Rocket Racer News Update June 2024

Rocket Racer has made another appearance! It’s even more than a single panel! In issue three of a currently-running miniseries of Jackpot and Black Cat, Bob gets into a fight with not one but two ex-girlfriends of his former friend Spider-Man.

I had not been reading this book until Bob’s appearance was brought to my attention, so I don’t have all the information needed. I’m going to have to wait until the story ends and then read the whole thing, so I will likely be back with a further update, but here’s what can I glean without knowledge of the overall story?

Well, Bob is back to just doing villain-for-hire gigs. That’s certainly in keeping with his abysmal downfall since his days with Silver Sable International. He’s always just trying to scrape by, and he’s proven his willingness to do crime more than once. His hair is not up to his usual finely-kept standards, another potential sign of money troubles. He’s currently using a wheel-less board (or, hopefully, one with retractable wheels). He gets his ass kicked pretty easily. Overall, it’s pretty in keeping with Bob’s character, so I can have no real complaints. I rate this a worthy Rocket Racer appearance so far.

Still, I can’t deny that this is a clear example of what I call “stickerbooking” a character. In superhero comics, where there are simply too many heroes and villains for any given creator to care about in detail, they get reduced to names, costumes, and sets of powers.Creators want to use some villains for a fight scene so they look at those names, costumes, and powers, and just like picking which sticker they want to put on their page, they pick one and stick it in their story. Their histories and personalities are unimportant. Even some of my favourite writers are guilty of it, and the only people who actually care are the obsessed fans. There is no denying I am Rocket Racer’s biggest obsessed fan. But here’s the thing: stickerbooking has happened to much bigger characters! I’ve seen it done to MODOK, to Taskmaster, and to Doctor Octopus just to name a few. So, sure, I’d love it if we got stories that actually treated Bob as a person, if some creators just like to use him as a colourful sticker now and then, I’ll have to be happy with that.

Just so long as none of them mess it up too much.

(Not Rocket Racer-related Thought: I had very little interest in MJ’s career as a superhero because I do think it says something how the genre holds “normal” people in contempt when any long-time supporting cast member becomes a hero or villain as if it makes them matter more now. But even aside from that I’m bothered by the identity being called Jackpot. I’m sure there’s some dumb in-story reason, but it seems so dumb to me that MJ based her superhero identity on that thing she said to her ex in her first appearance. She’s like “That was a good line, I should call myself that and fight crime or whatever.” It’s the sort of callback reference that takes the verisimilitude of the story down a peg for me. But whatever, it’s probably better than the Spider-Man games that basically just turned MJ into Lois Lane for some reason.)

Rocket Racer’s Best Coworker?

I just did a profile for the Marvel Appendix on the character Will O’ The Wisp. This is a character even more obscure than the Rocket Racer, but also who is minor part of Rocket Racer’s life. Bob and the Wisp met via their mutual “friend” Spider-Man, then became coworkers during Bob’s time with Silver Sable’s mercenary unit the Outlaws.

Wisp’s deal is that he was a scientist named Jackson Arvad who, because of corporate greed and corruption, got into an accident that gave him super powers, but also made him lose touch with his humanity a bit. He’s kind of Dr. Manhattan Lite (though he predates that guy). He can be a bit spooky, which is definitely what Bob and the others thought of him, but Wisp is in general a good person. Heck, when he met up with Bob and the others years later, he even asked how Bob’s mother was doing. Wisp cares is his thing.

Wisp’s life has sucked for sure. He’s often been blackmailed into doing crimes, but when that isn’t the case he had a tendency to wage war against evil corporations (for his own sake and that of others) which was technically a criminal act, but the stories always supported him. He was a noble figure who teamed up with Spider-Man several times. Which is what makes it sad that, as I point out in my Appendix profile, one day Peter Parker decided to do a bit where he pretended not to recognize Wisp. This was when Wisp was on a supervillain team, sure, but I feel it’s safe to assume he wasn’t there willingly given what has come before. Wisp was visibly upset about it and since that time he’s been seen hanging out with those we’d call “villains” a lot more often.

And then, after decades of attacking evil corporations in Spidey’s books and being seen as a good guy, he does it once in an Iron Man book and he winds up in Marvel’s ripoff of Arkham Asylum. I can’t help but wonder of Mr. Tony Stark didn’t arrange that to take a potentially powerful anti-capitalist hero off the board.

Anyway, regarding the title I’ve chosen here, is Wisp really the best coworker that Bob has had? No, that’s probably the Prowler, given that they were actually friends. But Wisp’s whole deal fits with where I’d want the Rocket Racer character to go. Bob SHOULD be a big anti-corporate figure, but actually he’s kind of a sellout and gives into The Man far more often than he should. Bob wants to be accepted by The Man and can’t ever seem to work out that that’s why his life keeps sucking. If Wisp could really get his message through to Bob, they’d both be better off.

Rocket Racer of Earth-602636

There’s not a whole lot to report about this particular alternate universe version of Bob. He gets maybe ten panels in an issue of Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, but hey, that’s more than the main version of Bob gets in some years. I can work with it.

