NFL SuperPro Special Edition #1
January 4, 2016
Nothing says "instant classic" like "prone to injury."
(Open on Linkara sitting on his Futon)
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. It's a new year and a new chance to try out something different, so naturally, today we're looking at something associated with something I've already reviewed. I make so much sense.
(Cut to shots of a comic Linkara reviewed previously, "NFL SuperPro #1")
Linkara (v/o): So, 362 episodes and six years ago, I reviewed the first issue of "NFL SuperPro", a widely-mocked comic, mostly for how stupid its idea is. A football-playing superhero tie-in with the NFL. It has been derided by many as being one of the worst comics ever made.
Linkara: (laughs uproariously) Oh, you sweet, innocent children!
Linkara (v/o): Yeah, "NFL SuperPro" is barely a blip on the "horrible comics" radar, and even if you took away the deluge of terrible independent books out there, "NFL SuperPro" is really just a crappy cash-in comic that Fabian Nicieza only wrote to score some free tickets. Of course it wasn't gonna be anything to write home about.
(Cut to a shot of another "NFL SuperPro" comic, Issue 6)
Linkara (v/o): Honestly, from what I can tell, the only thing of note about "NFL SuperPro" is that apparently Issue 6 caused some outrage from Hopi Indians because of the depiction of a villain as supposedly embracing traditional Hopi beliefs.
Linkara: And given my current rate of reviewing "NFL SuperPro" issues, I'm sure to reopen old wounds about that book some time around 2045.
(Cut to a shot of another football comic from Marvel "Kickers Inc.")
Linkara (v/o): Hell, "SuperPro" wasn't even Marvel's first foray into football-themed characters. The short-lived New Universe imprint of Marvel in the late '80s brought us "Kickers Incorporated", a book that suffered creative problems by originally intending to be a very tongue-in-cheek adventure book that ran into problems due to the goal of the new universe being grounded in realism.
Linkara: Fortunately, (makes "finger quotes") "grounded in realism" is not really something we need to worry about when it comes to "NFL SuperPro".
(Cut to a shot of "NFL SuperPro #2")
Linkara (v/o): So why am I not looking the second issue, since we're coming back to the book? Well, that's because the first issue of the series was not actually the characters' first appearance or origin issue.
(Cut to a shot of the comic of review for today)
Linkara (v/o): That came in the book (dramatically) "NFL SuperPro Special Edition #1"!
Linkara: Ah, yes, the "special edition" of something that premiered before the regular edition did. So let's dig into "NFL SuperPro Special Edition #1", and answer that question we all have...
(Cut to a shot of the MST3K gang watching Laserblast)
Mike Nelson: Are you ready for some football?!
(AT4W title sequence is shown, followed by the title card for this episode, accompanied by FOX's NFL theme; cut to a shot of the comic cover)
Linkara (v/o): The cover is rather meh, though it does feature painted artwork for our title character flying towards us from a football field that's floating in the vacuum of space.
Linkara: Well, I see that Dark City's football season has started.
Linkara (v/o): I mean, I suppose the fact that it is in space would explain why SuperPro is floating around like this, since I don't recall him being able to fly in the other comic. (reads text on cover) "Re-presenting the awesome ORIGIN ISSUE!"
Linkara: So, clearly, this is comic is from the future, since otherwise, it's difficult to (makes "finger quotes") "re-present" something that's only now being presented.
Linkara (v/o): (reading additional text) "A new star is shining... in the Marvel universe!"
Linkara: (singing to "Do You Hear What I Hear?") A star, a star, dancing in the night, and it's crossing the thirty-yard line...
Linkara (v/o): This is 46 pages long, so naturally, for a longer comic like that, they divided it into chapters. We open with chapter one: "The Lift That Drops You".
Linkara: The first words of the comic, and they're an indication that something is broken. (gives a thumbs-up) Good choice. (nods)
Linkara (v/o): SuperPro is standing in an alley in Newark, New Jersey, watching a group of goons carrying boxes into a building. The goons don't know what's in the boxes, so one is naturally concerned about it being something that'll blow up in his face.
SuperPro: Gentlemen, I'd recommend you worry about something else blowing up your face... LIKE MY FIST!
(Cut to a clip of Yu-Gi-Oh: The Abridged Series)
Nesbit: Rocket-powered fists!
(Back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): No, but seriously, what does that even mean? Does he have grenades strapped to his fists? Why would it explode?
Goon: Who duz this guy think he is, "Super-Football Man"?
