Once again Round 21 of the 2015 NRL season is being marketed as the Marvel Heroes round, where various ISC-supplied teams swap their regular shirts for one-off jersey inspired by Marvel Comics Superheroes. Last year’s first attempt was an absolutely rip-roaring success, so it’s no surprise that ISC has repeated the trick, but this time with seven teams instead of five. Strap in, True Believers, let’s get shirty…
Newcastle Knights Spider-Man Shirt
The Knights are a new addition to the Marvel Heroes line-up this season, and they’ve come out swinging with Marvel’s most recognisable character – Spider-Man. The Knights basic colour scheme made this a no-brainer, really – if you’re playing in red and blue stripes, you’re hardly going to pick Mr Sinister as your Marvel shirt when ol’ Webhead is sitting there unused, are you?
To come across all comics nerd for a minute, it’s not clear exactly which Spidey suit this shirt is modelled on – the 3D nature of the web pattern and the modern hexagonal pattern of the design seems to recall the live-action suit from the recent Amazing Spider-Man films, but the colour and spider logo on the chest is much more classic comics, and recalls the one used in Bendis/Bagley’s soon-to-be-ended Ultimate incarnation of Spider-Man.
We were quite surprised that ISC didn’t pick Spidey as one of the characters for their first round of shirts last season – they supplied the Knights back then so there was no reason why not. We wonder if perhaps it’s because of Spider-Man’s high-profile incorporation into to the Marvel Cinematic Universe that’s prompted them to be happier to use him this time around.
Either way, it’s a fantastic shirt that is unmistakably Spider-Man, while still fitting in with the basic vibe of a Knights shirt thanks to the colours involved.
SHIT/GOOD RATING: Excelsior!
Wests Tigers War Machine Shirt
Another newcomer to the Marvel Heroes game this time around are Wests Tigers, and their choice of character is perhaps the most left-field of the lot. With a host of premier characters and even Avengers still on the table (SERIOUSLY, WHAT DO WE HAVE TO DO TO GET A MATT FRACTION HAWKEYE SHIRT UP IN HERE?!), they’ve opted for the slightly odd choice of War Machine. Now, not to denigrate Jim Rhodes’ contribution to the Marvel canon, but he’s basically the Happy Shopper Iron Man, isn’t he?
That being said, it’s hard not to look at this shirt and think that the Tigers made the right call here. It’s a very cool, very sleek design that clearly borrows more from the character’s recent appearance in Avengers: Age Of Ultron as opposed to his comic outings.
One break from both comics and movies that we do love, however, is the use of colour. In all the myriad different twists on the War Machine armour over the years, we don’t remember orange ever being part of the recipe. However, in a very clever nod to the Tigers’ other primary colour, the chest power source and various bits of trim have all been given that hue here.
It’s a nice way to fuse War Machine and the Tigers together in a way that doesn’t feel forced or hackneyed, and in fact looks rather cool – Marvel artists, take note!
SHIT/GOOD RATING: James Rhodes? More like James Woah-des
Manly Warringah Sea Eagles Daredevil Shirt
The Sea Eagles are one of the five teams who are having a second bite of the Marvel Heroes cherry this time around, but interestingly, they’re the only one to swap their character. Last year the Eagles decided to honour their most famous fan by picking Wolverine as their character of choice, but this time out they’ve gone for something a lot more colour-appropriate.
Yes the Man Without Fear is the Marvel hero of choice this time around, and it’s not hard to see why – the dark red and black colour palette makes this feel a lot more like a Manly shirt than last year’s yellow Wolvie outfit. It’s clearly not based on the comic version, but instead opts for the darker red and black of the design used for Netflix’s excellent Daredevil series.
It might not be a purist-pleasing design, then, but it’s hard to argue with it, too. The shade of red used makes it feel a lot more like a Manly shirt than it would have if it were the traditional bright red, and the fake straps, buckles and the all-important DD insignia really work well here. And let’s face it, this is a damn sight better than if they’d opted for DD’s original yellow outfit or the dreadful 90s catastrophe. Wearing this shirt should also see the number of ahem, blind offloads, increase dramatically…
SHIT/GOOD RATING: Radar (sense) love
Sydney Roosters Captain America Shirt
The Roosters are one of four teams from last season who have opted to stick with their Marvel Hero of choice, and instead create a new design based on their famous costume. Here we have the Roosters’ second take on the first Avenger, Captain America, and it’s no surprise that again the Marvel movies have played a big role in the design of this shirt, but it’s an interesting hybrid.
Rather than ape one specific design, instead it appears that two designs have been basically stuck together. The top half seems to borrow from the most recent Captain America: Winter Soldier suit, while the bottom appears to be modelled on the more red, white ‘n’ blue of the Avengers: Age Of Ultron design.
And the result is pretty cool, you have to say – it’s a less bright blue than last season, and the design as a whole looks a bit less cartoon-y than the 2014 vintage – again, it’s a big more in-keeping with the Roosters’ usual colour palette, which has clearly been something that’s been a focus this year.
