Jessica Jones’ second season has a very early appearance from a very obscure Marvel character, and I’m not talking about Kilgrave.
[Warning: This post contains spoilers for the first few episodes of the second season of Jessica Jones.]
No, I’m talking about the early appearance of Robert Coleman.
Coleman comes to Jessica as a prospective client — he believes that people are out to get him because of his superhuman abilities. Namely, his super speed. It’s unclear whether he’s telling the truth, or suffering from paranoia and delusion. Then, he confesses his superhero name.
“The kids at school,” he says, “used to call me the Whizzer.”
Who is the Whizzer?
The Whizzer, hard as this may be to believe, is a Marvel superhero — and sometimes villain. And not a joke character, either; at least not originally. He’s a rare example of a Golden Age Marvel comics hero who still has a modern incarnation, alongside characters like Captain America, Namor the Sub-mariner and the Human Torch.
Whizzer, aka Robert Frank, debuted in 1941, drawn by Al Avison and written by an unknown writer (who may or may not have been a 19-year-old Stan Lee). Brace yourself for a superhero origin story that hasn’t aged alongside our modern sense of humor, or our understanding of science.
Robert Frank was bitten by a cobra on a trip to Africa, and in order to save him from certain death, his father, Dr. Emil Frank, gave him a transfusion of mongoose blood. The transfusion not only saved Robert from the venom, but gave him superspeed. He decided to use his newfound powers to fight crime, not only adopting the name of the Whizzer but also a primarily yellow costume.
He was reintroduced in the modern Marvel era of superheroes a few different times. Once, in essentially the same form as in the Golden Age, in a story in which he was revealed to be the father of those mutant twins of ever-complicated parentage, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch (this was later retconned). His origin story was soon tweaked so that the mongoose blood merely activated his latent mutation to give him speed powers rather than causing it.
Then he was reintroduced as a villainous homage to DC Comics’ the Flash, in a parody team of the Justice League (The Squadron Sinister) that fought the Avengers. And then it happened again, but this time it he was in a Justice League homage that was a good Marvel superteam instead (the Squadron Supreme, not kidding).
But in Jessica Jones, it seems likely we’re looking at a reference to the hero’s Golden Age incarnation, given his first name, his yellow jacket and blue backpack.
... and his pet mongoose, Emil.
We won’t say much about what happens to Whizzer here, just in case you haven’t watched any of Jessica Jones’ second season yet, but good things tend not to happen to people who get involved with Jess. We really hope Emil winds up OK.