I never think in advance about what one of my Common Elements artworks will look like when I commission it. As I’ve written on other occasions, much of the fun for me is the surprise of seeing how an artist decided to use the characters I assigned.
Because NFL SuperPro just might be the lamest superhero in the history of comics.
At the very least, he’s in the top three.
Sir Alec Issigonis, the man responsible for the British car we know today as the Mini, once said, “A camel looks like a horse that was planned by a committee.” NFL SuperPro looks like a superheroic camel dreamed up by a sports marketing firm. And not a top-shelf sports marketing firm — a midlevel agency trying to get in good with the biggest dog in American professional sports, the National Football League.
You can almost imagine the conversation…
“Wouldn’t it be awesome if, like, a football player became a superhero?”
“Yeah, but not just a football player… like, the literal embodiment of the NFL.”
“Dude, I think you’re onto something! And what if this NFL superhero had, like, his own Marvel comic book? Y’know, with Spider-Man or Wolverine or whoever guest-starring?”
“Make the phone call.”
I don’t know for sure that’s how it went down, but I’m probably not all that far off.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. If NFL SuperPro is so completely ridiculous, why are you using him in a Common Elements commission?
Because, friend reader, that’s the magic of Common Elements. The element of surprise. Bringing together characters you’d never expect to see in the same frame — perhaps even a character or two that you’d ever expect to see, period.
And because, hey — the very idea that Marvel actually published nine issues of a comic book about NFL SuperPro makes me chuckle. I mean, what could be sillier? MLB Bat-Man? NHL Iceman? Luke Cage as a literal cage match fighter? (Wait… I actually like that one.)
For an example of a professional-athlete-turned-costumed-crusader done right — or at least, less wrong — there’s Wildcat. Although he’s a perennial C-lister, Wildcat holds a place alongside some of the longest-running superheroes in comics. He first appeared in July 1942’s Sensation Comics #1 — the very same issue made famous as the debut of Wonder Woman. If nothing else, Wildcat stands the test of time.
When he’s not running around dressed like a ginormous black cat, Ted Grant is a retired heavyweight boxing champion and expert martial artist. (Because if you’re a superhero, and don’t have superhuman abilities, martial arts expertise is de rigeur.) A longtime member of the Justice Society of America — formerly the alternate-Earth version of the Justice League, now more like a mentorship program in which older heroes show younger crimebusters the ropes — Ted has helped train several up-and-comers, most notably the current iteration of Black Canary.
At various times, Ted has also shared the Wildcat identity with junior heroes. A young woman named Yolanda Montez became Wildcat for a while in the 1980s. Later, Ted’s long-estranged son Tom Bronson morphs into a werecat (I kid you not) and joins his dad in the JSA, both of them calling themselves Wildcat. Tom eventually opts to be known as “Tomcat” instead, which is both less confusing and more comical at the same time.
It’s a good thing that artist Verma chose to depict these two athlete-avengers as fighting on the same side. Should there ever be a battle between Wildcat and NFL SuperPro, Wildcat will kick SuperPro’s hindquarters nine ways from Sunday.
Because NFL SuperPro is lame.
And that’s your Comic Art Friday.