Part 2: Inductees into the Comic Book Football Hall
It’s Graffiti’s annual football issue, and I’m offering up another round of inductees into the Comic Book Football Hall of Fame.
My other option was a fantasy football wrap-up, which would have consisted primarily of advising you to do the opposite of everything I did this season, earning a 3-9-1 record this year and failing to make even the consolation bracket in my league. Plus, it wouldn’t have had anything to do with comics.
The criteria for making this Hall are not overly strenuous: Inductees must be a comic character with some connection to football that figures prominently, or at least interestingly, into their stories. No principled stands against steroids here; in fact, disregard for fair play and decency is our first inductee’s clame to infamy:
Sportsmaster. More than one DC villain has borne this moniker and turned to crime because of an inability to play football, according to ComicVine.com.
First was Lawrence “Crusher” Crock, a world-class athlete banned from all sports after permanently injuring an opponent during a football game. He made his debut on the crime scene tangling with Green Lantern (Alan Scott, back in the ’40s) as he and his gang disguised as a polo team attempted to rob spectators at a match. (You just don’t see many polo-themed crimes in comics anymore.) A later version, Victor Gover, actually had powers (photographic reflexes; he could mimic anything he saw) that got him banned from pro football. Like Crock before him, crime is how he chose to make his living, aided by his athletic prowess and sports-themed gadgets.
Flash Thompson. Before he became the latest incarnation of Venom, Flash Thompson was a friend of Peter Parker (aka Spider-Man) who lost his legs serving in Iraq. Before that, he was Parker’s high school nemesis, the bullying football star. Flash’s athletic prowess was one of the things that clearly delineated him as the Big-Man-on-Campus foil to Parker’s science geek wallflower in those early days, entrenching him firmly in the in crowd to which Peter – and many of his fans – felt they’d never belong. But the ideals of teamwork and determination he learned playing football also informed some of the tales of his military service.
The Flash (Jay Garrick). After college student Jay Garrick was involved in a science-experiment-spawned accident (so many people get powers from those, why would you ever want to follow the safety protocol?) he gained super-speed, which he showed off on the football field before he ever became a superhero (in a sequence cited on Daniel Wallace’s Geekosity blog). Most of the comic football players I’ve encountered didn’t get to actually use their powers on the field.
The Thing. Before Flash Thompson got an athletic scholarship to Empire State University, Ben Grimm was a gridiron star there. Whereas Flash’s jock status made him a rival to Peter Parker, Grimm was best friends with the grading-curve-obliterating Reed Richards, a relationship that led to him flying Richards’ experimental spacecraft into the cosmic rays that made them one half of the Fantastic Four.
Gardner’s bio on dcuguide.com cites him as a star at the University of Michigan and a draft pick by the Cleveland Browns. Granted, an injury derailed his career, but he got further than most of the others cited here. Guy became a social worker instead and was almost chosen to be the new Green Lantern of Sector 2814, but Hal Jordan was closer. Eventually, Guy did get a power ring and has distinguished himself in the Corps, despite his hot-headedness.
Evan Bevins is the writer of the webcomic Support Group, www.supportgroupcomic.com