Superhero movies and football — two things you can’t avoid as we head into July, with new guy-in-tights flicks opening every week and Eagles training camp just around the corner. I haven’t seen Man of Steel, nor have I been hanging at the NovaCare complex. But I did stumble across something that bridges the gap between sports and supes, and reminded me just how much I despise the Dallas Cowboys.
A couple of years back, the Cowboys paired up with Marvel for a rather odd line of T-shirts. The “Opposition” tee shows Iron Man in a vaguely Heisman-esque pose, laying waste to chunks of turf. The “Unstoppable” shirt adds Captain America, Spider-Man, The Hulk and Thor, creating a lineup much more intimidating than the actual Dallas roster. Then there’s the predictable “America’s Team” design, in which the heroes are springing to action beneath a red, white and blue “Cowboys” logo. Be warned — it will trigger your gag reflex on sight.
I’m not surprised that owner Jerry Jones would support this abominable team-up; the man would rent space on his ass if someone would sponsor it. But Marvel’s pimping of its time-honored characters makes the comic geek inside me die a little bit. Sure, movie tie-ins are everywhere these days, from fast-food joints to cell phones to an ad for Gillette razors asking the question we’ve all pondered: “How does the Man of Steel shave?” Those are fairly safe partnerships from a public relations angle; if you’re a Burger King guy and Batman is pitching McDonald’s, you probably won’t hold it against him (or stop eating Whoppers).
But when I see the Avengers on a Cowboys shirt — with their uniforms altered to a very Dallas blue and grey color scheme — it’s clear Marvel is selling out. (I’m also wondering who the target audience is for these shirts, most of which are for adults, not kids. I don’t imagine many good-ol’ boys from Texas want to mix football with dudes in Spandex.)
What’s worse, for me as an Eagles fan, is that the one Marvel/NFL tie-in that makes sense for adults who are not virgins is right here in Philadelphia. Future Hall of Famer Brian Dawkins was known for his love of Wolverine, the X-Men member with unbreakable bones and a berserker rage. He kept Wolverine figures in his locker and named his on-field alter ego after the character’s code name, “Weapon X.” Marvel honored Dawkins with a Wolverine-inspired poster after he retired. But they could have made a mint with Weapon X shirts; in fact, one local company has made a very cool Dawkins tee that isn’t anywhere near as corny as the Cowboys line. Forget Hugh Jackman — if B-Dawk says a Canadian with retractable claws is cool, it’s gospel.
Hopefully, Marvel will see the error of its ways and stop tarnishing its characters with the stink of the Cowboys. Or it could at least start using heroes that more accurately reflect the team. Perhaps Ant Man, whose power is shrinking, much like Dallas does come playoff time.