Comics on Ice a sports enthusiast, I thought it would be interesting to look at the Guardian Project, created in 2010 by Stan Lee in partnership with the NHL. The basic idea behind the project was Lee developed 30 new superheroes, one for each of the NHL’s franchises.

There was nothing too fancy behind the design of the superheroes, each was named after the club they signified. For example, the Calgary Flames guardian was … the Flame. Each guardian had their own background and art, with the most of them looking rather impressive for what the artists had to work with. Some of the characters even have their own video bios which shows them in their city. Each character has its own line of online PDF comics available for people to read. There is a range of genres covered depending on which character you choose to look at. A couple examples are: the Flame fighting off spaceships by the Calgary Tower, or The Lightning battling pirates. Apart from the online comics, there are graphic novels for each team on the NHL’s online store.

What seems to be one of the main story lines for the Guardian Project is what they call The Guardian Vault. The storyline shows a villain named Devan Dark (no, not Gary Bettman) capturing the Guardians. Leader of the Guardians, Mike Mason, works to begin freeing the Guardians from Devan Dark. If you login to the vault, you get access to some interactive features involving the Guardians and some other content.

When I first heard of this project when it was announced, I found it silly from both a sports and comic standpoint. I could see no way in which this would satisfy either fan base at all.  Even looking at the comics for a brief moment was enough for me to never want to read them. It is interesting though to see that the project still receives updated content. For younger fans of both hockey and comics, the middle ground must provide some kind of joy for it to still have life. In my opinion though, I find the whole the thing a bit ridiculous and a money grab for both groups involved. While some characters look bad-ass, some are less than appealing. I feel sorry for the young comic book/hockey fan who lives in St. Louis; I don’t think that trusty saxophone will save them.


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5 Responses to Comics on Ice

  1. alexmckay says:

    Aww, that’s an awfully jaded sentiment. Free pdfs online (with further purchasable stories for those who like the concept and branded merchandise for kids that might want a poster of The Flame on their wall) = a moneygrab?

    I don’t see anything wrong with things being silly, or goofy, or for-the-fun-of-it. Not everything has to be a serious work of art. Hell, let’s not pretend a bunch of guys skating around in uniform chasing a piece of rubber (and earning multi-million-dollar paycheques for it) is serious business to begin with. Now that’s a moneygrab.

    “For younger fans of both hockey and comics, the middle ground must provide some kind of joy for it to still have life.” What do you mean by that? I’m sure a 10 year old Flames fan (whether he or she is a ‘comic fan’ or a fan of superhero movies or unacquainted with either) would think The Flame is badass.

    There’s nothing wrong with a silly superhero that might appeal just to kids – sometimes, you have to deal with the fact that you’re just not the intended audience.

    • brianma13 says:

      I’ll have to agree with Alex on this one. The concept of ‘superheroes on ice’ is not new and has been done many times in hockey and other sports related themes. The Mighty Ducks is the most explicit example of this notion. The franchise crossed over into many areas with a few examples being the 90’s cartoon TV series and a number of comics.
      Developing on what Alex said, this middle ground between sports and art can act as an essential instrument that bridges the field of knowledge for individuals like me. For example, before the cartoon hockey superhero shows (e.g. The Mighty Ducks), I was never interested in hockey or anything related to the sport. I am still not an avid fan (Rugby’s my sport) but I do appreciate the energetic game as a result of being introduced to it through an unconventional way. I believe the opposite can also happen. That is a ‘sports lover’ can be introduced and appreciate the illustrated similarities and differences of their favorite sport in a different area.
      Manga is another area where sports have been continuously and successfully portrayed. In fact, the boxing manga “Hajime no ippo” has inspired a few of my friends to pick up the rough and rewarding sport. Therefore, my point is that this supposed “money grab” concept, The Guardians, might become an mechanism for individuals that know nothing about a certain sport (e.g. hockey), to be able to pick it up with ease due to their background knowledge and interest in comics.


  2. Andrew Yu says:

    This is a very interesting post because it makes me wonder whether or not comic book artists can “sell out.” They are usually producing illustrations for many different companies and it makes one wonder if they would refuse work to commercial entities on ground of artistic integrity.

    If this were not the NHL, but instead a different commercial entity like Wal-Mart, or Coca-Cola, would we have much more negative stigmas against artists who would produce a comic book for them? The chart from a previous class discussion about prestige versus money definately comes to mind in this case.

  3. aaronstraathof says:

    When the NHL announced this “Guardian Project” I couldn’t help but laugh at the sheer ridiculous nature of it. I do not understand what made the NHL think of this as a good idea, it lacked direction and had a general feeling of being incredibly corny. I think one of the main problems associated with this attempt into comic books was the lack of direction for “The Guardians.” When the NHL revealed these characters it wasn’t exactly clear if this was entirely for kids at all, it couldn’t have been for regular hockey fans…right? I’m actually shocked to discover that the “Guardian Project” is still going, I suspect that this is likely the result of the NHL having already spent the money to develop 30 superheroes so they might as well be using them.

  4. akspink says:

    Wow, I had no knowledge of this project. I am a huge NHL fan as well and I agree with fellow comments that this seems like a ridiculous idea. I can respect that they’re trying to appeal to a larger audience and maybe bring sports and comic fans together but I would never think this could work. I think a lot of sports fans would laugh at the idea of having a Calgary Flames or Vancouver Canucks themed superhero and might take offence to it. I read the other post that talked about the Guardians and that one mentioned the fact that these Guardians seem to be a bit of a rip-off from already existing superheros (Montreal Canadiens’ looks like Iron Man), which I think is also weird because it’s basically just throwing a hockey jersey on Iron Man. I think it’s probably just another idea to try to rake in cash but I think the NHL has enough fans that they don’t need to try to drag comics down to get a bigger crowd.

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