It Came From the 1990s: NFL SuperPro #6

Tonight is Super Bowl LIV (that’s 54 for you non-Roman types) between the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs… and I’m not watching.  Sorry, but football is not my thing. I’ve never been able to figure out the rules of the game, no matter how often I try to watch it.  Besides, I have always found the Super Bowl a real test of endurance, given that it’s a 60 minute game stretched out to four hours by innumerable commercial breaks and a typically-vapid halftime shop.

NFL Superpro JuskoAlso, I am soooo not a fan of the NFL, who have continually tried their hardest to push aside Colin Kaepernick for protesting racial injustice & police brutality, but who are more than happy to make Michael Vick a Pro Bowl caption, in spite of his conviction for running a dog-fighting ring.  Add to that the whole dealing with pot-smokers more harshly than wife-beaters, and the attempts to sweep traumatic brain injuries under the rug, and I have little use for the NFL.  No wonder the rest of the world plays soccer instead!

And now that I have probably managed to get the entirety of football-loving America violently angry at me, let me welcome everyone to another installment of my occasional feature It Came From the 1990s.  This is where I take a look back at various odd, unusual or noteworthy comic books that were published during that decade.  Since today is Super Bowl Sunday, hey, I might as well cast my glance at NFL SuperPro #6.  Published by Marvel Comics, it inadvertently became one of the most controversial comic books of the 1990s.

What was NFL SuperPro about?  I’m a bit lazy, so I’m just going to quote Wikipedia here:

“NFL SuperPro was a short-lived comic book series published by Marvel Comics, centered on Phil Grayfield, an ex National Football League (NFL) player who survives a freak accident and wears a near-indestructible football uniform. Produced in collaboration with the NFL and written by Fabian Nicieza and artist Jose Delbo, the series started publication in 1991 and ended after 12 issues.”

The character made his debut in the NFL SuperPro Super Bowl Edition special released by Marvel in January 1991.  Probably the most noteworthy aspect of this book is the painted cover by the incredible Joe Jusko.  I supposed it’s a toss-up over which was a career highlight for Jusko, painting this cover or the one he did for the Nightcat special.

(Okay, in all seriousness, this is a good reminder that when you are a freelance artist, even one as acclaimed as Jusko, you sometimes need to take on assignment that are a bit, um, unusual, because at the end of the day it’s money in the bank.  Ditto for everyone else who worked on NFL SuperPro, and who were just trying to pay their bills.)NFL SuperPro 6 cover

Several months after the Super Bowl Edition an ongoing NFL SuperPro series was launched which, as indicated above, lasted for a year.  And that brings us to issue #6, cover-dated March 1992.

“The Kachinas Sing of Doom” was written by Buzz Dixon, penciled by Jose Delbo, inked by Mike DeCarlo, lettered by Janice Chiang and colored by Evelyn Stein.  The cover was penciled by Rob Tokar & Ron Frenz, with inks by the legendary Joe Sinnott.

Phil Grayfield, in his role as a sports journalist, is doing a story about ice skating champion Laura Eagle when she is attacked by a trio costumed as Hopi kachina figures.  The kachninas, who are armed with such ridiculous weapons as nunchucks and a chainsaw, are ostensibly after Laura because she has turned her back on the Hopi to become an athlete in the “white man’s world.”  However, in a twist straight out of Scooby Doo, the kachinas are actually a group of non-Indians in the employ of corrupt businessman Tyler Gaunt.  Gaunt has his thugs dress up as kachinas in an attempt to discredit a group of Hopi political activists led by Laura’s sister who are opposed to Gaunt opening a casino on their tribal lands.

When this issue was published the real-world Hopi tribe was reportedly very unhappy, and found it offensive.  This almost certainly had to do with the villains dressing as kachinas, which are important figures in the Hopi’s faith.  Even though in this story the kachinas were unmasked as Caucasian villains, it seems likely that, given how frequently Native Americans have been poorly depicted in American popular culture over the decades, the Hopi were just annoyed at elements of their culture & faith being appropriated.  Or perhaps they didn’t like the idea of Laura having traumatic childhood memories of the kachina ceremonies.

NFL SuperPro 6 pg 2

As per both the Recalled Comics website and Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed on Comic Book Resources, Marvel responded to the Hopi’s complaints by pulling the comic from sale.  However, by the time they made the decision the next issue had already shipped to stores, rendering the whole thing a bit meaningless.

