Hello, my friends! 2020 has arrived as we enter a brand new year and a whole new decade. As such, we’ll also be venturing into unknown territory. As we prepare to do so, let us look back at an unusual pairing of comics and sports to say the least. As such, I welcome to a special article known as…
That’s right! We begin with a pair of past partnerships involving our beloved comic books and a professional sports league. Sure, other high-end athletic associations have dabbled within the four-colored paneled walls, but there’s a reason why I’ve decided to look back at a few series involving this particular unionship. It’s mainly because it has reached a historic milestone.
Back in 1920, the National Football League was created after a series of meetings in August and September. Originally called the “American Professional Football Conference” before officially renaming itself as the “American Professional Football Association” in time for the inaugural season (before getting its more well-known name in 1922), only two charter teams are still around from that first year: the Dectaur Staleys (a.k.a. the Chicago Staleys or as we call them nowadays: the Chicago Bears) and the Chicago Cardinals (who actually date back to 1898 as the Chicago-based amateur team known as the Morgan Athletic Club, before becoming the Racine Normals, followed by the Racine Street Cardinals, then the Chicago Cardinals as a charter member, eventually moving to St. Louis, Missouri in 1960 and then once more to the greater area of Phoenix, Arizona in 1988). Over the decades, more teams would get formed before a fierce rivalry against the upstart American Football League throughout the 1960s led to the formation of the Super Bowl. After the AFL merged with the league in 1970, a few more teams would get created (as well as move) before leading up to the 32-team size that it is today. Only within the tail-end of the NFL’s first century of existence would the rise of comic books eventually lead into our first partnership within the two entertainment mediums.
For their first dip into the comics pool, let us venture over to the big red House of M itself: Marvel Comics. According to a Vice.com article, writer Fabian Nicieza was approached by editor Bob Budiansky with the chance to properly develop their new character made in collaboration with the National Football League. Because he had grown up as a New York Jets fan, he was able to get free tickets to a game, not to mention that he got to attend Super Bowl XXVIII with several of his staffmates. Getting back to the start of our featured character here, NFL SuperPro made his proper debut in the “Super Bowl Special” (with a publish date of March 1991), which would eventually get a re-release called the “NFL SuperPro Special Edition” (publish date of September 1991). With Nicieza handling writing duties, Jose Delbo & Bob Hall splitting the role of pencils (Delbo for Chapters 1 & 3, with Hall handling Ch. 2), while Hall, Tom Morgan, Mike DeCarlo and Kim DeMulder in charge of inks, how does this historically infamous character kickoff his short life span? Let’s take to the field and find out in the inaugural tale called “Fourth & Goal To Go”.
We begin with Chapter 1: “The Lift That Drops You” as an illegal operation is going down at a Newark-based warehouse. Unfortunately for them, the titular SuperPro has been overseeing them before he charges right at the thugs. He kicks half of the goon squad into unconsciousness before catching up to the other felons by tackling them. He then attempts to interrogate them on their illegal chemical operation, but they express their obliviousness just as the police arrives. SuperPro informs the cops that he’s been investigating this unauthorized steroid operation, but he didn’t learn anything else from this site before he takes his leave. As he hops across the rooftops, he thinks about how he hasn’t been at this superhero business for long before reaching his car and driving off towards his date. One half-hour later, our main man named Phil Grayfield arrives at a restaurant where his girlfriend named Jane Dixon has been waiting for him. Because he arrived later, she believes that he’s been working on a major story for his investigative sports journalism career as she asks him what he’s been up to. However, he simply exclaims that she’ll have to wait a few weeks in order to find out.
We then cut to the next day at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey as Phil and his cameraman named Ken Reid attend a practice session for their show called “Sports Inside”. As Grayfield casually mentions to Ken about SuperPro busting up a chemical smuggling ring, the visiting Chicago Bears are having their practice as an overeager rookie defender tackles another player. Afterwards, Phil is met upon by a current Bears player named Ron Macedon. As Ken heads out to shoot more footage, Grayfield thanks Ron for the key tip on the steroid bust. As the defensive rookie named Carl Bennings starts getting too rough with his tackles, Macedon secretly informs Phil that the young player is using steroids.
Later, Phil informs Reid of Ron’s tip as they prepare to head out. Just then, they overhear Carl receiving a shipment as Ken manages to record the incident before Bennings drives off. As the shady man heads out, he worries about the guy’s growing instability and whether or not he’ll handle the newest shipment. Grayfield and Reid decide to discreetly follow him as they ultimately arrive at New Jersey State University. From there, Phil initiates a plan in order to find out who he is. Through the guise of attempting to return a document to Professor “Carling”, the receptionist corrects him by exclaiming that the man is actually named Professor Morrison.
