Penguins join comic superhero world

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The National Hockey League has come a long way since Peter Puck, a child-friendly animated character that explained rules during game telecasts in the 1970s.

The league, in partnership with Marvel comics legend Stan Lee and Guardian Media Entertainment, has tapped into the social network age and the tween boy demographic with The Guardian Project, which launched with the creation of comic-book superheroes representing each of the 30 NHL teams.

The Stan Lee story goes something like this: "Mike Mason was the master of his imaginary world. A world he filled with the greatest of superheroes. Until the day that it all became real and they became what the world now needed them to be ... Mike Mason's Guardians."

Plans for the project reportedly include comic books, a novel, mobile applications, television and film. We'll learn more about the Guardians mission to create a new generation of hockey fans during the second intermission of the NHL All-Star Game Sunday (4 p.m. on Versus).

To represent Pittsburgh's NHL entry, comic-book artist Neal Adams has created The Penguin -- a character that looks nothing like the same-name villain of the Batman-verse. Think characters from the mind of Stan Lee, like Cyclops and Iceman from the X-Men.

"Originally The Penguin was inspired by the steel industry and the grittiness that Pittsburgh is known for," said Tony Chargin, executive vice president of GME Creative Affairs. "Then, in talking with the team, we decided to shift focus to something more modern and created an edgier character that relies on his speed, wit and versatility."

Described as "an inventor with a love of science and innovation," The Penguin can project ice missiles and travels on a frozen sheet of ice.

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