For a while back in the late ‘90s, when the Cleveland Browns left town and I was living out of state, a wave of nostalgia around the franchise washed over me. I remembered those Sunday afternoons with my parents and trips to the Pro Football Hall of Fame with my dad and getting up ridiculously early for an end-of-summer Saturday to attend the Hall of Fame Parade every August. Those memories combined with the newness of eBay sparked in me some strange desire to collect vintage Browns programs. I don’t think I ever bought more than a handful, and have since passed them on through garage sales and, in the cyclic nature of the online auction, back through eBay.
I did keep one of those programs, though. It’s not a particularly old one by comparison to some of the other ones I had acquired and then unloaded. The issue I held on to, dated October 11, 1970, is for a game between the Cleveland Browns and the Cincinnati Bengals that took place nine days after I was born. The cover depicts well-known denizens of the Marvel Universe rushing forward. I wasn’t back into comics when I decided to unload the programs I’d accumulated, but clearly the nostalgia of a John Buscema cover held sway over me, tapping into some dormant love of the Marvel characters of my youth, that prompted me to hang on to this program.
A look inside the cover and, amid awesome ads for Kent Menthol cigarettes, Bobbie Brooks, Stroh’s “Stay Cold” Pack, and Zenith Chromacolor televisions (“Now the biggest breakthrough in Color TV comes in small, medium, and large” 19-inch, 23-inch, and 25-inch sizes!), it seems the NFL and Marvel teamed up to highlight the linebacker position across the league in a feature called “Beware the Linebacker!” Stan “The Man” Lee sets the stage with this hyperbolic passage...
And with that we are treated to five pages of Buscema goodness! And what I love about them most is that it looks like they paired the featured linebackers with their corresponding Marvel counterpart based purely on the similarity of the poses. Which really makes me wonder... Was Ray Nitschke matched up with the Silver Surfer simply because of his bald dome?!
Fasten your safety belt, frantic one, ‘cause here they come! They’re the superheroes’ superheroes – strong, smart, savage, and swift.
You know their names. Nobis, Butkus, Webster and Bell. Curtis, Robinson, Howley, Nitschke and Warwick. Call ‘em the linebackers... pro football’s dazzling defenders, magnificent marauders who battle against incredible odds every game of the season.
Now know them as we know them through the world of fantasy. Let’s watch these real life super stars with their superhero counterparts from the pandemonious, power-packed pages of marvelous Marvel comics.