Tuesday, 29 July 2014


Big JOHN BUSCEMA never thought that MUHAMMAD ALI
could box.  I used to doubt it myself, in fact.  I'd watch him dance around
the ring, taking punches, and then wonder why he'd been declared winner
when the other guy had done all the work.  However, as a symbol of what
black Americans could aspire to, he was the perfect choice to go up against
what some people might view as the epitome of the white superman - quite
literally SUPERMAN.  Not that DC COMICS' blue-eyed boy was meant
to represent such a notion, but it was hard to deny that he was the perfect
peg on which to hang the accusation for those who were of a mind to.

I didn't buy the giant Treasury Edition back in 1978.  I didn't see
the point in pitting a real-life character against a fictional superhero, so
I gave it a miss.  It's now considered to be a bit of a collectors' item, and
DC reissued the classic tale in a deluxe, omnibus-sized edition in 2010.
They also published a larger treasury sized version, but I'm running out
of shelf-space as it is, so I opted for the slightly smaller tome.

There are some nice extras in the back of the book, such as repro-
ductions of pencil sketches and layouts, and an afterword by JENETTE
KAHN, not forgetting an introduction by NEAL ADAMS himself at the
front of this handsome volume.  A few panels seem to have been slightly
reworked, 'though I'm unsure if the larger edition likewise features such
revisions.  However, it's definitely one to seek out, especially if, like me,
you didn't purchase the original and now wish that you had.  Your local
comicbook store is bound to stock a copy, and, if not, they can
probably order it for you.

Why not pop in today and have a look?!


Colin Jones said...

This is too ludicrous for words - we all know Superman would have knocked Muhammad Ali into the middle of next week but HE gets thrashed ! Of course ,as you say Kid, that could have been racially problematic even though Superman isn't from Earth and so isn't actually "white" in that sense. Also Ali would never have agreed to this if he got hammered. Have you noticed how heavyweight boxing matches used to be really big events and the boxers themselves were really famous but these days nobody cares about boxing - I haven't got a clue who the current champions are but we all knew who Muhammad Ali was.

Kid said...

Without wishing to give too much away, CJ, in case you ever want to read it one day, there's a little 'twist' in the tale (if I recall correctly) and things aren't quite as they seem. Unfortunately, nothing nowadays seems to be the event that it once was - perhaps we're becoming apathetic as a nation?

DeadSpiderEye said...

Buscema is half right, Ali's glory day were before his hiatus. His comeback against Frazier finished that, Frazier beat the **** out of him after that he lost his reflexes. The rematch against Frazier, post his beating at the hands of Forman was sorry contest in comparison. Don't get me started about The Rumble in the Jungle, Ali was given a free hand to dance with Forman -- absolute travesty, the ref should've been shot. I think he also popped enough Benzedrine that night to run the Grand National. But what do you do, he's a legend aint he? and legends have a tenuous connection to reality.

Kid said...

Yeah, you can see from Cassius Clay's early matches in the old b&w footage that he had something going for him, but any of his '70s bouts that I saw, he seemed to be moving in slow motion most of the time. And taking a lot of punches that he never returned. He should probably have quit long before he did, but they were backing truckloads of money up to his door, weren't they? Who knows what any of us would do in that situation?!

vwstieber said...

Regarding the comic: I have the original and I must say, I don't care for the more "realistic" 3D coloring in the reprint pages. The flat lighter colors of the newsprint version let Neal Adams' beautiful fine lines give weight and depth in lieu of relying on the colorist.

Regarding Ali's later career: DeadSpiderEye is right. Ferdie Pacheco's book Muhammad Ali: A View From The Corner is an illuminating look at Ali's career downturn. I recommend it!

Kid said...

Thanks for that, WS - I'll put it on my list of books to read in the future.

John Pitt said...

How did they neutralize Supe's powers to make it a "fair" fight? It's very remiiniscent of an old Supes/ Lex Luthor boxing match whicj they held on a red sunned planet for that very reason.

Kid said...

Can't remember to be honest, JP - I'd have to re-read it again to remind myself. (Not the greatest story I've ever read, from what I recall.) However, I imagine it's along the same lines as the very tale to which you referred.

Paul McScotty -Muir said...

I was in fanboy heaven when I saw this book, my favourite comic artists ever , my favourite sportsman ever and my boyhood favourite hero all in one book - all it needed was a David Bowie soundtrack and a Kenny Dalgleish cameo to be the greatest ever book.

