The Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Kentucky, has mountains of information about the icon who the building is named after. From his childhood to the prime of his boxing days to all of his humanitarian work, the center boasts an amazing amount of detail into the life of Ali.
The most interesting and the odd thing that any patron can buy at the Muhammad Ali Center’s gift shop is a deluxe edition of a comic book from 1978.
“Superman vs. Muhammad Ali” by Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams is a unique comic book for its time. It centers around Clark Kent, also known as Superman, reporting alongside Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen about Muhammad Ali being in Metropolis.
When they find and start interviewing him, an alien zaps down to their location and declares war on Earth. Ali starts fighting the alien as Superman flies to space to counter any incoming attacks on the planet. The aliens establish the idea of having their strongest alien fight Ali or Superman, to which the two agree but realize they must fight each other first to see who will fight the alien’s champion.
This comic is not be the first time Superman teamed up with a celebrity of the time nor is it the first time Superman fought a professional athlete. However, this comic, for the first time ever, depicts Superman losing a fight to a celebrity. For the Man of Steel to lose to the greatest boxer of all time echoes as one of the most important stories told in comic books.
As someone who really isn’t that into comic books, this was a wild ride and very entertaining. Putting two iconic figures in pop culture in a boxing match to save the planet is a pretty outlandish concept, yet it works so well. Superman and Ali are the main characters in the story, and each gets an appropriate amount of page time. Neither character feels like the sidekick to the other.
The comic, which is a total of 72 pages, tells a rather quick story that could very well be expanded upon further. In their prime, celebrity comic books were shorter and ended up being just one book. However, with Ali’s societal importance kept in mind, telling a longer story with Ali would have been more beneficial to readers then and now.