-- The National Hockey League has joined forces with SLG Entertainment leader Stan Lee -- one of the creative geniuses behind the likes of Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men and countless other comic phenoms -- and POW! Entertainment to embark on an unprecedented adventure. The resulting Guardian Media Entertainment (GME) group is intent on wowing fans of hockey, comics and more.
GME promises to venture into new lands of imagination and entertainment, unleashing a universe of superheroes like none other. Of course, in classic comic-book fashion, the identities of the 30 super-beings remains a mystery -- for now.
So what can we expect?
"This is really a fresh, new, original approach to superheroes, based on the local NHL team," Lee said. "When you think about it, the names of these teams, they sound like super characters. They're inspiring.
"In doing the National Hockey League Guardians, I just wanted characters that people would enjoy reading about. And when I say people, I mean youngsters, I mean grown-ups, I mean college kids, I mean females -- just good story, which is imaginative, which is high-concept, which is fast-moving, which is colorful."
This is clearly a unique step in the superhero and sports industries. "While the sports leagues normally license out their marks, we were offered a totally different approach from all the great people at the NHL," said GME Chief Creative Officer Adam Baratta.
"We recognize the opportunity not only for the group of talented individuals in front of us but we also thought it was a unique time and way for us to start to cultivate a relationship with the next generation of fans," said Brian Jennings, NHL Executive Vice President of Marketing.
"This is really a fresh, new, original approach to superheroes, based on the local NHL team. When you think about it, the names of these teams, they sound like super characters. They're inspiring." -- Stan Lee
Development for each character came in discussions with each NHL club, so the creators could get a feel for how to incorporate the feel of the team and town into each individual superhero.
"There was a tremendous amount of interaction and it was great," co-creator J.D. Shapiro said. "I think maybe at first it was like, 'Are they really going to listen to us? This is the Stan Lee group.' But when they saw that we were (serious) and wanted them to be a very important part of it, they got more and more psyched.
"The back and forth, give and take, was why these characters came out so great."
According to Guardian Executive Vice President of Creative Affairs Tony Chargin, the genesis of the project is to unite comics and sports in a way that parents can share with their children.
"I think that when we first came up with the idea, the whole purpose of it was to help find a way for parents to connect with their kids," Chargin said. "That's what superheroes have always done. In my family we also did that with sports, so it seemed liked a really natural fit to take superheroes and merge it with the world of sports and create something that kids can understand at a younger age and become knowledgeable of that sport, and grow to relate to their parents in that way."
And when the concept was presented to Lee, he immediately loved it.
"These fellas came to me and said they had an idea," he said, "and when I heard the idea I locked the door and I wouldn't let them out."
Lee said he was very impressed by Chagrin and Shapiro.
"They told me who the characters were, what the names were, and they suggested to me what they should be like," he said. "And these guys are so inventive and so creative, after what they told me, it was so easy to hire just the artist we needed."
Lips were sealed on any further details, but Baratta said All-Star Weekend in Raleigh, N.C., will see the full nature of the project revealed.
"On Jan. 30th, 2011, at the NHL All-Star Game, we are going to unveil 30 of the most incredible superheroes the world has ever seen, with an incredible live-event show that everyone should tune in for," he said.
Added Lee: "I just have a feeling that 'The Guardians' are going to be the next big thing in entertainment."