Thursday, July 10, 2008

Comics & Sports #3: Mighty Man and the College Football Squad of Doom

As all geeks (looking at you, Futurama writing staff) know, every Wednesday (or, in this case, Thursday because of July 4th and my own damn laziness) is that most hallowed of days, new comic book day. In the spirit of that most beautiful of days, I present a feature spotlighting the potentially awesome confluence of sports and comics.

The last couple of weeks have been pretty much completely and utterly the Dash Dartwell show. Which is all well and good, but the creative minds at Centaur Comics had more than just Dash Dartwell up their sleeve. For today we will prove once again they knew far more about satirizing future sports issues than giving 1940s comics readers what they want; after all, if they'd understood the latter, Robert Downey Jr. would be gearing up for Dash Dartwell 2: Dash Boogaloo as we speak. But ah well. A few fuzzy black & white comic panels are way more fun than some Robert Downey Jr. improv any day of the week. I'll just keep telling myself that, shall I?

Today's featured hero is Mighty Man, and once again the comics themselves will do a way more coherent job explaining the character than I could...

The Mighty Man is a twelve foot super-giant who was found in a hidden valley in California. He leaves the valley to wage a war on criminals. To date very few people have heard of the Mighty Man - for reasons of his own he needs to be kept in the background.

Good to know he's not just a giant - it's really super-giants that get the job done, crimefighting-wise. So he's our hero. But behind every superhero is a creator, a writer of unmatched genius with the verve and the wit necessary to make such outrageous characters truly come to life. Or, in this particular case, a journeyman halfback/quarterback named Frank Filchock who was notable for roughly five things:

1. He was Sammy Baugh's partner in a thunder and lightning package with the early forties Redskins; seriously, he was the Flingin' Frank to Baugh's Slingin' Sammy. He even managed to beat out Baugh for most touchdown passes once. So no offensive slouch was old Filchock.

2. He was the first person to throw a 99-yard touchdown pass, which means everyone else is living in his Filchockian shadow when it comes to long passes. Well, until the Germans offhandedly mention they'd really like to see a soccer-size field and Goddell expands the field to 130 yards.

3. He was embroiled in a massive gambling scandal that got him banned from the NFL for four years and ultimately exiled him to Canada. Wikipedia has the scoop, but basically someone tried to offer him a bribe to fix a game, the NFL got wind of it before the game was played, he denied he'd ever been offered one, played his absolute hardest in the game, got acquitted of any wrongdoing, and then got banned. He may have been a victim of circumstance or he may just have realized the best way to look innocent after getting caught redhanded was to play lights out. Hard to say really. Probably would make a good movie though. And yes, Hollywood executives, I'm very much available to write and direct.

4. He was the proud owner of a deeply silly name. Seriously, Frank Filchock. I still can't spell his name correctly without looking it up first. I just so desperately want his name to be all the way dirty instead of maddeningly close. Honestly, drop that "h" and we're on a one-way train trip to hilarity junction. I'm just saying.

5. Finally, and most importantly for our purposes, he had a brother by the name of Martin Filchock. Martin was a comic book artist with Centaur Comics, and, while I know nothing of the circumstances of the following story's creation, almost certainly asked his famous football playing brother whether he could think of a superhero story that involved playing football. At the very least, Martin illustrated his brother's idea, and in the absence of a credited writer, probably wrote most of it.

But still, let us never forget - the following comic was the brainchild of a real NFL player. For the Redskins, no less, proving Washington really has always had the most interesting athletes. I'm sure 40s-era D.C. blogger Silas Mottram would readily agree.

And now, to the comic itself...

Sports media has really come a long way in sixty years, hasn't it? Seriously, that looks like nothing more than the information necessary to understand what is going on. Where's the snarky rejoinder, the contrarian undercutting, the random if totally justified Hitler reference? Truly, it was a living hell of nothing more than bare bones information.

Interesting that Filchock's villains would be a bunch of men too evil to need substitutes. Sounds like somebody's advocating one-way players. Pfft. Wuss.

Look, a twelve foot giant - sorry, super-giant - is one thing, but now I know this is utter fantasy. The blue-chip recruit of the century (I can only imagine what ESPN analysts would make of his wingspan) and they're worried about him passing tests and enrolling? Not in my universe, pal.

Who does Mighty Man think he is, leading one team on by playing its fears of a rival snatching him up while all the while plotting his betrayal...Terrelle Pryor?

Sorry, sorry, the homerism alarm has just gone off. Won't happen again. Wasn't even a fair comparison anyway. Well, mostly.

Anyway, Mighty Man presents himself to the coach of the Western College team and the team's Doctor, a man with the unbelievably appropriate name of Doc Bigger. His tryout goes rather well, all things considered...

What I really love about these panels is the Coach's exclamation, "What an end he'll make!" As though that's specifically the position where a super-strong twelve foot man would be effective. I mean, I know the trend these days is towards specialization, but seriously...

Again, this isn't like any kinda college football I've ever heard of. For all the fact that these two are obviously supervillains - I mean, they're in a comic book, and one of them has got a monocle - they seem to have better recruiting scruples than any school in the SEC. Or the Pac-10. Or the Big 10. Or...well, you get the idea.

As the final part of the tryout, for some reason the coach makes the rest of the team try to tackle Mighty Man. Afterwards, our hero has some questions...

Hey, Mighty Man, maybe the quarterback was confused because you tackled him during practice. Forties or not, I'm sure that's a no-no. Of course, it could be because he's a zombie controlled by the team's doctor. On second thought, that's probably it.

Oh, forties sensibilities, you so crazy!!! I'd say more, but I just sorta start to weep inside.

Anyway, a steel vault and some knockout gas later, Doc Bigger and the coach have captured Mighty Man, which of course means it's time for the good doctor to prattle on about his evil scheme...

He certainly is mad, Mighty Man. Anyone who thinks a tall dude like Erick Dampier is naturally more valuable than some little'un like Steve Nash is out of their mind. Or possibly Mark Cuban. That last part may have been redundant.

Sorry to go all circa-2004 on you nice people, but that seemed like the best joke available. Also, it gave me an excuse to unleash the phrase "go all circa-2004 on you nice people", which I predict will be the catchphrase of happening hipsters come 2009.

Anyway, because he's a superhero in a forties comic, Mighty Man easily breaks free and then kills Doc Bigger in the most darkly appropriate manner imaginable...

If Tom Brady ever rebels againt Bill Belicheck, I pray that this is how he does it.

Seriously, Mighty Man? "Some football coaches don't care how they get a winning team"? I dare any of you to name one coach who wouldn't do this. Seriously, give it your best shot.

That's what I thought.

Join us next Wednesday (no, seriously, I'll have it done by Wednesday) for our next Comics & Sports extravaganza!

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