Saturday, June 20, 2009

Enter the King?

Slightly off-topic today; not strictly uniform-related, but I'm always interested in the intersection of sports and design. Sometimes, as we'll see, those worlds don't intersect so much as collide.

In the early 1970s, Jack "the King" Kirby, the legendary comic-book artist who co-created Captain America, the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, the X-Men, the Avengers (oh, heck, pretty much every character of note at Marvel Comics), and DC's "Fourth World" saga, contributed illustrations to PRO!, the NFL's official program/magazine.

There obviously must have been some sort of tie-in with Marvel. Not the last time those two companies would get in bed together, although you may be forgiven if you have mercilessly purged any other example from your memory.

Among Kirby's contributions to PRO! was a series of comic-book characters done up in the colors of NFL teams, several of which were auctioned off this past February. The teams' influence on the characters seems to have been limited to the colors, as seen in his take on the Packers:

Not sure what to make of the whole "Aquaman" vibe. Guess Kirby took the first two words of the name literally.

It could have been worse, I guess - Forrest Gregg could have let him re-design the uniforms.

I'd love to know more about the genesis of Kirby's re-design project, maybe some context for the image - anybody have an old copy of PRO! lying around?


revnorb said...

While the wacky Packer character is obviously Kirby's work, the PRO! illustrations are actually drawn by John Buscema ((this was right around the time that Kirby left Marvel for DC)), not Jack Kirby.

The cover feature in this issue likens a number of NFL linebackers to Marvel characters; Dave Robinson gets compared to the Black Panther, and, weirder still, Ray Nitschke is pegged as the Silver Surfer, presumably having more to do with Ray's bald dome than the Surfer's pacifistic disposition.

revnorb said...

I should add that i do indeed have a copy of this issue of PRO! ((strangely, i was just thumbing thru it yesterday)), and i don't believe the Kirby designs are included. I have no idea what those are all about!

revnorb said...

I've attempted to track down some raison d'etre for these pieces...i've found nothing substantive, but i did find out that the 1949 Packers roster included a halfback from USC named -- you guessed it -- Jack Kirby. You've got to love any team that can say it had both Jack Kirby and Bob Dillon on its roster.