Linkara: (does a slow clap) This is why you have embraced this profession.
SuperPro: Close, "Einstein", but you missed the first-down marker by the length of a chain...
Linkara: (resignedly) Oh, dear, he's gonna be doing that the whole damn comic, isn't he?
Linkara (v/o): He knocks down two, who inexplicably have different fonts for their grunts when they hit the ground. Weird. He wants to know where the boxes full of chemicals came from, but the police arrive before he can get an answer.
Policeman: Hey you--buddy--little early for Halloween, isn't it?
Linkara: Oh, shut up. This is the Marvel universe. It's gotta be a regular Saturday night thing for you.
Linkara (v/o): Although, ironically, this comic apparently came out in September of 1991, so technically, it was a little early for Halloween. SuperPro makes a hasty exit while explaining that he's on the trail of an illegal steroid production ring. A bit odd, since steroids are already legally produced, and it seems like it'd be easier to steal them than manufacture them, but what the hell do I know? And of course, he makes another football pun while he's at it, because when you have one gimmick, you milk it like there's no tomorrow.
SuperPro: (thinking) I haven't been around the hero scene long enough to establish the kind of rep that guys like you to trust guys like me!
Linkara: Yeah, because it's your inexperience that prevents people from taking you seriously, that's it.
Linkara (v/o): Also, it really highlights the stupidity of his name. He's an amateur, not a pro. I mean, yeah, it's supposed to be a reference to him as a football professional, but other people don't know that. He arrives forty minutes late for a date, and she's gotta be really stuck on this guy, because I think after a half-hour, I would have bailed... or at the very least, given him an earful of anger over it. But she's just like "Oh, this is so typical. LOL!" In a civilian identity, Phil Grayfield, he's an investigative sports reporter, and we soon see him at Giants Stadium with his cameraman Ken.
Ken: Ah, the smell of sweat on astroturf...
Linkara: (as Ken) That's what my fetish is.
Ken: ...the sound of beef slapping at each other through plastic and tape...
(Cut to a commercial for Beef)
Announcer: It's what's for dinner.
(Back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): Phil tells Ken that SuperPro foiled a chemical smuggling ring.
Ken: Funny how he seems to pop up in every city we're in.
Phil: Think he feels the same way about us?
Linkara: Well, he's probably wondering why he's even trying to maintain the facade when his helmet has a transparent visor that doesn't hide his face very well.
Linkara (v/o): While Phil says hi to a football player friend of his, Ron Macedon, one of the rookies training seems a little too overeager during practice.
Rookie: (tackling another player) Eat the carpet! EAT IT!
Linkara: WOW, is that ever not the slang you want to be using in this comic! And it's especially weird since it's one guy on top of another guy.
Linkara (v/o): Apparently, Ron was the one who tipped him off about the steroids, but it seems it's all thanks to the guy who encourages the consumption of carpeting – and is also a pirate.
Linkara: (holding up a cutlass) You scallywags pass me the pigskin, or I be cuttin' ya from me crew!
Linkara (v/o): The rookie is apparently a steroid junkie, and our heroes spot him later talking to a guy in the parking lot, who hands him a box of the stuff. And just look at these two. The rookie is apparently a rejected Liefeld drawing that needs the steroids to keep up his massive physique without him. Deciding to follow the potential dealer, they follow him to the state university, discovering that he's a teacher named Professor Morris. Using the most advanced computer technology that Commodore 64's had to offer, they see he's a tenured professor specializing in biological chemistry, and that he's got a consulting assignment with the Jakobs Pharmaceutical Company.
Linkara: Giving drugs to football players now? Is there really no limit Martin Shkrell's douchebaggery?
Linkara (v/o): Here's my question: why exactly is a pharmaceutical company interested in giving steroids to football rookies, when they probably make billions in completely legitimate enterprises? Phil decides to investigate on his own, managing to sneak inside.
SuperPro: (thinking) Now what are those people doing down there this late at night?
Linkara: (mock shock) PEOPLE WORKING LATE?!? Clearly, something nefarious is afoot...
Linkara (v/o): By the way, wrote this script at four in the morning. Anyway, after spotting that Morrison is among the scientists, he makes his way to a computer.
SuperPro: (thinking) Hmm...nothing listed here under "illegal steroid compounds." What a surprise.
Linkara: Then why did you search for it?
SuperPro: (thinking) No evidence, no chance of nailing this down right here and right now.
Linkara: Oh, my God, are you actually serious and were hoping that's what it was under?
