Tennis and comic books commanded much of my attention from 7th through 9th grade. Comics faded in my life but tennis persisted.* I was a Marvel fan collecting Silver Surfer and Thor comics for the most part with a few Dark Horse Godzilla comics thrown in for good measure. Comic books stoked the imagination of many people so I do not see their value as minimal even if I did move on to other reading interests as my life progressed.** To pay tribute to Stan Lee, here are 5 tennis players who work as analogs to some of his most famous creations.
- Novak Djokovic as Spiderman – Funny? Acrobatic? More Powerful than One Might Expect? Preternatural Anticipation? Check, Check, Check, Check – Novak Djokovic fits the bill for the joking web-slinger.
- Bjorn Borg as the Silver Surfer – The Silver Surfer can reshape matter with the power cosmic. I thought maybe a great artist who creates on the court would be a good match for the Surfer, but the Surfer is also emotionally disconnected from the Marvel stable of heroes, super fast, and incredibly durable. Bjorn Borg’s ability to weather long matches and track down balls all while remaining laconic give him an otherworldly quality akin to the Surfer.
- Jimmy Connors as Wolverine – Lleyton Hewitt would also fit here. Logan is undersized, fights with a bloodlust, and often wins in the long run. Connors viewed tennis as a form of combat and would spill his or the opposition’s blood to win.
- Roger Federer as Dr. Strange – Magic, Style, Charm ‘Nuff Said
- Juan Martin del Potro as Thor – Delpo is sometimes called Del Thortro. The southern cone of South America is a long way from Scandinavia let alone the Rainbow Bridge to Asgard, but I am not going to tell that to Thor or JMDP as a hammer or forehand could be coming my way.
Rafael Nadal – Rafa in a lot of ways is the prototype for a superhero. He is ridiculously strong and competes with valor. He just doesn’t fit the Marvel heroes list terribly well. He is too smart to be The Hulk, he is too quick and doesn’t look like The Thing (who does?), he really doesn’t fit as Drax the Destroyer, etc. Mallorca as Krypton? DC it is – The Man of Steel is Rafael Nadal.
*Oddly enough, The Infinity Gauntlet series and its various tie-ins got to be too expensive so I gave up collecting comics as it was either that or give up socializing.
**Bill Maher is wrong about comics in my humble estimation. Stories about great deeds and superhuman powers sound quite a bit like mythology and epic poems. Not every epic poem was remembered like The Odyssey and many myths faded from human memory, but some of those stories persisted due to their value as stories. Humans are storytellers and comics are a mixed medium for expressing that basic human instinct of storytelling. In short, many comics will fade after serving their purpose as monthly installments, but every now and then a story along worthy of our collective attention will emerge.