- You may also be looking for the episode "Gear"
Richard Osgood "Richie" Foley was the best friend and confidant of Virgil Hawkins, and one of the few to know of his double life. Yearning for powers of his own, he temporarily became Push, and later Static's crime-fighting partner Gear.
He became close friends with Virgil Hawkins, who was also one of the brighter students at Dakota Union High School. The two bonded over their common love of comic books, rap, and basketball, but he knew that his father, who was a racist, would not approve of a black friend, so he never invited Virgil over.
Richie watched from the sidelines as Virgil and Francis "F-Stop" Stone came to blows. Wade tried to help, but he knew only one way—violence. Virgil joined Wade at the docks and was expected to kill his bully. But other events of the night changed Virgil—and by extension, Richie—forever.
Waking up with electrokinetic powers, the first thing Virgil did was run to Richie for help. Drawing from their admiration of comic book heroes, Richie suggested to his friend he should become a superhero. And after trying out several costumes, they decided on the proper attire for a superhero. And so, "Static" was born.
At first, Richie helped Static by providing him with handy equipment—a mylar disc which he could use for transportation, a "Shock Vox" for communication, special tracking devices audible only to Static, and Zap Caps, small grenades that stored Static's electromagnetic power.
Over time, Richie became jealous of his friend's powers, especially compared to his own lack of them. Static, in turn, became increasingly irritated by Richie's attempts to "help" him.
Richie's jealousy came to a culmination when he met Ragtag. The enigmatic vagabond was one of the unsuspecting victims of the Big Bang, and he was bestowed with the gift to temporarily grant metahuman powers to people. He had already managed to get two kids under his sway, who he dubbed Run and Jump, and by granting Richie the power of force fields and propulsion, he created "Push". But the powers were only temporary, and Ragtag controlled the duration of each dose. The power made Richie confident, strong and popular, but he did not notice the effects on his pride and insecurity.
Richie considered Static's words of warning merely jealousy, but when he realized what it would mean to rely on Ragtag, he had a change of heart. Static helped him take Ragtag and his thugs down, and even with his powers used up, Richie realized he was better off without the addiction.
While Virgil was good at concealing his identity, Richie was still vulnerable. Several instances in which Richie was seen conversing with Static were spotted by Static's rogues, and Ebon took advantage of it. When Richie ran away from home, Ebon abducted him. After a fight with his father over the latter's racist remarks, an emotionally damaged Richie became an easy target for the Meta-Breed. The combined power of Static, Robert Hawkins and Sean Foley was needed to defeat the Bang Baby gang.
Later on, Ebon tried monitoring Richie again in an attempt to find Static. Richie was undergoing heavy changes at the time, sometimes losing control over his thoughts and designing ultra-tech gizmos at the drop of a hat. He created a device called "Back-Pack", improved earlier inventions, and aced his tests with only a short glance at the questions. He and Virgil deduced that it was due to a delayed effect, a second-hand exposure to the Big Bang: as Virgil had gone to meet Richie afterwards without changing clothes, he would have inhaled residue of the gas. Delayed effects were witnessed before, referred to as "Late Boomers", though not this late. Neither could come up with a more satisfying explanation.
However, the manifested ability was "merely" super-intelligence, which initially disappointed Richie a lot. Shortly after this discovery, Virgil was kidnapped by the Meta-Breed, who suspected him of being Static. Richie went to his friend's rescue, equipping himself with Back-Pack and more of his latest inventions. Not only did he free Virgil, he also tricked the Meta-Breed into thinking their prisoner wasn't Static. With this success under his belt, he designed his own superhero persona, including a more advanced outfit and arsenal. After some pondering (as well as mulling over names like "Steel" and "Hardware", which were both already taken), Virgil and Richie decided on the name "Gear".
His Own Foes
Gear became a hero on par with Static—definitely more than a sidekick, though it took some time to convince the people of Dakota. His powers were strategical, and to the naked eye, it seemed like he had none at all. Leech considered him no threat, thinking he only had gadgets. Brainiac, on the other hand, did realize and employ Richie's potential to his own advantage. After Static and Gear defeated an attempted invasion of the Watchtower, Brainiac installed himself in Back-Pack, and took over Richie in an attempt to take over the planet.
Doctor Odium similarly saw a bigger threat in Gear than in Static or his own enemies, the Hoop Squad. The nanotech expert abducted Gear, hoping to find an ally and heir, but his plan was ultimately foiled.
Gear stayed a valiant ally of Static in the 2040s. He had grown considerably, specifically in belt size. Whilst on a mission abroad at the request of Bruce Wayne, Kobra faked a holographic message in which he "told" Static to meet him at Platform 247. The time-displaced young Static commented on his girth, and upon returning to his own time, suggested to his best friend to "lay off the fries."
Powers and abilities
Richie's undergone several changes in his support career. While under the sway of Ragtag, as Push he developed energy based propulsive force which enabled him to emit concussive energy he could shape and reform however he saw fit. It even enabled him to fly by repelling the ground, but said powers were temporary and dependent upon regular infusions from their original donor. Before and after his transformation into a Bang Baby, Richie manifested resurgent augmented intelligence, especially in regard of technical design and calculative abilities. As Gear, he employed a variety of high-tech devices and weapons, including:
- Static Saucer, electroconductive foil light as tin foil but stronger than steel.
- Back-Pack, a robot unit usable as a probe and portable computer assistance system.
- Jet-Blades, vectored thruster-equipped jet boots, from modified roller blades.
- Jet-Board, a hoverboard.
- A sensor and neural interface control helmet.
- Zap Caps, Mark I, grenade-like explosive balls. Made for both quick recharge & offensive arms for Static.
- Zap Caps, Mark II, grenade-like balls with metal bands for restraining purposes.
Richie Foley is based on Rick Stone, one of Virgil's friends in the Milestone Media comics. Rick, however, did not know Virgil was Static; in the comics, Frieda Goren was his confidant. Static Shock's Frieda, on the other hand, has no idea Virgil is Static.
One of Rick Stone's more notorious storylines was his coming out as gay in Static #16-22 ("What are little boys made of?"), and though not related on screen due to censors, Dwayne McDuffie considered Richie gay as well. Subtle hints to this were given in the episodes themselves, mostly by having Richie announce his heterosexuality in a crude manner.
Concerning Richie's transformation into Gear, Dwayne McDuffie stated that Richie was given superpowers because it was becoming "increasingly difficult to work Richie into stories, without having him order Static around all the time over the Shock Box." Regarding the response of fans, he said, "Gear worked out very well for us, the ratings improved after he showed up and he arguably bought us an extra season on the air."