Monday, January 31, 2011

NFL SuperPro Week Day One - The Origin of SuperPro

I love comics and I love football, so what better way to countdown to the Super Bowl than a week long look at the NFL's greatest (and only) Marvel Superhero: NFL SuperPro!

Snap on your helmets and tie them laces, kids, we're in for a crazy week. Let's dive right in.

When most think about SuperPro, they think of that much maligned first issue guest starring Spider-Man. Everyone from Linkara to yours truly has done some kind of review of that 90s 'classic', yet no one has ever taken a look at where the story truly began: the oft-forgotten NFL SuperPro Super Bowl Special One Shot from 1991.

This issue by Fabian Nicieza, Jose Delbo, and Bob Hall showcases not only the origin of everyone's favorite pigskin hero, but sets SuperPro up as something as a vigilante that The Punisher would be proud of.

But I'm getting ahead of myself...

The book starts exactly how you'd expect, with bad puns and excessive violence as SuperPro takes down a few street thugs. They're transporting some chemicals and our hero wants to know who's supplying and who's buying. But before our hero can get all the information he wants, the cops show up and ruin the mood. So SuperPro does what any up-and-coming superhero who's trying to prove to the cops he's on their side would do: mumbles something incomprehensible and flees the scene.

Because you can't be a 90s vigilante if you work with the cops, right SuperPro?

A good block from the scene, SuperPro hops into his Green Honda Civic and changes into this civilian identity, Phil Grayson, and races off to a date he's already late for. If you're keeping track, this means that A- Phil decided he'd rather hang out in a dark alley than go out on a date and B- he's going to smell like a gym sock.

It's clear that Phil's animosity for his date Jane isn't totally one-sided. The date is an awkward, loveless affair full of thinly-veiled insults and fake smiles. It's like watching divorcees talk in front of their kids: no fun for anyone.

Thankfully it's over quick, and we're onto the next day with Phil at his day job as an sports "reporter", and are introduced to his cameraman/defacto sidekick, Ken Reid. After a full day of gabbing with players, Phil gets a hot tip that a rookie, Carl Bennings, is on steroids. And wouldn't you know it, as Phil and Ken are packing the van to go home, they catch Mr. Bennings in a yelling match with what seems to be a dealer. Quick, Ken, shoot it!

Yeah. Thanks Ken. I'm sure those stills of Bennings arguing will work much better than video. As I'm sure you're excellent framing and composition will be much more useful than having some audio of the argument. Sigh. Worst camera man ever.

After a quick chase, Phil and Ken learn the identity of the drug dealer (a Professor Morrison) and get a pretty decent lead on where all these steroids are coming from. Not bad for a jock and a lousy cameraman. So while Ken searches the internets for more information, Phil not-so-casually leaves so he can do some searching as SuperPro.

The search takes SuperPro to an experimental chemical company where he spies Morrison with two other science-types talking about something. Phil can't hear it and it's just as well because he probably wouldn't be able to understand it anyway. Finally the nerds leave the room and Phil leaps into action, utilizing all the computer knowledge you'd expect a big jock to have.

Maybe SuperPro should call in Reed Richards and Tony Stark on this one because clearly he's dealing with some Dr. Doom level intellects here.

Empty handed, Phil returns to his hotel room to be confronted by Ken. You see, while Phil was researching the story, Ken was busy working way too hard to prove that Phil and SuperPro were the same person.

Was all that really necessary? It's not like Phil is all that careful with his identity or that the SuperPro costume is all that secret identity friendly. Regardless, with the cat out of the bag, Ken demands to know the whole story, the origin of SuperPro. You ready for it?

Phil Grayson was a kid with unlimited potential that ended up an injury prone washout who became a reporter, got trapped in a burning building, huffed some chemicals, and borrowed the ultimate football uniform.

Also he beat up a few guys.

At least the chemicals explain his bad puns and inability to keep his identity secret. It almost makes him sympathetic... or pathetic, I can't remember which.

Ken, now satisfied, is ready to get back to work. Together they hit the research and exhaustively show that this Bennings kid is on steroids, even though they already had plenty of evidence. Better safe than sorry, I guess.

Armed with this new information, these two news hounds head out to confront the only name they have: Professor Morrison. Phil could get a Peabody if only he could get Morrison to talk...

No wonder he's teamed up with Ken, Phil's the worst investigative reporter ever. You never let up when you got your prey on the ropes like that. Come on, man.

Lucky for him, Morrison snitches anyway. The school wanted more professional level athletes, which led to the development of a new steroid, which was given to Bennings, the last stage of which was to be administered today. I wonder what that last stage is?

Of Course. The Hulking Super Brute phase. Duh. Just like all steroids because THAT'S WHAT DRUGS DO. DRUGS ARE BAD KIDS!!!

*Ahem. Sorry, I don't know what happened there. I must have been knocked out by the subtlies of the message. Where was I?

Right. The fight.

So these two knock each other around for a bit, with just the right amount of personal and public property damage to be considered a legitimate superhero fight until Monstro-Bennings starts to look like a zit ready to pop.

It seems that Monstro-Bennings condition is getting worse; The more he exerts himself, the bigger and more out of control he gets. SuperPro sees this and knows what he has to do: Pour on the hurt.

And the fight ends how you would expect.

SuperPro kills Bennings. Straight up beats the guy TO DEATH!

What? You didn't expect him to pull his punches and try to save a kid who made a few bad decisions and got in way over his head, did you? It was the 90s, that's what heroes did. I'm sure if the Punisher bothered to pay attention, he would have been proud. Or at least nodded approvingly.

Unfortunately, that's not the only villain SuperPro's killed. Come back tomorrow as I examine the Rogue's Gallery for the NFL's Premiere hero, and see how many actually survived to fight another day...

See you tomorrow!

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