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The NFL in Comics

Have you ever wondered what happens when the game of football meets the world of comic books? Well, in all honesty, the results have generally been fairly mixed.

Let’s take a look at two opposite ends of the spectrum: a long-term success and a short-term flop….


Tank McNamara

Let’s kick off with Tank, a man you’ve probably all heard of before and perhaps even follow religiously. For those who are unfamiliar, Tank McNamara is a long-running cartoon—it started in 1972—about an ex-football player, a defensive linesman – a total meathead who has managed to get himself a post-football career in television.

As a presenter he isn’t always the smoothest of operators, to put it mildly, but in addition to a lot of humour, the Tank character is used as a vehicle by the writers to explore a whole host of contemporary social issues related to professional spot. For instance, hot topics such as drug use to enhance performance and, in particular, the use of steroids; or the behaviour of football players and all professional athletes off the field and the way in which their private lives are so closely scrutinized and, in effect, limited and controlled by the media and their sponsors.

As a kind of relatable anti-hero, Tank has a solid following. Having run already for over four decades, and given the way that his storylines can be easily adapted to themes of current relevance, the likelihood is that Tank is going to be around for some time yet.


NFL SuperPro

At the other end of the spectrum, we have NFL SuperPro. This was a very short-lived comic that was the result of what proved to be an unwise collaboration between the NFL and Marvel in the early ‘90s. Strangely enough, in spite of being an official pairing of two immense and reputable brands, this comic really didn’t flourish at all. In all honesty, it was kind of a flop!

With 12 issues in all, and one special, this series that ran from 1991 to 1992 did something really interesting by taking the idea of the typical Marvel super hero and combining it with the glorious sport of football. Now, quite why this didn’t prove to be a winning combo really isn’t clear.

One camp argues that it was, perhaps, a little ahead of its time and its ideal market. Being the early ‘90s it was launched slightly prior to the craze for all things Marvel. That scene in which we currently find ourselves, in which almost any Marvel or Marvelesque movie is guaranteed to do well at the box office, hadn’t quite begun. Another camp argues that the comic was simply of poor quality and badly done in terms of the storylines. Certainly, some critics have mentioned several quite fundamental flaws in the plot.

It seems that football, as a theme, is subject to fashion just as much as, say, warfare and the military. Perhaps now though, with the ready availability, online, of so much American football news from sites such as Betting, the time is right for another attempt at a Marvel NFL collaboration….



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