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Jets' Barnes to have comic-book idea turned into animated series

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- Darian Barnes lives in a fantasy world, one in which athletes have super powers and fighting crime is a sport.

"It sounds weird at first," the New York Jets fullback said. "I think people who are into sports, cartoons and comics, they're going to get a really big kick out of it because the way the world and the sport is set up, it's honest."

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." More ...

Barnes and his business partner and buddy, Joshua Goldfond, signed with NEHST Studios to have their comic-book concept, the "National Triumph League," produced into an Internet animated series. Details of the deal will be announced Wednesday.

"This is like a dream come true for me, so I'm trying to stay even-keeled," Barnes told The Associated Press. "It's going to be big. When this project gets started, we're going to get a lot of room to really make this special."

The action-packed "National Triumph League" is centered on 10 teams of crime-fighting super-powered athletes called Triumphants, all with varying levels of talent and based in the likes of New York, Miami and Denver.

"These guys aren't superheroes; they're professional athletes that just happen to have incredible powers," said Barnes, whose favorites as a kid included Batman and The Punisher. "Some guys run a 4.3 40 in football. Well, our guy might run a 2.1."

The athletes compete in the sport of Triumph, in which teams compile points based on the number and kind of criminals, called Moriarties, they capture. Each team has playbooks and rules they must follow to apprehend the evildoers.

"We wanted to include all the things that encompass a cool comic or cartoon, but we still wanted to make sure we kept it a sport," Barnes said. "The story itself is about the league, but it's very much a character-based story. How do guys deal with going from team to team and try to fit in? That sort of stuff."

Barnes has drawn on his professional experiences. The veteran, in his first season with the Jets, won a Super Bowl as a rookie with Tampa Bay in 2003 and has also played for Dallas and Miami. He was signed by New York in March to be Thomas Jones' lead blocker, but this season has been a struggle. The Jets are 1-8 and Barnes has been inactive the last two games.

"It's hard not playing, and that goes for anybody," Barnes said. "I'm not going to sit here and say I'm OK because I'm not OK with it. As long as I'm doing what's asked of me while I'm here, then that's really what it comes down to."

In the meantime, Barnes tries to keep the locker room loose by talking with teammates about video games and comics. He also recently proclaimed he's going to become a ninja someday.

"They think I'm a big, big dork," Barnes said with a laugh.

Barnes concentrates solely on football during the season, but Goldfond updates him on the project. The series is the culmination of two years of brainstorming by the dynamic duo, who met as freshmen at Rutgers.

"It was video games, basically," said Goldfond, a freelance story editor. "We talked a lot and found that we had some things in common, which was funny, considering he was an athlete and I was a bookish, theater guy. Even after Darian transferred to Hampton, we talked about doing something."

Most of the ideas revolved around comics, with the two writing stories and Barnes providing graphics.

"I have no artistic talent at all and Darian has limited artistic talent," Goldfond said.

The concept for the "National Triumph League" came to Barnes in bed one night.

"I start talking about this stuff," Barnes said, "and my wife is like, 'Would you shut up?' "

At least Goldfond liked the idea. The two, who started a multimedia content production company called Twilight East, had been trying to shop the project as a comic. After meeting with NEHST chairman Larry Meistrich, the "National Triumph League" took on new life.

The next step is to complete the first script and find voices for the characters. The launch date will be determined in the next few months.

"We think once it's kicked off, people who are fans of sci-fi, pop culture, manga and comic books, they'll really enjoy it," Barnes said. "It takes a spin on that type of genre that no one's ever seen."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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