How Bill Schanes Blagged a Trip to Super Bowl 25 From Marvel Comics

NFL SuperPro was a comic book series published by Marvel Comics, in 1991 that ran for thirteen issues (including the debut 'Special') by Fabian Nicieza and Jose Delbo. Focused on centered on Phil Grayfield, an ex NFL  player who survives a freak accident and wears a near-indestructible football uniform, it was produced in collaboration with the NFL. And was awful. It is most notable for its sivth issue being withdrawn and pulped after representatives of the Hopi tribe found this comic's portrayal of villians, masquerading as Kachinas, offensive. A lawsuit was initiated and the Hopi shut down the majority of their tourist operations in protest, making national news headlines.

How Bill Schanes Blagged a Trip to Super Bowl 25 From Marvel Comics

That wasn't the headline splash Marvel or the NFL wanted however, as they launched the series with a special promotion for comic book distributors (in a time before there was just Diamond).

Former VP of Diamond Comic Distributors, Bill Schanes, has been discussing past glories in comic book distribution while he winds away his retirement travelling through Europe. Which included this example of him blagging Marvel Comics out of an all expense paid trip to Super Bowl 25, in Tampa, Florida. He writes,

Marvel Comics had entered into a licensing agreement with the National Football League (NFL), which included Marvel publishing a limited series comic books called NFL Super Pro (1991-1992).

Marvel was trying to get all of its distributors to really promote, market and sell in large quantities of the special edition #1 NFL Super Pro, as well as the related trading card set, so as an inducement to distributors, Marvel created a special contest, with the winning distributor getting 2 all expense paid trips to Super Bowl 25, in Tampa, Florida, including many pre Super Bowl parties, concerts and events.

I had never been to a Super Bowl, and I wanted to figure out a way to win, even thought I knew that if I was able to win on behalf of Diamond, Steve Geppi, the owner of Diamond, would rightfully want to go on behalf of his company.

Without going into a lot of the drill down details, I was able to get the winning answer from someone inside of Marvel, and when it came time for Marvel to announce the winning distributor, I already knew we had won, which we did.

That's, I mean… I guess any statue of limitations is long gone now. If that would even have been an issue. But still… Bill, I'm shocked.

Terry Stewart was the President of Marvel Comics at that time, and had sent a note over to a Steve Geppi letting him know about Diamond winning the contest, which included 2 Super Bowl all expense paid trips, along with other benefits.

For some reason I was never really aware of, Steve told me he didn't want to go to the Super Bowl, and gave the 2 tickets to me. Since John O'Loughlin was Diamonds trading card buyer/brand manager, I felt it was only fair that I took John with me.

John and I were given a goodie box in advance of the trip to Tampa, which included not only the Super Bowl tickets, plus pre event tickets as well. We attended parties and concerts reserved for major sponsors of the NFL. At each of these events there were rock bands playing, comedians doing what they do, and special video presentations.

After one of the parties, I was in the elevator with several Coca Cola senior executives, who were discussing how great their sponsored Super Bowl party had come off, and they seemed pleased the event came in at under $3 million for the 4-hour event (open buffet of lobster, crab and shrink, and an open bar, for 5,000 of their invited guests or at a cost per attendee of $600). I had never seen that many lobsters in one place, same goes for the crabs or shrimp.

At the last minute, Steve told me he changed his mind, and did want to attend the Super Bowl, and was able to get a an additional ticket and hotel accommodations.

On the way into the Tampa stadium, we were offered over $1,000 cash for each of our game tickets, which we declined. We had great seats, including sitting right next to Terry Stewart, but Terry wasn't happy we were there, as he was expecting to be at the game with Steve.

I still have the hologram Super Bowl ticket stub.

In the comments, the other parties gave their recollections:

Tom Stormonth Actually I was supposed to go but because John was just hired for the card position that I had been handling under you, John reported to me and I felt it was better that John go because he should develope relationships with the card manufacturers who would be there as I would no longer be dealing with them. You were floored that I would do this and I remember you being very upset that when you and John got back that John never even offered to give me a single one of the many freebies that he got on that trip. It was a big sacrifice for me but worth it for Diamond.

William Schanes I believe you are correct

Cue a contrite John O'Loughlin.

John O'Loughlin dont I feel like a jerk

Tom Stormonth John O'Loughlin I never asked for anything… no problem John. I was just reminding Bill about what actually happened.

John O'Loughlin My apologies to you both for being so stupid and thoughtless.

Tom Stormonth seriously it is not worth the thought. Every road warrior who went to shows got goodies that meant something to them that they kept. Small payment for all the time spent away from home. I am not upset about it so you shouldn't be. Breath easy buddy.

John O'Loughlin you are a gentleman for saying that, but I am a little crushed that You and Bill felt that way and I never realized it. Young and stupid.

Tom Stormonth I never felt that way.. I am just relaying what Bill said and only mentioned that as a reminder of the trip for him. Its cool John. Yes you were young and that was the Superbowl of road trips… to make a bad pun. It was not really a big issue. I never meant for you to feel bad.. that was probably the road trip of a lifetime for you. Mine was attending the first Star Wars Summit at George Lucas's Skywalker Ranch. I got lots of cool goodies at that one!

William Schanes The trip to the Skywalker Ranch was pretty special

Tom Stormonth it was absolutely a fan boy's dream come true. That Star Wars Cantina cocktail party was unbelievable.

And don't forget the guy who actually write the comic.

Fabian Nicieza I BAILED MARVEL OUT, DID MY FRIENDS AND BOSSES A FAVOR, WROTE THE GODDAMNED PIECE OF CRAP AND I DIDN'T GET TO GO TO THE SUPER BOWL! Not that I'm still upset about that… so thanks for your post…

And on that note, we draw a veil…

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About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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