert “Robbie” Baldwin
Aliases: Masked Marvel, Penance
Occupation: Adventurer, reality TV star, former student
Citizenship: United States Citizen with a criminal record.
Place of Birth: Springdale, Connecticut
Known Relatives: Justin Baldwin (father), Madeline Naylor Baldwin (mother)
Group Affiliation: New Warriors
First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man Annual #22
History: Robbie Baldwin is the son of Justin Baldwin, District Attorney of Springdale, Connecticut, and Maddy Naylor-Baldwin, a popular actress. His parents held very opposite views and often argued in front of Robbie, a fact made more poignant as their arguments often had to do with what Robbie should be doing with his life and future career.
As a high school student, Robbie was interning at the Hammond Research Laboratory in Connecticut. There, Doctor Benson and two colleagues began the final stages of their attempts to tap an extra-dimensional energy source, but the researchers did not construct adequate safeguards and the energies began to overload Hammond Labs’ equipment. Part of the energies fed back into the generator, shorting out the entire system. Unfortunately, Robbie had sneaked into the lab where the experiment was taking place, curious as to what all the hush-hush preparations had been for. Robbie was bombarded by energy from the dimension but survived, finding himself surrounded by weird energy bubbles, clad in an odd costume, and having a hollow and resonant voice. Panicking, Robbie sought to escape to the roof of the lab building where he encountered four masked gunmen. During the ensuing battle, Robbie discovered that his body now generated a kinetic energy field that protected him from any impact and made him a bouncing dynamo of kinetic energy.
Shortly afterward, Robbie’s parents were accosted by Johnny Roarke, a criminal Justin Baldwin had put away, and Robbie used his powers to defeat him. The media leaped to the story, reporting the appearance of a new hero, whom they dubbed “the Masked Marvel.” Robbie continued to use his powers to fight crime, and the Masked Marvel enjoyed a great deal of popularity from the townspeople, although his parents held very diametrical and vocal views about the costumed vigilante. Baldwin was forced to keep his power under control, avoiding any potential contact that might trigger his powers. He also spent much of his time trying capture Dr. Benson’s cat, Niels, who was similarly caught in the energy experiment and gained Speedball-like powers, and using him to help understand his powers.
During a trip to New York City, Robbie ended up helping Spider-Man and Daredevil stop the Purifiers of the High Evolutionary, but mostly Robbie fought criminals in Springdale, such as the Sticker, Leaper Logan, the Bug-Eyed Voice, and the Feathered Felon. Robbie hoped to become a big-time superhero, and even joined a tryout for the premier hero team Avengers, only to be rejected. During a shopping trip to New York City with his mother he saw a battle breaking out involving Terrax, former herald of Galactus. Joining the fray along with the other heroes that would subsequently become the founding members of the New Warriors, Robbie agreed to join the team as well after Terrax was defeated.
Despite the long distance he often had to travel, Robbie stayed with the New Warriors for a long tenure, quickly becoming an annoying but loveable kid brother to the older Warriors and continuing to grow in the development of his powers. Shortly after joining the team, he asked his teammates to join him in investigating the long absence of his mother, who had joined a fanatical ecological watchdog group, Project: Earth. The Warriors discovered the group wanted to kill Baldwin’s mother, as her celebrity would serve to make her a martyr to their cause. Robbie helped save his mother and defeat Project: Earth, and in so doing he revealed his secret identity to her. Although shaken, she supported her son’s lifestyle as a superhero.
Speedball had battled numerous villains with the New Warriors, including Terrax, the Sphinx, the Puppet Master, Gideon, Force of Nature, Psionex, and the Folding Circle. At one point, the cosmic villain Magus created evil doppelgangers of Earth’s heroes, and Robbie’s duplicate used its powers to virtually destroy the town of Springdale. It also confronted Robbie’s parents, and Robbie was forced to kill his duplicate. This led to his father discovering his secret identity, and Justin Baldwin denounced his son because of what he saw as vigilantism.
Robbie’s parents got divorced, and Robbie chose to live with his mom in New York. This allowed him to develop deeper relationships with his teammates, notably Nova, Rage, and, perhaps more reluctantly, his neighbor Carlton LaFroyge (who used the knowledge of Robbie’s identity to force his way onto the team as Hindsight Lad.)
