Robbie Baldwin. I guess not a lot of you know him, since he is not a prominently featured character from Marvel Comics. Even some Marvel fans may not have read of him, but I think he is very interesting. Just looking at the first few years of his printed history, we have a lot of things we can learn about him as a character.
He got his powers in a research lab accident when he was a young teen (I suppose he was 14, since he was 15 some time later, when he was part of the New Warriors). He was working as an assistant at a science lab.
His parents, who seem to hate each other, are a district attorney and a soap opera actress. They want Robbie to study law and arts, respectively.
He also worked as an intern in Damage Control, a company which deals with reparations of all the damage caused by super human battles.
At this point, we can see many possible career interests for Robbie. He could be into science (although he has expressed dislike of math, but that could be only a joke, or he could go for more of a math-free tech approach). He could be into logistics in a big company, or even have learned something about building. It is likely he may have developed a dislike for both law and arts, seeing as how his parents bugged him about it all the time. But it is also possible he may not hate these careers, just having them forced on him. He could have talents for both.
Now, as part of the New Warriors, Robbie was seen as the kid who is always joking. Some of his team members even saw his powers as a joke, the ability to bounce. Of course, a few of the New Warriors and even some of their adversaries recognized his powers were far, far more. At the very least, under normal conditions, he is impossible to harm.
His powers make him seem taller and fuller of body, and make his voice sound different than his normal one. Even so, he was still the kid, the toothpick and so on. But when he revealed his real identity to his now friends in the Warriors, they were surprised he was much smaller yet. At 15, he had not grown as much as other kids his own age, and the Warriors, 1 to 3 years older than him, all made him look like a 13 year old (even Angelica looks more her age). This would have bothered him a lot more if, at that moment, he were not more worried about saving his mother from a big danger.
The image people had of Speedball and Robbie as the jokester (in the team) and the rebel without a cause (at home) was just a mask. Both helped conceal the torment he experienced with his family. The constant fights of his parents hurt him deeply. Joking around his friends was his way to forget that, and not to bring those problems to the team. Being into loud heavy rock music, "bad" haircuts, informal clothing and such was part of his attempts to make his parents "angry" at him, so perhaps they would forget their own fights to scold him, instead.
All of this we can learn of Robbie in just a few years. Many things more were revealed later.
Some people dislike the fact Robbie was transformed into "Penance" during Civil War. I dislike that the New Warriors in general were not respected, but, having no way to change that, I really can appreciate how Robbie would react if the opening scenes of Civil War had happened.
Fans say comics seem to want to be darker (which is mostly true, I agree). And that they let go of a "light" and "fun" character like Speedball just to turn him into an "emo", "angsty" young man. I think these fans forget that Speedball was never really all that "light" and "fun" to begin with. Those were his "escapes". Having to confront something big enough like his responsibility in the deaths of so many people (again, assuming that Stamford scene from CW happened), he could no longer fall back into using fun to look away from the bad things.
Also, for people who stuck around to see what his reasons were all along (during his miniseries), discovered his intentions were not to punish himself and himself alone. He recognized the blame also fell into the man who actually caused the explosion, Nitro. While he, Robbie, shared the blame, he was not the one who actually killed those 600+ humans. Nitro did. The "Penance" was Nitro's to pay.
Of course, having fallen into the hands of Normam Osborn and crazy, evil psychiatrist Karla Sofen (Moonstone), he found himself trapped in a depression he would never be allowed to defeat.
All is well that ends well, though. Dr. Sofen's hold on Robbie was weakened as he was exposed to people who actually cared for him, and, once his mind was clear again, he could bring himself out of the Penance persona and into a renewed Speedball. Those months he was forced to face his demons helped him grow, though. Now Speedball should be able to be fun without having to do it for the wrong reasons.
And... here are a few pics I have drawn of Mr. Baldwin. I hope you like them. And I hope I can keep drawing even more of them.