Robbie Baldwin went to Hammond Research Laboratory in Connecticut for his after school job. There he worked hard, and enjoyed being Doctor Nicholas Benson's assistant. One day Robbie wanted to have a peek at Dr. Benson's latest experiment. It was meant to create a new power source, but instead they opened a portal to a pocket dimension filled with kinetic energy.
However, the experiment grew out of control. There was too much energy for their machines to contain and a stream of powerful energy swept around the room and caught Robbie. It was soon afterwards that Robbie discovered that being in contact with the dimensional energies had given him new powers. Any kind of physical impact would trigger his power, creating bubbles of kinetic energy that both protected him and sent him bouncing around. Robbie had become the superhero known as Speedball, the Masked Marvel.
No-one else knew that Robbie had been in the room when the experiment went haywire. He thought that his secret identity had been discovered when Dr Benson took him aside and told him that he knew a living being had been caught in the escaping energy wave. To Robbie's relief, when Dr Benson showed Robbie the picture of who had been caught in the experiment he recognized the silhouette of Niels; Dr Benson's cat!
Super Powered Cat
Dr Benson changed Robbie's duties. Instead of helping as a part-time lab assistant, he was to catch Niels. Since he had been flooded with the mysterious energies, they wanted to study what side effects there had been on a living creature. Robbie, who still didn't have control over his own powers, wanted Dr Benson to study Niels in the hopes of finding a cure.
For weeks afterwards Robbie tried to capture Niels. However, Niels had been imbued with the same protective kinetic powers as Speedball! Whenever Robbie tried to grab Niels, he would bounce out of reach. Robbie tried to set traps, laying down Niels' favorite kitty treats as bait. What neither Robbie nor Dr Benson counted on was the fact that Niels also had a higher level of intellect than that of an average house cat, and therefore he was able to avoid Robbie's traps and steal the treats.
As a super-powered bouncing cat, Niels had many adventures of his own. He convinced an alien race of cat people not to invade Earth, and single-handed (or 'single-pawed') managed to defeat the Giant Rat, a local man with a rat-faced mask, from shooting local stray cats in the park.
Clyde & The Speedball Revenge Squad
The Speedball Revenge Squad was hired by the villainous Clyde in hopes of taking the feline's powers for himself. They were easily defeated by Speedball.
In the aftermath of Nitro's explosion at Stamford, CT, Robbie Baldwin was held accountable for the resulting 612 deaths. At first he remained defiant, but gradually he took in the magnitude of what had happened. After an assassination attempt, being beaten in jail, and labelled "America's Most Hated Man" by the media, he underwent a massive transformation in character and powers. He declared that Robbie Baldwin was dead, and changed from Speedball into Penance. Many of his surviving friends has turned their back on him, but Squirrel Girl refused to give up on the man she adored. She implored Penance to become the cheerful Speedball who had helped to save the world so many times before.
While talking to him, she asked about Niels and Penance showed her a photograph. Like Penance, Niles had undergone a dark transformation. He had become P-Cat, The Penitent Puss. He was forced to wear a metallic spiked cage, similar in appearance to the iron maiden outfit that Penance had worn. Poor Niels looked miserable in the photograph. Unlike Penance, Niels' powers hadn't changed. He was still capable of bouncing with his bubble-creating kinetic field, but his movement would have been restricted by his new P-Cat outfit.
Thankfully Niels was spared life in an armored suit.
Under Norman Osborn's rule, the Initiative had turned into a dangerous army of villains. Penance had been re-located to Camp HAMMER where he was kept sedated & brainwashed. Trauma had been psychologically coaching Penance. However, Taskmaster & The Hood made sure that Trauma didn't reveal Penance's true identity. Yet in a desperate effort to help his patient under such cruel & attentive leaders, Trauma introduced pet therapy into Penance's routine.
Initially resistant to the idea, Penance was instantly drawn to the sandy colored cat who was left in his care. Devoid of all his memories, Penance cuddled the cat & instinctively called him Niels. Just as he was about to start playing 'chase the ball' with the cat, the alarm sounded. Penance's therapy session was interrupted, and he left his room before he could see energy beginning to form around Niels.
It transpired that Trauma had purposefully been searching for the cat who shared Penance's origins. Justin & Maddie Baldwin had tried to live with Niels, but found that a super-powered cat was too much for them to handle. Therefore they returned him to his original owner; Doctor Benson. It was some time later when Trauma arrived. Like the Baldwins, Doctor Benson found Niels was too much of a handful, and was happy to hand him over.
After regaining his memories, Robbie Baldwin was grateful to be reunited with the cat who had once caused him so much grief.
History: The Pet Avengers
It has been debated whether the adventures of the Pet Avengers are part of mainstream Marvel continuity. Despite Chris Eliopoulos' assurance that they are part of Earth-616 continuity, certain events seem to indicate that they take place in an alternate reality. One of the arguments for an alternate reality involves Niel's choice of codename. He takes on the name 'Hairball' in honor of Robbie Baldwin's codename. However, Baldwin hadn't been known as Speedball for some years, since he had changed into Penance during the events of the Civil War.
For ease of understanding, the history of Hairball will be treated separately from that of the confirmed Earth-616 continuity.
Fortunately, Niels was able to free himself from the shackles of the P-Cat persona. He was free to bounce again, and to fight crime in Robbie's absence. He was determined to copy Robbie Baldwin's example when he had first fought crime. Therefore as a play on the name 'Speedball', Niels chose the codename 'Hairball'.