He’s got the basic outfit and board that makes a Rocket Racer (though it is noteworthy that it is a wheel-less model of the board) and uses it to rob folks until Spider-Man stops him. Not much else to say about the events we witness.

I’ll note this: He’s not picking out the rich or the corporate as targets in particular, he’s just robbing people on the street who happen to have a purse or something else that he can easily grab. He also isn’t seen shooting mini-rockets and he definitely doesn’t have the magnetic clams that connect his feet to his board, because Spider-Man defeats him just by pulling him off the board with a web. I have to assume, then, that this is very early in this Bob’s career and he’s just getting started. If anything differentiates this Rocket Racer from others we’ve seen, it’s that’s he’s lower stakes. Smaller scale weaponry and pettier crimes.

Rick Remender’s Rocket Racer Pitch

I don’t have a lot of information about this beyond than what I’ve gleaned through Google searches over the years, but I’m still gonna be able to wring a post from it. It seems that around 2005, writer Rick Remender and artist Tony Moore sold Marvel on a pitch for a Rocket Racer series. This is, as far as I am aware, the closest that Bob has ever come to having his own book. As someone who wants so badly to someday write a Rocket Racer book someday, I am required to learn more and to opine, even if that series never actually came to be.

The most informative things I’ve found so far are the image to the right (the original source of which can be reached by clicking it) and the following paragraph of Remender’s thoughts (which comes from this interview.

“Because for me, at the time when I was reading comics in the mid-80s, the only skateboarding character was Rocket Racer and he was still on a banana board and he was like a Fat Albert caricature with a big ol’ headset. I remember thinking that he was created by a bunch of old men that don’t understand anything. Rocket Racer should be cool and speak to the scene. In fact, Khary Randolph and Tony Moore and I, that was the first thing we tried to get through at Marvel in like 2005. To redo Rocket Racer and make him a legitimate skate punk.”

Clearly Remender saw Bob as a representative of “skate punk” culture and was sad that he was such a loser. He wanted Rocket Racer to be “cool”. I can understand wanting that (although realistically I see Bob as a representative of “losers” everywhere and value that), though I think it depends on what counts as “cool”. I’ve said before that I think Bob got into his Rocket Racer career as a form of lashing out against the rich, and I also think that the reason he’s had trouble staying on the so-called “hero” side of things is because he craves something more groundbreaking than the standard superhero protection of the status quo. Bob is, I agree with this pitch, quite punk. But you can be punk without being cool.

But then there’s the image, which shows the kind of “cool” they’re going for. Completely black and white? What is that? Is this like when video games have to be grey and brown because any colour is “childish” kids stuff? I’ve found that attitude to be most common in people who seem to me desperate to be seen as “grown ups” and I find that the most childish of attitudes. In some other interview I found, Remender likened his take on Bob to the lead singer of the Bad Brains and, I’ve gotta say, the Bad Brains album cover with which I was most familiar was their 1996 one shown on this page and that thing is exactly the kind of bright yellow and red I expect in a Rocket Racer design. I simply can not get behind the kind of thinking that says bright colours are bad. The helmet and protective gear looking more “realistic” or grounded I could probably accept, although personally I prefer my Rocket Racer to be nearing cyberpunk in his style. But a lack of colour is unacceptable. Also, the image suggests that Bob would be working with Tony Stark and that’s not punk. That guy is The Man and if anything Bob should be railing against him (though admittedly I’m not sure Bob realizes that yet).

So, what if this series had actually been made? Would I have read it? Hell yes. This would’ve been right after the Zeb Wells stories where Bob got out of jail and was flirting with villainy but still wanted to be good. T’was an ideal time for him to go fully punk. 2005 was also well before I realized that I think Bob should be Asexual, so even though the series probably wouldn’t have done that, I wouldn’t have cared yet. And maybe if it had happened we’d have a Rocket Racer who appeared more than one panel at a time these days. Or, equally possible, maybe we’d have had a Rocket Racer who got killed in Civil War instead of Bill Foster. We’ll never know.

Rocket Racer News Update October 2023

It’s that rare time once again when I get to announce that Rocket Racer has appeared in a real Marvel Product again. This time it is even MORE minor than most of these appearances, if you can believe it. This time, Rocket Racer appeared in the video game Marvel’s Spider-Man 2:

Of course, that game isn’t set in the main Marvel Universe, so this would be more of an Alternate Universe Rocket Racer. And also, it isn’t even the Rocket Racer as a person, it is just an amusement park ride you can see at Coney Island that is named “Rocket Racer” as an allusion to the character. But hey, at least that’s more than nothing. That is technically more than nothing.

I suppose I actually do have other news: I’ve been writing for the Marvel Appendix again, with a specific focus on Rocket Racer-related characters. I had already done the actual profile on Bob for that site, which I recently brought up to date, but I’ve also started doing characters like the Questionable Canonicity Bunch of The Vile Tapeworm, The Pink Sphinx, and She-Man-Thing, and a robot that Bob fought one time called C.I.T.Y. Over the next year or so, I intend to just exhaustively cover all the characters that are in Bob’s sphere and prove,even though nobody has ever challenged me, that I think about Rocket Racer more than anybody else.