Superman vs. Muhammad Ali
Written by Denny O’Neil & Neal Adams
Illustrated by Adams
Inked by Dick Giordano & Terry Austin
Lettered by Gaspar Saladino
Published by DC Comics
Okay, yeah, this one’s a little campy. Look at that title: how couldn’t it be? Try to imagine a fictional character based on Ali’s public persona without a twinge of camp.
That said, don’t take it very seriously and it’s a fun romp of a book. Tremendously fun. The plot’s simple enough: an alien armada orbits Earth, but they’ll spare our planet if our champion can best their champion. Superman and Ali both claim to be said champion, and so a preliminary bout is fought – under a red sun on the aliens’ homeworld.
The premise is a little outlandish, but O’Neil and Adams have fun with the proceedings and offer a little misdirect regarding Superman’s status after his bout with Ali. The art’s terrific, if perhaps difficult to follow for novice comics readers. Adams’ constructs several balletic fight sequences, and one grandiose Ali speech, that left at least one comics-virgin friend of mine with a headache.
The reprint of this 1978 oversized comic comes in two editions: a comic book-sized hardcover, and a humongous “replica” edition hardcover. I read the latter incarnation, and it’s wonderful to see. Adams’ art looks amazing viewed at the larger size, screaming off the pages. The paper stock is a little flimsy and the page count skimpy for a $40 book ($30 for the smaller model, which is still steep for less than 80 pages of story); if you can find a discounted copy, Superman vs. Muhammad Ali should certainly entertain.