Former All-Pro Lance Briggs Takes on Systemic Racism in His Debut Graphic Novel
Briggs teamed with veteran DC Comics writer Kyle Higgins on "The Trap"
This is Life After Football, a recurring series that examines how current and former NFL players, coaches and executives are building a legacy beyond the gridiron.
In September of 2003, seven-time Pro Bowler Lance Briggs made his regular-season debut in the NFL for the Chicago Bear in a rough game they lost 49-7 to the San Francisco 49ers. Now, 17 years later, 39-year-old Briggs is attempting to break into another world where the competition is fierce: comic books.
A fan of books like X-Men, Ghost Rider, Punisher, Batman and Silver Surfer growing up as a kid in Sacramento, Briggs would often use his imagination to pretend he was a character in one of the comics. As he grew older, those visualization techniques contributed to his success in football.
“I could always imagine myself doing things on the football field,” he tells InsideHook. “I didn’t necessarily see myself as the Incredible Hulk or anything like that, but it was an extension of my imagination, seeing myself make plays on the field. Then, when I would be on the field, it was like I had already seen it happen before. So I knew exactly what to do.”
While comic books weren’t exactly a hot topic in the locker room while Briggs was in high school or college at the University of Arizona, they were discussed a bit toward the end of his brilliant 12-year career thanks to the growing popularity of movies from Marvel and DC.
“Now that comic book movies are so popular, that talk is starting to become locker-room talk,” Briggs says. “People will talk about how good a movie or how good a TV show will be. It’s definitely opened doors. There’s definitely more dialogue now than there ever had been before.”
Briggs is adding to that dialogue with The Trap, a science-fiction graphic novel he worked on for a year and a half with veteran DC Comics writer Kyle Higgins as well as artist Danilo Beyruth, colorist Tamra Bonvillain, letterer Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou and designer Sasha Head.
A Bears fan, Higgins hit it off with Briggs and even took the former Bears star on a tour of the DC Comics headquarters. At some point, the idea of collaborating came up, and now that notion has become a reality.
“We finally got together. The whole idea of it was just to lock ourselves in a room, but we were really at a cafe and just sat there for hours,” Briggs says. “We just talked about our histories, where we come from, our upbringings, the things that are most important to us and came up with some ideas. Connecting my history and thoughts with his expertise was fun because it’s all about fitting pieces together.”
The history of the former NFLer’s life does play into The Trap, as the novel draws its title from the systemic racism that members of the south Sacramento community where Briggs grew up faced.
“The trap, in my opinion, is when governing bodies fail their community,” Briggs says. “For kids like me, sports was not just the only way out of one of those spaces, but it was also a way of keeping me in, and those like me out of trouble, of keeping us focused and keeping us on the right path. We have communities in our country and around the world that don’t have to be the way they are. If you have a child, you always want the best for the child in terms of education, having the resources to succeed, good teachers. I believe all of that should be a right for all. I don’t think that’s asking for too much, I think each kid deserves that. The fact you have kids who are having to play a sport in order to make it out of these communities, that’s the trap and where it comes from.”
With The Trap, Briggs is hoping to share his message as well as his imagination.
“The cool thing about comics is there really aren’t any limits to where you can take your imagination,” he says. “This graphic novel takes place 200 or so years in the future. We still don’t know exactly what’s going to happen, so my version of the future will be different than your version of the future or someone else’s. I want to share my imagination’s version and also have a good message. I hope people can enjoy it, but also know there are important issues that we have to address in this world.”
Those are issues Briggs may continue to address with future comics-related projects.
“I would love to continue writing and creating in the comic book world,” he says. “There are tons of creators out there, and I’d love to work with as many as possible. This field is like football for me. Even though it’s a grind and I’m learning how much of a grind it is, it feels like you’re never working, because you love what you’re doing.”
The Trap is funding on Kickstarter from now until October 29th.
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