With a name to go on, he eventually returns to the Meadowlands Sheraton as Ken looks up the name. It turns out that the man is Professor Henry Morrison, a full-time teacher who specializes in Biological Chemistry and has both a research grant, as well as a consulting assignment with a pharmaceutical firm called Jakobs. With a site to investigate, Grayfield decides to head out on a “fact-finding” mission”. As he takes his leave, Reid decides to do a little research on his reporting partner. Later, Phil arrives at the Jakobs Corporation as SuperPro as he sneaks his way inside. He notices Morrison talking to a pair of scientists just as they take their leave before he hops down and searches the databanks for any “illegal steroid compounds”, but comes up empty. Later, he makes it back to the hotel as he informs Ken about spotting Henry within the company, but that they’ll need some conclusive evidence to make a connection. Reid exclaims that he can hook up his video equipment to their database in order to make some photo references on Carl Bennings. Before he begins the process, he reveals that he already did the technical legwork on his reporter friend and discovered his superheroic identity. As such, he wants to know how Grayfield became SuperPro, leading into Chapter 2: “Field Of Dreams & Nightmares”.
During his college tenure at Notre Dame, he was an All-American linebacker who met his girlfriend Jane there as they both “graduated with academic honors” while he got picked No. 1 overall by the Philadelphia Eagles. Unfortunately, his NFL career never had a chance to take off. He missed his rookie year after tearing his ACL during defensive drills before losing his sophomore season after breaking his femur within a gang tackle during an exhibition game as he was ultimately let go from the Eagles as a result.
The Chicago Bears would eventually offer him a tryout where he met Ron and his son Jeremy. On that day, Phil turns in a great demonstration. Afterwards, Jeremy runs up the bleachers and accidentally slips on a soda can. Phil dives in time to save him, but he ultimately lands awkwardly and ended up breaking his knee. This time however, it was so badly injured that it ended up putting a premature end to his pro career.
As Ken wonders how his friend went from bed-ridden to crime-fighting, Grayfield explains that Ron & Jeremy felt very bad for him. As such, they brought in a producer/reporter duo from Sports Inside named Gessermann & Harriss who wish to interview him. Phil is initially hesitant until Ron convinces him to start putting his journalism & criminal justice degrees to good use. Because he decided to go through with the interview, he also ended up getting a job at their offices. Once he was able to walk again, he got his first assignment on “graft in the sports memorabilia trade” as he goes to interview a reclusive owner of NFL items named Rudy Custer. He proceeds to give a tour of his pro football collection before showing him a unique football outfit. Rudy explains that he invented the SuperPro uniform back in the 1970s as he constructed it out of fiberglass and plastic alloys in order to provide safety for its user.
However, it ultimately never came to be since each outfit would have to be molded into each player’s physique, plus the plastic compound alone was pretty expensive. Suddenly, he and Grayfield are approached by a group of armed goons who found out about Grayfield’s interview via their own spies. It turns out that they’re going to pilfer the collection as they kidnap Custer and tie up Phil with highlight film reels. Afterwards, they take their leave, but not before they soak the place with gasoline and set it on fire. Grayfield struggles to get free, but he accidentally kicks a vat of experimental plastic onto himself, causing him to searingly burn. Just then, the overhead extinguishers kick in as his body gets drenched with the chemical foam, gasoline, plastics and chemicals from the highlight film.
As the goons drive off, the house blows up from the ever-growing blaze. Fortunately, Phil takes the SuperPro outfit and used his newfound agility to catch up to the van in order to defeat the thugs. He then concludes his backstory by explaining that the goons were arrested and that Rudy allowed him to keep the uniform. As such, he’s been fighting crime every since. Upon hearing this story, Ken vows to help him bust up the steroid ring and help him “do the right thing”.
We then move into Chapter 3: “Better Dying Through Chemistry” as our sports-reporting duo compare past pictures of Carl Bennings. He had a normal physique early on in high school, though he started to abnormally gain some major muscle mass during his college tenure, which has continued ever since. They soon discover that he attended New Jersey State, had Henry Morrison as his supervisor and he even interned at Jakobs Pharmaceuticals during his senior year. After noticing a training camp picture of Bennings with some notable injection marks on his arm, Phil assumes that the guy started his illegal process when he entered college. Reid exclaims that Carl was under the pressure of making it on the team due to the fierce competition, thus he decided to look for any kind of advantage. With Bennings hooked on anabolic steroids and Morrison supplying him via Jakobs, Grayfield plans on confronting Henry in order to stop his operation.