When Timeslip joined the Warriors, telling of her visions of Speedball’s death, she and Robbie nevertheless developed the beginnings of a romantic friendship while seeking the truth behind these visions. At the same time, despite Speedball’s ever-increasing control over his powers, Robbie began experiencing severe spikes in his power levels that wreaked havoc over his immediate area. The Warriors were confronted by the Sphinx, who claimed the presence of Speedball was creating chaos with time itself. They were also confronted with the evil techno-organic being Advent. The Sphinx succeeded in killing Speedball before escaping, and Advent left for the future. Timeslip, holding Speedball when he died, received memories from him in his dying moments– memories of a citizen from the future named Darrion Grobe. Grobe, the son of the man who would become Advent, hoped to undo the meddling his father had done by traveling through the kinetic dimension to the past. He used futuristic technology to become a duplicate Robbie Baldwin/Speedball, replacing Speedball when he was trapped in the kinetic dimension by the Sphinx several months before. Timeslip used her knowledge and powers to transport the New Warriors to the future. There, a holographic persona of Darrion helped the Warriors to undo all of Advent’s manipulations. Ultimately, the team had to enter the kinetic dimension to escape the future before it became re-made, and they brought back the true Speedball while returning home.
Robbie has always been a New Warrior at heart. Even when the team seemed to be on a long hiatus, he and Nova helped re-form the Warriors to defeat Blastaar, adding new members Aegis and Bolt. Robbie and Nova even tried to pitch the New Warriors as an animated series, but they were forced to flee when they saw the producers’ unique take on the team. Nevertheless, Speedball returned when the New Warriors were led by Night Thrasher into a unique re-branding as a reality-TV show. Robbie’s bouncy personality seemed a perfect fit despite the contentions of other teammates, and the team hit the road to become heroes for the common man throughout small-town America. Recently the New Warriors encountered Nitro, Speedfreek, Cobalt Man, and Coldheart and during the battle that followed Nitro used his power and caused a massive explosion killing the New Warriors and almost everyone around that area for an unknown distance. Speedball was seemingly killed during this explosion and was later ridiculed by TV talk show hosts.
Speedball, however, did not perish in the explosion that killed over 600 people, including children. His powers to absorb kinetic energy had projected him several hundred miles away, where he landed, and managed to survive. However, the overload of the explosion had apparently forced his powers to change.
Robbie is arrested by S.H.I.E.L.D. and eventually taken to the Negative Zone Prison, where Reed Richards offers Robbie a chance to testify before Congress as to what happened. While there, someone tries to assassinate Robbie, shooting him with a gun. He is rushed to a hospital where he manages to survive, and Reed Richards notes that it would appear that Robbie’s power is mutating itself.
Overcome with horrible guilt, Robbie agrees to the Superhuman Registration Act, and orders a suit of armor that has 612 spikes – the same exact number of victims who died at Stamford, because of Nitro. Robbie adopts the name “Penance” and becomes a member of The Thunderbolts.
Moonstone, noting Penance’s mental instability, informs Norman that he could easily be manipulated. During a mission on the Thunderbolts to bring down Americop, Bullseye tells Penance to use his power to cripple him; refusing to do so, he discovers that it was Norman who gave the order. Penance destroys some expensive equipment, reminding Norman that he is not infected with the nanonites that keep the others in line.
While under the care of Doc Samson, it is discovered that Penance still has his ability to control his previous powers; which Doc Samson helps Penance focus on and learn to control once more.
Penance encounters Nova, and reveals who he is to him, and explains all the events that have led up to Civil War, and the fallout from those actions. Nova, disappointed, leaves into space once more.
Penance eventually escapes the hold of The Thunderbolts, and heads for Latveria to get Nitro and force him to stand trial, once he learns that Doctor Doom is holding Nitro for Namor. He manages to defeat Doctor Doom, and capture Nitro, imprisoning him in a suit similar to Penance’s.
When the Skrull Invasion takes place, several Skrulls shape shift into burn victims, claiming to be the victims of the Stamford incident. However, Robbie is able to remember their faces, and realizes they are not who they appear to be and engages in combat – and defeats! – the Skrulls.
