Rocket Racer should be Medium Smart

In issue number 104 of Spectacular Spider-Man, in which Peter Parker for the first time takes an interest in Rocket Racer as a person instead of just as a punching bag, he learns that Robert Farrell is really smart.

It’s absolutely the sort of thing I want in a Rocket Racer story. Bright young man ruined by the society he lives in and his attempts to better things get him painted as a criminal. My only problem with this is the comparison to Reed Richards. For those not in the know, Reed is Marvel’s superest super-scientist. He’s the type who can do ANYTHING science-related as if by magic. Create a spaceship? Open a gateway to another dimension? Hypnotize aliens into thinking they’re cows? Sure. And what do you want him to do in the afternoon? All fields of science are open to Reed Richards.

Bob doesn’t need to be THAT smart. I like him better at a more realistic (for comics) depiction of a super-scientist. Let him be more comparable to Peter himself. Bob should be good at aerodynamics and engineering and computers, but if you need him to do stuff chemistry or botany or whatever, let that be outside of his scope of knowledge. I am Rocket Racer’s biggest fan and I’d hate to see him trapped in the “Smartest Man On Earth” pit that people like Iron Man fall into. I can say this: Any character who Marvel has claimed to be “one of the smartest people on Earth” is not someone I care for.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that there’s another good take on this whole thing in an issue of the Ta-Nahisi Coates run on Black Panther. A supervillain named Thunderball (a personal favourite from his appearances in Damage Control) is lamenting that before getting into the dumb villainy gig, he was a respected scientist, known as “the Black Bruce Banner” to some. T’Challa, the Black Panther, notes that the “prisons heave with Black Bruce Banners.” So many people who had so much potential, wasted because of the system in which they live.

Super-scientists like Reed Richards are great for big cosmic-scaled tales, but Rocket Racer’s story belongs at street level. He’s a genius, but his focus is on struggling against society in a valiant effort to make things better for his loved ones. Reed Richards could probably destroy capitalism overnight if he wanted to. Bob needs to struggle. If we want a character similar to Bob to play on the grander scale, use Thunderball! This is an amusing request because Thunderball has probably thrice the appearances that Racer does and is infinitely more likely be be used in a comic than Bob is, but I’m still right.

Incidentally, while seeking images for this post (I need something better than pictures of comics taken by my phone, after all), I went to an illicit site featuring comics scans. There, beneath the scans of the issue of Spectacular Spider-Man, was a four-year-old comment saying “Somehow, I liked Rocket Racer better when they weren’t trying to make him sympathetic, and he was just a two-bit punk. Now, he’s going to turn into a hero soon enough. Ugh.” and “And what is this about Rocket Racer making his gear in a junkyard? I could have sworn in his earlier appearances it was mentioned that the Tinkerer provided his gear based on his specifications.” I’m not going to engage with an ancient comment in that shady corner of the Internet, but I’ll sure as heck do it here on mine: Spectacular Spider-Man #104 is Racer’s fourth appearance. Appearances two and three both included his mother’s illness in the plot. The first appearance was four pages long and included the fact that he made his own equipment. If this were a comment about modern comics, I’d be sure the commenter was just being a racist bemoaning “wokeness” ruining the genre. As it is, I just have to assume they’re an idiot who has out-sized nostalgia for the cover to Amazing Spider-Man #172. So, that’s my rebuttal to some jerk on the Internet. This is why you’re not supposed to read comments on the Internet, especially not on illegal scan sites.

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