We then cut to the next day with Phil & Ken showing up at the university as he simply walks right into Morrison’s office in order to ask him about allegations on steroids developed through him at Jakobs Pharmaceuticals. When Grayfield brings up the connection with Carl Bennings, Henry ends up confessing on creating the new batch, due to the high demands of the players and schools looking for a winning edge, not to mention the potential “Black Market Profits”. Morrison then explains that the new steroids will ultimately provide “a marked increase in reflexive action and physical strength” as Bennings is preparing to take it in time for his upcoming game. At that moment, Phil and Ken realize that they won’t make it back in time.
Just over a half-hour later at the hotel, Carl takes his newest batch despite the worried feelings of his teammate. Suddenly, he gets severely bulked up to the shock of his fellow colleagues. By the team Grayfield and Reid arrive back, they’re too late as the overly-bulk Bennings bursts out of the building.
As such Phil emerges from the van as SuperPro before he engages the massive being, even saving a young boy who accidentally fell out of the hotel due to Carl’s fierce punches. As the fight wears on, Bennings continues to abnormally bulk up as SuperPro continues to wail away while dodging the attempted strikes.
Suddenly, Greg starts gagging before he collapses onto the ground. SuperPro discovers that he suffered a heart attack as he attempts to save him with CPR before he notices Bennings’ teammates and calls out for an ambulance.
A few hours later, Ron informs his fellow players that Greg wan unable to get resuscitated and has passed away. They admit that they tried to talk him out of taking the drugs, but were unable to sway him from his devious action. Afterwards, Phil meets up with Macedon and offers his sympathy before assuring him that the familiar drug sellers will be shut down. However, Ron says that there will always be buyers & sellers and that in the end, it’ll ultimately be what the individuals choose to do in the end. As such, his teammates dispose of the new steroids in the toilet. One week later, Grayfield is with Jane as his newest episode of Sports Inside reports on Henry Morrison’s arrest with Jakobs Pharmaceutical President Paul Patham denying any personal involvement and blaming it all on individualized group planning. From there, the comics ends with Jane exclaiming her inspiration on finding out how her man digs up the information for his stories as her next piece.
From there, we move into the main 12-issue series as it ended up running from fairly late 1991 to late 1992. Leading things off from the writing/penciling/inking team of Nicieza, Delbo & DeCarlo, we have our main hero looking to clear a particular player of illegal activity as a familiar web-slinger assists from afar in “You Bet Your Life”.
We open with a man named John Murtaugh exiting a L.A.-based club. As he’s unknowingly within the cross hairs of an assassin’s gun, the narration explains that Murtaugh is a “financial wizard” who’s been performing illegal operations within an underground gambling unit. Because he’s been caught, he’s going to turn in crucial evidence over to the police. Before the gunman finally gets around to pulling the trigger, he’s suddenly approached by SuperPro who promptly disables him. From there, he exclaims that John needs to be kept alive since he can prove the innocence of Raiders offensive lineman Tim Pressman who’s been accused of having ties with a gambling boss named Marco Sanzionare.
However, Phil hears a gunshot as he sees that the valet has killed Murtaugh as he hops into his car to escape. As such, SuperPro knocks out the initial gunman before jumping down towards the fleeing felon. He manages to land on the car, but the profanity-spewing gunman starts shooting at him through the windshield which causes him to hastily evade the opposing shots.
As the killer drives away and SuperPro attempts to chase after him, Peter Parker a.k.a. Spider-Man observes the scene from afar via his camera as he manages to shoot a Spider Tracer onto the vehicle just as it gets out of sight. After failing to capture the gunman, Phil contacts Ken who proceeds to drive over and pick him up. Unbeknownst to them, Spider-Man has observed this and commends SuperPro for having a reliable partner before revealing that he’s been assigned by the Daily Bugle to cover the Pressman case.
Back with our main duo, Reid tells Grayfield to not be too hard upon himself he’s still fairly new in the superheroing world. Phil exclaims that he wants to prove Tim’s innocence since he remembers him during his brief pro career as “cocky”, yet still “a straight-arrow”. Ken exclaims that Pressman’s guilt comes from the fact that he’s been seen with Sanzionare and that supposedly, Murtaugh was going to present a tape to the Grand Jury that would clear Tim of his alleged crime. Later, they arrive back at their hotel as Phil decides to make a long-distance call to Jane and informs her about his present inability to find evidence in favor of Pressman. She then offers to do some research and try to help him out before they conclude their call. From there, Phil recalls the series of events that led him to become SuperPro in the first place and how his youthful need to help out people before trouble comes their way is why he’s eager to help Tim out of his current jam.