Unfortunately he picked up the attention of a rambunctious puppy by the name of Ms Lion. Despite the name, Ms Lion was a male pup who wasn't at all ferocious. Instead he insisted on following Niels everywhere he went. Niels had a natural feline distrust of all canines. Therefore he would shout and argue with Ms Lion, but the dog was too excited about going on adventures to take in the insults spat out at him.
Hairball was glad when Lockjaw & Throg appeared asking him to be a part of their new team. They were on a mission to find all the lost Infinity Gems before they fell into the hands of a dangerous villain. However, his happiness was short lived as they agreed to bring Ms Lion along for the adventure.
As part of the new animal team, Hairball traveled around the world and back through time. He was happy to see Zabu join them as it meant another cat was on the team. However, when they left the Savage Land they fell deep into the ocean. Hairball was desperate not to fall into the water, because as a cat he naturally feared the water. However, the were saved by Namor's royal guard of turtles who placed each team member into a bubble. The team found two more Infinity Gems when they were swallowed by Giganto, and Hairball was entrusted with the care of a yellow gem.
Hairball didn't know which Inifity Gem he had possession of, until he accidentally activated it. The team had travelled to the White House where Bo Obama was in possession of the final Infinity Gem. Hairball's dislike of another dog was short-lived when Thanos appeared and dognapped Bo.
The team finally called themselves the Pet Avengers, and they assembled ont he lawn of the White House to attack Thanos. Hairball went to attack, but Thanos used the stolen Power Gem from Bo Obama's collar. Ms Lion jumped in the way to intercept the attack that was intended for Hairball. Instantly, Ms Lion fell down dead. Outraged, Hairball summoned up the power of the Soul Gem, restoring Ms Lion back to life. He finally accepted Ms Lion as a friend and a team-mate.
After Lockjaw defeated Thanos, he used the Infinity Gems to create a telepathic link between all the members of the Pet Avengers. If any of them needed help from the others, then they could telepathically call for their help. However, Hairball complained that he didn't want Ms Lion's thoughts in his head.
Hairball & Ms Lion continued to work together, whether Hairball liked it or not. So when Ms Lion was tricked into letting a hippopotamus loose in the Central Park Zoo, Hairball was even more angry than usual with his canine companion. The Hippo had tricked Ms Lion, and refused to go back in her pen. The two Pet Avengers chased after the stubborn Hippo. Hairball enjoyed sitting back & watching Ms Lion fail to convince the giant Hippo to go back into her pen. However, his mood instantly changed the moment she began to head for a large body of water.
Panic stricken, Hairball bounced around the Hippo. Unfortunately, his kinetic bubbles had no effect on her large body and the Hippo slowly sank into the cool water. She gladly floated along in the water, where Hairball couldn't reach her. Hairball angrily shouted at Ms Lion who quickly disappeared
Thankfully, the Hippo was unable to resist her motherly instincts. Ms Lion returned with her baby. The baby Hippo was scared without his mother. Therefore the mother Hippo relented and returned to her pen in the zoo when her baby Hippo called for her.
The Search For Throg
Just as Hairball was busy shouting at Ms Lion for causing the whole mess, they both telepathically sensed Frog Thor. Immediately the rest of the Pet Avengers appeared, but Hairball was angry because they'd left him till last. He blamed Ms Lion for being a lower priority to the other Pet Avengers. However, he was soon humbled as they approached Ms Lion for his superior canine sense of smell to track down Thor Frog's last movements. Ms Lion tracked Thor Frog's scent to Marshmouth the Frog, but he was little help. Redwing suggested they use their telepathic bond simultaneously to track Thor Frog. Lockjaw teleported them to the location closest to Thor Frog, but the Pet Avengers found themselves in the middle of a snow storm on a steep mountainside. Worse than the terrible terrain, Thor Frog fell out of the sky.
Thor Frog had crossed over to another dimension where mythological creatures lived. His newest companion, the Yeti had been possessed by a mysterious force. During the fight, the two mythological creatures fell back through a portal to Earth where the other Pet Avengers found them. Although the malevolent forced had lost it's control over the Yeti, the Yeti had discovered the monster's plan; all the mythological creatures from the other dimension were being sent back to Earth.
The Pet Avengers teleported back to Central Park Zoo where their appearance was as frightening as that of the Chinese dragon. Quickly gathering to form a plan, Hairball grew distracted from their mission when Ms Lion tried to name the Yeti Hairball 2. He grew even more infuriated when Zabu also began to refer to the Yeti as Hairball 2.
However, the mysterious dark creature that had attacked Thor Frog & the Yeti also fell through the portal into Central Park Zoo. Thor Frog called the mythological creatures & Pet Avengers into battle. Despite their combined efforts, they couldn't stop the giant monster. They soon discovered that it was made of wood.
Ms Lion stayed out of harm's way when the baby Hippo re-appeared. He tried to lead the baby Hippo to safety, but the monster saw them & began to pursue them. At the last minute, the mother Hippo threw her weight into the wooden monster, and bought the Pet Avengers enough time to attack the creature. With the battle won, the Pet Avengers used their powers to accompany the mythological creatures back to their home dimension. However, the miles of beautiful forest soon turned into an army of the malevolent dark wood-based creatures.
Powers & Abilities
Niels' and Robbie Baldwin's exposure to energy from a dimension of kinetic energy gave them the superhuman ability to create a kinetic field of unknown energy around themselves which absorbs all kinetic energy directed against him (what Speedball originally called the "Speedball Effect"). This energy field absorbed, amplified and redirected kinetic energy. This absorption can vary from resisting the effects of physical objects such as bricks and rocks to resisting that of energy and fire and even explosions. Within his kinetic field it is nearly impossible for them to be hurt, and they instead bounce harmlessly from object to object, with no loss or transference of momentum.