With the Super Bowl upon us, you may be wondering what the oddest intersection of football and comic books has been. I believe we have a winner!
For six issues in 1973 and 1974, DC Comics had a series called Strange Sports Stories. It was an anthology series combining horror and science fiction with different sports, and often with surprise endings. It was actually DC’s second shot at the concept. A decade earlier they did the same thing for five issues in The Brave and the Bold from issue #45 (December 1963) through issue #49 (August 1964).
The 70s stories featured everything from Satan playing baseball, to a dwarf teaching Rip Van Winkle’s ancestor to bowl, to a faceless basketball team, to a game of tennis with a grenade, to a horse turning into a Tyrannosaurus Rex in the middle of a race. Wait…what?!? I did mention they were strange, right?
Anyway, in Strange Sports Stories #3 (February 1974) there is a story entitled Gridiron Knightmare written by Frank Robbins with art by Curt Swan and Dick Giordano. The concept is that King Arthur (yep, THAT King Arthur) is getting bored with the usual contests that his knights do for his amusement. You know, yawn-worthy things like jousting, and sword battles to the death. So the master magician Merlin, needing to discover a new game, decides to use his crystal ball to find one in the future.
Merlin is drawn to a college football game between the lowly Coldstream University Knights and the defending conference champion Midwest Maulers. With names like that, it seems pretty obvious that no one at DC at the time was much of a football fan!
Merlin, in his astral form, sees that the Knights are getting mauled (couldn’t resist) by the opposing team, so he decides to give them some helpful suits of armor! No one in the stadium, including the Knights themselves, can see the armor, with one exception. The Maulers see the armor, and cannot believe they have to play against real knights. They even complain to their coach, but he doesn’t believe them.
The armor helps the Knights power through the Maulers. I am not sure how wearing over 100 pounds of steel helps you win a football game, but roll with it. Even when Merlin has seen enough and returns to Camelot and dismisses the “armor” spell, the Knights’ confidence has increased so much, that they continue to win.
By Rob Otto