Sunday, February 20, 2011


This is the front and back cover of the oversized, hardcover comic.

By Chris Wilson

Was it the enormous size (10 inches wide by 13.25 inches tall), the odd pairing of Superman and Muhammad Ali, or maybe the star-studded audience that made me buy this hardcover reproduction from 1978? I cannot really articulate what possessed me to get SUPERMAN VS. MUHAMMAD ALI, but the minute I saw it, I wanted it. It’s old school. It’s a strange mix of superhero mythology and real life. It just looks cool.

Often times my students pick up comics just because of the cover art. The same goes for putting books down. The cover can make or break the success of a comic. This one screamed for me to pick it up. I did and so have my students.

Here’s the scoop. Clark Kent, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen head to downtown Metropolis for a story on The Champ. Finally, they find him shooting hoops with some local boys. Before the interview gets going, an envoy from the Scrubb alien race materializes set on putting the potentially threatening earthlings down. He offers a contest, a fight between Earth’s greatest warrior and that of the Scrubbs.

Superman and Ali must decide who is the real champ, but it must be fair. With the Scrubb’s home world warmed by a red sun, the fight between the powerhouses is fair and the boxer prevails, leaving Kal-El (Superman) nothing more than a bloody stump. Ali’s next bout is to battle the great Scrubb warrior Hun’Ya.

There is a scheme afoot on both sides, of course, and ultimately Ali and Kal-El defeat the evil and dishonorable Scrubb emperor Rat’Lar. His people revolt against him because of his lecherous goings-on and all is well in the universe. You surely didn’t expect anything less, did you?

This book is remarkable, hysterical, outlandish and enthralling. Not only does Ali’s personality jab through the pages, so does a patriotic sense of happiness. SUPERMAN VS. MUHAMMAD ALI is a cultural and social story. It shows how comics are uniquely able to take on current events, philosophies, issues and controversies before other mediums can muster the courage or output a product.

It speaks volumes to me and reminds me that comics is an art form as close or closer to the contemporary consciousness of our mainstream society as any other art form. Comics speaks to the blue collar worker, the child and teen in school, the ideological college student, the ivory tower professor of academia, the middle income family, the Wall Street mogul, those who have lost hope and those who need to escape their stressful life for literature.

Old school art is re-colored for a new generation. While a lot of kids skip over Golden Age, Silver Age and Bronze Age comics, SUPERMAN VS. MUHAMMAD ALI is just the kind of art that will entice kids, not turn them away. It may very well be, in fact, a gateway comic to the appreciation of older comic art.

Chris’ Rating: Ages 8 and older
The vocabulary in this book is on a much older level than what most 8-year-olds are used to.

Fisticuffs abound leading to some bloodied and bruised bodies.

There are some big words in this. Big enough to confuse and confound an 8-year-old. Despite the stereotypes many people have toward comics, this is a perfect comic to demonstrate the high level of vocabulary contained within comics. This works for a teacher. Many times in traditional literature, kids simply skip over words they do not know. They might use context clues to figure it out. They might stretch it out. Usually this is only when forced to do so.

Comics have this uncanny ability to draw kids in and make them want to read. Funny thing about that: When kids have an internal locus of control, when they are internally motivated to read because they want to, amazing things happen. They tend not to skip over unfamiliar words. Students will tend to stop and decipher words and their meanings. Why? Because they love the story and want to get what it is saying. A motivation to read goes a long way toward reading proficiency.

Authors: Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams
Illustrator: Neal Adams
Colors: Dick Giordano and Terry Austin
Lettering: Gaspar Saladino
Publisher: DC Comics
Genre: Superhero

Format: Oversized Hardcover
Edition: Facsimile
Pages: 80
Color: Full color
ISBN-13: 978-1401-228729

Highly Recommended
It has stayed checked out since I introduced it. What else do you need to know?

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