Meanwhile, the profanity-spewing gunman named Edison finally arrives at Sanzionare’s mansion and presents him with Murtaugh’s tape. He then brings up the fact that SuperPro almost interfered with their assassination, to which Marco tells him to make sure that he takes out Pressman before telling his bodyguard named Kent to head over to the library in order to (presumably) look through recent newspaper articles in order to do some proper research on SuperPro. We then cut to the next day at the Los Angeles County Courthouse as Phil and Ken prepare for Tim’s emergence from the building, while Peter is preparing to do so as well. As Grayfield and Parker give quick and curious glances at each other, Pressman exits the courthouse in order to address the reporters. As he denies any and all connection towards “various organized crime interests”, Peter’s Spider-Sense goes off as he quickly ducks into a nearby alley and becomes Spider-Man in order to investigate some nearby trouble. He soon discovers Edison armed with a sniper rifle and preparing to assassinate Tim.
Spidey stops the gunman in time as he attempts to run away. Spider-Man sees the assassin attempt to leap across towards a nearby building and tries to stop him, but he somehow misses with his web shot as Edison is unable to reach the building and ends up falling to his death. As Spider-Man decides to locate where his Spider Tracer is currently at, Phil informs Ken about the recently-deceased assassin being the one who took out Murtaugh before he decides to protect Pressman from Sanzionare’s wrath. Later that night, Spider-Man arrives at Marco’s mansion and spots Edison’s car before noticing some armed goons prepped and taking their leave. After launching another Spider Tracer onto their car, he heads inside to investigate. However, he’s unable to find anything (even though we only see him check one room).
Later, the armed thugs arrive outside of Tim’s house in order to carry out their assassination gig. Fortunately, SuperPro was waiting for them as he takes out one of the armed goons. However, the others manage to blast their way inside as Phil responds by tackling another agent.
Pressman runs downstairs armed with a gun, but finds himself in the crosshairs of the assassin’s shot. SuperPro manages to save him in time as the explosive shell creates a blast that takes out the last thug before Phil steps in and beats him up until he surrenders. We then cut to several minutes later as the police arrive to arrest the goons as Spider-Man captures some pictures from afar. And so, Issue 1 ends with SuperPro assuring Tim that while he was unable to get the tape that Murtaugh had, the busted thugs should be able to help clear him of any connection with Sanzionare.
For Issue 2, Phil gets called away from the greater New York/New Jersey area of his initial beginnings as a familiar face from his past is behind a missing figure with Grayfield taking his superheroics to South Beach in “The Killer Instinct”.
We open at Notre Dame Stadium in October 1985 during Phil’s college football career as he forces a fumble during a tackle and even recovers the ball. After he heads back to the sidelines, he gets berated by his fellow teammate named Stu Moore since Grayfield was originally supposed to guard the opposing tight end while he actually defends the running back. Phil counter-argues with the fact that they read the opposing offense about to perform a run play, so they changed up their coverage. Several minutes later, the Fighting Irish defense is back on the field as Grayfield makes another key play before chastising Stu for going after the ball from an unreachable spot. Following the game, Moore begins to recall every defensive play that his team ran during the game along with everything that went down during the contest. We then shift ahead to the present day where he’s become a ninja-clad assassin as he ultimately strangles a unfortunate victim with his nun-chuks. One of his henchmen named Sammy mentions how their hostage looks familiar, to which their boss confirms by stating that their captive will be a former player for the Miami Dolphins.
While the aforementioned wide receiver named Michael Frazier finds himself in critical condition, we cut to SuperPro reaching a Miami-based warehouse that he heard about via an FBI-informed tip that contains contraband in the hopes of finding out who shot Frazier. He bursts in and demands for the thugs to tell him about both Michael’s shooter & the arm shipments. As usual, they refuse and attempt to attack him. As Phil beats them up, he tells the goons that Frazier was attempting to curb the recent rise of gang violence within Miami. Upon reaching the final criminal, he demands to know which street gang would suffer the most if their crimes were stopped as the guy tells him that it’s a particular group called “Los Tiburones”, a.k.a. The Sharks. Armed with this knowledge, SuperPro proceeds to take his leave.