Moonstone gets her revenge on Penance by drugging him. Brainwashed and heavily sedated and drugged, Osborn manages to convince Penance to join the new Initiative that he has formed.
Trauma, the medic for Osborn, keeps Penance in a fragile state of mind, but also reintroduces Robbie to Niels, his cat, who also has the same powers he had as Speedball. The Avengers Resistance arrive to free Speedball from Norman, but do not know he is Penance. Still drugged and brainwashed, Penance engages in combat with the Avengers Resistance, who is made up of several members of The New Warriors, of which he was once a part of.
Things take a twist when Nightmare forces Penance to remember the Stamford incident, causing him to lose consciousness as his mind tries to deal with everything he’s done. Tigra, however, revives him and helps him see Trauma’s predicament. Realizing that he has endured his greatest nightmare already, Penance manages to free Trauma of his father’s control. Penance then helps the Avengers Resistance with their escape.
While Penance declines Justice’s offer to join the Avengers Resistance, he is seen with them when they return to Camp H.A.M.M.E.R. to fight Norman Osborn and The Hood.
Under the guise once more of Speedball, Robbie joins the Avengers Academy as a member of the teaching staff. Later, however, after the events of Fear Itself, Robbie joined Vance (Justice) in leaving the Avengers Academy as teachers, so that the two of them could travel across the United States (and possibly the world), and see it as ‘normal’ people rather than super heroes.
Eventually, after Avengers Academy is closed, Speedball and Justice take to the road to see where life will take them. They eventually encounter Sam Alexander, as Nova, and throw around the idea of reforming the New Warriors, but Nova is reluctant to do so. Speedball and Justice eventually go to New Salem, where Speedball attacks one of the members of Salem Seven – Brutacus. Speedball discovers that the other members of Salem’s Seven are close by – including Reptilla, Vakume and Vertigo.
During the battle, it becomes clear that Speedball may have acted in hastes, attacking Brutacus because he “looked” like a villain. Speedball and Justice discover that the Salem’s Seven are the defenders of New Salem and are now heroes. While speaking with them, the Evolutionaries attack them. A battle ensues, with the combined forces of The New Warriors and Salem’s Seven defeating the Evolutionaries – but not before they teleport away with Brutacus.
Justice and Speedball then go to Avenger’s Mansion to see if they can discover any information about the Evolutionaries. While they are there, a nearby explosion gets their attention. When they investigate, not only do they find more Evolutionaries attacking Morlocks – they also meet Sun Girl and Haechi, and with their help, drive the Evolutionaries away again.
They eventually team up with Scarlet Spider (Kaine), Hummingbird and Watersnake. After several encounters with the High Evolutionary, they manage to defeat him and assist Watersnake with her mission to locate Namorita, who she believes is alive. They are eventually seen all standing together, with Namorita standing among them.
Height: (Baldwin) 5’6″, (Speedball) 5’10”
Weight: (Baldwin) 133 lbs., (Speedball) 170 lbs.
Powers: Robbie Baldwin’s exposure to energy from a dimension of kinetic energy gave him the superhuman ability to create a kinetic field of unknown energy around himself which absorbs all kinetic energy directed against him (what he originally called the “Speedball Effect.”) This absorption can vary from resisting the effects of physical objects such as bricks and rocks to resisting that of energy and fire and even explosions. Within his kinetic field it is nearly impossible for him to be hurt, and he instead bounces harmlessly from object to object, with no loss or transference of momentum.
When transformed into Speedball, he is covered with a blue-and-gold costume (originally a facsimile of the lab uniform he wore when exposed to the energy) and surrounded by a display of multi-colored bubbles. At first, Robbie would transform uncontrollably if hit with a slight force, but currently he is able to activate the effect consciously. He typically uses the field to slam into his opponents, and the multi-colored light display can be used to distract opponents. After many years, Robbie has learned to extend the kinetic field outward, pushing back everything in his immediate area or, by focusing more locally, delivering more powerful blows in hand-to-hand combat.
Note: Darrion Grobe impersonated Speedball for a brief time.