Robbie Baldwin was an angst-ridden Springdale Connecticut high school student who grew up under the often smothering guidance of his parents. His father wanted him to go in law while his free-spirited mother hoped he would go into arts. After school, he interned at Hammond Labs.
Robbie snuck in to watch an experiment that tapped an extra-dimensional energy source, and was accidentally irradiated by it when the energy went out of control. The energy gave him superpowers: Whenever Robbie was hit with an impact above a certain strength, he'd become surrounded by a protective kinetic energy field that manifested in the form of a more muscular body, a spandex costume, and floating 'bubbles' in the air around him. When he was in 'Speedball mode,' any impact against him caused him to bounce instead of harming him. He could also harness this energy and direct it more forcefully, or alternately use it as a bubble/shield to protect others, catch others, and even stop moving objects, like bullets, in mid-air.
After a brief career as a local hero against a series of ill-conceived villains, Speedball accidentally found himself at the site of the formation of a new young adult super team, the New Warriors, where he really started to come into his own. Night Thrasher had actually not intended for him to join the team, but his arrival and assistance in the battle against Terrax convinced Thrash to let him join. Over the years, Speedy became close friends with all his teammates, although his best relationships were with Rage, "Bucket-Head" Nova, Darkhawk, and Timeslip, his (sort-of) girlfriend.
Speedball and his teammate Nova also helped Darkhawk and Spider-Man fight a group of teens who gained super powers when they picked up energy crystals which Darkhawk had been using to heal his body.
He was working with the police to take out drug dealers, but because of his uncontrollable powers, he screwed up. Jessica Jones assumed that Speedy was a "washed up second string hero," on the side of the baddies.
The New Warriors attempted to apprehend a group of supervillains in Stamford, Connecticut for their television reality show. Nitro, one of the criminals, created an explosive blast that killed 612 civilians, including 60 children, as well as the New Warriors with the exception of Baldwin. This event triggered the push for superhero registration at the heart of the superhuman Civil War. Baldwin was presumed dead after the incident, but he was found alive after the blast launched him over 500 miles. Baldwin's kinetic field kept him alive, but it "burned out" as a result.
After awakening from a coma, Baldwin was arrested by S.H.I.E.L.D. and placed in federal prison. After he discovered his powers were still functional, Baldwin was taken to the new penitentiary called Negative Zone Prison Alpha. Reed Richards, the facility's creator, offered Baldwin the chance to testify before the U.S. Congress. On the Capitol steps, Baldwin was shot by an assailant and taken away in an ambulance. Baldwin recovered from the wound, and Richards determined that Baldwin's powers were evolving. Baldwin thwarted an escape from the prison and said that he would comply with the Superhuman Registration Act. Baldwin ordered a new suit of armor that featured 612 internal spikes that caused him constant pain, symbolic of the 612 deaths he felt responsible for. Sixty of these spikes actually broke his skin, these sixty spikes are symbolic of the sixty children that died in Nitro's explosion. He joined the newest incarnation of the Thunderbolts.
After the Civil War, he had a status of free citizen, so he often went to a coffee shop and write repeating and multiplying numbers on his notebook, and by joining the Thunderbolts and also being a security threat he is under surveillance by government agents. The action was diagnosed by Dr. David Ableton in Penance Relentless Vol 1 1 to be post-traumatic stress effects and by Norman Osborn as guilt ridden as they were multiples of 612, the number of the causalities in the Stamford explosion.
Being brainwashed and heavily drugged he was persuaded by Osborn to join his new Initiative, at Camp H.A.M.M.E.R., and has psychotherapy sessions with Trauma, the camp therapist, who had been ordered by Osborn to keep Penance in his mentally fragile state. When the Avengers Resistance, consisting of many of Penance's New Warriors teammates, come to Camp H.A.M.M.E.R. seeking to release a captured teammate, Taskmaster orders Penance to attack them.
His brainwashing prevents him from remembering his friends, and his costume prevents them from recognizing him, leading to an all-out battle. Their fight is interrupted by Nightmare, who had taken over the body of his son, Trauma. Nightmare forces Penance to remember the Stamford incident, causing him to pass out in mental anguish. Tigra revives him, using her powers of empathy to help him see Trauma's predicament. With this knowledge, and having already experienced his worst nightmare, Penance is able to talk Trauma into freeing himself from his father's control. Penance then helps the Avengers Resistance escape Osborn's forces by rupturing a gas main. He refuses Vance's offer to join their team, not wanting his old friends to see how much he had changed.
Robert turns against Camp H.A.M.M.E.R. and helps the "Avengers Resistance" fight the Hood and those that are with him. During the battle, he finally revealed his identity to his other ex-New Warriors teammates.
Recently, Robbie has redawned the guise of Speedball and is helping out at the Avengers Academy. Fellow instructors remain unsure if Speedball should be teaching the children, but Justice still vouches for him. His attitude is still that of Penance, not Robby Baldwin of the New Warriors.
Hyperkinetic Shockwave: After the assassination attempt by Mr. Stricker, Robbie's powers changed and are now fueled by pain. His armor channels the power into energy conduits via the interior lining's spikes.
This shockwave can travel considerable distances, and destroy most objects in it's path and area of effect, finally hitting the target with a force to harm and kill a normal human with ease. it appears that the longer the shockwave has to fly to the target, the more power it leaves along the way.
Kinetic Energy Field: 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 absorbed all kinetic energy directed against him (what he originally called the "Speedball Effect.") This absorption could 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 was nearly impossible for him to be hurt, and he instead bounced harmlessly from object to object, with no loss or transference of momentum.
When transformed into Speedball, he was 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 and bounce around uncontrollably, making him originally seen as a "joke" character. However, in his years as a member of the New Warriors, he developed considerably. He gained the ability to manipulate his kinetic field to extend out to either attack an enemy or block a projectile. He typically used the field to slam into his opponents, and the multi-colored light display could be used to distract opponents. After many years, Robbie 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. His "bubbles" could also be contained in a telekinetic field (see: Justice) and then launched as an intense attack. Later, Robbie would also discover that his entire body was in fact an aspect of the "kinetic dimension," and that each bubble represented a moment in time.
Penance wears a suit of armor constructed of super-hardened plastics, reinforced with certain alloys, with a sharp interior lining of spikes causing him constant pain. The metals act as non-resistant energy conduits; the larger spikes contain the main energy conduits. The suit contains spikes representing the 612 people who died in the Stamford explosion; the 60 larger spikes represent the 60 children who burned to death in the schoolyard. The spikes are hardened with carbonate steel.
- Robbie's height increased when he became Speedball, and his hair turned "jello-y" and his voice "hollow."
- Robbie appears to have become a cutter and still has not overcome his guilt, following his abandonment of his Penance persona.
- Speedball's kinetic field didn't show up very well on some video cameras, leaving footage of him blurry and worthless.
- Squirrel Girl has an obsessive crush on him.
- Dr. Benson, who led the extra-dimensional experiment has a cat, Niels. Niels was similarly augmented by the kinetic energy, bouncing much like Speedball does.
- While most of the other T-Bolts have countermeasures against them in case they step out of line (ie: Tranquilizers in Bullseye's cuffs), Penance is said to have no countermeasures against him, as were the orders from S.H.I.E.L.D. Directorate.
- Speedball also appeared in Marvel's "mature line" of comics, in MAX's Alias.
- 301 Appearances of Robert Baldwin (Earth-616)
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