As Phil hops across the rooftops, he thinks about Michael Frazier’s own community outreach program putting up an effective fight against various street gangs attempting to set up shop within the city’s most downtrodden areas as he feel the importance of finding him. He ultimately makes it back to his Sports Inside van and shares what he learned with Ken. As Grayfield gets dressed, Reid informs him that Frazier’s community outreach program helps to prevent young kids from joining street gangs and even have them help out by reporting any “illicit gang activity” that they knew about. Specifically, Michael’s own program has been making a difference within his past community. As a result, the street gangs have made death threats towards him and his center, with the Sharks even carrying out their own intimidation ploy. Ken reminds his superhero friend that they’ve been sent down to Miami in order to cover Frazier’s former community prior to him getting shot. However, Phil says that Michael has become a role model to the local citizens, especially since he never forgot where he came from and that he wanted to use the prowess that he gained from his NFL career in order to help others. Afterwards, Reid informs him that the FBI has gotten involved as they look into it to understand why.
Later within a turbulent neighborhood under the Sharks’ control, the gang finds themselves under attack by the same ninja-clad felon who easily slays every last member before he reaches the last thug and demands to know where they’re hiding their stolen gun shipment. The beaten goon says that they’re located in a small airport just outside of Hallandale before the assassin takes him out.
We then cut to the next day as Phil and Ken arrive at the South Street Community Outreach Center as Marrisa Delgado shows the various ways in which the facility helps out, ranging from its daycare for preschoolers and its bilingual tutoring for school-aged children to even allowing senior citizens to create both “promotional & informational material”. She then explains that because many kids don’t have the same kinds of options to get out of this downtrodden neighborhood, Frazier created this center as a means to help out and give back to his community. She then escorts Phil and Ken to an area where two boys who’re painting a mural used to be part of the same gang that Michael used to be in known as the “Blood Tigers”. Grayfield then asks them why the Sharks would want to shoot Frazier, but they exclaim that they wouldn’t know since they got out of the gang life. However, they are aware of a “score” involving them stealing guns from a mob boss. When Marrisa explains that the mob wants those weapons back and that Michael tried to intervene by preventing them from falling into the Sharks’ hands, Phil wants to know where the stolen guns are being hidden. However, the kids decide to decline. As such, Grayfield tells him that they owe it to Michael since they’ll never stop being free from their past gang life if they continue to live “by gang rules”. In the end, the kids tells him about the guns being secretly stashed at Schulmann Airport. With this new piece of information, Phil and Ken head out to deal with this situation. As Grayfield suits up, Reid assumes that the Sharks are going to fly the guns out to Cuba due to their Cuban make-up.
We then cut to a couple hours later at Schulmann Airfield where the same ninja-clad assassin beats up the workers before finally coming across the stolen guns as he looks forward to his eventual payday. However, SuperPro arrives as he looks to stop his newfound foe and find out who he works for. Afterwards, the adversary reveals that he knows our hero’s actual first name before taking off his mask as Grayfield is shocked to see his former collegiate teammate (who’s now called “Karl” Moore, huh?). Now that he goes by a new codename, Quick Kick, they proceed to fight each other.
As Moore says that he hasn’t forgotten “every single jab” that he received which now serves as his personal motivation against our hero, SuperPro dodges his strikes before tackling him into some oil drums which fall over and knock the wheel-jams out from underneath the plane, causing it to start moving. Quick Kick runs after the craft and leaps onto it, accidentally breaking one of the wing’s support beams before kicking Phil away from him. Grayfield tries to warn him about the damaged wing, but it’s too late as he lets go while the plane ultimately plummets into the ocean and crashes. Afterwards, the police arrive as SuperPro informs a cop that the stolen guns and Quick Kick are now lying deep beneath the water. From there, our hero then exclaims that he fought someone who cared too much about winning and that he wasn’t able to show him that fighting what you fight for is more important. After that, Ken comes in and informs him that he got a transmission from their CB Radio that Michael Frazier is going to make a full recovery from the ICU.
From there, Issue 2 ends sometime later off of the Florida coastline as Marco Sanzionare learns about Quick Kick’s failure and that the shipment is in federal custody. As such, he decides to finally see SuperPro get his comeuppance as he gives the order to call in “the killer who can cut through time” named Instant Replay.
Issue 3 sees a lack of brotherly love as our main duo must deal with a new adversary and another group of ruffians while Charles Barnett III supplies some temporary inking duties in this singular tale called “Time Out”.
We open with a fight between SuperPro and Instant Replay. Our featured assassin demonstrates his abilities as he’s able to slice through our hero’s uniform, evades his tackle at an abnormally swift speed and even possesses teleportation skills. From there, Instant Replay finishes the fight with a swift decapitating strike. As the lights come on, it turns out that the version of SuperPro that he fought was actually a robot as Marco compliments his hired killer for his excellent display. With our hero having foiled his past ventures, Sanzionare has resorted to hiring his newest agent from Stane Industries in order to finally have SuperPro killed. As such, he sends him to another big city that has an NFL team to call its own as recent events have now popped up within Philadelphia.
