When espnW began planning the content around its second annual IMPACT25 list, Editor-In-Chief Alison Overholt and deputy editor Jenn Holmes knew they wanted to do something special to honor the women on the list for their extraordinary contributions to the women’s sports landscape.
“We’re both big fans of the comic book culture and superhero film franchises,” said Overholt. “So as we brainstormed our approaches, I remember Jenn saying, ‘Well, we are under the same company umbrella as Marvel. What if we talked to them about teaming up to draw the IMPACT25? How cool would that be? Marvel is the authority in the superhero space. espnW plus Marvel? Our imagination went wild.’”
One phone call and Marvel Editor-In-Chief Axel Alonso connected the espnW team to Sana Amanat, Marvel director of content and character development. Overholt said Amanat understood what espnW was hoping to do.
“[Sana] told us about the Women of Marvel podcast that she participates in, whose focus on elevating all the contributions of women to the comics universe really dovetailed with the spirit of what we thought this project could become.”
“Sana immediately suggested identifying as many female artists as possible to draw for the IMPACT25,” continued Overholt. “And together, we discussed focusing the artists’ efforts on identifying what aspect of each honoree’s talents and skills could become visual touchpoints for each rendering’s super human element — [teen snowboard star] Chloe Kim riding snow monsters in the pipe, [ballerina] Misty Copeland’s toe shoe ribbons wrapping her into a mummy-inspired character as she literally breaks ground en pointe, the power of Sarah Thomas’ glowing flag as she refs an NFL game.”
Added Amanat: “It really came down to what these nominees’ powers actually were and finding ways to amplify them through the lens of the super hero. Each of these women has broken barriers in some form or the other, and we are simply telling that story visually. It was quite easy to do because all of the IMPACT25 are already super human in our book.”
From [tennis star] Serena Williams and her “Super Galactic Slam,” to [Attorney General of the United States] Loretta Lynch, “The FIFA Slayer” each of the honorees had an element of their talents highlighted by Marvel’s artists. As for each honorees’ Marvel-inspired name, Overholt indicates espnW may have a superhero in their own ranks.
“Jenn named the majority of the characters, but members across both teams suggested many of them. We had a working list of character names, and in some instances they helped to focus the artists’ efforts. In other cases, as with [WNBA star] Elena Delle Donne and [NBA assistant coach] Becky Hammon, the artists read what we wrote about the honorees and had their own immediate vision for what the illustration should look like. The lines ‘Full Court Goddess’ and ‘The Mastermind’ were inspired by the finished art once we saw where the artists were going.”
And ESPN baseball analyst Jessica Mendoza [see sidebar], who made history by becoming the first female to call a nationally televised MLB playoff game on Oct. 6, 2015 for the American League Wild Card Game, was dubbed “Major Leap.”