7 Marvel + ESPN Team-Ups That’ll Make You Riverdance
Marvel Blog enjoyed the collaboration between Marvel and ESPN and hope to see more themed events in the future (because hey, this reporter actually tuned in for a sports event, and subsequently discovered there’s a history of sports-comics team-ups)! Besides, with Bob Chapek, Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company, recently visiting the ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut, we think it’s the perfect time to discuss some of our favorite ESPN and Marvel projects through the years!
1. IMPACT 25 (2015)
In 2015, Marvel Comics joined forces with ESPNW for the IMPACT25 list, which recognized the people making the biggest mark on women in sports that year. Overall, the list included 24 nominees plus the ESPNW’s Woman of the Year.
Nominated for 2015’s IMPACT25 list were many talented athletes including U.S. Women’s National Team star Carli Lloyd, the youngest No. 1 professional golfer Lydia Ko, American Ballet Theater principal dancer Misty Copeland, WNBA veteran Tamika Catchings, and International Sports Hall of Famer and UFC fighter Ronda Rousey.
Marvel artists used their various creative styles to illustrate each athlete as a Marvel superhero, creating a “super-vision” of heroes. According to Sana Amanat, Marvel Director of Content Development, the publisher was truly able to “capture [the athletes] super human feats in a program that brings together talent from on and off the field.”
2. Marvel Does College Football
Starting in 2014, ESPN and Marvel have collaborated to create college football comic book covers. It’s a relationship that continues on to this day with some incredibly collectible covers featuring your favorite college athletes in poses inspired by your favorite Marvel heroes.
To celebrate the new relationship, in 2014, the comic book publisher released eight special covers – O.K., well, it was after the colleges and their teams engaged in several months of campaigning to participate in the official event for the first ever ESPN-aired College Football Playoff games.
Each year since then, Marvel and ESPN have collaborated to kick-off college football season. But, in 2018, the publisher unveiled four extra-special comic covers featuring one-of-a-kind artwork that turned school mascots into action-ready heroes, all while paying homage to classic Marvel covers!
3. 2021 NFL Draft
Once again – Marvel x NFL Draft ran a similar promotion last year – Marvel and ESPN teamed up in 2021 for the NFL Draft, designing seven custom comic book covers for seven draft prospects, and each cover pays homage to a classic Marvel Comics cover.
For the 2021 NFL Draft, Marvel artists designed comic book covers depicting draft prospects, including Najee Harris, Trevor Lawrence, Azeez Ojulari, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Kwity Paye, DeVonta Smith, and Zach Wilson. Each draft prospect was paired with a like-minded superhero from the Marvel universe.
4. The Body Issue
In 2015, there was a special guest insert by Marvel Comics in ESPN The Magazine‘s annual Body Issue, entitled The Body Issue: Super Heroes Edition that featured She-Hulk, Iron Man, Captain Marvel, Daredevil, Ant-Man, Medusa, Iron Fist, Hulk, and Luke Cage.
The Body Issue was an opportunity for Marvel artists to illustrate and honor the human form through detailed anatomical drawings. In ESPN’s exclusive online gallery, you can get a behind-the-scenes look of how these unique concepts, designs, and masterful illustrations came together to produce the one-of-a-kind insert.
About working on the project, Marvel Comics artist Sara Pichelli said that The Body Issue was an opportunity to celebrate “the maximum expression of human muscles and shapes.”
5. Arena of Heroes
On May 3rd, 2021, Marvel and ESPN launched the first Marvel-inspired alternative presentation, Marvel’s Arena of Heroes, in which NBA players vied to join the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. The telecast integrated original storylines and animation packages into a game between the Golden State Warriors and the New Orleans Pelicans, ending with Warriors player, Draymond Green, becoming the first champion for Marvel’s Arena of Heroes.
Thus, Green etched his name in NBA history by becoming the first champion for Marvel’s Arena of Heroes, beating out Doctor Strange’s choice to defend Earth, fellow Warriors player Stephen Curry, by a single point.
According to NBC Sports, Green finished with 48 Hero Points, the most among any of the players from either team. “To beat Steph at something, that’s incredible,” Green said. “I don’t beat that guy very much.”
6. The Guardian Project
The 2011 Guardian Project was a team of 30 superheroes (Guardians) created by Stan Lee, in conjunction with the National Hockey League. Although Lee’s initial plan was to market the Guardians to both the tween and the existing hockey fan base, the project, which is largely considered a dud, was dropped without much fanfare a year after it launched.
In 2011, Toronto Life reported on the city’s lack of enthusiasm for the collaboration, stating, “Though the quality of the motley assortment of characters varies wildly, there’s no denying that Canadians were pretty unhappy with the Toronto’s Maple Leaf’s design.”
That being said, Marvel and the NHL have a fruitful relationship to this day, recently collaborating for a Marvel Super Hero Night that offered fans a multi-platform experience for a unique presentation incorporating Marvel characters into the “team’s digital entertainment landscape.”
7. Olympic Athletes Transform
In 2020, Marvel asked, “Who needs Terrigen Mist when you’ve got the speed, strength, and endurance of an Olympic athlete?” The answer is you don’t. However, you can look even cooler at gymnastics practice if you do a back flip dressed as Black Widow.
Although the 2020 Olympics were called off due to the pandemic, four Olympic athletes from Team USA received an Avengers-inspired makeover highlighting their real super-human abilities in order to celebrate the release of Marvel’s Avengers, a game from Square Enix.
The four real-life superheroes and athletes included gymnast Simone Biles, track and field sprinter Allyson Felix, swimmer Nathan Adrian, and skateboarder Jagger Eaton.
What’s your favorite Marvel and ESPN crossover event yet? Let Marvel Blog know in the comments section below!