Friday, October 08, 2010

Superheroes Coming to the NHL

This has got to be one of the strangest mashups ever: Superheroes and the real-world NHL. And who's one of the main characters behind this cultural collision? None other than Stan Lee.

CBC is reporting the creator of Spiderman, the Hulk, and the X-Men (through his SLG Entertainment company) has teamed up with the National Hockey League to create Guardian Media Entertainment, which will work with VICON House of Movies, an animation and motion-capture firm. Under the deal, Lee will create a superhero to represent each of the NHL's 30 teams.

The new squad of costumed vigilantes will appear in games available on a website set to go live tomorrow (Friday), coinciding with an announcement Lee and the NHL will be making at the New York Comic Con. These superheroes will be making appearances in broadcasts and animated sequences (presumably during the games) over the course of this hockey season. The report says a comic could also be published around February. Videogames and merchandise may be coming down the pipe at some point as well.

The aim is to attract 9 to 14-year-old boys to hockey.

Does anyone else have a bad feeling about this?

Reading the story gave me something of a queasy flashback to '79 when as I kid I sat dumbstruck in front of the TV when The Super Globetrotters animated series came on one Saturday morning. That was a weird sports/comic mashup, and that's even considering the Globetrotters were more of an entertainment act than a legitimate sports team in the first place.

What I want to know is how will these new superheroes reflect their actual home teams? Will an individual character have the same name, more or less, as his team? For example, would the Vancouver Canucks superhero be called the Canuck, or Canuckman or something like that?He certainly couldn't be called Captain Canuck because that's the name of an actual trademarked superhero. Same goes for the Nashville Predators - Predator has been a property of Darkhorse Publishing for a long time (although it would be really cool if they could use the name and actually have their superhero be a Predator - except, rather than battling evil or whatever, he'd probably just mercilessly hunt down the other superheroes and take bits and pieces of them as trophies).

What about his/her (I'm assuming it'll be "his" in most, if not all cases, because the marketing goal is to attract male fans) powers? Will their powers have something to do with the name of the team, or the region/city the team is located in, or it's logo (thereby making the superhero an alternate mascot)? Would the Oiler have the ability to extract non-renewable polluting resources from the ground? Would the Flame shoot fire, or just be flaming (sorry, Calgary, I just couldn't resist)? How about the Canuck? With an orca for a logo, would he swim around and eat salmon; or would he go for the Vancouver angle and have the power to knock-off work early, go skiing or golfing, and find someone pretty much anywhere who'd let him take a toke or two of BC bud?

Or will each individual's powers in some way reflect the particular skill or tendency his real-life team is known for? Would that mean that the Maple Leaf would have the power to suck?

What about weaknesses? Would the Canuck start off strong in a fight, but then become kind of indifferent and inconsistent and ultimately get knocked out of the battle? Would the Shark be powerless against Chinese chefs out to make sharkfin soup? Would Capital be neutralized if a badguy could turn him into a lower case?

Presumably all of these superheroes know how to fight really well, since, as the late, great George Carlin noted, hockey is really 3 activities: skating, playing with a puck, and beating the shit out of somebody.

Would there be rivalries among these superheroes, just as there are among the actual teams? Really, would missions be jeopardized because Toronto Maple Leaf and the Montreal Canadien constantly rehash their ancient feud and slug it out with each other rather than the badguys?

What about arch-enemies? Just who will these guys be fighting? What will the forces of evil look like? Will Lee have to create generic non-hockey-related crooks like bankrobbers for them to fight? Even better, what if he were to create supervillains that actually reflected the evils of the game? What about the deadly powers of Low Audience Attendance Man? How about Unsustainably High Player Contract Man? Or the truly horrific Franchise Relocator, who forces lesser, financially unstable superheroes to move to new cities, possibly even regions that aren't known for hockey at all and don't have a significant fan base?

What about supporting characters based on legends from the larger NHL community, like Don Cherry (host of Coach's Corner, one of Canada's favourite hockey curmudgeons, and quite possibly the worst-dressed individual on television aside from the cast of The Big Bang Theory)? Cherry would be awesome as a character... I just can't decide whether he would be a sideline goodguy, like a grumpy kind of Charlie's Angels Bosley who sends them on their missions, a badguy who berates them for their ineptitude until they burst into tears, or someone neutral - like a version of The Watcher who complains a lot. Would Gretzky make occasional appearances in the comic as some kind of supreme being in the manner of the Celestials or Galactus or one of the gods?

What about teams that used to exist but have since moved due to financial insolvency (victims of the afore-mentioned arch-villain Franchise Relocator)? Would the superheroes have to face the ghost army of the Winnipeg Jets, the Quebec Nordiques, the Hartford Whalers, etc? Or would we see the team/superhero they've become have occasional flashbacks to his old identity? That might actually be kinda cool. Wait a minute... I can't allow myself to get caught up in this and actually approve of this mad marketing scheme.

For all the money that the NHL has to throw at this thing, and all the creativity and connections Lee has, I just can't see this insane hybrid actually having much life (much less credibility) in it.

But it does give me an idea...

Stay tuned, comic/hockey fans.

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