And now… a closer look at Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #11! Speedball served as guest-star to the ninth entry in Fred Hembeck’s series “Petey, the Adventures of Peter Parker Long Before He Became Spider-Man”. Robbie appears on all 7 pages of this short back-up story. His dialogue is limited, but then he’s only a tottler at the time of this story. Essential? Probably not. But a cute story, with some small but interesting additions to the character’s history.
-Writer: Fred Hembeck
-Penciler: Fred Hembeck
-Inker: Fred Hembeck
-Colorist: Evan Skolnick
-Letterer: Fred Hembeck
-Cover artists: Erik Larsen and Terry Austin
-Editor: Danny Fingeroth
-Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco
-President: Terry Stewart
Robbie Baldwin, Petey Parker, Ben Parker, May Parker, Justin Baldwin, Madelyn Naylor, Liz Allen, Flash Thompson, Wally Wisecard, J. Jonah Jameson, Mrs. Toole, TV crew, kids
Baby Robbie discovers the words “speed” and “ball” as his babysitter, Petey Parker, sneaks him away for a banana split! And then, Robbie vs. Petey!
Robbie Baldwin’s parents, attorney Justin Baldwin and actress Madelyn Naylor, brought him to the Parkers’ house. Maddie wanted to see her old acting professor’s production of “Hamlet”. Unfortunately, the babysitter cancelled on short notice. So, Justin suggested Petey watch over Robbie since his baby liked the kid, and it would only be three hours. Petey accepted.
Petey gave Robbie a small basketball and taught him the word ‘ball’, or “baw-all,” as Robbie pronounced it. The two went outside to see their parents off.
“Well, kid, looks like it’s just you and me…,” Petey said to Robbie.
“Baw-all,” Robbie replied, holding up the basketball.
“Right. And the ball,” Petey smirked. “So, what do you wanna do now? What’s your speed?”
Robbie liked this word, too. Especially since it created such excitement. Petey’s friends ran by yelling about free banana splits. Robbie thought Petey’s red wagon was also exciting, and climbed inside. Not a moment later, Petey was racing down the sidewalk with Robbie and the wagon in tow. Robbie enjoyed the ride until it came to an abrupt stop.
A TV crew was set up at the soda shop with a crowd of kids eagerly waiting. Petey’s friends told them that anyone who got picked for the TV show would get a free banana split. Robbie waved to the camera, and before he and Petey knew it, the man with the big bow tie was talking to them.
Wally Wisecard was his name, host of “Kids Sure Are Goofy”, a show where Wally asked kids questions to make them look silly. Wally asked Petey where Robbie came from, thinking he was Petey’s baby brother. Robbie smiled as Petey answered, “Astoria, Queens.” He explained that was where Robbie’s parents were from. Wally panicked. Petey told him he assumed they were related, and asked if he could have his free banana split, which made Robbie’s mouth water. Wally called ‘cut’ and stormed off.
Petey and Robbie then overheard that a facility the TV show was going to use for the rest of the program had been hit by a power failure.
The facility, it turned out, was the same theater Robbie and Petey’s parents were going to, and all events had been cancelled.
Without warning, Robbie was getting another wagon ride. He squeeled “Speed!” the whole way back. But Petey wasn’t having as much fun. They crashed through two adults on the street and ran through a “Do Not Walk” sign, causing a car accident. They flew inside Petey’s house and Robbie was reunited with his ‘baw-all’.
Seconds later, their parents returned. Robbie happily went to his mother. Justin was pleased with Petey, even though he was still angry about the fender-bender they had just gotten into due to some kid jay-walking with a baby in a wagon.
But, he rewarded Petey with money enough to buy the largest banana split he could get. Petey tried to refuse, but Justin insisted.
Robbie went after his ‘baw-all’ again. But, Petey kicked it as he left the room. Robbie crawled after it, picked it up, and threw it at Petey, hitting him right in the head. Petey was out cold.
“Speed baw-all,” said Robbie.
In the other room, the Parkers and Baldwins turned on the TV and saw that their kids had not been where they thought they were.
(Speedball next appears in Speedball #1 “The Origin of a Masked Marvel”.)
Barring flashbacks and time travel tales, this is the earliest New Warriors story to be published so far. Exact placement is tricky though. The story’s references (see Annotations below) and stylistic design strongly suggests the story is set in the 1950s. This also lines up with Spider-Man’s first appeared in 1962, back when Marvel was closer to moving in real time. Of course, today that isn’t possible.
Speedball appears to be about 7 to 12 months old. In New Warriors #7, Speedball says he is 15 years old. In New Warriors #14, he says he’s had his powers for less than a year. So he would probably be 14 or 15 years old at the time of Speedball #1. Assuming all of this is roughly true, this story must take place about 13 or 14 years earlier.
- The entire 7-page back-up story was first re-issued at Fred Hembeck’s official site and can still be viewed online.
- The comic can also be read in comiXology’s digital version of Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #11. It’s also available on Kindle and the digital subscription service Marvel Unlimited.
- The first reprinting occurred in 2015 for Amazing Spider-Man Epic Collection: Round Robin. The trade paperback collection also includes issues of Amazing Spider-Man from 1991 and 1992 guest-starring Nova, Night Thrasher, Darkhawk and Silhouette.
