The Webcomic Overlook #229: Hoop Fighter
A couple weeks ago a buddy and I were watching Game 6 of the Miami Heat/Indiana Pacers game. Guys like Chris Bosh and LeBron James were flopping to the ground to get the referees to call the fouls, our discussions turned to our favorite teams. My buddy was a big fan of the Heat. (He was pretty much the only one in the bar rooting for them. Everyone else was pulling for the Pacers to upset.) Me, though, I had to vouch for the team nearest and dearest to my heart: the Detroit Pistons.
And when you’re talking about the Pistons, inevitably the discussion turns to the legendarily thuggish team of the late 80’s-early 90’s called The Bad Boys. Dennis Rodman. Isiah Thomas. Bill Laimbeer. Vinnie “The Microwave” Johnson. Joe Dumars. “Man, I miss those days,” I said, pointing to the players as they gingerly hit the ground after every foul. “Back then, not only would they have taken the elbow to the stomach, they would’ve come back at you and returned the pain tenfold.”
(Ah, the glory of being a Pistons fan. Even when they’ve won the championship as recently as 2004, you never forget your first love that is The Bad Boys.)
Am I naive to dream of earlier, more brutal time? Maybe. But maybe it’s also… the future! At least, that’s how it looks in Scott Sava and Alex Kolesar’s basketball themed webcomic, Hoop Fighter.
The names of both creators should sound awfully familiar. Scott Sava is the creator behind the long running fantasy webcomic The Dreamland Chronicles. Alex Kolesar’s name may be less so, but he’s the artist behind No Need For Bushido. Together, the two imagine a future where basketball and MMA are not separate sports, but are, in fact, one in the same.
It is the future of 2212. The world has mostly a utopia, after a… well, I’m not quite sure, but there are domed cities in the middle of some deserts. But, not to worry. The average citizen has cell phones, moving sidewalk, and —most importantly — they’re being entertained by the greatest sport ever devised by Man: Kombasketball. Its players are gladiators of the court, bringing hope to a hopeless audience. And at its heart is a large player from the Blades with an incredible dunk (and probably horrible free throw shots) named Kal “The Prodigy” Jones.
By the way, if Kal looks familiar to any of you… yeah, it’s Shaquille O’Neal. In the first page, Sava mentions that they were working closely with Shaq to produce this webcomic. I have no reason to doubt him. I mean, it’s not like Shaq hasn’t been involved in some really bizarre projects in the past. Shaq-Fu, anyone?
Ah, but there’s a bitter dark secret at the heart of kombatball: it turns out that the games are all fixed for the benefit of the team owners! Oh, my God, that means The Sports Guy was right!
Shaq Kal, though, has too much respect for the game. He’s benched after he defies his coaches orders when asked to throw Game 6 so the owners can get a lucrative Game 7. In his place is his teammate Rhino, who the coach confidently assumes will job to the rival Vipers.
But no, it turns out
O’Neal Jones lit a spark in his team, and he’s going to try to win the game. It comes at a great cost. Trying to win the game, Rhino is powerslammed into the floor and paralyzed as retaliation for trying to win a game against orders. At this point, something in my brain turned on. I think it was my spirit guide, Sylvester Stallone. And he told me something simple yet quite profound: “Yo, this is, like, the plot of every 80’s action movie.”
You said it, Sly.
This atrocity is finally too much for
Shaq Diesel The Prodigy. His friend is injured, his faith is shaken, and most importantly they disrespected the game! It’s more than he can take. He flips the hell out. He tosses his coach through the window and tries to go to the press with stories of how the game is rigged. All of it’s to no avail. It gets worse — it turns out the refs are in on it too, like it was the Super Bowl or something! It looks hopeless!
But the Blades are not a team filled with give-up-itude. No, they’ve got no-quit-itude! And Raditude! They rally around their leader and bring down the hammer! Refs giving you call after call that’s not going your way? Only one thing to do: beat their asses down! Because kombasketball ain’t about the fame, the fortune, or the killer robots built for dominating both sides of the court … it’s about the fans.
So Hoop Fighter is really goddamn ridiculous. But what did you expect? It’s called Hoop Fighter. It’s also about par for the course for the basketball fiction genre, which one saw Bugs Bunny and Jordan play b-ball against a bunch of over-muscled space aliens, Charles Barkley challenge Godzilla to a one-on-one hoops contest amidst the wreckage of an exploding city, and Rob Liefeld throw down in his Levi’s 501s. Everyone is always big and blustery. The CEO’s are ridiculously theatrical … though way more subtle about it than David Stern is. It’s all just a big excuse to see dudes with massive biceps and impossible torsos wail on each other while exhibiting stellar ball control.
But, oh, how glorious those scenes are. This webcomic is all dumb fun, and it knows it. The majority of webcomics, following in the footsteps of Dr. McNinja, throw the absurdity in your face. Hoop Fighter is glorious in its restraint. The webcomic is goofy, but the characters in the webcomic themselves take everything so seriously. Sure, Kal “The Prodigy” Jones is just Shaq with a dumb boomerang tattoo on his face. But he always looks like he’s a man working through an epic inner turmoil, fighting a war for the very heart and soul of
basketball kombasketball. (Even if that lesson basically boils down to “greed is bad.”)
I also have a feeling that Shaq is a man after my own heart. Hey, buddy, if someone fouls you, you take that elbow like a man! Don’t go to the ground like you got shot by a sniper bullet! What is this, soccer? See, this is why kombasketball eventually takes place of the regular variety in a couple of centuries: the upstanding manliness.
If I were to level any serious complaint, it’s that those uniforms are all fairly horrendous. I think Kolesar was going for apparel based on Tron, but in a fairly well lit environment like the one on the
b-ball k-ball court, the epic light piping just doesn’t stand out. Plus, the Blades look less like athletes and more like cyber-tracker from the future, sent back in time to hunt down the Savior of Humanity. Not the sort of gear you want to be wearing if you’re supposed to be a hero to the little children everywhere. May I suggest a lovely teal, red, and gold combo with an ebony laser horse and plenty of flames?
… Is that a no?
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Posted on June 10, 2013, in 4 Stars, action webcomic, sci-fi webcomic, The Webcomic Overlook, WCO Big Review, webcomics and tagged basketball, kombatball, shaq, shaquille o'neal, sports webcomic, WPLongform. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.