BIOGRAPHY page 1
Ralph Roberts was an All-American success story. He graduated Metro College as a star athlete in football, boxing and track & field. He was a top student as well, excelling in the sciences and finding a career in engineering. He got a job at Stark Industries after graduation and contributed to America’s security while Tony Stark was a defense contractor for the military. Ralph had a disagreement with Stark, however, that hurt their association. Ralph saw how effective the Iron Man armor was, and he urged Stark to give the secrets of the armor to the U.S. military. Stark refused and in fact didn’t even patent the devices of his armor in his efforts to keep them from misuse. Ralph Roberts believed Tony Stark was holding back his best work, to America’s detriment, and this led to him leaving the company.
Ralph founded Roberts Research, Inc. to pursue government contracts of his own. He particularly wanted to reverse engineer Stark’s work on Iron Man to create a working facsimile which the U.S. military could use. Ralph focused on perfecting new alloys based on the element cobalt, which he thought could exceed the power of iron. After opening his doors, Ralph went to Metro College to visit his younger brother Ted, and met Ted’s classmate Jean Grey. The brothers had always been competitive, and their light teasing led to Ralph suiting up again to see if he could still beat his younger brother and the school records he set years before. While trying the pole vault, though, Ralph snapped the pole and fell hard, striking his head. Dazed as he was, Ralph assured Ted and Jean that he wasn’t hurt too badly.
After his accident, Ralph took Ted, Jean and her arriving friend Scott Summers for a tour of Roberts Research, Inc. While Scott and Jean were occupied, Ralph took Ted aside to showcase his latest creation. Ralph had created the Cobalt Man armor as a potential replacement for Iron Man, freely shared with the government once it was perfected. Using the radioactive isotope Cobalt-60 as a power source, Ralph believed Cobalt Man would be even more powerful than Iron Man. The only problem was the unstable cobalt reactor, which would go into meltdown after two hours of sustained activity, turning the armor into a walking C-Bomb.
As Ralph demonstrated the armor’s power to Ted, however, a change came over him. The combination of his head injury and the armor’s radiation made Ralph irrational. He became reckless and mad with power, fixated on the “traitor” Tony Stark for holding back American progress. Ted tried to reason with Ralph and reminded him of the cobalt time limit, but Ralph was beyond reason and struck his brother unconscious. The fearsome Cobalt Man began lashing out with his recoil beams, destroying his own work to keep it out of Stark’s hands, and drawing his guests’ attention. Scott and Jean changed into their Cyclops and Marvel Girl identities before confronting the new super-villain, but Cobalt Man surprised the X-Men with his power and buried them in the wreckage of his lab.
Cobalt Man moved on to attack Stark Industries, but Professor X had telepathically dispatched the other X-Men to intercept him. Ted Roberts arrived and explained the dangers of Cobalt-60 to the X-Men, as Ralph’s armor began to glow with radioactivity. To defeat their opponent, Cyclops had Iceman freeze his ice over Cobalt Man’s power pack on his chest. As the ice melted, Cyclops’ optic beam broke open the armor to expose delicate circuitry underneath to the water, causing a short circuit. Ralph Roberts crashed to the earth below as his armor conked out, and mercifully regained his senses. Recognizing how dangerous he had become as Cobalt Man simply by accident, Ralph finally saw the wisdom in Tony Stark keeping powered armor like theirs out of unsafe hands. [X-Men (1st series) #31]
Roberts Research Inc. continued production as Ralph recovered. He improved upon his super-cobalt alloy, working under government contract to outfit drilling vehicles capable of traveling through the heat and pressure of Earth’s core. However, his research also caught the attention of Tyrannus, the immortal Roman emperor who ruled his underground kingdom unchallenged except for his rival, the Mole Man. Tyrannus wanted Roberts and his alloy to outfit his forces and challenge Mole Man for supremacy. Ted was present when his brother was kidnapped and he called upon the X-Men for aid. They used one of Ralph’s own vehicles to pursue him beneath the Earth’s surface. Ralph created a massive Cobalt Warrior for Tyrannus to battle Mole Man’s diamond android. However, he altered the heat resistance of his super-cobalt alloy, causing the Warrior to explode after completing its task. His efforts to stall allowed the X-Men to reach Ralph and rescue him from Tyrannus. [X-Men (1st series) #34]
Ralph’s work as an industrialist continued for some time until he suffered another accident. While experimenting on his old armor, Roberts was exposed to intense levels of radiation in an explosion. This reaction, combined with his previous unshielded exposure to Cobalt-60, left him with terminal radiation poisoning. Ralph hid his condition from Ted and the world, but he slowly became radicalized against nuclear energy by his own plight. He vowed to find a way to show the world that nuclear power was too dangerous to rely upon.
