Jim Shooter, Editor-in-Chief of Marvel Comics, saw an opportunity. The Uncanny X-Men comic had become the dominant superhero comic book during the 1980s in large part due to its attempt to address social themes. DC had scored a hit in the early 1970s with a similar story arc featuring Green Lantern and Green Arrow.
Shooter postulated that there was a potentially huge market for a superhero universe that was grounded more in reality than either Marvel or DC. He was proven right when that new universe took off like a rocket, becoming the darling of both readers and critics. That happened with Valiant Comics in the early 1990s.
That wasn’t his first attempt, though. In 1986, Shooter was still working at Marvel, not Valiant, and he decided to create Marvel’s New Universe. Word went out that he wanted new series before the idea of “ultra-realistic” was known, and Kickers, Inc. was brought to him.
Technically, it fit the definition of what Shooter wanted. There were no secret races, no gods or demigods walking around, no magic. There were superpowered people, but that was it.
Unfortunately, the series creators had intended for the comic to be tongue-in-cheek, a somewhat humorous take on the old pulp adventures of Doc Savage and The Shadow. To that end, they posited a group of highly skilled football players who drove around in a supercar during the off-season and went on wild adventures. They were to be led by the team quarterback, who’d been scientifically enhanced to be a Captain America-type super-athlete.
The pitch came before the creators knew Shooter wanted realism, and when they offered him the idea he loved it… because he loved the idea of a sports comic. Suddenly the series creators needed to modify almost everything about their comic on the fly. Gone was the supercar, football game scenes were added, and the writers were forced to balance the idea of “wild adventures throughout the world” with “realistic.”
Instead readers were left with “realistic adventures of a handful of football players on the same team who were guided by a secretly superpowered quarterback and ran around fighting evil between games.”
Even the name was a misfire. A comic about football player superheroes named “Kickers, Inc.” would naturally seem to have a lot to do with the team kicker…. but instead it was focused on the quarterback.
The comic struggled along for twelve issues, changing creative teams every second issue or so, before dying. Even when Marvel sought to make use of their trademarked New Universe characters by integrating them into the regular Marvel universe, most of the Kickers, Inc. gang was ignored. Some failures are just too humiliating to recall.
Question of the night: What’s your favorite sport to watch on television?