Thankfully, when we judge Hobie by the content of his character, we find someone significantly more admirable. Like 95% of comic book scientists, Hobie Brown's inventive genius went unappreciated. To support himself, he worked as a window washer, and used his skills to design and invent several items which would make the dangerous job easier. Of course, his boss wasn't interested, and eventually he was fired for daydreaming on the job. Angry and frustrated, he adapted his equipment into the perfect set of tools to become a costumed supervillain, and decided to rob the Daily Bugle to prove his worth and support himself.
Of course, robbing the building where a superhero works isn't quite as easy as it sounds, and Peter Parker caught the Prowler in the act. During the ensuing scuffle, Pete got knocked out the window, and while he was able to use his powers to save himself, Hobie was convinced he'd accidentally killed the young photographer. Feeling guilty and hoping to redeem himself, the Prowler lured Spider-Man into a trap, hoping to defeat him. Of course, Spider-Man won, but realized after hearing his story that Hobie was a good kid, and a lot like himself. He hung up the Prowler costume, and when he put it back on, it was as a hero.
I first encountered the Prowler in Amazing Spider-Man #365, a comic I've mentioned at least once before. Like the other stories in that extra-sized issue, I read the hell out of the Prowler back-up, and I loved the character. I'm not entirely sure what drew me to him, but I know that I can find dozens of Prowler drawings in my old sketchbooks. He's only had a handful of appearances, including a bout with paralysis back in '96. Like so many powerless costumed vigilantes, he got better, though to my knowledge he hasn't donned the old green-and-purple since.
The Prowler's kind of a mishmash of comic book clichés turned on their heads. He's a hero, but he wears a costume colored in the villains' palette. He was an underappreciated scientist who didn't ultimately use himself in some crazy experiment. He was frustrated, proud, and a little vain, but didn't ultimately become a supervillain. He had all the normal troubles, sure, but by the time I knew him, he was also happily married. Hobie Brown's a pretty unconventional hero.
Why he hasn't been seen in years is beyond me. He'd be the perfect character for Peter to double-date with. He'd be the perfect character to consult with all those technological quandaries that Peter occasionally finds himself in. He's an interesting married superhero with a brilliant mind for technology...he and Spidey ought to hang out regularly.
Maybe when all the Civil War dust settles, when Peter is in need of a few friends, he'll look up our dear Mr. Brown, and the Prowler will stalk the New York skyline once more.