Publishing Synergy that Works: Marvel/ESPN’s Amazing NBA Mashup

In Ed's Perspective by Edward Nawotka

By Ed Nawotka

This is synergy we can get behind. Last year, Disney, the parent company of ESPN, bought Marvel. For it’s NBA preview issue, ESPN Magazine enlisted the help of Marvel’s editors to put create 30 original piece of work riffing on classic Marvel characters and themes. It makes sense: if you’re ever stood next to an actual NBA player, you’ll realize just how “superhuman” they appear to be in real life.

Anyone even vaguely familiar with the Marvel-verse will immediately recognize the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant as Iron Man, the Orlando Magic’s Dwight Howard as Wolverine. What’s fascinating is how the Marvel artists and ESPN writers managed to convey a sense of what might lie ahead for each team during the upcoming season. This works especially well when you get further down the power rankings. The Detroit Pistons, to take one team I support, are depicted as a team of Dr. Doom’s robots (prediction for the team: not good), while the Toronto Raptors — a team with no discernable star — are drawn as “Alpha Flight” — Marvel’s team of Canadian superheroes — which are virtual unknowns outside of Canada.

My only quibble: why are the Houston Rockets (my hometown team — I’m a big fan) are portrayed solely by the character of Yao Ming, who sat our last year after having reconstructive foot surgery, in a giant float tank emerging  if from stasis… The panel is labeled “Weapon-Y.” (Weapon-y…? I think not, the Rockets are going be tougher than that…)

Check out the film clip above, which explains a bit of how the videos were made. It’s also quite nicely produced with animated individual panels featuring interview with various editors. It’s just the sort of filmed animation that would be great to see in enhanced e-book versions of graphic novels.

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.