As such, we cut over to the Sports Inside studio as Phil and Ken are working on a piece involving a local street gang that attacks anyone wearing Philadelphia Eagles clothing. Not only that, but they also rob their victims and record their crimes for the local news stations to show. Surprisingly, they haven’t beaten up any victims. From there, Grayfield and Reid ponder over how they plan to approach this developing story.
Later that night at another part of town, the featured gang is relaxing at their hideout before their leader named Ronnie tells his cohorts that they’re going to strike since there’s an Eagles fans dinner over at Buchbenders. As they dawn their green ski masks, Ronnie reminds his gang that they’ll only steal some merchandise and refrain from harming any civilian. As they head out, he worries that one of his fellow gang members (specifically Cray) will go against his orders. Thirty minutes later, they arrive outside of the restaurant and prepare for their assault. Just then, Ronnie notices a parked green van with the Eagles logo on it. As such, they begin to smash it up. During the scuffle, two of the gang members notices that the Eagles script logo isn’t painted on and that it’s a sticker. At that moment, SuperPro emerges from the van and easily defeats the goons. Cray then takes out a handgun and threatens to shoot him, forcing Ronnie to get him under control and orders his gang to retreat. Afterwards, the van pulls out as Ken lets Phil climb in before they drive off, unaware that Instant Replay was watching from afar.
We then cut to the next morning as Ken visits his sister named Claire, whom he hasn’t talked to for a number of years. It turns out he’s stopped by to chat with her son who’s currently sleeping due to arriving back home late. He heads in and confronts his nephew (which turns out to be Ronnie) about his involvement with the street gang, not to mention that he can help the young lad avoid some serious jail time. It turns out that Ronnie’s hatred for the Eagles stems from the fact that he tried out for the team, but didn’t make the cut. Ken exclaims that it was no surprise since he was “a walk-on free agent punt returner” before telling him to turn himself in to the proper authorities before things get worse. From there, he takes his leave and tells Claire that his next visit is more “social”.
We cut to nighttime as Sterman’s Department Store had its Eagles display ransacked by the gang. Ultimately, the police arrive as SuperPro oversees the scene before deciding to jump down and converse with the officials so that they share what they know about the gang. As they converse, Ken comes in as he exclaims that he knows the mastermind behind the gang’s attacks. Suddenly, a vicious blast rips down through SuperPro’s shoulder pad as he, Reid and Officer Nicieza (cute) look up and discover Instant Replay before he disappears. Not too long afterwards, the specialized assassin reappears and attacks our hero with another hit-and-run session. When Instant Replay tries to attack from behind yet again, Ken warns his friend as SuperPro responds with a precise hit that sends the agent into Sterman’s smashed-up window. Just as he lands on some golf equipment, his teleportation device malfunctions and he ends up viciously disappearing.
As SuperPro wonders how Instant Replay’s self-transporting mechanism malfunctioned, Reid says that the metal make-up of the golf clubs interfered with the teleporter’s “electrical conduit”. As Phil ponders where Instant Replay may have ended up as a result, Ken tells the cops that the leader of the Eagles Gang and the true leader behind their attacks is his nephew Ronnie McLaren. Meanwhile, the familiar gang has approached a woman who’s accompanying two developmentally-challenged young boys who get threaten with harm. Ronnie tries to call off his gang’s attack, but they’re not willing to back down as one of the goons slaps one of the kids. From there, Ronnie attacks his volatile members while the lady and the two boys escape. Afterwards, he says that this isn’t what he wanted as he officially disbands the group. We then cut to one hour later as he sees the familiar sports van along with a police car in front of his house. He considers running away, but ultimately decides against it before psychotics “like Cray really hurts someone”. As such, he confesses to the officials about his involvement with the Eagles Gang along with where the majority of their stolen money is as he’s also willing to help them get the other gang members arrested. From there, he gets incarcerated as Phil and Ken prepare to head down to the police station in order to finish their report as well as help “make this easier for Claire and Ronnie”. From there, the scene ends with Reid giving an emotional hug to his sister.
From there, Issue 3 ends three weeks later within the Swiss Alps as Sanzionare has been preparing to finally step in and take care of SuperPro himself. It turns out that he’s spent the last several weeks studying our hero’s ins-and-outs. Because he now knows his secret identity, Marco is going to make this personal as he fights Phil “to the death”.
