Rocket Racer’s Stutter

There was a brief period in which Bob Farrell was depicted as a stutterer. It came out of nowhere during the Supervillain Team-Up/MODOK’s Eleven miniseries. Bob hadn’t been depicted as a stutterer in the decades he’d appeared before that, in fact he was often a fast-talking type. And he’s not been depicted as one since either, though that is mostly because he’s been lucky to get a line in any appearance since. Here are my thoughts on the Rocket Racer’s stutter:

It comes, as I say, out of nowhere. I can’t get behind it as an actual element of the character. But I do get it. It’s part of an attempt to lean into a “nerd” thing with Bob, trying to give him some personality that helps him to stand out among an ensemble cast. Writer Fred Van Lente also wrote an other-continuity Bob as having a stutter (in a story I’ll try to cover soon), so one thing is clear to me: Van Lente thought about Bob Farrell’s personality and role. He’s not just randomly picking Bob and pasting him there like a sticker in a book. I respect that.

I don’t care for stutters being generally considered to be a “nerd” thing, but I do think Bob being painted as a “nerdy” personality works. That said, I actually don’t think we need to have Bob as the kind of person who grew up with a stutter. Sure, that character type can be useful, even representational for young people with a stutter, but I feel like we can do something with Bob more in keeping with his history up to that point. The Supervillain Team-Up story comes after Bob has spent time in prison, after he was blown up by the Punisher, and after his mother’s illness has worsened and she’s fallen into a coma. I think it would be much more interesting to have Bob’s stutter be the result of all this trauma and injury, showing the consequences of what a man like Bob goes through in a genre where most of the characters are winners and, he’s just not.

(And, just for the record, Marvel does have at least one young Black man who grew up with a stutter, to represent that group: Cloak, of Cloak and Dagger fame, fits that bill perfectly.)

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