Super-Athletes: 10 Sports Figures and Their Comic Book Doppelgängers
Last Sunday, the NFL held its annual star studded flag football game they call the Pro Bowl.
This Sunday, millions of football fans will celebrate an unofficial American holiday as they huddle around their warm TV sets to watch the Colts and Saints duke it out in the Super Bowl.
Within the next two weeks, the 2010 Winter Olympics will commence in Vancouver and we will all be proven wrong: white men can jump, they just need skis.
And finally, on Valentine's day, Cupid will deliver not a box of chocolates to NBA fans, but an All-Star game taking place at Jerry Jones' Taj Mahal in Arlington, Texas.
These events will be recorded, debated and undoubtedly men and women in peak physical condition will show us the limits of the human body and then push past those same limits.
All the while, those of us on the couch will stare with our mouths open, in awe, little bits of Dorito cheese powder forming around the edges of our lips.
Mankind loves its sports and consequently the athletes who battle for glory in those sports. We mythologize them and convert these mere mortals in god-kings and heroes.
Maybe even superheroes.
Peyton Manning / Batman
It doesn’t matter what evil you conceive, the Batman will not be denied. Break his back, blow up his mansion, frame him for murder, paralyze Batgirl or kill his sidekick, Batman is an unrelenting force of nature with nary a flaw. Instead, he will find the crack in your armor, peel it open with his teeth and expose any and all weaknesses leaving you naked and crying on the floor.
Peyton Manning is the same kind of adversary. His football IQ, preparation and ability to improvise at the line is second to none.
When an opposing defense talks about stopping Manning, they don’t. They typically hope to slow him down; to survive the maelstrom that is Peyton Manning. Aside from Joe Montana, I have a hard time remembering a quarterback who inspires such reverence and fear simultaneously.
There’s something else though; something more sinister.
Despite his “aw shucks” demeanor, his charming, friendly disposition that allows him to hawk everything from Sony TV’s to Oreo cookies, there’s an underlying ferocity to Peyton Manning that can’t be ignored.
It reminds me of Bruce Wayne, the irresponsible millionaire who has all the parties, the paparazzi photos with the supermodels and the billion dollar smile to flash at all the right people at all the right times. No one suspects for a moment the darkness that hides behind the playboy façade.
Bill Simmons of ESPN wrote on his Page 2 blog today about a reader who brought up Peyton Manning’s new “I SMASH fool’s “face.
I have to agree. I see it too.
There’s something about Manning’s intensity that’s as scary as Batman’s boot stomping a Gotham criminal’s skull.
Andy Murray / Robin
Murray's a scrappy, emotional athlete who’s experienced and survived his share of personal tragedy (Dunblane Massacre) much like every incarnation of the Robin character.
Also like Robin, Murray has learned from the best, resulting in a iron resolve and confidence that he can defeat any opponent regardless of the circumstances.
Murray’s a kid with a ton of potential to one day be one of the greatest tennis players ever to ferry that fuzzy, neon ball over a net but for the moment this Boy Wonder has to resign himself to playing second fiddle to Federer’s Batman-type (but not Batman, that's Manning, remember?) status.
Additionally, I would be remiss if I didn't mention one more thing.
Having watched Andy Murray a few times, I have this weird feeling I can't shake that he's going show up to a match one day wearing a cape and spandex outfit.
What I find more odd is that I foresee Murray not finding anything strange with wearing a (personalized) superhero costume to a tennis court.
Alexander Ovechkin / The Human Torch
Before I begin, someone please comment appreciatively on the overstated juxtaposition between fire and ice I’ve worked very little to establish here.
Now, as for how I reached this comparison, if you’ve seen the subpar Fantastic Four movies or ever picked up an FF comic, you’ll know that Johnny Storm aka The Human Torch is a young, cocky showoff.
He creates imaginative constructs out of thin air with his flame abilities such as nets, fireballs and even the famous FF symbol with the number four inside a circle.
Plus, when he’s all done setting your hair on fire, he’s not exactly shy about letting you know exactly how he feels: awesome.
Alexander Ovechkin should have his own Who song: Hockey Puck Wizard.
It’s absolutely awe inspiring when he pulls off what can only be described as trick shots at full speed. While his spontaneous moments of greatness can’t be denied, his exuberant, some would call excessive, celebrations have been divisive. In short, he’s been accused of being a bad sport.
Not by me though.
I say celebrate and fist pump until your arm falls off Ovechkin.
By the way, how cool would it be if he did give off flames from his skates when he burns past defenders ala the DeLorean when it reaches 88 MPH?
Tony Dungy / Martian Manhunter
If I could, I would start and end my argument for the Martian Manhunter as Tony Dungy’s twin if only for their uncanny resemblance.
But if you’ve taken the time to read this, then I owe you more than that.
Fans of the film “Fight Club” will recognize the following quote that I use as my descriptive summation of Tony Dungy’s demeanor: “…calm as Hindu cows.” This line refers to the fact that cows, being sacred in India, have nothing to worry about unlike their American counterparts who are surrounded on all sides by beef vampires.
Tony Dungy's countenance typically remains so pastoral that even when he smiles, it looks forced. It’s not that he’s insincere in his emotion; I believe he’s just unaccustomed to actually expressing that emotion.
Just as even keeled and stoic in nature is J'onn J'onzz, the Martian Manhunter. He’s often the mediator between quarreling superheroes as he always realigns people’s perspectives in difficult situations with an otherworldly point of view.
