Sunday, September 18, 2011

In honor of the new football season, an NFL Superpro review

There's nothing quite like a new NFL season, with hope for every team (except the Browns) and the promise of another Super Bowl season for the SIX! TIME! CHAMPION! Pittsburgh Steelers.  Today's drubbing was of the Seattle Seahawks, losers of Super Bowl XL.  Let's look at a picture of that, shall we?


A few weeks ago I landed a copy of NFL Superpro: Super Bowl Special (not to be confused with NFL Superpro: Preseason Genocide) and, since I apparently had nothing else to read in my entire house, I sat down with the book.  The title (and concept, I suppose) is much maligned, often cited as the worst comic book series of all time.  After reading the first issue of this book, I feel confident in saying that the designation is unwarranted, though not by all that much.  The book comes off as a pretty standard early 1990s-era worthless comic.

Perhaps the reason that this series is so poorly reviewed is because that even in the realm of comic book absurdity, NFL Superpro comes off as unnecessarily goofy and unbelievable.  For instance, Superpro fights his enemies with form tackling and signature football moves, such as the punter's kick:

For another, he talks in an endless string of football metaphors, on one page telling crooks that they "missed the first-down marker by the length of a chain", followed almost immediately by the even more forced (if that can be believed) "this little play from scrimmage didn't gain me much yardage"!  Oh boy.

The story follows Phil Grayfield, a former number one pick in the entire draft.  As the story goes, Grayfield was injured two seasons in a row before the Eagles cut him (and then he found a magic NFL suit or's not important).  The number one player in the draft!  Cut after two seasons!  Out of all the many ridiculous things to take place in this book, that is the one I balked at the most.  I mean, the Steelers kept second-round pick Limas Sweed around for four years before getting rid of him, and he showed nothing on the field, was injured often and couldn't even land as the fifth receiver in this year's camp.  My point is, if Sweed stuck around as long as he did, there is no way a team would cut the overall first pick after only two years!

If there is anything noble to taken from the production of this book, it's the blatant anti-steroid message it has (taken, of course, to its logical comic book extreme), especially at a time when steroids and other performance enhancing drugs were much more prevalent in the league.  Perhaps today it'd focus on human growth hormone or feature Peyton Manning traveling to NFL Europe to get some stem cell treatments.

In all, NFL Superpro isn't the worst book I've ever read, unfortunately.  It's patently predictable and it stretches believability to the point where most of what takes place is just stupid, even in a universe with, say, Spider-Man in it.  It's obvious that the book was meant to serve as an NFL outreach to kids and a promotion for its teams - it was weird seeing real team logos cut and pasted on to uniforms, though they stuck with NFC teams the entire issue, and that robbed me of my chance of seeing Bubby Brister or Gary Anderson in comic book form for even a panel.

There's a rumor that writer Fabian Nicieza took on the writing chores for this special and the subsequent 12-issue series in an attempt to land season tickets to his favorite NFL team.  While that's almost the definition of selling out, I admit that I probably would do the same thing.  So, you know, if you're listening, NFL...I have a great treatment for NFL Superpro: Lessons of the Lockout.  Actually I don't, but judging from the first go-round, I bet I could whip one up in ten minutes that would go over just fine.

EDIT: I just realized that I successfully predicted the Steelers' 2008 Super Bowl victory in this post.  Just because I predict a Super Bowl victory for Pittsburgh every year takes nothing away from this fact.

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