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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Speedball vs. The War on Crime, Part 2

In my last post, I looked at the disproportionate number of villains that Speedball had allowed to succumb to their ultimate fate. Well, one reader might get the feeling that the editors at Marvel way back in 1989 noticed this, too, because it wouldn't be until Speedball: The Masked Marvel #10 that Robbie Baldwin would kill again.

Perhaps sensing that the death of the Speedball solo series was near, Steve Ditko let it all hang out with Robbie's Baldwin's murder spree in the final issue of Speedball's solo series.

By #10, the "Alex Bow murder" arc was tied up with the arrest of Dorian and his boss, Nathan Boder, but there was still the earlier problem of Robbie Baldwin's effort to catch Niels, the bouncing cat who could hold the key to ridding himself of the Speedball powers. Although that problem occupies a good portion of #10, the animal theme is exploited more prominently in the "A-plot" story of Clyde and the giant pig.

Clyde has helped to create a formula that will increase an animal's size to epic proportions, although we're given the impression that it was actually his partner, Dr. Rarque, who had done most of the work. Clyde is a man who only cares about becoming famous for the discovery, while Rarque is more concerned with the momentousness of his achievement, even musing that it may be the key to ending world hunger!

When the funding for the project is pulled after the pig is barbecued while trashing the lab, Clyde decides to take over for the mentally reduced Dr. Rarque and strike out on his own - illegally and in secret. He works out of an old barn, and dumps his failures in a swamp on the property. he runs into trouble when the local media begins sniffing around when his dumping spawns a giant chicken, leading to a typically-Ditko portrayal of the news media:

But you didn't come here to read my essays on Ditko-tropes, now did you? No, you came here to see hardcore violence against all of mother Earth's creatures, and Speedball likes to oblige.

The experiments lead Robbie to fear that the increased scrutiny of scientists that has resulted from the Franken-chicken incident will lead to the discovery of Niels, and more importantly, of his own abilities. He decides to get to the bottom of things so that the media will have a specific target, rather than blaming all scientists of misconduct.

His first victims are the giant ants that appear on Clyde's "farm."

I'm really surprised there aren't more of them. I mean, ants usually live in greater numbers than a couple, right? Anyway, Robbie Baldwin uses one ant to beat the other to death, and then moves on up the food chain:

To tell you the truth, I don't really care that Robbie's out there killing giant animals. They did, after all, try to kill him first. I just thought that it was a little inappropriate for the writer - in this case it was probably more Jo Duffy's fault, who 's credited with the "script" - to portray Speedball as thinking "I hope he dies!" I mean, they are more subtle ways to get that across, Jo.

Although, I can't really blame him, either. It is a giant, motherfuckin' snake.

When Robbie finally confronts Clyde, the two are interrupted by...


Let's have a big round of applause for the immortal dialog of Jo Duffy, folks. She's earned it.

As I've drawn attention to previously, Speedball does not like rats. Hates them, in fact. Hates them enough to spew faux-tough-guy dialog like "Eat hot lead, rat!"

With two exclamation marks, no less. Yes, Speedball, the Masked Marvel, superhero, goes Punisher all over that rat's ass by shooting it in the mouth. No clever escape? No use of Robbie's kinetic powers to beat him to death with himself? A gun is your answer? Anyone can use a gun, Steve! Guns aren't exciting - unless they're, I don't know, rail guns or mini-guns or something.

And, look:
Clyde's dead, too. Of course, he was actually killed by his own abomination, so I guess we shouldn't feel too sorry for him. But, man - how many people do you have to see die before your reaction is "Gosh, that guy is dead?" He's not even shaken up over it. He doesn't even rationalize it with, "Well, that's what you get for being irresponsible." It's just, "Meh. Death. B.F.D."

Like I said, I don't have a problem with Robbie Baldwin fighting, or even killing, animals - I just think it could be a little less explicit. Maybe the ants lie there motionless, Robbie gives off a few good "wa-hoos," and we're lead to believe they're dead without anyone having to actually say it. I'm just a bit squeamish about my superheroes intentionally killing something, you know? Their first duty should be to justice - they don't have to save them, I just don't see the value in killing them.

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At 24/1/08 1:31 PM , Blogger Harvey Jerkwater said...

Doctor Rarque? Man, Ditko really, really loved The Fountainhead, didn't he?


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