Football is a popular sport in the United States.
Superheroes are popular in comic books, and Marvel publishes a lot of them.
Combing the two couldn’t possibly be a bad idea, right? I mean, that’s what happened when someone created NFL SuperPro.
Somehow, anyone who follows this series (hi, Jimmy!) must have suspected I would in some way get to something like this.
NFL SuperPro was a comic series from Marvel, licensed through the NFL, featuring a superhero football player. It ran for 12 issues and is at best a cult book today since it has a reputation of being…monumentally bad. Personally, I’ve never read it, but looking for Google Images stuff for it led to some weird stuff taken out of context that probably wasn’t much more sane when it was completely in-context.
However, since NFL SuperPro was part of a licensing deal, that means Marvel can’t legally use him anymore. Originally running for 12 issues, here’s what I could find about the character from Wikipedia:
Phil Grayfield was an aspiring football player who had an accident that blew his knee out. Unable to play the game he loved so much, he became a roving sports reporter. One day Phil was interviewing an eccentric fan who also happens to be a scientist and inventor. Said fan has developed a new form of football uniform that is nearly indestructible but must be molded to individual players. Each uniform costs five million dollars.
The interview is interrupted by thieves who tie the two men up and set the house on fire after stealing a lot of football memorabilia but not the five million dollar battle suit. The scientist dies, but Phil, thanks to the combination of weird chemicals and that uniform, gains superpowers that aren’t particularly unique (you know, strength and resistance to injury) and becomes the new superhero NFL SuperPro.
That sounds unbelievably dumb.
But wait! There’s more! SuperPro’s enemies are guys with a lot of football-related names themselves, like the mob boss Sanction and the short-distance teleporting assassin Instant Replay.
Quite frankly, the most interesting things about NFL SuperPro is what went on behind the scenes. The first four issues (out of a total of 12) were written by Fabian Nicieza. Nicieza wrote tons of Marvel books in the 90s, having a hand in the creation of Deadpool and the New Warriors, plus he was one of the architects of the Age Of Apocalypse storyline that ran through all the X-titles. Nicieza takes a bit of heat for writing NFL SuperPro even today, though he claims he only took the job to get some free football tickets.
Nicieza was followed up by writer Buzz Dixon. He lasted three issues. One of his stories involved the SuperPro battling a group of Hopi Indians, leading to protests from real Hopi Indians in a way that should sound familiar to fans of Washington’s NFL team.
I have no idea who wrote the remaining five issues, but if this is how you start, it’s easy to see why you finished early.
But that licensing agreement meant no more SuperPro, not even when Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman wanted to use him for an issue of Marvel Team-Up. He had to settle for having Stilt-Man mention in passing he once beat up a guy named SuperPro in an incredibly silly costume.
That sounds like the best anyone could hope for, all things being equal.