With recent conversations about professional athletes and their lack of a long-term financial outlook/planning (see the recent ESPN 30 For 30 documentary, Broke as a good example), it's good to see some athletes invest their earnings into businesses, instead of additional houses, cars, jewelry, expanded entourage, women, etc, which may bring immediate satisfaction, but may not necessarily be income generators for when you retire (retirement that comes quite early for many). 

Granted a graphic novel franchise guarantees nothing by way of earnings, but I like the out-of-the-box thinking (compared to investments made by other athletes anyway). Plus, considering how comic book/graphic novel-adaptation happy Hollywood has been in recent years, investing in a graphic novel could eventually become a repeat earner over the long-term.

31-year-old Israel Idonije, defensive lineman for the Chicago Bears, might be thinking the same thing. After recently launching a new media company called Athleta Comics, he's paired up with Ron Marz (comic book writer, known for his work on titles such as Silver Surfer, Green Lantern, Marvel vs DC, and Witchblade) to produce a new graphic novel series titled The Protectors, which will launch next year, via his media company.

With Athleta, Israel aims to appeal to both comic book geeks and sports fans.

"I want to bring the worlds together… I always felt like it hadn't been done correctly so why can't I take a shot at it?" he said.

Yes, why not?

At the New York Comic Convention, which kicked off yesterday, Idonije and Marz will be onhand to showcase The Protectors, which features art by Bart Sears (he's worked on projects for Marvel Comics, DC Comics, Image Comics, Dark Horse Comics, and others).

So what's The Protectors about? Here's a description courtesy of USA Today:

The concept of the book is an origin story for a different kind of superhero. Professional athletes showcase elite-level speed, strength, power, prowess and cognition, but those in The Protectors realize that there is more to these gifts than they ever thought and realize their true mission is something bigger and more cosmic than scoring a touchdown or hitting a home run. They are here to save the human race.

Essentially, regular human beings with extraodinary abilities, who take it upon themselves to protect the rest of us from whatever it is that we need to be protected from.

As Idonije states, "You've been given a unique set of skills, a gift coupled with your personality and who you are. That gift allows you to make a difference and a change in your world — what are you going to do with your ability?"

Both gentlemen recognize that they don't have history on their side, readily acknowledging that past attempts to meld sports and comics, "look and read awful," Marz says.

He continues… "You're dealing with a creative community that doesn't plug into sports that much in the first place. On top of that, man, this stuff is hard to draw and make it look real — which sounds counterintuitive because you would think guys who draw muscled athletic bodies beating the crap out of each other in superhero costumes would be able to translate that into drawing sports, but it never works out like that."

So what's going to make their project any different, and/or more successful than others?

One reason they give is that this is not just another athlete's vanity project. The one passion that connects both men is that they both absolutely love comics! This apparently won't just be a one and done deal. And also, Marz is excited about the editorial freedom he has with The Protectors than he's had when working for other prominent comic book houses.

And they're likely hoping that their combined passion and freedom will produce something that fans from both worlds will appreciate.

"When you build something from scratch, the real joy of it is you can make a bunch of stuff up… This is an opportunity to really be a creator rather than just playing with pieces that have been in place for 30 or 40 years," says Marz.

And since he's going from being simply a comic book fan (something he's been since he was a kid) to entering the business as a creator of comic books, Idonije says he's reading more than he has in the past 10 years, and a wide variety of collections. He says he has a "huge" digital collection he reads on his iPad. 

Check out a peek at The Protectors below and look out for more New York Comic Con reports from me over the weekend: