It's Memorial Day here in the States. The sultry weather makes my mind turn to stupidly awesome comic books, namely DC Comics' Strange Sports Stories, a short-lived 1973 anthology about the unfathomable cosmic dangers inherent in physical activity.
In Strange Sports Stories, Satan loved baseball and the history of the human race depended on knocking a high school basketball team down a peg. Here are 10 marvelously screwball panels from this six-issue Silver Age series.
DISCLAIMER: The title of this article should include the addendum "10 scenes from the most ridiculous sports comic ever published (that are not NFL SuperPro)."
1.) "I, SATAN — AM MY ALL-STAR TEAM!"
In "To Beat The Devil," comic legends Frank Robbins, Curt Swan, and Dick Giordano tell the tale of a baseball team that's abducted by the Devil, who's a huge fan of America's pastime. In a bizarro Field of Dreams, Satan mans his entire team with his various hellish personas.
2.) The salvation of the human race depends on humbling inner-city hoopsters.
"The Challenge of the Faceless Five!" is about a racially diverse gang of "ghetto kids" (the comics' words, not mine) who are unbeatable at basketball. They're so talented, they go on to conquer every other sport and international espionage, like the bastard children of James Bond and Bo Jackson. But the at-risk-youth-turned-super-spies' basketball-learned hubris causes them to fumble an alien invasion, which leads to the enslavement of mankind.
3.) The most depressing family reunion ever?
But who will beat these unbeatable athletes? Why, the team's faceless, time-traveling, future slave sons. By teaching their fathers humility, the faceless B-ballers more or less write themselves out of existence. This is like Back to the Future if Marty McFly had a death wish.
4.) The original Friday the 13th.
The short story "Hockey-Mask of Death!" featured a decapitated lumberjack who comes back from the dead to avenge his own death as a goalie. The story was so stereotypically Canadian I'm surprised it didn't take place in a giant bowl of poutine. Check out more panels over at Puck Junk.
5.) Merlin rigs an Ivy League football game.
In "Gridiron Knightmare!" Merlin time-travels to the present and uses his magic to transform a bunch of lily-livered liberal artists into brawny pigskin warriors. Merlin may think he's circumventing NCAA juicing regulations, but those boys' urine will test positive for wormwood and chimera's blood, trust me.
6.) Merlin teaches King Arthur how to play football.
Shit, Merlin. You've been hanging out with Cheech Wizard again, haven't you?
7.) A dwarf Henry Hudson teaches Rip Van Winkle's ancestor to bowl.
To be fair, the original Rip Van Winkle story featured a game of nine-pins. I'm kind of sad this story — "A Tall Tale of Ten-Pins!" — didn't feature someone falling asleep in a bowling alley for 20 years, but I'm pretty sure that's happened in real life.
8.) The ghost of Henry Hudson doesn't want you to get laid.
Armed with his new ghost-dwarf-explorer-powered bowling skills, Rip Van Winkle's ancestor tries to impress a lady with his sweet ball-handling ability. Henry Hudson intervenes, claiming Rip is too proud. Henry's just jealous that Rip is going to be the first person to get to second base on bowling prowess alone.
9.) A witch with a gambling problem turns a horse into a Tyrannosaurus.
If this were adapted for film, it would be either a Touchstone comedy or the unlicensed Turkish rip-off of Jurassic Park. Either way, the witch's name would still be "Nosegay Nellie."
I have no idea what happens in this story, but I can already tell you it's the greatest narrative known to humankind. You can read more Strange Sport Stories over at Diversions of the Groovy Kind.