Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Pro-sport superheroes

NFL defensive end Idonije the brains behind graphic novels

  • Print

Courtesy of Athlitacomics

The Protectors chronicles a group of athletes who find out they also have superpowers and set about trying to save the world.

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a... Chicago Bear with Manitoba roots who has created a graphic-novel series about superhero professional athletes saving the world?

That's right. And Israel Idonije is inviting everyone to Join the Fight.

Idonije, the NFL defensive end and former member of the University of Manitoba Bisons (2000-2002), is the driving force behind The Protectors, a series of graphic novels -- or comic books -- about a group of five superior professional athletes who find out they have superpowers in addition to their athletic gifts and become devoted to protecting humanity.

The Protectors issue No. 1 was released last month at the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo. It followed issue No. 0 that came out in April 2013.

"They think they are serving their true life's purpose as athletes and entertainers, but at the core of the story, the lone elder coming in helps them find their true gifts are beyond what they think," said Idonije, 33, who was born in Nigeria but immigrated to Canada with his family at age four and grew up in Brandon.

Idonije said The Protectors' motto Join the Fight carries a universal message about everyone's ability to create some level of positive change in the world.

"Your true gift is beyond what you think. There's more to you than what you think is in you. That is the true message that connects with all of us," he said.

At 6-6 and 275 pounds, Idonije has been one of the biggest comic geeks in the room at numerous ComicCon events over the years, so he knew how to build a winning team. He joined forces with veteran comic-book writer Ron Marz (Silver Surfer, Green Lantern, Witchblade) and artist Bart Sears (Marvel Comics, DC Comics, action figures such as WWE, G.I. Joe and X-Men). The Protectors are in the team-book genre in the tradition of The Avengers and The Uncanny X-Men.

Idonije said comics drew him into reading when he was about 13 years old.

He started with the Green Lantern when he read one that was donated to the StreetLove program, the charity started by his parents Henry and Choice.

"My parents made us read an hour a day and made reading very important. Comics were that thing that I loved and really enjoyed," said Idonije, the eldest of four children. "That's the beautiful thing about comics. It's a great tool for reading. For young boys and girls that may not be avid readers, comics as a platform engages in the actual reading of the text but also the images help with the reading comprehension. It's one thing to read something, but it's another thing to understand it and be able to take the educational piece to the next level."

The Protectors' characters are football defensive end Isaac Chike (say Chee' kay), basketball player Douglass Larter, women's soccer player Danielle Peters, baseball third baseman Miguel Monteiro and hockey goaltender Gerard Rioux.

The Chike character is a bearded, bald defensive end who immigrated from Africa. Sound familiar?

"It's not me," Idonije said with a laugh, admitting he gets that a lot. "He's just the main character."

The first two books are available at www.athlitacomics.com, the website of Idonije's company that self-published the first two issues. He expects to finalize a new publisher in the coming weeks that will provide global distribution of the next five issues, which are already completed. Additional characters will be added in the next story arc.

Idonije's storylines in The Protectors are heartwarming, reaffirming and idealistic -- qualities that mirror his life and personality.

Though he makes his home in Chicago where he has played nine of the past 10 NFL seasons and signed a one-year deal for 2014 as a Bears defensive stalwart, Idonije has former U of M teammates who count him as a friend for life. Community service was a cornerstone of his childhood and is a driving force in his adulthood. Some of the proceeds of The Protectors will be directed to charity through his Israel Idonije Foundation charity, started in 2007.

Last month, he and a group of IIF directors and members went to Ghana in West Africa, where they provided physical labour to build a school in partnership with Free The Children. Idonije delivered letters written by children from Chicago's Francis W. Parker School to children at their partner Tuskegee school in Ghana.

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 7, 2014 A10

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Lindor Reynolds speaks candidly about life with terminal cancer

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Challenges of Life- Goose Goslings jump over railway tracks to catch up to their parents at the Canadian Pacific Railway terminalon Keewatin St in Winnipeg Thursday morning. The young goslings seem to normally hatch in the truck yard a few weeks before others in town- Standup photo- ( Day 4 of Bryksa’s 30 day goose project) - Apr 30, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A goose flys defensively to protect their young Wednesday near Kenaston Blvd and Waverley -See Bryksa 30 Day goose challenge- Day 16 - May 23, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Are you still on the Bombers' and Jets' bandwagons?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google