Now, we’ve reached a climactic confrontation for Issue 4 as Fabian Nicieza writes his swan song for the series in a turbulent tussle enacted within “The Sanctioning”.
We open in Trenton, New Jersey as Jane Dixon is with her Channel 9 cameraman in order to give a report on a rally in protest of a new tax. Unbeknownst to her, Marco is observing her from the rooftops within his gold-platted combat armor. From there, he shoots some tear gas towards her as she gets disoriented enough for him to jump down and kidnap her. As a female officer warns him not to move, he simply fires some Concussion Mortars at her and the nearby cops before activating his suit’s fight system and takes off with Jane in his arms.
We then cut to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum as Phil shoots a United Way promotion alongside famed New York Giants players Phil Simms and Carl Banks. Afterwards, a familiar Raider approaches as Tim Pressman proceeds to talk with Grayfield about how despite people’s lingering doubts, he’s still thankful for getting the gambling ties against him dropped. After a while, they go their separate ways as Phil makes his way back to Ken who still has a few exterior shots to get. As such, Grayfield tells him that he’ll head back to the hotel. A short time later at the L.A.-based Sheraton, Reid is working on adding a camera to SuperPro’s helmet in order to get a full 360-degree view. At that moment, Phil tells him that he tried to call his girlfriend, but he got her answering machine with a voice that’s not hers.
Over in Manhattan, Sanzionare has Jane tied up in his penthouse as he exclaims that he’s aware of her boyfriend making his way towards their current location. As he climbs into his battle suit, he reveals the playing field that he intends to defeat Grayfield upon. Dixon then asks why he’s doing this, to which he says that her man has interfered with his own operations. Because she’s unaware of Phil’s secret identity, Marco takes a delight in informing her that Grayfield and SuperPro are the same person. Several hours later, Phil and Ken arrive just outside of Sanzionare’s penthouse apartment as Reid informs Grayfield about the newly-installed sensors upon his uniform in order to “create a tactical database” on whatever he gets in contact with. He also brings up the helmet cam that’ll give him a view on what’s behind him, along with the fact that he did some hacking in order to get a schematic of Marco’s penthouse. With all of this and the situation that’s ahead of him, Phil gets a little nervous. Fortunately, Reid confidentially says that they’ll find a way to pull through this.
From there, things get set in motion as Grayfield is allowed up to Sanzionare’s penthouse. He changes into his uniform on the elevator before confirming a communicative transmission with Ken. Eventually, the lift reaches the particular floor as Marco riddles it with bullets. When it opens however, he finds it empty. It turns out that SuperPro expected this as he climbed out through the emergency shaft and used the cables to go one floor above the suite. Just as he learns that Phil is on the 45th floor, Sanzionare catches up and opens fire. SuperPro dodges the opposing gunfire, but he ends up falling through a trap door and lands upon the football-themed battleground as he’s shocked to see Jane tied up to a goalpost.
She tells her boyfriend to stay, but it’s too late as gets blasted by a Concussion Mortar just as Marco confronts him. Ken sees their foe through the camera as he analyses the suit before telling Phil to attack his shoulder couplings due to them containing the “major network feed for his arms”. SuperPro recovers and proceeds to attack Sanzionare’s shoulder armaments, causing him to malfunction. Marco tries to fire back, but his suit’s weapons systems are down. As such, he orders his computer system to initiate the “Goal Line Stand” as a full arsenal of guns, lasers and spikes pop out to attack. SuperPro swiftly makes his way past the full-on barrage before he reaches Jane and helps her escape by ripping the goal post out of the ground. Ken tells him to head for the roof, to which he and Dixon proceed to do.
Grayfield and Dixon manage to reach the rooftop before he asks Reid what they should do now. Ken exclaims that he’s trying to find an air duct for them to climb into, but he can’t find one in time as Marco catches up. As such, SuperPro attempts to kick him. However, Sanzionare grabs his leg and proceeds to dangle him over the side. Jane tries to stop him, but ends up getting slapped away. Marco then exclaims about all of the devious ventures from their recent past that Phil has stopped. From there, he begins to drop Phil. Fortunately, he managed to reach up in time in order to grab onto Sanzionare’s hand as he jolts his foe down alongside him.
