Robert Farrell a.k.a The Rocket Racer: First Appearance Amazing Spider-Man 172
Robert Farrell a.k.a Rocket Racer was born in the heart of Marvel’s superhero mecca New York City, Brooklyn to be specific. He first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man issue #172 back in 1977. Rocket Racer was created by writer Len Wein and artist Ross Andru but we didn’t actually learn his origin until Spectacular Spider-Man #104.
Robert has a simple but powerful origin that propels him into a life of crime. When Robert’s mother dies, he being the oldest of brothers and sisters, becomes responsible for raising his them. He couldn’t earn enough money to support his family. Now Rocket Racer does not have any meta-human abilities but he is quite intellectually gifted and developed a his own rocket powered skateboard. Robert not only designed and built his rocket powered skateboard but also created his weapon ladened suit that shot or powerful energy beams as well as rocket-powered gloves that gave him the ability to deliver a rocket-powered punch. I loved the color scheme of the suit as well, it’s red and gold but the things that really set it off is the coll yellow visor and huge red headphones over his ears. Love them.
Rocket Racer then embarked on his life of crime to support his family. Things do not go well for Robert and he comes up against Spider-man and although he has a lot of style, Rocket Racer is soundly defeated, webbed up and literally dropped on top of a police car in only four pages. Four pages. I mean the guys on the cover, and he looks really cool, and he loses and is arrested in only four pages. We don’t even get an origin in this issue. So why did I want to talk about Rocket Racer, well this was one of 5 comics I had when I was young. Someone had given me the comics and I read them all the time, and I remember just really digging the Rocket Racer. His costume, the skateboard, I loved it. I was from a small town and that might have been the first time I ever saw a skateboard and here was one that was rocket powered.
So, we finally get to learn Rocket Racers in Spectacular Spider-man #104. We not only get his origin but Rocket Racer also gets an upgrade to his homemade equipment from none other than the Tinkerer, weapons maker for many in the Marvel U, especially Spidey’s villains. He has updated micro-rockets, magnetic clamps and more speed and maneuverability. He fares much better this time around and is able to outrun, or I should say out roll Spider-man and escape with a briefcase he was hired to steal. See, Rocket Racer was hired to steal some documents for Jackson Weele that proved Weele was embezzling funds form his company. For the case, Jackson was going to pay Robert 10,000. But when Jackson opens the case the minerva documents that proves he an embezzler were missing. It turns out Rocket Racer also upgraded his criminal methods to include blackmail. He now demanded that Weele not only pay him the 10k for the case, but an additional 10k for the minerva documents. As Robert leaves he mock’s Weele, Calling him “Big Wheel”. Later in the issue Rocket Racer roughs Weele up for his money, and tells him he can do or go anywhere thanks to the upgrade the Tinkerer gave him. Weele then looks off frame and says, The Tinkerer, eh?” And check out the post for this show over on the episodes page at, Heroesvillainsandsidekicks.com where I’ve added tons of images.
Spiderman again comes up against Rocket Racer, however, during their battle Jackson Weele shows up riding inside a, wait for, a Big Wheel. See, he had the Tinkerer make him a Big Wheel because Rocket called him a big wheel and his last name is Weele. Not to subtle, but it looks pretty cool. Big Wheel tries to kill Rocket Racer and Spidey but Spider-man webs up Rocket and throws Big Wheel off course and he crashes into the ocean. During all the hubbub Spidey loses track or Robert and is not sure if he fell off the dock when he was all wrapped up and drown, or did he escape. As you may have guessed, Rocket Racer was very much alive.
He goes through many more minor battles with Spider-man and is defeated each time, and he even does a short stint in jail. It’s after that he decides to get his GED and then attend college. I mean the kids a genius he just needed a chance. Unfortunately during his first week attending Spidey’s alma mater, Empire State University, a group of skinheads arrive on campus, stirring up trouble, harassing students and attacking African-American students. During the final battle with these skinheads Spidey and Rocket Racer face the leader of these disgusting human beings and Robert fires a rocket at the man while he is holding a large container of chemicals. The chemicals start to dissolve the skinhead and Rocket Racer realizes he may have just killed someone and he rockets off to get a doctor. The skinhead doesn’t die and becomes some truly bizarre villain called Skinhead: The White Redeemer. Very strange, and again, lots of pics over at the site, Heroesvillainsandsidekicks.com.
So Robert leaves his Rocket Racer persona aside and continues his education. One day he sees on TV that Spider-man is being accused of committing a crime. That was happening a lot back then. Robert will not have it, he know Spider-man is a good guy and he dons his rockets to prove Spidey’s innocence. In doing this he comes into contact with Sandman, Prowler, Puma and Silver Sable. The team work together and save the day and it’s then that Silver Sable recruits Rocket Racer to be a part of her new team, The Outlaws.
Rocket Racer then shows up during the whole superhero registration period and decides he will register and serve his country. He reports to Camp Hammond where he trains, but he still needs cash for his family so he does some odd jobs for some baddies like MODOK. So it looks like Rocket Racer has slipped back into a life of crime, but we later find he was actually under deep cover for shield, proving he’s a true hero.
Rocket Racer also made the jump from comics to to television when he appeared in an episode of Spiderman: The Animated Series titled “Rocket Racer”. In the episode the character is voiced by Billy Atmore. His story follows the arc of the comic pretty closely. I’ve put a few clips from the episode over at the site, Heroesvillainsandsidekicks.com
Rocket Racer, no matter how hard he has it, always shows he is a good guy and a hero. I’ve mentioned I’m a huge Flash fan, but I’m also a huge Spider-man fan and I’ve read every issue Rocket Racer has been in. I’ve never been sure why I like the character so much, I think I like the idea of someone doing whatever they need to do to provide for their family, and when they realize it’s not the right thing, they pivot and try something else.