This could have been interesting. The NHL partnered this season with iconic comic book writer Stan Lee (of Spider-Man, X-Men, Fantastic Four, and Iron Man fame, among others) to create a superhero mascot for every NHL team. Here’s what Lee said when the project was originally announced:
“This is really a fresh, new, original approach to superheroes, based on the local NHL team. When you think about it, the names of these teams, they sound like super characters. They’re inspiring.
“In doing the National Hockey League Guardians, I just wanted characters that people would enjoy reading about. And when I say people, I mean youngsters, I mean grown-ups, I mean college kids, I mean females — just good story, which is imaginative, which is high-concept, which is fast-moving, which is colorful.”
Gimmicky? Sure, but with someone of Lee’s caliber behind the project, it was still worth keeping an eye on. Then, the designs started coming out.
Lee’s line about “the names of the teams” was an unpleasant omen – each mascot isn’t just based on a team, it has the same name as the team. Perhaps this was necessary for branding purposes, but creatively, it didn’t do the project any favors. What’s worse, the design of each mascot is just as literally based on the team name (today’s unveiling of “the Maple Leaf” as “a giant walking and talking maple tree” earned some immediate, and justified, derision).
And really, that’s been the defining aspect of this whole project – derision. It happened in the Deadspin post we linked above (and also here). It happened (oh man, did it ever happen) here. And it happened (a little less forcefully) from our resident comics aficionado, Geekosystem associate editor Susana Polo, when we asked her for her input:
I think the problem here is in its execution. Comics are all about the balance between words and pictures, but who ever wrote the copy on these is terrible. In most cases I’d rather just see a picture that showed the characters using their powers, not a pose and a remarkably campy description. Or, keep the current pictures, and instead of a paragraph description, structure it like a trading card:
And resist the urge to put The in front of each name. “Blackhawk” sounds way better than “The Blackhawk.” (Of course, The Blackhawks are already a multination team of WWII fighter pilots from Golden Age comics and are currently owned by DC, so that might cause problems.) But yeah. Cheesy text is cheesy.
Yes, that about covers it. Lee also said when the project was first announced that he had “a feeling that ‘The Guardians’ are going to be the next big thing in entertainment,” but having now seen 2/3 of the total designs, we can’t say we share his optimism.
But hey, don’t let all this make up your mind for you – check out the designs released thus far below, and let us know your final judgment.