Superman vs. Muhammad Ali

Superman vs. Muhammad Ali

"In the blue corner, wearing white trunks, from Louisville, Kentucky... A true genius of the ring and champion of the people -- Muhammad Ali. And in the red corner, wearing cape and blue tights, from the planet Krypton... Kal-El, fighting as Superman -- also champion of the people!"

DC Comics presents Superman vs. Muhammad Ali Ticket

"Superman vs. Muhammad Ali" was featured in All-New Collectors' Edition #C-56 (March 1978). The 72-page special was written by Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams. The story was penciled by Adams and inked by Dick Giordano, founders of Continuity Studios. Artists Terry Austin and Steve Mitchell assisted with background inking. The issue was colored by Cory Adams.

Superman vs. Muhammad Ali - All-New Collectors' Edition #C-56 (March 1978)

In 1974, Muhammad Ali was the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. Boxing promoter Don King approached DC Comics president Sol Harrison with the story concept. Harrison handed the project to publisher Jenette Kahn. A preliminary cover layout was illustrated by Joe Kubert, but Nation of Islam representatives were dissatisfied with the likeness of Ali.

Superman vs. Muhammad Ali by Joe Kubert

Neal Adams was selected to illustrate the feature. Jenette Kahn suggested filling the audience with famous people. Adams adapted the Kubert layout into a wraparound cover featuring 172 figures that includes celebrities, comic creators, and DC characters. Kahn travelled the country to obtain permission from people that were already drawn. Those who refused were disguised or replaced. A preliminary sketch depicts Robert Redford, Elton John, Marlon Brando, and O.J. Simpson. Mick Jagger became Don King and George C. Scott became Kurt Vonnegut.

Superman vs. Muhammad Ali sketch by Neal Adams

The story and artwork required approval from the Nation of Islam. Denny O'Neal and Neal Adams were flown to Chicago and briefly met with head minister Elijah Muhammad. Muhammad Ali left the Nation of Islam in 1975 while the feature was still in production. Adams was not given a deadline to finish the illustrations, which took about a year to complete.

The release was delayed throughout 1977. All-New Collectors' Edition #C-56 hit newsstands January 31, 1978, with a cover price of $2.50. The book was on sale for less than three weeks before Muhammad Ali lost the heavyweight titles to Leon Spinks. Ali later defeated Spinks in a rematch on September 15, 1978.

Don King, Bundini Brown, Muhammad Ali (1978)

An alien named Rat'Lar arrives seeking the greatest warrior on Earth. Muhammad Ali and Superman both come forward, but Ali protests that Superman is Kryptonian. Rat'Lar decides that Ali must face Superman in a fifteen-round boxing match.

The event takes place on the planet Bodace, orbiting a red star that renders Superman powerless. The story includes celebrity appearances from President Jimmy Carter, George Foreman, and Howard Cosell. Superman disguises himself as Ali cornerman Drew "Bundini" Brown.

Jimmy Olson announces the fight on an intergalactic broadcast. Superman is knocked out by Muhammad Ali, leaving him in critical condition. The final champion is later defeated by Ali and the heroes save Earth from being attacked. Ali reveals to Superman that he has deduced Clark's dual identity, but promises to keep the secret. The plot element is rumored to have been personally requested by Ali.

Muhammad Ali & Superman - All-New Collectors' Edition #C-56 (March 1978)

Neal Adams has commented that "Superman vs. Muhammad Ali" was his favorite story. Ali was proud of the crossover and would show off copies to friends. The story has been reprinted in numerous languages around the world.

Neal Adams (1978)

Neal Adams recreated the iconic cover artwork for the "Sports Century 100" edition of ESPN The Magazine, released on January 10, 2000. "Champions of the Century" depicts Muhammad Ali boxing basketball superstar Michael Jordan. The updated crowd for the "Thrillennium of the Millennium" features prominent sports figures of the 20th century.

"Champions of the Century" by Neal Adams

Jenette Kahn, interview by Robert Greenberger. "The Path of Kahn." Back Issue, vol. 1, no. 57, July 2012, p. 14.

Neal Adams, interview by Arlen Schumer. "The Greatest!" Comic Book Artist Special Edition, no. 1, TwoMorrows Publishing, December 2013, pp. 36–55.

O'Neil, Denny, and Neal Adams. "Superman vs. Muhammad Ali." All-New Collectors' Edition, vol. 7, no. C-56, DC Comics Inc., March 1978.

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