(Cut to a clip of Scrubs)
Dr. Cox: That is both very sad and the not least bit shocking.
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): However, he figures that even if he did have evidence, it wouldn't hold up in court, since he broke in here. But then again, the information could still be useful to you. No need to be a downer here, man. He returns to Ken, who reveals that while Phil was gone, he used computer analysis to compare him and SuperPro, of course coming up with a perfect match. And thus, he wants to hear the full story...
(The next chapter in the story begins)
Linkara (v/o): ...leading us into chapter 2: "Field of Dreams and Nightmares".
Linkara: Ooh, Kevin Costner vs. Freddy Krueger! (points to camera) I like where this is going.
Linkara (v/o): Phil explains that he pretty much had the absolute worst luck of any football player in history. Basically, any time he started playing in a professional capacity, he injured his leg to some degree. First day, it was torn cartilage, then a broken femur, and finally, pretty much destroying his knee while saving Ron Macedon's son from a fall. Ron felt bad about the whole thing, so arranged a way to give him some national attention as well as kinda giving him a job as a sports reporter.
Ron: Maybe it's time you put that double-major of yours in journalism and criminal justice to use sooner than you thought...
Linkara: Oh, yeah, I totally buy that he double-majored and was so prolific a college football player that he was the number-one draft pick, to the point where he was given multiple opportunities, despite years recovering from various injuries. (waves dismissively) Like any of those things are hard!
Phil: Once I was able to walk freely, my first assignment was to do a report on graft in the sports memorabilia trade.
Linkara: (as Phil) Ended up shattering both my knees that time. Basically, my legs are held together with duct tape and hope.
Linkara (v/o): Phil manages to land an interview with Rudy Custer, a very seclusive collector who got burned by some counterfeit material. After showing off his collection, Rudy decides to show him his most prized possession, in honor of Phil's incredible ability screw up his legs at every opportunity, and that possession is... THE ULTIMATE FOOTBALL UNIFORM!
("Alleluia" plays briefly)
Linkara (v/o): Yes, the ultimate in garish fashion. And for some reason, endorsed by the NFL. Or maybe Rudy just slapped that on there to pretend it was. Rudy explains that by trade, he's an inventor.
Rudy: This was my greatest triumph and my biggest failure...
Linkara: Well, it was a failure, I'll give you that.
Rudy: The SuperPro Uniform. The football uniform of the future! I invented it in the Seventies. Made out of fiberglass and plastic alloys. Would've been the best, safest and most durable uniform ever made. Bullets bounce off the sucker, fer cryin' out loud!
Linkara: Yes, fiberglass and plastic. (holds up fist) More powerful than steel!
Linkara (v/o): It didn't work out, since the material needed to be individually molded to each player, and the plastic compounds for the prototype alone cost millions. Before they can dwell on this any further, the doors to the room get busted down, although I'm not exactly sure how they broke them down, given how they look in this panel. Look at these guys! They're brandishing assault rifles and huge guns, and what are they here for? To steal Rudy's sports memorabilia to sell.
Linkara: (as gunman) Yeah, we're gonna break into this place in broad daylight with no disguises, while heavily armed to steal some sports stuff that will very quickly be reported as stolen and someone will probably be murdered over it, instead of just sneaking in at night or something! (smiles, then gives a thumbs-up) We're great criminals!
Linkara (v/o): Just to highlight how S-M-R-T these crooks are, they find some old film reel of games and use it to tie Phil up.
Gunman: They ain't worth much--but they make fer good rope.
Linkara: Yes, decaying old film reel, the only substance stronger than fiberglass and plastic.
Linkara (v/o): They also kidnap Rudy... What, they plan on selling him, too? ...and I guess they take the memorabilia offscreen since the next panel is them setting fire to the place to kill Phil so he can't report them on the news or anything.
Linkara: Not that they really needed to; the film reel squeezed his legs a little, and they collapsed in on themselves.
Linkara (v/o): So, in the same room as the SuperPro outfit, Rudy just happened to store a crap-ton of chemicals, and in all the fire and thrashing around, the chemicals spill onto Phil. The fire sprinklers kick in and wash the chemicals off. Quickly endowed with superpowers, because comic books, Phil grabbed the SuperPro outfit and pursued the crooks, kicking their asses before turning them over to the police. Annnd I guess despite these guys seeing the suit earlier right next to Phil, they were incapable of putting two and two together. But yeah, Rudy let him keep the suit, and he's been fighting crime ever since. Ken says he'll help Phil take out the steroids ring...
