I’ve mentioned it before and I don’t deny it: Rocket Racer is goofy. But what makes people mock him in a way they don’t mock other goody superhero stuff like Batman or Captain America? Well, I have thoughts on that.
First, I have to remind you that characters like Batman and Captain America WERE mocked until relatively recently, at least outside of specific fans of superhero stories. The only thing that allowed them to move into the acceptance of more mainstream audiences is that they get to be in good stories. If people take a characters seriously and tell good stories with them, the audience will see the qualities that the storytellers see in the character and maybe come to agree. Nobody has really had the chance to do that for Bob yet.
But also, I think it’s the wheels. For some reason people find those things goofy. Iron Man once in the early had a suit of armour that had retractable wheels and people have mocked that on the Internet for some time. I’ve seen it on lists alongside Super-Ventriloquism as silly superhero shit best left forgotten. But why? It’s wheels. They’re one of the most significant inventions this species has managed. In any case, those wheels were forgotten and I bet if they have been mentioned at all in the last few decades, it’s been to mock them.
But Bob’s whole deal is he’s got an identity based around skateboards, so he has to have wheels, right? Well, not really. There have been attempts to give him a “hoverboard” style board instead. I can see the appeal, but at the same time, I’m not ashamed of how goofy Bob is on his normal board. I actually prefer it when his skateboard looks as much like a skateboard as possible while still looking like a piece of sci-fi equipment.
The solution here is obviously the same one that didn’t work for Iron Man when he tried it: retractable wheels. I’d want Bob to have his wheels as often as possible, he’s skating not flying, but the idea of the wheels going up now and then like landing gear appeals to me given it is evocative of Bob’s aborted stint in the Air Force.
As for the rest of it, I can say that at least one person, yours truly, takes the Rocket Racer seriously and would love to explore the experience of being a loser in a world that only considers you as valuable as you are successful. Would the stories be good? I don’t know, but they’d take the character seriously while still presenting him as a guy on a sci-fi skateboard with wheels.