The Greatest died June 3. He boasted a 56-and-5 record with
37 knockouts. But there's one match that wasn't listed on his
sheet: The 1978 TKO of Superman in a 76-page over-sized spectacular.
It's a simple enough story where an alien race demands a
fight to earn the right to destroy the planet by defeating Earth's
mightiest hero. Both Muhammed Ali and Superman stepped up the
Ali argues Superman is not of this Earth, but Superman temporarily
loses his powers and they decide to fight it out in the ring
to see who would become Earth's defender in the ring against
the alien champ for galactic supremacy in the DC comic.
Well, one can only imagine what would happen to a Superman
without his powers.
But more than the story is Neal Adams' powerful art, where
many critics and reviewers have suggested it is his best work.
It is detailed, expressive, action-packed and jumps off the page.
The tabloid-sized comic cover was initially going to be drawn
by comic legend Joe Kubert, but the job was then given to Neal
Adams, who was then a young artist making a name for himself
for his gritty work in Batman, the realism in Green Arrow-Green
Lantern and previously energizing the then moribund X-Men that
had faced cancellation.
Using an initial
sketch by Kubert, Adams transformed an apparently somber-looking
boxing ring crowd into a marvelous wrap-around panorama that
shows a joyous crowd of identifiable celebrities, sports figures,
writers and artists, politicians and other DC artists, writers,
editors and characters, cheering Ali and Superman as they battled
in the ring.
The list of celebrities include the Beatles, including Yoko
Ono and Linda McCartney, Cher, Andy Warhol, Johnny Carson, The
Jackson 5, Wolfman Jack, Peter Falk as Columbo, Frank Sinatra
and Raquel Welch. Other notable faces include Presidents Gerald
Ford and Jimmy Carter, writer Kurt Vonnegut and sports greats
Pele and Joe Namath. Mixed in the crowd are Joe Shuster and Jerry
Siegel, the creators of Superman. Some celebrities didn't give
permission for their likeness to be on the cover, including John
Wayne, so Adams etched in a mustache.
Hours could be spent scanning the faces trying to remember
names and the events associated to them during the tumultuous
era, but if stuck, there's a guide in the comic naming who's
who on the cover.
The book, listed under All-New Collectors' Edition #56, retails
in a range of about $7 U.S. in Good, $14 in Very Good, $21 in
Fine, $46 in Very Fine and about $125 in Near Mint. A Whitman
label could command slightly more.
Demand for the comic is expected to peak since Ali died.
While there's a 2010 hardcover reprint of the comic in bookstores,
it doesn't pack the same punch as the original Great One.
I was scouring through my comics collection recently and
came across a number of issues of a title I forgot I owned (memory
has a disproportionate relationship to the number of gray hairs):
the magazine-sized The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu. And just in time,
as of this writing Marvel intends on launching a similar genre
series on Netflix with its character Iron Fist, although there
seems to be some issues on story direction.
The Deadly Hands
black-and-white magazine series was launched in 1974 and cancelled
in 1977 after 33 issues. It allowed the artists and storytellers
to go beyond the limitations of the four-colour comic version
The Hands of Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu, a character that may
also appear in the Netflix series.
The book, which carries a Curtis imprint, caught the wave
of popularity of martial arts television shows and movies of
the time, including the TV hit Kung Fu, with David Carradine,
and Bruce Lee, with his movies exploding from his role as Kato
on the now iconic 26-episode Green Hornet television show from
The anthology magazine included characters licensed from
Sax Rohmer's estate, Bruce Lee, Iron Fist, Billy Jack (remember
him?), Chuck Norris and a few others. There were also reviews,
interviews and articles dealing with the then-exploding genre.
The artwork was as explosive as the titles on the covers:
"You'll Gasp at These Iron-Fisted Features", screams
the caption on the face of issue 3e 2. Artists include Neal Adams,
Jim Starlin, George Perez and Paul Gulacy.
Prices vary on the title, as number 1 range from $5 U.S.
in Good to $100 in Near Mint, and are getting harder to find
in Near Mint. Bruce Lee covers demand a premium; Billy Jack does
not, but the issue (#11) still peaks at about $40 in Near Mint.
Expect interest in the title to rise when Netflix and Marvel
gets Iron Fist flying through the air.
1 - Ali and Superman meet for their greatest battle in the
Let's Talk Comics with Rob Lamberti, who started collecting
comics when the going price was 12 cents an issue and Peter Parker
really was a teenager. He dabbled in the comic convention circuit
in the Toronto area for a while, but stopped to concentrate on
his career as a not-so-mild- mannered crime reporter for a great
metropolitan newspaper, where he hoped he managed to record a
little bit of history the past three decades.