There’s no doubt that Captain America is one of the most boring Marvel characters around, but for a giant boy scout, he does have some pretty neat threads. And as takes on Cap’s look go, this is an improvement over last year’s, and looks a lot less like the slightly confusing ‘armour’ effect of the old design.
SHIT/GOOD RATING: Captain Fantastic
St George Illawarra Dragons Iron Man Shirt
We really loved the Dragons’ Iron Man jersey last season – so much that we thought they should sack off the rubbish regular home shirt and go full-time Iron Man! This time, it’s another design that’s clearly based on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but this there’s no confusing mashups, it’s squarely based on the Age Of Ultron Mark XLIII armour… yes, we’re nerds, we know, shut up.
Continuing the theme from the Cap jersey, it feels a lot less like a cartoon than the previous effort – it really seems like these shirts have been designed to feel less ‘drawn’ than the 2014 ones, and instead feel more like 3D renders. We wonder if this is because this year’s models are clearly aimed to tie in with Marvels live-action cinematic output, whereas last years’s felt more like they were aimed at kids who loved Marvel’s current crop of animations.
As a result of the more realistic effect used in the design, it seems a lot more intricate and detailed than last year’s – all little circuit boards and vents and shit. Good to see that it’s distinctly different from what’s been used for Wests’ War Machine design, too. It would have been easy to just tweak the same template for both Iron Men, but clearly ISC has gone the extra mile here.
Given the sheer variety of Iron Man armours that have been used in the films so far (let alone in the comics!) why not mix it up a bit? They could go classic Silver Centurion, naughty Superior Iron Man, or hell, why not go full Hulkbuster? The big lads would appreciate the latter, that’s for sure…
SHIT/GOOD RATING: A Stark Improvement
Canberra Raiders Hulk Shirt
The Green Machine choosing the Incredible Hulk as their Marvel Hero of choice was about the most obvious choice we can think of. Their ripped alternate shirt design was also probably the coolest and cleverest of the designs on show in 2014 – it was definitely our favourite.
So, for 2015, how could they possibly top last year? Well, the answer is they haven’t really bothered! The alternate shirt has been swapped for the home, but other than that we’re in pretty much identical ripped league shirt territory.
While the basic design is very similar, there are a few things that have changed that we can’t help but feel slightly diminishes it compared to last year’s superlative effort. For starters, the green shirt doesn’t contrast nearly as nicely with the Hulk’s green skin, so the effect isn’t as effective. What’s more, there’s no hint of purple shorts this year! What the hell!?
The 3D-render effect of this year’s jerseys is also bothering us a little bit. It’s been fine for all the other shirts, but when they’ve tried to render something that’s supposed to be skin here, and green skin at that, it just looks a bit wrong. Like a Martian sex doll or something. It’s just a bit much.
SHIT/GOOD RATING: Hulk S-meh-sh
North Queensland Cowboys Thor Shirt
Our final Marvel Heroes shirt for 2015 is another do-over – the Cowboys are taking another crack at the God of Thunder, Thor. We’re broken record-ing here we know, but again, this shirt seems to be borrowing more from the Marvel movies than the comic books (probably because the comic book Thor is now a lady, and putting CG boobs on a man’s rugby shirt would perhaps be a bit much).
Interestingly, though, this shirt seems less informed by the Age Of Ultron Thor than it was by the previous Avengers Assemble, with its pointy metal bits on the centre of the shirt front. Again, the discs on the chest have been cannily used to give prominence to the NRL and Raiders badges, and we really like the more realistic chain mail effect on the sleeve.
Round the back, we again have a rippling cape effect on the back of the shirt, though we can’t help but feel like this is a missed opportunity. After all, if you’re going to have a cape effect, you’re admitting to the inherent coolness of caps, so why not go the whole hog and HAVE AN ACTUAL CAPE?! How cool would that be?! The first rugby shirt with a cape!
The boring, practical, fun-ruining bastards out there might point out that sticking a cape on a rugby shirt would be perhaps the worst idea in the history of the world. Yes, the thing about capes is that they do tend to trail behind you a bit when you run, and that might make tackling a player wearing a cape rather more straightforward, but to them we say that’s the damn point – if you’re going to dress like a Norse god superhero, then you should play like one, and that includes not letting trifling things like getting tackled behind the gain line every time you carry the ball stop you…
SHIT/GOOD RATING: Asgardian!
Well, there you have it – another awesome year of NRL Marvel Heroes shirts from ISC. Don’t forget you can check out last year’s designs right here, and all our other NRL shirt designs here and we’re already looking forward to what we’ll get next year. Could we see an Ant-Man shirt? A Drax shirt? We’d love to see a Groot shirt, but in many ways the NZ Warriors Heritage jersey kinda has that covered… next season can’t come soon enough!