Comics and football have been trying to find common ground since the beginning. Kids have always loved both of them and so publishers have been looking for ways to combine the two. In the ’50s Red Grange told his own football stories in the pages of Football Thrills…

FOOTBALL THRILLS #1
Red Grange tells his own story
With art by Bob Powell, John Prentice, John Mayo, Paul Parker, and Frank Borth
Letters by Ben Oda
Cover by Norman Saunders
October 1951
Ziff-Davis
10¢

FOOTBALL THRILLS #2
Red Grange tells his own story
Cover by Clarence Doore
Fall 1952
Ziff-Davis
10¢

While the covers were great, Football Thrills was less than thrilling and only lasted for 2 issues. One would have to assume in those old days of newsstand distribution they were well on their way in the production of the third issue before they got the sales numbers from issue number one.

However, when the direct market developed comics were ordered non-returnable and sales numbers were well know with profits calculated before the first issue went to print.  Revolutionary Comics was a successful independent publisher who had done some very successful Rock ‘n’ Roll Comic and was looking to get into the sports comics field, at the same time Personality Comics who had a line of biographical comics also wanted to get into the sports comics field. Both companies launched in January 1992 with competing Joe Namath comic.

SPORTS LEGENDS COMICS #1
Joe Namath’s life from birth through high school, college, and the pros.
One-paragraph bio and stats for Joe Namath’s years as a pro football quarterback. “Todd Loren Presents Joe Namath Getting A Kick Out Of Life,” script by Margaret Birth, art by Dick Ayers; Joe Namath’s life from birth through high school, college and the pros. “Out of the Frying Pan, Onto the Gridiron” article by Mitsi Herrera; Mothers and sports stars.
Writer: Margaret Birth
Art: Dick Ayers
January 1, 1992
Revolutionary Comics
$2.50

SPORTS LEGENDS COMICS #5
Featuring O.J. Simpson. “Juice, The Life of O.J. Simpson”
Written by David Frink
Art by Marc Caraballo & Lyndal Ferguson
January 31, 1993
Revolutionary Comics
$2.50

SPORTS LEGENDS COMICS #7
The story of Walter Payton
Written by David Frink
Art by Dick and Rich Ayers
March 31, 1993
Revolutionary Comics
$2.50

Meanwhile, personality comics launched with all three Football heroes in the same month.

PERSONALITY COMICS PRESENTS FOOTBALL HEROES #1
Joe Namath
January 1, 1992
$2.95

 

PERSONALITY COMICS PRESENTS FOOTBALL HEROES #2
John Elway
January 1, 1992
$2.95

PERSONALITY COMICS PRESENTS FOOTBALL HEROES #3
Joe Montana
January 1, 1992
$2.95

It seemed like all football comics were going to be biographies of the sports stars told in very short form. When looking for the next big star no one knew what today’s football predictions might bring, and everyone is looking for the next big thing. That included Marvel Comics. Marvel Comics was and is the largest producer of comics in North America. They got together with the NFL to create the first Football Superhero!

It all started in the early 1990s, Marvel signed a licensing deal with the NFL to develop a Football Superhero. The original writer assigned to the project failed to develop a plot that satisfied the NFL. Bob Budiansky, NFL SuperPro’s editor asked Fabian Nicieza, a writer on the X-Men line of comics for help. Nicieza wrote the first issue, which so impressed the NFL that they asked him to continue writing the book. Nicieza agreed to write the first four issues if the NFL could get him New York Jets tickets. Nicieza received free tickets to a New York Jets game and also made a trip to the 1994 Super Bowl in Atlanta.

NFL SuperPro is Phil Grayfield was a football player who was injured saving a small child from a terrible accident. This injury ended Grayfield’s football career, but he soon embarked on a career as a sports reporter. While interviewing an eccentric superfan, who happened to be a chemist, he was shown a priceless custom football uniform, which was almost invulnerable to damage. Thieves arrived during the interview, stole some of the memorabilia, and set the house on fire.

