Behold, the one Marvel super hero who will never get his own movie or even a show on Disney Plus! Behold, NFL SuperPro!
He went from sacking quarterback to tackling crime! That tells you all you really need to know about NFL SuperPro. His real name was Phil Grayson. He dreamed of being a football star until he was sidelined by a knee injury. Working as a sports reporter, Phil one day interviewed an eccentric fan who revealed that he specialized in making special football uniforms that would turn the players into superheroes. At that very moment, a group of burglars broke into the fan’s home. They stole all of the fan’s memorabilia (and later set it all on fire) but, for some reason, ignored all of the super costumes on display. The fan ended up dead but Phil Grayson ended up with a uniform and, thanks to a chemical spill, super strength!
It may sound like a parody but it was actually a very real comic book and, due to guest appearances from both Spider-Man and Captain America, NFL SuperPro was very much a part of the Marvel universe. Marvel, back in the days when the company was always just a few months away from bankruptcy, partnered with the NFL to develop NFL SuperPro. The NFL wanted to reach news fans. Marvel needed money.
Fabian Nicieza, who wrote the first five issues of NFL SuperPro, said that he only worked on the book because the NFL agreed to give him free tickets to all the games. The NFL thought they would be getting some new fans. Marvel thought they’d be getting some NFL money. Instead, they both got years of ridicule that lasted far beyond the end of NFL SuperPro’s series.
NFL SuperPro ran for 12 issues, from 1991 all the way to 1992. He fought a collection of villains who were all related to football. His main enemy was a crime boss called Sanction and let’s just say that the Kingpin wasn’t losing any sleep over losing his status as Marvel’s main criminal mastermind. NFL SuperPro also faced off against a time traveling assassin named, you got it, Instant Replay! And then there was Quickkick, a villain who used to be a placekicker! In one issue, NFL SuperPro fought a gang of Hopi criminals and the reaction from representatives of the Hopi Tribe was so fiercely negative that the issue itself was recalled. That’s probably not what the NFL had in mind when it came to attracting new fans.
Along with that controversy, NFL SuperPro did not last because it wasn’t very good and an early 90s comic book reader was probably the least likely person to idolize someone who was essentially a jock. In fact, as a character, NFL Superpro has not appeared since 1992, which is a little amazing when you consider that Marvel still occasionally trots out U.S. Trucker for a guest appearance or two. It is tempting to think that Marvel is embarrassed by NFL SuperPro but his absence probably has more to do with NFL copyright issues. And the NFL definitely was embarrassed.
As much as Marvel has tried to memoryhole the character, NFL SuperPro has not been forgotten. He may never appear in a film but he will live on as long as collectors and fans debate who was the worst Marvel hero of all time.
Previous Great Moments In Comic Book History:
- Winchester Before Winchester: Swamp Thing Vol. 2 #45 “Ghost Dance”
- The Avengers Appear on David Letterman
- Crisis on Campus
- “Even in Death”
- The Debut of Man-Wolf in Amazing Spider-Man
- Spider-Man Meets The Monster Maker
- Conan The Barbarian Visits Times Square
- Dracula Joins The Marvel Universe
- The Death of Dr. Druid
- To All A Good Night
- The First Appearance of Ghost Rider
- The First Appearance of Werewolf By Night
- Captain America Punches Hitler
- Spider-Man No More!
- Alex Ross Captures Galactus
- Spider-Man And The Dallas Cowboys Battle The Circus of Crime
- Goliath Towers Over New York