Tony Dungy has become the go-to guy for troubled NFL stars. He’s the school guidance counselor without the stuffy incense or drinking problem. Perhaps it's because of his strong faith that Dungy is able to tackle tough, non-football related issues, including the tragic death of his son.
Plus, they really, really look alike.
Floyd Mayweather / Deadpool
Both men get paid well to hurt other people, selling their skills to the highest bidder. They also share another characteristic their enemies find extremely irritating but tickles us, the cheering voyeurs/fans.
Deadpool or "The Merc with a Mouth" never shuts up but still finds time between clever quips to assassinate his targets.
Floyd “Pretty Boy” Mayweather reminds me of a neighborhood dog that never quits barking, even at 3 am when you have to work the next day.
The only difference between him and Princess the Yapping Poodle is that this dog will sink its teeth into your throat and won’t let go.
Moral of the story: Just because a guy’s funny doesn’t mean he can’t rip your spine out through your nostril. Chuckle with caution.
LeBron James / Captain Marvel (Shazam)
When Billy Batner utters the words “Shazam!” he’s transformed into “The World’s Mightiest Mortal.”
He’s granted the wisdom of Solomon; the strength of Hercules; the stamina of Atlas; the power of Zeus; the courage of Achilles; and the speed of Mercury.
Unfortunately, Captain Marvel is still, at heart, a pre-pubescent boy of about ten controlling this uber-powerful superhuman.
Considering this context, LeBron James is the epitome of a man-child.
His body surpasses the wildest dreams of Greek sculptors. He’s fleet of foot, blessed with flight only the gods’ messenger, Hermes, could match with his winged tipped boots. He crashes the boards like a bolt of lightning from the top of Mount Olympus.
Yet, he fretted over a videotape where a no-name college basketball player sort-of-but-not-really dunked on him at an offseason basketball camp no one would have paid attention to had he not thrown a hissy fit.
One could forgive this off the court incident as a one time example of malcontented, bratty behavior if he hadn’t brought it with him to an arena as well.
After Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, when he shot a post-season low of 25 and his Cavaliers were eliminated by the Orlando Magic, “King” James didn’t have the maturity to show good sportsmanship and shake the hands of his betters that night.
He slyly slipped away like the spoiled royalty he believes himself to be to play with his toy crown while whispering consolingly: “Shazam…Shazam…Shazam…”
Usain Bolt / Flash
This almost feels like a cheat, a cop-out, to pair the fastest superhero with the fastest man in the world but it goes beyond the obvious physical comparisons.
If anyone were to pick up a copy of a Flash comic (don’t look at me like that, some people would) within the last few years, you would see that Flash is more than a pretty face in lightning bolt headphones.
He’s cocky wiseacre who’s never shy to crack a joke or put his foot in his mouth. Bolt’s not a shy guy himself and would probably enjoy Flash’s antics.
Also, for the longest time, Flash was seen as a guy who could just run really fast but over time writers have imbued him with more and more powers including being able to create cyclone’s by running really fast in circles.
My point is that I see Usain Bolt as another guy working on escaping that same stigma of being a one trick pony. He’s already considered competing in other Olympic events such as the long jump. I wonder what other superpowers he’ll impress us with?
Need one more piece of evidence Usain is a perfect fit for Flash?
His last name is Bolt. I mean, c'mon. This slide practically wrote itself.
Serena Williams / She-Hulk
She could drop kick you into a wall but you’d be strangely aroused by it. It would be an ass-kicking remembered as fondly as a first kiss.
Oh, and I'm sure She Hulk could also probably muster that as well.
Serena Williams is built like a tank but emits the glamour and sexiness of a Maserati GranTurismo.
She's long been a favorite of mine even before ESPN published it's recent "Body" Issue. Sweet mother-of-pearl is she put together well.
Now if only she were green.
She-Hulk, Bruce Banner's less celebrated cousin, gained her powers through a blood transfusion she received from the good Dr. Banner. She doesn't need to get angry in order to "Hulk out" like the big dummy. Instead she's a perpetually green, super strong demi-goddess, all the while retaining the intelligence that got her through law school.
That doesn't mean She-Hulk doesn't have her fits of rage just like you-know-who illustrated that during her tirade at the U.S. Open.
Speaking of which, had she actually followed through with her threat to shove that effin' ball down that judges effin' throat, I don't doubt she would've succeeded.
Brett Favre / Iron Man
He’s been both America’s sweetheart and a self serving jerk at different points in his career.
He suffered through substance abuse in private for years before coming clean to friends, family and the public.
Some days, money and glory seem to be his only objectives. Then he’ll follow that up by doing something unexpected that falls into the category of “the right thing to do.”
His legacy is debatable.
Some say it’s tarnished because of several indiscretions that have alienated once strong supporters and angered those who trusted him.
Others contend that despite his missteps, he’s contributed entirely too much to his teammates and to this country.
Not sure if I’m talking about Brett Favre or Tony Stark aka Iron Man?
Neither am I.
Tiger Woods / Bizarro
For the uninitiated, Bizarro is a clone of Superman that came out all twisted, mutated and backwards.
This for me is the current incarnation of Tiger Woods, once the most popular athlete on the planet.
It was like he came from another planet, made golf watchable and was absolutely perfect.
But, as it turns out, he’s the complete opposite of what the public imagined him to be. We always brushed off the incessant cursing on the golf course because after all, anyone who’s ever played golf can attest to suffering through an acute case of gutter mouth every so often.
So when his recent personal blunders were no longer private, we saw this alien who we’d always counted as one of our own but no longer recognized.
He was a clone of the Tiger we celebrated; a clone that was all wrong in every way.