An incapacitated Grayfield accidentally knocks over some chemicals, which, combined with the rare souvenirs’ fumes, turn him into the nearly invulnerable Superpro. For some reason donning the uniform, Phil decides to fight evildoers with his powers and very corny dialog. He was assisted by four allies: Almighty Dollar, who could shoot pennies from his hands, Calculator, a stereotypical Korean genius, Girth, a fat man with a super stomach, and Streak, a super-speedster.

NFL SuperPro Super Bowl Special #1
Journalist Phil Grayfield would have been a football superstar but for injuries that destroyed his career. While on an assignment, he is accidentally doused in an experimental compound that enters his bloodstream and triples his reflexes, speed, agility, strength, and stamina to make him the Superpro. As a reporter, he will have access to information leading to corruption throughout the world of sports. As Superpro, he will put a stop to that corruption. In this Special, he must stop the use of an illegal steroid that threatens both careers and lives.
writer: Fabian Nicieza
penciler: Jose Delbo and Bob Hall
inker: Bob Hall, Kim DeMulder, Mike Decarlo and Tom Morgan
editor: Bob Budiansky
September 1, 1991

NFL SuperPro #1
“You Bet Your Life,” script by Fabian Nicieza, pencils by Jose Delbo, inks by Mike DeCarlo; SuperPro fights mobsters in order to clear the name of a friend who’s been accused of gambling on the game; Spider-Man backs him up surreptitiously; Includes a flashback with the origin of SuperPro, involving a chemical accident and an experimental football uniform.
Script: Fabian Nicieza
Pencils: Jose Delbo
Inks: Mike DeCarlo
Colors: Bob Sharen
Letters: Janice Chiang
Editor: Bob Budiansky
October 1991
$1.00

NFL SuperPro #2
Superpro confronts Quick Kick, a former field goal kicker and teammate of Grayfield’s at Notre Dame reborn as an evil ninja master assassin!
Script: Fabian Nicieza
Pencils: Jose Delbo
Inks: Mike DeCarlo
Colors: Evelyn Stein
Letters: Janice Chiang
Editor: Bob Budiansky
November 1991
$1.00

NFL SuperPro #3
“Time Out”
Now you see him, now you die! Instant Replay, an assassin who can time-travel.
Script: Fabian Nicieza
Pencils: Jose Delbo
Inks: Charles Barnett
Colors: Evelyn Stein
Letters: Janice Chiang
Editor: Bob Budiansky
December 1991
$1.00

NFL SuperPro #4
“The Sanctioning”
Script: Fabian Nicieza
Pencils: Jose Delbo
Inks: Mike DeCarlo
Colors: Evelyn Stein
Letters: Janice Chiang
Editor: Bob Budiansky
January 1992
$1.00

NFL SuperPro #5
“Sudden Death”
Script: Buzz Dixon
Pencils: Jose Delbo
Inks: Mike DeCarlo
Colors: Evelyn Stein
Letters: Janice Chiang
Editor: Bob Budiansky
February 1992
$1.25

NFL SuperPro #6
“The Kachinas Sing of Doom”
Script: Buzz Dixon
Pencils: Jose Delbo
Inks: Mike DeCarlo
Colors: Evelyn Stein
Letters: Janice Chiang
Editor: Bob Budiansky
March 1992
$1.25

NFL SuperPro #7
SuperPro tackles soccer and environmental issues when he confronts Ripsaw in the Amazon Rain Forest.
Script: Evan Skolnick
Pencils: Jose Delbo
Inks: Mike DeCarlo
Colors: Marie Javins
Letters: Janice Chiang
Editor: Bob Budiansky
April 1992
$1.25

NFL SuperPro #8
Crossbones is hired to eliminate Superpro; Captain America (Steve Rogers) guest-stars.
Script: Matthew Morra
Pencils: Herb Trimpe
Inks: Mike DeCarlo
Colors: Marie Javins
Letters: Janice Chiang
Editor: Bob Budiansky
Crossbones is hired to eliminate Superpro.
May 1992
$1.25