Ralph commissioned a ship, un-ironically named the Pequod II, berthed in San Diego. He told his crew that his mission was to stage a protest against nuclear testing by sailing into the blast zone of a hydrogen bomb during an international nuclear weapons display in the Pacific. Ralph paid well, but he was also upfront and clear with the crew about the potential dangers, even given the radiation-proof blast chamber installed in the belly of the vessel for the crew to hide in during the actual blast. Ted didn’t understand his brother’s new obsession, and tried to force his way on board to at least accompany Ralph on whatever his mission entailed. Ralph refused and knocked Ted unconscious, sending him back to his hotel in a rented car. Nevertheless, Ted snuck on board and found Bruce Banner sleeping off his latest transformation into the Hulk down in the cargo hold.
The two stowaways were found by the crew after days at sea, and Ralph recognized Banner the nuclear physicist. He leveled with Bruce and Ted, giving them the same explanation about the mission as he gave the crew. As they reached the blast zone, however, Ralph sent the crew below to the radiation chamber and announced his intent to remain above deck. Ted saw Ralph and believed his brother intended to become a suicidal martyr to his anti-nuclear cause. Ted ignored the safety of the chamber and tried to reach Ralph before the bomb hit. Banner, remembering a similar incident with Rick Jones from his own past, tackled the younger Roberts brother and shielded him with his own body (already saturated with radiation thanks to his curse).
The hydrogen bomb test went off, bathing Ralph Roberts in even more radiation while Ted was protected by Banner. In the aftermath of the blast, Ralph Roberts’ true intentions became apparent. After failing to undo the previous effects of radiation on his body, Ralph chose instead to control how MORE radiation might affect him. By exposing himself to a massive dose of radiation, Ralph intentionally catalyzed further mutations in his body. His physiology expanded, gaining mass and strength, while giving off a cobalt blue glow of radioactivity. And, with a modified suit of Cobalt Man armor to channel the radioactive energy of his cells, Ralph now had the power to teach the world the ultimate consequences of atomic warfare.
Hardly stable to begin with, the transformation back into Cobalt Man sent Ralph Roberts completely ‘round the bend again. He started lashing out at his crew and ship in a display of power, but the stress of the situation changed Banner into the Hulk. The battle that followed between Cobalt Man and the incredible Hulk sunk the Pequod II. As the Hulk reverted back to his weaker form, Ralph rescued Banner from the sinking ship, for he still saw a kinship in the cursed scientist due to their shared experiences with radiation. Still, after leaving Banner with Ted in one of the life boats, the Cobalt Man ignored his brother's cries for reason. He swam back into the epicenter of the H-bomb blast to soak up even more radiation from the fallout.
When his powers reached their peak, Cobalt Man used his newly-natural recoil beams to fly himself to nearby Sydney, Australia. The Cobalt Man terrorized the people of Sydney with his strength while monologuing to news copters about the dangers of nuclear power. Further, the more he exerted himself, the more the radioactive power within him would build to critical mass until he detonated like a C-bomb. Ralph caused more and more destruction and drew more and more attention to himself in an effort to spread his message before ultimately destroying a major world city for emphasis. Bruce Banner recovered from his ordeal at sea and returned to battle
Cobalt Man as the Hulk. Roberts grew angry at the Hulk’s interference with his plans and used his recoil beams to jet them out of Earth’s atmosphere. Knowing the Hulk still needed to breathe, Cobalt Man intended to suffocate him in space while relying on his own oxygen tanks to survive. The Hulk struggled longer than Ralph expected, however, and he reached critical mass while still out in space. Unable to stop his meltdown, the Cobalt Man exploded far away from any innocent victims, releasing his deadly radiation and explosive force out in the cold vacuum with only the ever-resilient Hulk affected by it. [Incredible Hulk (2nd series) #173-174]