Marco manages to launch his tether line and manages to hook onto the side in order to break his fall. However, SuperPro continues to hold onto his hand as he causes Sanzionare to slam into the building’s side. As such, his armament begins to fall apart. In the end, his hand ends up slipping through his gauntlet as both of them resume their plummet. Phil manages to grab an adjacent flag pole in order to save himself, while Marco ends up slamming through the awning before slamming onto the ground. Five minutes later, Ken and Jane catch up to Phil as they see Sanzionare lying unconscious and alive. Reid explains that with the police on the way, he’ll present them with the footage from SuperPro’s helmet camera in order to put this crime boss away. Jane expresses her worry since Marco knows her boyfriend’s superhero identity, to which he says that they’ll possibly deal with it down the road. From there, Issue 4 ends with Dixon exclaiming that she’s willing to help them out in their crime-fighting venture.
Issue 5 sees a change of the guard as Buzz Dixon takes over writing duties while our main hero heads back to the gridiron and goes up against a different kind of team in “Sudden Death”.
We open at Giants Stadium as the host Giants are competing against the Miami Dolphins while Phil and Ken chat about interviewing Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor following the game. Just as a fumble occurs and Taylor dives for the ball, the ground suddenly bursts open as he gets pulled under by a mysterious being . Grayfield and Reid enter the hole in order to find out where their kidnapper has gone to. Eventually, they arrive at the stadium parking lot as an unconscious Taylor gets placed in the back of a van. It turns out that the musclebound fiend named Hans is part of a devious group who proceed to go after Ken. Phil manages to reach his van and gets his SuperPro uniform on before he engages the fiends. However, he struck from behind by a broad pole from another familiar assailant. This disorients him enough as Hans smacks him away before the group takes their leave, leaving SuperPro smashed upon an adjacent car.
Later, Phil is getting a massage from Jane when a news broadcast reports about the kidnapping of 21 NFL athletes. Grayfield gets a realization as he tells Dixon that each pilfered player represents a starting position on offense or defense. With the uniformed thieves still needing a quarterback to abduct, he realizes that his longtime friend Ron Macedon will be their target. We then cut to the next day at the Chicago Bears’ practice camp as Phil warns Ron. After Grayfield makes a snarky comment about his friend only being the “fourth best” quarterback in the league, Ron dumps a container of Gatorade upon him before taking his leave. He’s then approached by the owner’s assistant named Mercy Sutter who offers to let him clean up with their showers and well as get his clothes cleaned. After they arrive at the owner’s luxury suite, he tells her that he’s reporting on the kidnappings for his sports show. Mercy assures him that there won’t be any more abductions since the league is taking extra security measures. As she briefly mentions about her father being a former head coach, the familiar kidnappers reemerge in a makeshift blimp as they get to work on their kidnapping scheme.
The fiends initiate their plan as one of their members named Flinch stuns Macedon and his teammates with “two thousand volts” of electricity before he preps to scoop the unconscious quarterback up. As Sutter heads out to alert stadium security, Phil knows that they won’t arrive in time as he dons his SuperPro suit before climbing up to the roof. With the fiends kidnapping Ron and taking him up to their blimp, he jumps towards the craft. He manages to grab onto the rope, but his cleat ends up puncturing the blimp. Flinch responds by shocking Phil with his electric attack as SuperPro ends up plummeting to the ground. Fortunately, he grabs onto the rope ladder and saves himself. However, Flinch manages to cut it off before his fellow cohorts disconnect their van from the leaking blimp. Unbeknownst to them, SuperPro managed to grab onto the underside of their vehicle as he withstands the landing and scraping momentum.
Later, they arrive at an abandoned football stadium where they carry Macedon into the facility while SuperPro emerges from underneath the van. As he sneaks his way inside, he oversees the entire operation as well as the “head coach” that serves as the kidnappers’ leader. As Phil prepares to alert the authorities on this illegal operation, one particular assailant blindsides him with a football bomb as he gets knocked out in the explosion. Later, SuperPro wakes up in his cage as the coach introduces his team called the Head Hunters as several of their members include Hans and Flinch, but also Bullet and (the one who attacked our hero earlier) Kabuki-Back.
It turns out that everyone involved within this malevolent group used to play in the NFL, but they weren’t good enough to last long. As the head coach storms off, Mercy arrives as she reveals that he’s actually her father Buck Sutter as she believes that her dad didn’t get “a fair chance” from the league. SuperPro counter-argues by stating that the league gives “everybody” as hot as he tells her to alert the cops. However, she refuses to do so as she takes her leave. Later, the captured players are forced into playing an illegal game against the Head Hunters as they rough up their captives and constantly break the league’s rules of the game. Phil uses his chin strap snap in order to jimmy the lock on his cage and break free before telling the NFL’s finest to stand aside while he deals with their captors. However, the Head Hunters gang up on him as they unleash their wrath upon him. Afterwards, SuperPro decides to unleash his full strength.