The thing I find most surprising about all this was that, if the numbers in the news item seen on Recalled Comics are accurate, NLF SuperPro #6 had a print run of over 70,000 copies.  That’s just insane!  Last year there were issues of Amazing Spider-Man and Batman that sold less copies than that.  Really goes to show just how insanely inflated comic book sales had become in the early 1990s.

By the way, one of the aspects of NFL SuperPro that was often derided by readers was that Phil Grayfield was, to quote Buzz Dixon, “certainly not the sharpest crayon in the box.”  That can certainly be witnessed in this scene from issue #6…

NFL SuperPro 6 pg 13

*Shakes head sadly* Oh, Phil, what are we going to do with you… well, other than bring your comic book to a merciful end in another six issues?

At one point The Chicago Sports Review described NFL SuperPro as “perhaps the worst comic book ever created,” although I don’t think it’s nearly as deserving of such hyperbolic vitriol as some other comics which were more risible or embarrassing.  All these years later I think most comic book fans look back upon it with a shrug of bemusement.

Still, if you were to choose one image to perfectly sum up NFL SuperPro, well, this panel from issue #10 certainly does the trick…

NFL SuperPro head thump

Believe me, Phil, we’re all asking exactly the same thing!

A Super Bowl 2013 blog from a guy who doesn’t watch football

I’ve never seen the Super Bowl as a big deal, mostly because I’m not all that into football to begin with.  I think most of the blame for that lies in the fact that, no matter how many times people have explained it, I’ve never been able to figure out how the game is played.  Something about each team having a certain number of attempts to advance the ball across the field a certain number of yards, and at the end they need to score a touchdown, or at least a field goal.  Is that right?  I dunno.

I was going to just sit Super Bowl XLVII out this year.  But a cool local bar here in Queens, Gottscheer Hall, was having their regular Super Bowl party, complete with free buffet.  So Michele and I decided to go to that.

But first on Sunday afternoon, we sat down to watch the two hour Puppy Bowl IX on Animal Planet.  That’s the cute parody of the game which sees a bunch of puppies bouncing around a miniature football stadium, playing with each other and squeaky toys.  They even have a halftime show with cute, cuddly kittens.  It is, as you can imagine, absolutely adorable.  It’s also in a good cause, because all of the dogs and cats who appear on the show each year are rescued from animal shelters.  After the filming is done, they are all adopted out to people who want pets.  Apparently the show also helps raise awareness in animal adoptions, because there is a spike in rescues afterwards each year as viewers take in cats & dogs from their local shelters.

Puppy Bowl IX

By the time we arrived at Gottscheer Hall, the second quarter of the Super Bowl was already well underway.  Which meant, oh joy, we were in plenty of time to catch the halftime show with Beyonce.  I’ve never been a fan of her, to say the least, so this gave me ample opportunity to rag out on her, much to Michele’s amusement.  Look, if you can’t be bothered to sing live for the freaking President of the United States, who will you perform for?  Just as she was lip synching at Barack Obama’s inauguration, so too I expect she was doing much the same for her Super Bowl “performance.”

By the time the third quarter started up, the Ravens were well ahead, and it looked like the 49ers were going to get creamed, especially after Jacoby Jones scored a 108-yard touchdown.  Heck, I don’t even follow football, and even I was impressed by that.  Anyway, I wasn’t rooting for either team, but it’s just a much more interesting game to watch when the score is closer.  Baltimore was ahead 28 to 6 just a few minutes into the second half when, whoops, there was a power outage at the stadium.  It lasted over half an hour, and by the time all the lights were back up, it appeared that the Ravens had totally lost their momentum.  Next thing you know, the score was 34 to 29, with Baltimore barely clinging on to a slim lead in the fourth quarter.  It actually made for a riveting final few moments, because it looked like at any minute San Francisco was going to take the lead.  But the Ravens pulled through.  All in all, it was a pretty entertaining game, even for a football-illiterate viewer such as myself.

Oh, yes, then there were the commercials.  What can I say about them?  I know: they sucked!  Yipes, what an awful collection of garbage.  Companies actually paid millions of dollars to air this crap.  And did I actually see a commercial being broadcast for the Church of Scientology?  What’s next, the Vatican buying air time during the MLB playoffs?  What a world.

Oh, well, come hell or high water, hopefully next year we’ll have Puppy Bowl once again.