Comics and sports have a long history of interaction. Whether it's Stan Lee's "Guardian Project" for the NHL or Indiana Pacers small forward Danny Granger building his own Batcave, there crossover between sports and comics is more present than meets the eye -- a fact especially true for Philadelphia Eagles player Brian Dawkins, who hangs up his number 20 jersey this weekend after 16 seasons of NFL play. While Dawkins became known during his career as one of the premier safeties in the NFL, comic fans will no doubt recognize his Football nickname and alter-ego: "Weapon X" and "Wolverine." Dawkins has had a long-standing interest in Marvel Comics' popular X-Man, filling his Eagles locker with memorabilia and collectables featuring Wolverine. For retirement game against the New York Giants this weekend, Marvel Custom Solutions crafted a poster of Dawkins by artist Jorge Molina to be handed out at the game in honor of Dawkins' retirement.
Eagles President Don Smolenski said the idea to bring in Marvel Custom Solutions to help commemorate Dawkins' retirement occurred to several people in the Eagles organization at the same time.
"Dawk loved Wolverine – his locker was full of action figures," Smolenski told CBR News. "He’s a very quiet, calm man off the field -- but one who would get incredibly fired up before games; he called it 'turning into Weapon X.' … We’re going to have 70,000 people at our game celebrating Brian’s career. This is such a great way to let them share in the celebration."
Beyond just having an interest in Wolverine, Dawkins shares a number of similarities with the Canucklehead. "Like Wolverine, Brian Dawkins wasn’t the largest warrior on the battlefield, but he was famously resilient, never backed down from a challenge, was loyal to his team and was feared as one of the league’s hardest hitters," said Marvel's Bill Rosemann, who served as project editor for the poster. "During his legendary 13 years in Philadelphia, he started in 182 of 183 games, racking up 898 tackles, 34 interceptions, 21 sacks, was a nine-time Pro-Bowl selection, a six-time All-Pro and a member of the Eagles 75th Anniversary Team and the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team. He truly was the best there is at what he did."
"[He's a] Fearless player," added Smolenski. "Ferocious hitter on defense. He set the standard for his teammates. And no opponent ever took him for granted, because he could make plays that beat you."
However, Dawkins' interest in Wolverine didn't stop with his locker. While teammates and coaches alike described him as "mild mannered," he was anything but on the football field. On the field, he would make tackles with arms spread wide, recreating Wolverine's attack pose right before striking with his adamantium claws.
"Video of a fired-up Dawk is terrific," said Smolenski, "and the ideas came from everywhere. Like when he would start yelling, 'It’s time for snot bubbles and googly eyes!'"
To help celebrate Dawkins' career and love for Wolverine, Marvel Custom Solutions enlisted "X-Men" artist Jorge Molina, who depicted Dawkins crouched to attack on the Eagles' Lincoln Financial Field with Wolverine's signature claws.
"We were honored by Marvel’s choice to bring Jorge in," Smolenski said. "He’s an amazing artist."
"Jorge delivers a compelling mix of eye-catching design, realistic detailing and heroic emotion," Rosemann said. "And since he recently wowed us with a series of 'X-Men' covers, who better to transform Brian Dawkins into his feral counterpart?"
While the commemorative poster by Molina certainly represents a milestone for Dawkins with a great way to honor his contribution to the NFL, it isn't the first time the player has been depicted as Wolverine by a well-known comic book artist. In 2007, Joe Quesada and John Romita Jr. hosted a segment for ESPN's Monday Night Countdown, where Romita Jr. sketched Dawkins as Wolverine.
Although Weapon X retires from the NFL this weekend, there's no doubt the connection between sports and comics will continue.
"[Both have] heroes, struggles, wins and losses," said Smolenski. "To borrow another great Marvel phrase, when the game starts, it’s clobbering time."
Watch Brian "Weapon X" Dawkins and the Philadelphia Eagles take on the New York Giants this Sunday.