The 12th season of Israel Idonije’s N.F.L. career finds him in New York, and this protagonist is worn down, fighting his body’s aches and scrambling to catch on at the end of the roster for the Giants, his third team in three years.
Call it a prelude to a superhero resurgence story, except this is the real world. There is no bolt of lightning destined to endow Idonije with cosmic powers, and the archvillain is time working against him and his aging physique.
This saga at the very least, though, provides Idonije, a defensive lineman, with the tales from the field that he has used as the creator of a comic book series, The Protectors.
The series melds sports with graphic novels and gives Idonije an outlet that no other professional athlete has. And it is already making waves in the industry.
Working with the acclaimed writer Ron Marz and the artist Bart Sears, Athlitacomics, the publishing house Idonije founded, has produced two volumes of his series, with at least three more due out soon.
They are preparing for a grand launch next spring on multiple platforms that could lift Idonije into a rarefied echelon of comic producers.
While at training camp with the Chicago Bears in 2007, Idonije, 33, began sketching the concept: Professional athletes discover they have inherent superpowers and are entrusted with menial tasks like saving the human race — at least while they are not scoring touchdowns.
“The goal was just to have a comic book that I created, that I could hold in my hand and flip through the pages,” Idonije said, standing outside the Giants’ practice complex last week.
But that vision has evolved to include a formidable creative team and a licensing agreement with the N.F.L. Players Association, which allows the team to transform recognizable faces into fantastical creations for a new series, Sports Heroes. Among those due to be illustrated: Giants quarterback Eli Manning.
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