- The story was also included in the 2016 collection The Marvel Universe According to Hembeck.
- Cartoonist Fred Hembeck created the series of “Petey, the Adventures of Peter Parker Long Before He Became Spider-Man” as a salute to Al Wiseman’s “Dennis the Menace”, John Stanley’s “Little Lulu”, and Bob Bolling’s “Little Archie” mixed with Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s Amazing Spider-Man. Listed in Marvel’s Spider-Man Saga from 1991, it is considered in-continuity.
- This story almost never appeared. Editor Jim Salicrup, who had reserved the spot in the back of Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #11 for Hembeck, left Marvel. However, editor Danny Fingeroth honored Salicrup’s commitment to Hembeck and allowed it to be published.
- About the inclusion of baby Speedball, Hembeck wrote the following on his web-site: “Perhaps my most obscure teaming is the one I’m proudest of: I placed Petey in the position of babysitting a character even younger than himself, one who would grow up to be, if not one of the icons of Marvel Comics like those previously mentioned, a late addition to the sterling resume of artist Steve Ditko!?! Yup, without giving away the (mild) surprise of the babe’s identity, I will happily take credit for arranging a first meeting between two Ditko characters!?! To me, that was quite the accomplishment-ain’t I the consummate fanboy, or what? (Those voting for “or what” can quietly leave now…)”
- Babies usually start speaking simple words at around 7 to 12 months old.
- Peter’s uncle Ben states that he and Robbie’s grandfather “go way back,” which is why the Parkers let the Baldwins stay at their home for their trip to Forest Hills, New York.
- The fictional Tor Johnson Theatre for the Performing Arts is the name of the theater Maddie’s professor is staging “Hamlet”. It is named after Tor Johnson, a hulking wrestler-turned-actor most commonly known for his roles in Ed Wood’s cult-classic B-films Bride of the Monster (1955) and Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959).
- “Kids Sure Are Goofy” and Wally Wisecard are satires of “Art Linkletter’s House Party,” a half-hour CBS variety/talk show hosted by Art Linkletter which ran from 1952 to 1969. It was also known as “The Linkletter Show”. Each episode would end with Linkletter having a conversation with small children, as parodied in this story. In 1977, Linkletter released a collection of these conversations, Kids Say the Darndest Things, which was illustrated by legendary cartoonist Charles M. Schulz of “Peanuts” fame. Comedian Bill Cosby would later recycle the concept in 1998 for CBS with the half-hour “Kids Say the Darndest Things”, which Linkletter co-produced and co-hosted.
- Petey states that the Baldwins live in Astoria, Queens, in New York City, which is less than 3 miles away from Forest Hills. Seems strange that they would need a place to stay for a trip that shouldn’t take more than ten minutes. Regardless, assuming Petey is correct, the Baldwins apparently moved about an hour north to Springdale, Connecticut at some point after this story and before Speedball #1.
- J. Jonah Jameson is one of the adults Petey and Robbie run over on their way home. Years later, he will become the editor-in-chief of the Daily Bugle, a New York City newspapar that Peter Parker will freelance for as a photographer. Jameson will also have an extreme hatred and distrust towards Spider-Man, using the paper to damage Peter’s super-hero identity.
- When the Parkers and Baldwins return, Petey is seen pretending to read a copy of Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko is said to be a serious follower of Rand’s philosophies of Objectivism.
- Evan Skolnick, colorist for this story, would handle Robbie Baldwin again years later, but in a different capacity. Skolnick was the writer for New Warriors following the departure of initial writer Fabian Nicieza.
- Danny Fingeroth, group editor for the Spider-Man titles, was also serving as the writer of Darkhawk during the time of this annual. Darkhawk would become a recurring partner and reserve member of the New Warriors.
- Editor-in-Chief Tom DeFalco is credited as co-creator of the New Warriors. He flipped through the Marvel Handbooks and selected several ‘forgotten’ characters, and then created Night Thrasher as their leader with the help of artist Ron Frenz.
- Years later, cover artist Erik Larsen would be the writer and cover artist for Nova, the third series for the title character and founding member of the New Warriors.
- The main story of the annual, by David Michelinie, Marie Severin, and Bob Sharen, is Part 2 of “The Vibranium Vendetta”, a 3-part storyline set in the present day that crossed through Spider-Man’s annuals in the summer of 1991. Iron Man and the Black Panther guest-starred with Ultron and the Kingpin as the main villains. Two other back-up stories were included in the annual along with the Petey tale. Part 2 of a story starring The Outlaws (Sandman, Silver Sable, Rocket Racer, the Prowler, and Will o’ the Wisp – all characters who originally appeared in the pages of a Spider-Man comic) was by Michelinie, Alan Kupperberg, and Ed Lazellari. A self-contained story starring the Rhino was by Gerry Conway, Terry Kavanagh, Ron Wilson, Bud Larosa, and Kevin Tinsley.
- Two villains that appear in the back-up stories have loose New Warriors connections. The Sandman briefly served time as an Avenger with Rage. Both Sandman and the Rhino have battled Nova.
(Note: No known letters regarding this issue were ever published.)
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