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Capes On the Couch - Where Comics Get Counseling

Mar 20, 2024

After months of talking about it, we finally get overridden with guilt and break down ROBBIE BALDWIN! Whether Speedball or Penance, this rapid-fire hero has no shortage of issues - listen now!

  • Intro
    • SIX YEARS!!!
    • New subseries: Colleagues on the Couch, where we interview MH professionals about their work in the field

  • Background (6:55)
    • Robbie Baldwin (Speedball) created by Steve Ditko and Tom DeFalco in The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #22 (Jan. 1988)
    • Robbie Baldwin is a Connecticut high school student who is bombarded with other-dimensional energy during an accident at a lab he works at - the explosion gives him endless kinetic energy, which also creates a protective force field
    • He calls himself Speedball and begins working as a teenage superhero, coming into conflict with his district attorney father, who despises masked vigilantes
    • He later joins the New Warriors, but his frequent trips to New York to join the team create stress on his home life, and his parents divorce shortly after learning the truth about his abilities
    • Robbie is at the center of Civil War: He and the New Warriors attempt to capture a group of villains, and Nova explodes, killing 612 people including 60 children - Robbie initially was thought dead but was the only survivor - his kinetic field kept him alive, but as a result of the overexertion he loses his powers
    • After being arrested, he is shot in the spine by a father of one of the children killed in the blast - this leads to him changing his mind and registering
    • He has a new suit made, one with 612 internal spikes to cause him constant pain - calling himself Penance, he joins the Thunderbolts, where he is under constant surveillance
    • He stole a SHIELD jet and made his way to Latveria, where he defeated Doctor Doom in combat to get his hands on Nitro, who was being held prisoner there - Robbie placed his spiked suit on Nitro to torture him
    • After Doc Samson was able to make headway with Robbie in several therapy sessions, Norman Osborn had him heavily sedated and manipulated by a therapist to keep him in a mentally fragile state for Osborn’s own machinations - after a battle with some of his former New Warriors teammates, he is able to break free of the conditioning
    • He joins Avengers Academy, calling himself Speedball again, in an effort to seek forgiveness for his previous actions, although he still retains much of the Penance guilt and attitude - after defeating a group of villains at the Stamford memorial site, he quits the Academy and teams up with Justice to reform the New Warriors, where they recruit Sam Alexander among others
    • Joins CRADLE, where he enforces the law preventing anyone under the age of 21 from operating as a superhero

  • Issues (14:41)
    • Conflict with his parents over him being a teenage superhero
    • Survivor’s guilt over the Stamford incident (24:50)
    • Severe PTSD (35:29)

  • Break (42:44)

  • Treatment (44:40)
    • In-universe - Focus on other feelings Robbie could have expressed to people
    • Out of universe - (47:01)

  • Skit (51:52)
    • Hello Robert, I’m Dr. Issues. -Robert, huh? So I guess this is meant to be that kind of encounter. Hello, doctor.
    • I didn’t mean to infer that your formal name implies a demure tone. I’ve seen Robbie in your chart. Is that preferred? -Whatever floats your boat. You mentioned my chart, so I take it Doc Samson gave you my records? I said it was ok.
    • Yeah, but I don’t dwell on what other doctors have done. Even if they’re literal giants in their field… What can I do for you now? -That’s what’s weird about a meeting like this. I’m not sure I’m in the right frame of mind to get help.
    • That’s either quite insightful or quite dangerous. -Why not both?
    • Fine. Care to elaborate? -Lots of lives lost. I’m involved. I almost die. I lose everything. THAT’S when most people think ‘hey, that guy needs therapy.’ But the focus is on blame. I even do it myself. Work to be done, one way or another. I’m channeling it. Revenge. Yadda yadda, it works.
    • Parts of it work, but go on. -I’m seeing Doc Samson AFTER all of that. Then I get some psychobabble manipulative nonsense, all on accord of some narcissistic bureaucrats that don’t really care about me, and it all comes tumbling down. I STILL work my way out of that mess, and I’m kind of bouncing around ever since. *chuckles* I swear, I didn’t intend that.
    • Humor is great as a coping mechanism. - I used to think so. My jokes fell flat once people started dying. *sighs* Doc, do you think people change their personality?
    • If you’re asking for my opinion on multiple persona -*interrupting* No no no, I just mean…for the longest time, I’m no expert, but I’ve heard so many mental health folks talk about how some personalities can’t be fixed. But I have a problem with that. I don’t think personalities are what YOU people think they are.
    • This is way deeper than I expected. Alright, what’s your theory? -I had a chance to see the world in a new dimension…like, really different. And I realized that it was all just a different way of seeing myself. So when something catastrophic happened, I changed my mind. Now  I’m left wondering…why can’t we all do that? What limits a person to who they think they are?
    • I…um…I don’t pretend to know the answer to that. -And that’s why I don’t think I need this kind of help right now. You are probably great at what you do, but you’re looking for illness. I’ve had that mindset too, and it caused me more pain. I don’t want to look for fragility, or loathing, anymore than I already have. I intentionally walked that path with purpose, and even if I can’t get the brightness the way I had it before, I know it’s there.
    • You rebounded well -*pause* Sooooo, was that your way of bringing levity or…
    • *sigh* I don’t know man, I can’t quite read the room with you as well as I usually do, so I’m letting it ride. On one hand, congratulations. I’m humbled by your ability to endure disasters and maintain resilience. On the other hand, I’m getting a hint that there’s something always brewing with you under the surface.Doc Samson can be forceful, so he’s the type to challenge head on. I don’t do that. - At least I don’t have to worry about you punching me into the stratosphere when I get pissed off. *genuine laugh*
    • You have a nice laugh. *pause* I think I can answer your question better now. I DO think people can change anything they want about themselves within reason. The friction, both internal and external, depends on their motivation, energy, and habits, and support. And, I think that’s true for each particular trait, with a potentially longer timeline for those things that prove to have adverse consequences in the immediate term. -*pause* Now who’s getting deep?
    • So I’m not pushing you to do anything you don’t want to do. If you are having troubles with transitions, that’s your sticking point. I’m your man. -Naw, the sticking points were for someone else.
    • *groan* Really? -Sorry, I have a bit of gallows humor in me.
    • Then I think any future sessions are going to go juuuuuuust fine.

  • Ending (57:20)
    • Recommended reading: Civil War: Front Line, OR New Warriors Vol. 5
    • Next episodes: Deathstroke, Jack Russell, Storm
    • Plugs for social & GonnaGeek Network


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