Ahead of ESPN’s best kickoff weekend ever, the network partnered with Marvel to showcase the magnitude of its college football schedule to open the season. Depicting mascots as superheroes, the covers celebrate ESPN’s Week One lineup while reminding fans that the road to College Football Playoff starts now.
ESPN worked with Marvel to remake some classic comic covers in the spirit of six key matchups, “Marvelizing” the mascots of the 12 teams playing. Marvel fans and college Football fans are some of the most rabid out there and making covers that combine that fandom has been incredibly well received.
The covers have been a huge hit on social media and have been featured in content on-air from SportsCenter to ESPNU, where commentator Tom Luginbill showed his Marvel fanboy side in a special feature on the covers. Overall, the project has been a wild success and is hopefully a barometer of how great kickoff weekend will be.
Front Row also spoke with Darren Sanchez, associate manager of editorial publishing at Marvel, about the partnership.
What was the origin of this project? How did it get started?
Marvel was approached by ESPN to do something special for College Football’s big opening weekend. Marvel had done some college football promotional covers and even some really cool art for ESPN the Magazine’s “Body Issue.”
We also recently created some awesome art for ESPN FC around the Euros which all went over really well, so we were excited to do this one.
This was handed to me as the creative lead and editor in Marvel Custom Solutions. ESPN wanted this to be the biggest co-promotion yet so they asked for six covers. I’m a huge college football fan, so I was happy to take this on.
How did Marvel select which classic covers to homage? What was the thought process in selecting them?
ESPN selected the six matchups based on what they thought were the biggest games of the weekend. Internally, we discussed the best way to approach this and I pitched doing them as homage images to classic Marvel covers. The team here at Marvel loved the idea and ESPN got it right away as well.
I wanted to honor some of the legends in comics such as Jack Kirby, so I looked through some options of Marvel’s best one-on-one battle covers and selected the six. For Alabama versus USC I decided to use one of my all-time favorite covers, Jack Kirby’s Thor No. 126. Auburn versus Clemson was an unusual one because it was two tigers, so I went with the famous Todd McFarlane layout of Spidey versus Venom.
In doing this for football fans who may be a non-comic reading audience (generally) what does Marvel look to get from this project?
We really enjoy working with ESPN and doing creative promotions. There is actually a lot of cross-over in football fans and Marvel. These are a lot of the same fans who watch Marvel movies, Marvel Netflix shows, ABC TV shows such as Agents of SHIELD, and many also read our comic books. It’s a great way to combine two entertainment mediums in a way that is appealing to everyone. And for the comic and sports fan, it’s extra exciting because they recognize these iconic covers. Sort of an Easter egg to the comic fans.