(The next chapter begins)
Linkara (v/o): ...leading us into chapter 3: "Better Dying Through Chemistry".
Linkara: Your Mylar won't protect you now!
Linkara (v/o): Ken shows photos the rookie, Carl Bennings, and all the visual evidence that he does steroids. What's more, he's uncovered direct links between Carl and Morrison, so they've got a lot of evidence on their side.
Phil: But according to the photos you've hacked into...
Linkara: How does one (makes a "finger quote") "hack into a photo"?
Linkara (v/o): Ken says that this kind of thing happened. There's too much competition and pressure on young people to succeed, and thus, they'll do anything to keep up with the competition, including drugs.
Linkara: Had a sports organization like the NFL would never allow anything as serious as drug use happen in their ranks. Now, other criminal offenses, sure, but they have standards, damn it!
Linkara (v/o): Phil decides the best way to deal with Morrison is to barge into his office with a camera and ask about the steroids. And here's the weirdest part: IT WORKS. Morrison caves almost immediately. He's more fragile than Phil's legs; just asking him twice and then, "Okay, I'll talk." Just wow! He explains that he knew what they were doing was wrong, but there was pressure from both the students and the schools to produce successful sports programs. Jakobs Pharmaceutical went along with it because "it would have brought them millions in black market profits."
Linkara: In the wake of the PR disaster caused by this, Jakobs Pharmaceutical rebranded themselves as the Umbrella Corporation.
Linkara (v/o): Actually, fiction really doesn't get this. While I don't doubt there are shady business deals like this in real life, it's usually really not all that necessary. These kinds of companies have this tendency to do horrible and scummy activities that are perfectly legal. Anyway, Morrison says that this latest drug is an experimental one that Carl likely has taken already. We cut over to Carl and his matching friends as he decides to take the drug... and immediately, Carl starts foaming at the mouth and mutating into a grotesque, over-muscled monster.
Linkara: Okay... (holds up clipboard) Morrison, I'm making a note here in the lab report. (makes writing motion on clipboard) "Needs work."
Linkara (v/o): Ken and SuperPro arrive to confront Carl.
SuperPro: You rookies are all the same! And you all need to be taken down a notch or two!
Linkara: (as SuperPro) This is like the third time this week one of you rookies transformed into a monster! Starting to get repetitive now!
Linkara (v/o): So they fight some more, Carl mutating further and getting bigger and more mindless. Oh, yeah, I can see how the black market will take a look at this face, and the money will just roll on in. Eventually, Carl has a heart attack and collapses, meaning our hero didn't actually stop him. Whoops. SuperPro tries to give him CPR, and he spots the other two players... knowing they're involved, I guess? What the hell is this quiet look? Anyway, a few hours later, the players get word: Carl is dead.
Linkara: Yeah, they had to go with the super serious ending to the super serious and grounded comic about a superhero football player.
Linkara (v/o): Carl's friends flush their own steroids down the toilet.
Linkara: (points to camera) There's your lesson, kids: don't do steroids. If you do, you'll transform into a hideous pile of tumors and drool.
Linkara (v/o): A week later, Phil is watching the news with his girlfriend. Morrison is arrested after his confession, but Jakobs Pharmaceuticals denies any involvement. And so, our comic ends with his girlfriend asking just how he managed to get the inside scoop on all these stories... and Phil literally winking at the audience.
Linkara: (laughs uproariously) What a silly, fourth wall-breaking moment in this silly story about drug abuse causing someone to DIE! (holds up comic) Anyway, this comic sucks.
Linkara (v/o): It's hardly the worst comic ever, but it's goofy, and it takes itself way too seriously. "US-1" is at least self-aware in how ridiculous it and its premise are, but this? It's played completely straight without a hint of irony or real winking at the camera. The origin itself is rather contrived, especially in random criminals just happening to break in and spilling conveniently-placed chemicals on our hero. The football puns are terrible, and did we really need the drug PSA? Otherwise, it's passable in terms of how it's put together, but it's not good at all.
Linkara: It is, however, a good start for this year of the show. Come back next time when a Patreon-sponsored review shows us the real method for building muscle mass: spinach! (puts down comic, gets up and leaves)
Technically, Phil never made it past rookie status himself, so was he also insulting himself when he said all rookies are the same?
I think we can definitely say that we are ready for some footbaaaaaall.
(Stinger: the MST3K gang is watching Laserblast)
Mike Nelson: (singing to the old Coca-Cola jingle) I'd like to teach the world to GET READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL!