During the eighties, the process of cross-marketing was basically the crutch of the American economy. Among the most notable of those who embodied this practice are "The Transformers", "GI Joe", and the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It was also not uncommon to see sports celebrites in cartoons.
While this process continued into the nineties, few new franchises managed to succeed, as the most recognizable things about them were their brand names. Case in point: Marvel's "NFL Superpro".
Phil Grayfield's career as a pro football player ended soon after it began due to injuries. Now, as a result of a fantastic accident, he has a new career - as a super-powered hero who uses his amazing abilites to fight crime and defend the sport he loves from those forces that would seek to corrupt it - for Phil had become... NFL SUPERPRO!
The story begins with a man named John Murtaugh in the crosshairs of a sniper rifle. We are told that Murtaugh is a financial wizard who is now using his awesome economic powers for evil! However, he was found out, and those who once employed him now seek to snuff him out to cover their tracks. As the sniper is about to shoot, however, his crosshairs suddenly find a new target: The NFL Superpro! Superpro quickly disarms the sniper, and demands that the man talk. The hero needs Murtaugh alive so that Tim Pressman, a professional football player, can have his name cleared. However, we never find out what Superpro wants to know from the sniper, as Murtaugh is shot by his valet.
Superpro knocks the sniper out then leaps off of the rooftop he was on onto a thin wire, then dropping on top of the getaway vehicle, crying out "Touchdown!" as he does so. The valet must be deaf (and lucky) not to hear Superpro's pun, but the valet still heard the hero drop drop on top of the car. The valet then begins shooting and cursing at Superpro, causing the hero to drop to the street to avoid being shot. Luckily, the Amazing Spider-Man was taking pictures of the incident, and shoots a tracker onto the fleeing automobile. Also, Spidey tells us that the story is taking place in Los Angeles for Pressman's trial.
Meanwhile, the Superpro's pride is hurting from letting a murder happen right in front of him, as well as letting the murderer get away. He mopes about Murtaugh being the less chance to clear Pressman, then summons a man named Ken to pick him up. Ken shows up quickly in a van, and he and Superpro skeedaddle before the cops show up, as the hero is still quite unconfident in his abilites. Spider-Man watches the pair leave, and waxes about how much he misses Mary Jane. Spidey also tells us that he's in Los Angeles because the Daily Bugle sent his alter ego and a reporter there to get the goods on Superpro.
Elsewhere, Ken is comforting Superpro (now in his civilian guise of Phil Grayfield) about his failure. Phil responds that he knows Pressman to be a straight-arrow who would never get caught up in gambling. Ken replies with information to the contrary, but Phil is adamant about Pressman's innocence. The two part, and in his hotel room, Phil calls a newscaster named Jane Dixon in New Jersey. She asks about Phil's investigations, and posits that Pressman may be guilty, and Phil still stalwarly denies it. She tells him that she'll do some research to try and help Phil out, after which we are treated to the AWESOME ORIGIN OF SUPERPRO!
Basically, Phil recieved the Superpro armor from a reclusive sports collector named Rudy Custer. Afterwards, some men came in to steal other items from Custer and leave Phil for dead. Somehow he was bathed in a once-in-a-lifetime chemical compound and given enhanced athletic abilites, strength, and endurance. Then he put on the Superpro armor and fought a steroid-mutated rookie athelete who died from his mutation. Phil then observes that maybe the rookie's death is why he is so gung-ho about helping Pressman: to try and help people before they get into trouble. So instead of playing defense, he's playing offense. Unfortunately, since Pressman is already in trouble, Phil is hardly batting a thousand. (Sorry, wrong sport.)
Meanwhile, the valet is delivering a tape Murtaugh was carrying to his boss, Mister Sanzionare. The valet (whose name, we learn, is Edison) also informs Sanzionare about the Superpro-type complications. Sanionare simply responds by telling Edison that there should no complications tommorow, when they plan to take out Pressman at his trial!
The next morning, at Pressman's trial, Peter Parker and Phil Grayfield meet in their civilian guises. However, before the two can make chit-chat, Pressman walks out into the media frenzy. As Pressman is reciting a prepared statement, Peter's spider-sense goes off and he runs off to investigate as Spider-Man. He finds another Edison, preparing to snipe Pressman. Spidey stops him, but then Edison attempts to escape, only to fall to his doom. Spider-Man, showing no feeling whatsoever to the dead man on the sidewalk, decides that things have gotten out of hand and goes off to investigate the spider-tracer he had placed the night before. However, on the sidewalk, Phil recognizes Edison, and decides to investigate as well, as only Superpro can!
Later that night, Spider-Man arrives at Sanionare's mansion as goons appear at Pressman's Malibu home. At Pressman's home, Superpro confronts the goons and manages to save Pressman and take out the goons. Spider-Man arrives as Superpro is finishing up, and simply takes a few pictures of the aftermath, and Pressman complains about how his name is now smeared. Superpro remarks that time will heal that wound, while Pressman makes a pun about not spending time in jail. So ends the first adventure of the NFL SUPERPRO!
The concept of Superpro, of course, is for the NFL to capitalize upon the comic book industry with a hot new superhero who is basically Captain America with a football theme. However, some comic books based upon franchises are quite good. I cannot think of any at the moment, but they're out there. Is Superpro one of them? No. The nicest thing I can say about Superpro #1 is that the first issue is competent.
The art is nothing special, the plot is stereotypical, and the characters have been seen a hundred times. If the main character was anyone other than Superpro, the result would be an utterly forgettable comic doomed to spend its life in "Five for a Dollar" back issue bins. However, the main character of this comic is Superpro. What this means is football puns, lots of them, which take the mediocrity of the comic and force it into the realm of atrocity. It is only a mercy that only the hero makes these puns, our glorious Superpro.
Superpro has got to be one of the characters with the most plotholes in their origin. However, since the backstory we are given on Phil Grayfield, the Superpro, is limited to three panels and a text blurb on the first page, this is not unforseen. Superpro's origin starts off innocently enough, playing the injured athelete card. However, things quickly take a turn for the mind- boggling when a sports collector shows his greatest achievement (term taken from the story) to Phil: the Superpro armor, with a big ol' NFL emblem on the chest. Questions abound at this point, as to what does the sports collector mean by "greatest achievement"? Did the sports collector make the armor? If he did not, why is it his greatest achievement? Also, how did he obtain such a thing as the Superpro armor? Questions abound at this point, but will be saved for never as no one reading this is, most likely, interested in Superpro. No, they have come here for the Web-Slinger, as this is a Spider-Man web site.
Spider-Man's part in the first issue of Superpro is that of an observer to Superpro's first adventure. The two never meet, save in their civilian guises, and Spider-Man, on the whole, keeps in character save for two instances. The first comes at the start of the book when Spider-Man can obviously tackle Edison's car, but simply tosses a spider-tracer onto it. It's quite possible that Spidey may have been keeping his current location fairly quiet, in which case this snafu can be forgiven slightly, but the story makes it seem that Spider-Man is saving the glory for the Superpro, in which case the sin remains. If Spider-Man saw someone murder a man, he would take them out, no matter the consequences. In case you're wondering, the murder was done at point-blank range, so only someone with super-speed could have prevented it.
The second out of character moment happens after the death of Edison. Spider- Man did try to stop the man from tumbling to his doom, but after he failed, wouldn't the hero reflect upon it for a few moments? My final complaint about Spider-Man's appearance is that Peter remarks that he recognizes Phil Grayfield from ESPN. It just strikes me as odd that a former bookworn like Peter would watch ESPN, let alone recognize a single face from it.
A mediocre story brought down by its main character and football puns.
As for the Spider-cameo, it gets four webs. Only one major complaint and two minor, trivial ones.
Now it's time for the post-game show... please forgive me. I couldn't resist.