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Superman vs. Muhammad Ali Review (Graphic Novel)

Title: Superman vs Muhammad Ali Facsimile Edition
Writers: Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams
Pencils: Neal Adams
Inks: Dick Giordano and Terry Austin
Colors: Cory Adams
Letters: Gaspas Saladino
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Date: November, 2010 (originally 1978)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-2872-9
MSRP: $39.99

This gem is definitely a blast from the past.  This Superman vs Muhammad Ali Facsimile Edition has been released in it’s original oversized (10″x13.5″) format, but this is a hardcover as opposed to the original softcover edition what was released way back in 1978.  While the title of the book is Superman vs Muhammad Ali, the real conflict that is at the heart of the story is Superman and Ali against the alien Scrubb race.  It seems that the Scrubb have been keeping their eye on humanity, and they’ve determined that earthlings are so warlike, that they may one day become a threat to the (also warlike) Scrubb empire.  To decide the fate of the Earth, the Scrubb propose a challenge: have a champion of Earth face the Scrubb champion in single combat. Both refusal and a loss would end in the destruction of Earth.  Both Superman and Muhammad Ali volunteer, so the Scrubb decide that they must first fight each other to decide who would represent the Earth.  Superman, of course, would have to fight while under the effects of red sunlight (which drains his powers temporarily) in order to make the fight fair.  After Ali and Supes have a spectacular boxing match, one of them is declared the victor, and goes on to face the Scrubb bruiser.  Don’t worry, I will not spoil it here.

Now, this story is best read as though it were under DCs Elseworlds banner not only because of Ali being there, but also because no other DC heroes make an appearance in the book.  So, for the story to work, you have to imagine that Superman is the only super-powered being on Earth.  Ok — now that the ground rules are set, you can fully enjoy a comic story from more than three decades ago that surprisingly still stands up quite well today.  The writing fits the characters perfectly; in fact, you would think that Muhammad Ali wrote his own lines because they all carry his tempo, his “voice” if you will.

Even with the writing being so entertaining, the real star here is the art of Neal Adams.  Here is an artist who has always been ahead of his time in terms of realism, detail, and storytelling.  This man draws a crowd scene, and every one of the people in there have completely different features, body language, and attitudes.  This is no small feat for a medium that is based around still pictures, but the fluidity of Adams’ pencils is a wonder to behold.

The only downside to this classic one-shot is the price: $39.99.  Ouch.  I know that there is another hardcover edition that DC just put out for $19.99, but that one is in a more standard trade paperback size.  Not a bad way to save $20, but this beautiful Neal Adams art really does beg to be seen in the larger size, and I’m afraid that the price would scare off anyone not sentimentally attached to the book.

The Demitrius Determination:

The Superman vs Muhammad Ali Facsimile Edition is a pure delight.  I had as much fun reading it at 37 as I did first reading my Dad’s copy back when I was 8 and I discovered it under a pile of old Conan comics.  It’s not bogged down by any continuity, it’s packed with action, and there’s even a lesson, if you care to hear it.  As a sequential art connoisseur, I consider Superman vs Muhammad Ali to be among the best things the media has to offer.

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  • rj

    i love it