Wednesday, November 12, 2014


Roads to Regrettability: Sports-based Superheroes
The League of Regrettable Heroes – soon to be published by Quirk Books and written by yours truly – features write-ups on 100 of comicdom’s weirdest, most unfortunate, most misunderstood and flat-out strangest  superheroes. The book debuts June 2, 2015, so in the meantime let’s discuss the many paths a character can take on the road to regrettability. By its very nature, sports produces few winners and many losers. In that way, it’s pretty similar to the world of superheroes, and even moreso when it comes to that least-likely of all costumed crimefighters, the sports-based superhero!

I don't even feel I gotta mention Stan
Lee's NHL Superheroes ...
Probably the most famous superheroes based on a sporting theme is simultaneously one of the most famous superheroes, full stop, although that arguably has as much to do with distancing himself from the athletic origins of his gimmick as anything else. The Silver Surfer debuted in 1966, around the same time during which Surf Culture itself was first making its mark on the American coast. Decked out in silver shorts and riding his famous board, the similarities between the Surfer and the surfers ends there – his history has unfortunately been bereft of surfer lingo and technique. Not once has the surfer yelled “Sweet curl, brah, let’s hang ten.”

Archer superheroes have also had a lot of success (particularly at DC Comics, where they number more than a few), although it’s historically been necessary for them to trick out their arrows with gimmick heads – like knockout gas, nets, boxing gloves and handcuffs, or in other words, “Things that work just fine when not attached to arrows.”

Marvel Comics has enjoyed a wide array of sports-based superheroes, not discounting more than a few pro-wrestlers-turned-costumed-crimefighter and, in the case of Ben Grimm, a.k.a. The Thing and a pre-heroic Spider-Man, the other way around. Among their stable has included Triathalon, Team America and additional motorcycle stuntmen like the Human Fly, Ghost Rider and Stuntmaster, skateboarding superheroes like Night Thrasher and El Guapo, and an entire federation of super-powered wrestlers including D(emolition) Man. Lastly, of course, there’s boxing superhero Battling Bantam, whose costume was designed to resemble a bantam rooster, because why not get them coming and going? Also, another blog already used the gag of calling him “Cockfight.” Oh well, you snooze you lose.

Of the most arguably notorious sports-themed superheroes, Marvel continues its tradition with NFL Superpro, a former football player decked out in a super-football uniform whose creator Fabian Nicieza famously admitted to creating solely for the free football tickets.

Worse yet then NFL Superpro, though, is Neal Adams’ Skateman, created for Pacific Comics and evidently originally intended to serve as a spokesman for a line of rollerskates. What company would have been all that eager to embrace a public-facing persona who was himself a shell-shocked Vietnam vet whose closest friends and lovers are murdered by the mafia and so he leaves a bloody trail of vengeance and racial slurs in his wake is a damn good question. Unsurprisingly, they’ve never claimed credit for the character who starred in what is widely believed to be the worst mainstream comic ever produced. I dunno, the only bad publicity is no publicity, right?

And then, of course, there’s Puck.

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