Can't say I agree with big Johns assumption Ali was an amazing boxer, although he did leave himself open to getting hit his boxing brain and speed (battered as it ended up being sadly) was immense. By 1977/79 although champion he should have given up he was too slow and took major beatings only winning by wearing the opponent down via stamina

The irony re the book was that it was originally advertised as Ali Earths world champ v Superman however it had so many delays Ali was no longer World Heavyweight Champion, having been beaten by Leon Spinks in 78 by the time it came out in 79 (although Ali won the title back a few months later in a rematch)

Yep Superman and Ali fought under a red sun as Kid says - the reason Supes wore his cape etc (if I recall correctly)was the aliens could not see the difference between Ali and Superman and black and white skin was to minuscule a difference (cliché - and true- but for the time it was well meaning),

Strangely Colin your comment on Superman not being human and therefore not actually white was the reason Ali put himself forward for the fight as Ali said he was the Earth champ as superman wasn't a human etc (hence their fight to see who fought the Alien champion ie Ali).

Re books on Ali ( nad boxing at that time) an excellent one is "When we were Kings" with an equally excellent documentary film of the same name- I idolised Ali the boxer as a kid but his treatment of Joe Frazier who stuck by Ali in his worst times (Viet-Nam refuual to fight etc) was nothing short of shocking - although Ali apologised in later life (and to this day still regrets his treatment of Joe) Frazier he never accepted it and died not forgiving Ali.

Graham said...

Ali should have retired after the Thrilla in Manilla, for sure. His three fights with Frazier are the stuff of legend, and I'm certainly glad that they did have their trilogy, but I'm pretty sure that they would have probably had different results if they had been fought five years earlier. Ali in the 60's was a freak of nature in the Heavyweight Division. If you watch heavyweight fights before he started and after he started, you can tell that there hadn't been anyone like him with his combination of power (like a heavyweight) and moves (like a welterweight) and the boxers of the time just didn't know what to do with him. Frazier and his corner did know what to do and Ali seriously underestimated him in two of the three fights.

Don't remember much about the Superman/Ali book, but it all sort of took place way after Ali's heyday, so I didn't really get into it that much. Like you, I didn't really like the mix of fictional and real characters.

Kid said...

McScotty, I remember Ali starring as himself in a movie of his life made sometime back in the '70s. Can't remember now if it was a TV movie or a cinema release, but I saw it on TV. '70s Ali seems like a totally different person in some ways to '60s Clay, but I sometimes wonder if history would've been completely different if the ref hadn't fudged the count when Our 'Enry knocked Clay on his @rse back in the '60s. Maybe being beaten then would've, quite literally, taken the fight right out of him and taught him a little humility when he really needed it.


Next time you're in a comicbook store, Graham, you can maybe take a wee look at the book while browsing. I bought it just because it took me right back to 1978, even 'though I never had the original at the time. I was certainly aware of it 'though, and well-remember the cover. Thanks for commenting.

Graham said...

The ref fudged the count on the Cooper bout, plus Angelo Dundee found a slit in Ali's glove (or made it.....I've read both accounts) and pulled some of the stuffing out, which bought him enough time to clear the cobwebs. That was Ali's last fight before he won the title from Liston and if Cooper had won that bout, who knows what might have happened. Worth pondering....

I check it out next time I run across it, Kid. A little 70's nostalgia is always good for the soul. I was really into boxing during that time through the early 90's and did a lot of reading and watching of the heavyweight division. I saw the ads for it in my other reading, but I never saw in a store anywhere.

Regarding books about Ali, my favorite is David Remnick's King of the World. Lots of good material out there though.

Kid said...

Thanks, Graham. I'm sure McScotty will be taking a note of the title of that book as he's into boxing as well. Right enough, living in Glasgow, he probably has to be. (Little joke there.) There used to be a local barber in my home town that had a famous poster of Clay right after he's decked someone. It was on the wall in that barber's from when I was a kid, right up 'til it closed in my adult years. Just before it closed forever, I went in and took a photo of it, just because it reminded me of when I was a kid.

Paul McScotty -Muir said...

You asking for a" malky" Kid!!!?

I moved to outside Glasgow to a town where at times knowing how to box would come in handy

Kid said...

"Yer tea's oot, wee man! Bring it oan!"

I once worked in a warehouse where knowing how to box came in handy, too. It was boxing continental quilts - as in putting them IN boxes.

("See you at four!" Remember that one?)

Paul McScotty -Muir said...

Yeah "see you at 4" was a scary invitation especially if they brought a "chib" or "hauners" !! lol

Kid said...

Oh no! Not 'hauners'...gasp!

Dougie said...

I just read this book last week. Obviously, I remember the ads in DC comics at the time. It was a sweet if silly story and I enjoyed Adams' interplanetary scenes.

I wish I had asked our school library to buy this edition when it was published- I had a kid in senior school two summers ago whose favourite book was a well-thumbed copy of "The Greatest": Ali's autobiography.

Kid said...

Might still be worth getting a copy for the school library, Dougie. You never know when a similar-minded kid will come along.

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