Saturday, October 4, 2014

Review: NFL Superpro #7

NFL Superpro #7, "All Abuzz," Cover Date April, 1992
Written by Evan Skolnik, Penciled by Jose Delbo, Inked by Mike De Carlo

NFL Superpro 7 Cover

As anyone that even casually follows sports can tell you, it’s been a rough few months for the NFL. In the wake of video footage of Ray Rice knocking out his fiancĂ©e, the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell have found themselves under increased media scrutiny, not helped by the fact that players continue to make headlines for beating their children, getting repeated DUIs, receiving drug suspensions and promptly losing thirty pounds, and otherwise behaving as less than ideal role models for children everywhere. Perhaps it’s time for the NFL to turn back to one hero they can always count on: NFL SuperPro!

"What if Judge Dredd looked like a huge dork?" -NFL Superpro designer, probably.

For those that don’t know, Phil Grayfield was a sports journalist after his promising career ended when he suffered a major knee injury; not on the field of course, but saving a child’s life. During an interview with a scientist/superfan, criminals rob the scientist’s home, making off with a van full of purloined bobbleheads and signed jerseys, and set the building on fire. Grayfield, as a result of an indestructible experimental football uniform, the fire, and “experimental chemicals” that the scientist just leaves lying around his house, is transformed into SuperPro, the corporate mascot that walks like a man! Because it was launched in 1991, this comic got 12 issues!

We begin our story in the Brazilian rainforest, where a “strike team” for “the Protectors of the Rainforest” spikes trees in an effort to injure lumberjacks. Their morally questionable activity is interrupted by a mystery man who tells them that “nails are for coffins.”

Superpro 7 Ripsaw spiking trees
Nails are for many things, Ripsaw. Also that is an unfortunately placed saw on your abdomen.

Significantly south of that, we join an exciting contest between Argentina and Brazil, as we see “Juarez,” “Brazil’s greatest soccer star since Pele,” as he hits a bicycle kick highlight reel goal. Phil’s cameraman Ken thinks it’ll make good coverage for a story on Juarez, but Phil worries about a riot breaking out in the crowd.  NFL Superpro heroically leaps onto the scene, eliciting a “it’s… it’s… who is that?” from a confused football fan. He gets between the two groups, who call each other “Argies” and “Brazil Nuts,” presumably both in Portuguese? An annoyed Superpro runs towards a brick wall, dislodges it, and throws it between the two groups of fans. Uh, he is not a very good superhero.

Superpro 7 soccer
Superpro does not know the rules of soccer.

The fight over, we see a rich fat-cat tell the mystery man from earlier he should be even more persuasive when it comes to dealing with the protectors. Phil and Ken are on a plane headed north, as they wonder why Juarez insisted on meeting them in the Amazon region, instead of at the stadium after the game. Juarez meets with the Americans, and introduces them to Felicita, a red-headed “co-conspirator,” who drives the foursome towards the rainforest. Phil tries to explain that “Sports Inside” maybe isn’t the best venue for this, but Juarez insists that Americans changing their behavior slightly can save the rainforest.

NFL Superpro 7 Draw the Line
Draw what line? What are you talking about, Superpro?

Juarez takes the group to an area where the Protectors are chained to trees, and insists on doing the interview with them in the shot. What a diva! Before Ken can set up his meter reading, he hears some kind of sawing noise. On cue, a purple-costumed man with saws flies into frame, as the Protectors who aren’t chained to trees make a run for it. He identifies himself as “Ripsaw,” then noticing the camera, saws at it with his forearm saw.

NFL Superpro 7 Letter
I've got some bad news, Chris.

Juarez is told to get into a waiting van, but worries over leaving Ken and Phil behind. Fortunately, Phil’s armor falls out of the van as they leave, allowing him to change into his ridiculous outfit. He rescues his camera man, and then makes awful football puns while fighting Ripsaw.

NFL Superpro 7 no clipping
Cut it out, Superpro.

Once Ripsaw is suitably pummeled, Ken laments his camera, as Juarez talks about how great “NFL Man” was. Phil apologizes for missing it, and wonders if that’s the end of their story on Juarez. On cue, Juarez pulls out a portable camcorder they use to record their protests!


Reading this took me back to my old review of WCW #10, as we're once again in the middle of an ill-fitting "license" book. This is at least better than that, as Jose Delbo's pencils are half-decent. Delbo by this point was on his way out of the business, but he had been a solid hand through the 70's, doing plenty of work for DC, mostly on secondary books. He does some nice layouts, and the figures are consistent and not nearly as blocky and hideous as those in WCW. Unfortunately the rest of the artwork, especially Marie Javins coloring, isn't doing him any favors, muddying what might've been pretty good stuff at one point.

The story is your basic "save the rainforest" episode of Captain Planet. The villain is poorly defined and his boss is even less well defined, as a twenty minute cartoon tends to give you a bit more time to develop characters than 20 pages. Skolnick isn't dreadful, and Marvel would eventually reward him with a run on New Warriors that was the first Marvel series I subscribed to (because it wasn't carried in my LCS and I liked team books). Skolnick's wikipedia page, which reads like he wrote it or at least helped develop, says he's now at LucasArts, so good for him.

In all, Superpro's maybe not quite as bad as I'd hope, but is still such a crazy premise it's hard to believe it was ever created.

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