Spider-Man is the witty, likable goofball that nerds everywhere can relate to. He's clumsy and has been dealt a few rough hands in his life, but he still fights the good fight with a smile on his perpetually young face.
"Let's fast forward to when Spider-Man is 60-years-old, so we can watch him fight crime as an old man after he's already retired from being a superhero. We'll set it in a bleak, ruined, twisted version of New York. It'll sort of be like Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, except it will also be exactly like that."
Here's what happens in a typical Spider-Man comic: Goofy-yet-lovable Peter Parker dresses in bright red tights, fights similarly ridiculous-looking villains and suffers from a genetic condition that forces him to make retarded quips and jokes every five seconds.
Now, here's what happens in Reign: Peter Parker wakes up, vomits, cries, hallucinates and gets fired from his job as a florist. No more humor, no more trademark witty mid-battle banter. Why? Because he's old and miserable. Why is he miserable? Because he killed Mary Jane with his radioactive semen.
Now, there's nothing wrong with dark and gritty superhero stories, we love The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen. But when you take the humor and heart away from Spider-Man and stick him in a terrifyingly grim future that finds him heartbroken, you take away everything that attracted Spider-Man readers in the first place. And, sure, guilt has been a hallmark in the Spider-Man comics forever, but when you have a comic where Parker accidentally fucks Mary Jane to death, you've officially crossed the line. At some point, you're straight up torturing Peter Parker. No one wants to watch a bitter, depressed old Spider-Man humorlessly fight bad guys in a perpetual state of mourning. If Spider-Man fans wanted to read The Punisher, then they would read The Punisher.
Still not convinced that Reign is the worst and weirdest thing to happen to Spider-Man? A little girl gets needlessly and viciously murdered by the police and, at one point, Spider-Man is carried to a cemetery by the robotic arms of the now-deceased Dr. Octopus (while the corpse is still fucking attached).
How about now?
Speedball was a corny, forgettable young superhero who ran with the New Warriors and looked like an idiot. He was invented in the 80s (it was a weird time for all of us). Kids liked him.
"Does Speedball have any fans? Let's piss them way the hell off."
Speedball (Robbie Baldwin) was never the most captivating character--he was a science nerd who was in an extra-dimensional accident that gave him the semi-useful ability to run around real fast and bounce off of things--but he gained some fans with his youthful arrogance as he bounced from comic series to comic series. He was like a fluffier Spider-man, appealing to a young generation of comics readers. Then, the Civil War epic-Marvel-Comics-Holy-Shit-Event happened, and everything changed. While starring in a reality series about superheroes, the cocky Speedball rushed into battle against enemies he didn't quite understand, just so he could impress the fans at home. One thing led to another and, long story short, one of the villains blew up an entire school's worth of children. Speedball was the only one left alive and, as you'd expect, he felt a bit of guilt.
Instead of channeling his guilt into rigorous training, like Batman, or witty one-liners, like Spider-Man, Speedball decided to build a new suit and become Penance.
What's special about Baldwin's new suit is the fact that there are hundreds of tiny, sharp spikes built inside the costume, so they're constantly stabbing Baldwin whenever he moves, or breathes or exists or whatever. This works out OK, though. Apparently, a weird side of effect of "accidentally blowing up a shitload of kids" is that it shifts your superpowers; Penance can only use his powers when he's in horrible, horrible agony--so everybody wins, except Baldwin, who incidentally loses... constantly.
Yeah, look at that. That's the same guy from before. That's Speedball. He used to run around and shoot "energy bubbles" at bad guys. A wacky, cornball superhero who, let's face it, existed solely to sell comic books to little kids, was transformed overnight into a pointy, screaming lunatic who is constantly bleeding from hundreds of holes all over his body. Also, is this the best lesson to teach kids? When Spider-Man felt guilty, he decided to man up and knock off the selfishness with that whole "great power/great responsibility" thing. What's Penance's lesson? "Don't worry, kids. If you make a mistake, it's nothing that can't be easily remedied by a simple dose of ritualistic bleeding. Follow your dreams!"
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