NFL SuperPro #9
Instant Replay lives up to his name…by reappearing as a psychotic, time-slipping killing machine with one target – SuperPro!
Script: Evan Skolnick
Pencils: Jose Delbo
Inks: Don Hudson
Colors: Marie Javins
Letters: Janice Chiang
Editor: Bob Budiansky
June 1992
$1.25

NFL SuperPro #10
Who…or what…will our pro football superhero tackle next? SuperPro goes wild in this issue.
Script: Buzz Dixon
Pencils: Jose Delbo
Inks: Mike DeCarlo, Don Hudson
Colors: Marie Javins
Letters: Janice Chiang
Editor: Bob Budiansky
July 1992
$1.25

NFL SuperPro #11
SuperPro knows basketball in “Feels Like Team Spirit”! Constrictor appearance.
Script: P.C. Foye
Pencils: Jose Delbo
Inks: Mike DeCarlo
Colors: Marie Javins
Letters: Janice Chiang, Rick Parker
Editor: Bob Budiansky
August 1992
$1.25

NFL SuperPro #12
It’s the final issue of gridiron action as comicdom’s favorite football hero battles the nefarious forces of evil in “Compulsion and Repulsion”!
Script: Evan Skolnick
Pencils: Jose Delbo, Donald Hudson
Inks: Donald Hudson
Colors: Daniel Kratochvil
Letters: Janice Chiang
Editor: Bob Budiansky
September 1992
$1.25

SuperPro was an attempt in integrating football into the Marvel Universe. With appearances by Spider-Man and Captain America, Marvel had real plans to make this a successful union, however, they did have one misstep. The Associated Press reported the following.

 

MARVEL RECALLS UNFUNNY COMIC

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Hopi Indians found nothing funny in a comic depiction of the tribe’s traditional beliefs – and so Marvel Comics has apologized and recalled about 70,000 issues.

The March issue of Marvel COmics’s “NFL Superpro,” titled “The Kachinas Ding of Doom,” has sacred kachina figures using weapons and physical violence to kidnap a make-believe Hopi ice-skating star who had rejected traditional ways.

In a letter to Marvel, Hopi Chairman Vernon Masayesva demanded that all copies be recalled. A Marvel spokeswoman said the issue will be recalled and apologized for “any pain we caused the Hopi tribe.”

 

Over at DC Comics, they teamed up with Gatorade to produce comics not with the NFL but with the NFL Players Association. These were free custom comics produced as a promotional vehicle for Gatorade and as such were successful no matter how many issues were given away. Also, Gatorade offered a digital version of these comics on their website which can be found at the links below.

MEGAWATT, Staring JJ Watt #1
Promotional comic issued by DC in cooperation with Gatorade and the NFLPA. Starring J. J. Watt.
Writer: Christos N. Gage
Penciler: Howard Porter
Letterer: Wes Abbott
Colorist: Wes Hartman
Editor: Alex Antone
November 2013
READ THE COMIC HERE

THE BLENDER, Staring Cam Newton #1
Promotional comic issued by DC in cooperation with Gatorade and the NFLPA. Starring Cam Newton.
Writer: Christos N. Gage
Penciler: Howard Porter
Letterer: Wes Abbott
Colorist: Wes Hartman
Editor: Alex Antone
November 2013
READ THE COMIC HERE

In addition to comics themselves, Marvel has produced images of football players mimicking classic Marvel Comics.

It is unclear if anyone will be able to produce a comic book based on football that will rival the classic heroes like Superman, Batman, Spider-man, and the X-Men. But the fanbase does have a lot of crossovers and both are family entertainment, so, you shouldn’t expect this to be the last time you see football and comics combined. For anyone who says NFL SuperPro wasn’t a success, not only was it a Marvel Comic and part of the NFL, it was also the trading card above and this toy. NFL SuperPro was a multi-media superstar.

https://www.firstcomicsnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Football-600x257.pnghttps://www.firstcomicsnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Football-150x64.pngGiovanni AriaNews
Comics and football have been trying to find common ground since the beginning. Kids have always loved both of them and so publishers have been looking for ways to combine the two. In the '50s Red Grange told his own football stories in the pages of Football Thrills... FOOTBALL THRILLS...