The New York Jets not only found a fullback with the free agent signing of Darian Barnes, they found a comic book visionary. Barnes is in the process of creating a publication titled the "National Triumph League."
"These are not just superheroes, they are professional athletes blessed with superhuman talent and extraordinary opportunities," Barnes wrote in an introductory letter explaining his concept. "The added complication is that their 'game' is a government-organized endeavor to apprehend super-criminals and save civilian lives. As goes the success and failure of the teams, so too goes the safety of the world."
Barnes, an imposing figure with a 6'2", 240-pound frame, has always been a comic book fan. Over the past few years, he thought about the life of a professional athlete and wondered how he could incorporate critical issues into an ongoing series.
"I feel that my work on the National Triumph League (NTL) will be a unique opportunity to shine a light on the pleasures and pressures of a lifestyle that is rarely explored," he wrote. "By integrating the basics into the 'superhero' genre I hope to make it an even broader tale about the sacrifices that all people make to chase their dreams."
Along with partner Joshua Goldfond, Barnes founded the comic book publishing company Twilight East. They have a full staff working for them on the project, including story editor Barbara Randall Kesel, illustrators Jason Embury, Jason Hanley, Greg Kirkpatrick and Jim Muniz, and graphic designer Jeffrey J. Visgaitis.
"We continue to show our proposal to a number of publishers," Barnes told newyorkjets.com. "I'll try to get most of the work done before the season because we'll be busy here. Our staff is spread out throughout the country but is able to communicate through the computer."
In this fantasy construction, Barnes and company have created a 10-team league. All the clubs participate in the planet's most popular sport — "Triumph" — and compete to capture villains dubbed Moriarties.
Penalties for the government-run organization include loss of civilian life during battles, killing Moriarites without authorization, and unsportsmanlike conduct toward a "triumphant." Methods of cheating are also subject to penalization. An example of that would be a triumphant taking a performance-enhancing substance without disclosure.
Some of the major themes to be covered in the NTL will include free will, the resource curse, celebrity vs. hero, decay of the body, and "cause and effect of the Gods."
"We have a player named Axiom who plays for Heroes Dominion (New York)," Barnes said. "He is someone who has been in the league for a long time and his body has experienced a lot of wear and tear, but he doesn't want to leave because he wants a good example set. He is like the Michael Jordan of the league."
But like any good story, there are shady characters as well. Eminence, a key member of the Legacy (Chicago), is a team captain who possesses extraordinary strength, speed and durability.
"That is like a gaudy team," Barnes said of the Legacy. "Eminence is a figure who likes the media hype and is a promoter."
Not unlike the NFL, the NTL has a hard cap. It is based on a system that awards points to each superhero according to his powers. Teams must decide how to distribute their resources, and dynasties are considered rare.
The league even has a commissioner.
"If I would compare him to a league commissioner, then it would be NBA Commissioner David Stern," Barnes said. "He is going to be a tough commissioner."
Known for his own grit, Barnes is happy to be back in the area — he grew up in Toms River, N.J., near the Jersey Shore — and he's eager to showcase all his skills on the field.
"Obviously, I am back close to home," he said when asked what attracted him to the Jets. "I also think there is something special happening here and I think I'll be able to have an opportunity to show all the things I can do in this offense."
Perhaps Barnes can borrow some superpowers from one of his characters in the "National Triumph League."