Pop Culture Gadabout
Saturday, November 20, 2010
      ( 11/20/2010 12:33:00 PM ) Bill S.  


“IT’S THE SWEET SCIENCE . . . AN’ I AM THE PROFESSOR. Now this takes me back. In 1978, as a part of its large-sized Treasury Edition series, DC released the 76-page comic, Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali. At the time of its release, Ali was indisputably the most famous athlete in the world, while the Man of Steel still held his own as a pop culture icon, so the match-up made its own kind of commercial sense even if a lot of comic book fans back in the day were nonplussed the first time they saw that title. Recently, DC reissued this comic book curiosity in two editions – a facsimile hardcover reprinting the book in its original 10-x-13.25” inch size, along with a smaller “Deluxe” edition containing some additional developmental art – for a readership that in many cases is too young to even remember the Thrilla in Manilla.

The plot, credited to long-time comics pro Dennis O’Neil and artist Neal Adams (who reportedly did the bulk of the actual script work), is a simple one. A race of warrior aliens called the Scrubb shows up on Earth, challenging the planet’s greatest fighter to a contest. “We know you to be this galaxy’s most warlike and savage people,” Scrubb leader Rat’Lar leader tells Ali as a conveniently present Clark Kent, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen witness this first contact. Once Clark does his usual vanishing act and Superman shows up on the scene, both he and Ali are challenged to a contest wherein the winner gets to take on the Scrubbs’ champion fighter, a hulking creature called Hun-ya.

At stake, of course, is the fate of this ”green-blue pearl” called Earth, as an armada of Scrubb ships surrounds the globe. To prove their seriousness, Rat’Lar orders a rain of plasma missiles on the city of St. Louis, but, of course, Superman is able to avert that catastrophe. The actual contest is set to take place in a solar system with a red sun, taking away the Son of Krypton’s super powers, so before the match Ali teaches him all about the tactics and psychology of boxing. (That Superman -- who has been in an uncountable number of scraps over the years -- proves naïve about the ways to psych out your opponent seems rather preposterous, but never mind.) The fight itself is broadcast over “intergalactic television,” with Jimmy Olsen incongruously being thrust into the role of blow-by-blow commentator. While Ali fights in the usual boxing shorts, Supes remains in his costume for the sake of the aliens watching the event. “Except for subtle changes in hue, all humans look exactly alike to them,” Jimmy none-too-subtly explains.

“The Fight to Save Earth from Star Warriors,” the book’s front cover trumpets (the comic was released a year after Lucas’ Star Wars), and Adams the artist brings his usual muscular commitment to a storyline that could’ve come out of the original Star Trek. You can clearly see the artist enjoying himself in sequences like the pre-fight training scene, where Ali gives a stance-by-stance demo of basic boxing moves, while the sci-fi action scenes take maximum advantage of the outsized format. If at times, the banter comes across more campy than comic (“Too much red sun make Scrubb wack-a-ding-hoy!”), well, sprightly word balloons weren’t DC’s stock in trade back then -- that was more Marvel’s turf.

Without getting too spoilery, you know that the gladiatorial competition between Ali and Kal-El will be resolved without either character losing out. Both of these icons have way too much dignity for this comic book conflict to play out any other way. But as an artifact of a time when a two-page spread of Metropolis’ Inner City ghetto could look sexily vibrant and friendly, when Ali was still the Greatest even if this comic was actually released between his reigns as heavyweight champion, when the idea of a sporting competition that was more than just a match-up between overpaid athletes didn’t seem that outlandish, Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali provides the nostalgic goods.

(First published on Blogcritics.)

Labels:

# |



Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).



On Sale Now!
Measure by Measure:



A Romantic Romp with the Fat and Fabulous
By Rebecca Fox & William Sherman

(Available through Amazon)

Measure by Measure Web Page







Ask for These Fine Cultural Blogs & Journals by Name!

aaronneathery.com News
Aaron Neathery

American Sideshow Blow-Off
Marc Hartzman

Arf Lovers
Craig Yoe

Attentiondeficitdisorderly
Sean T. Collins

Barbers Blog
Wilson Barbers

The Bastard Machine
Tim Goodman

The Beat
Heidi MacDonald

BeaucoupKevin
Kevin Church

Big Fat Blog
Paul McAleer

Big Mouth Types Again
Evan Dorkin

Bloggity-Blog-Blog-Blog
Laura "Tegan" Gjovaag

Blog This, Pal!
Gordon Dymowski

Bookgasm
Rod Lott

Cartoon Brew
Amid Amidi & Jerry Beck

Cartoon Web Log!
Daryl Cagle

Clea's Cave
Juana Moore-Overmyer

Collected Editions

The Comics Curmudgeon
Josh Fruhlinger

The Comics Reporter
Tom Spurgeon

Comics.212
Christopher Butcher

Comics Waiting Room
Marc Mason

Comics Worth Reading
Johanna Draper Carlson

a dragon dancing with the Buddha
Ben Varkentine

Egon

Electromatic Radio
Matt Appleyard Aaron Neathery

Estoreal
RAB

Eye of the Goof
Mr. Bali Hai

Fred Sez
Fred Hembeck

Greenbriar Picture Shows
John McElwee

The Groovy Age of Horror
Curt Purcell

The Hooded Utilitarian
Noah Berlatsky

Hooray for Captain Spaulding
Daniel Frank

The Horn Section
Hal

The House Next Door
Matt Zoller Seitz

Howling Curmudgeons
Greg Morrow & Friends

The Hurting
Tim O'Neil

I Am A Child of Television
Brent McKee

I Am NOT the Beastmaster
Marc Singer

In Sequence
Teresa Ortega

Innocent Bystander
Gary Sassaman

Irresponsible Pictures
Pata

Jog - The Blog
Joe McCulloch

The Johnny Bacardi Show
David Allen Jones

Journalista
Dirk Deppey

King's Chronicles
Paul Dini

Let's You And Him Fight
One of the Jones Boys

Mah Two Cents
Tony Collett

Metrokitty
Kitty

Michael's Movie Palace
Michael

Nat's TV
Nat Gertler

Ned Sonntag

Neilalien

News from ME
Mark Evanier

No Rock&Roll Fun
Simon B

Omega Channel
Matt Bradshaw

Pen-Elayne on the Web
Elayne Riggs

PeterDavid.net
Peter David

(postmodernbarney.com)
Dorian White

Progressive Ruin
Mike Sterling

Punk Rock Graffiti
Cindy Johnson & Autumn Meredith

Revoltin' Developments
Ken Cuperus

Rhinoplastique
Marc Bernardin

Scrubbles
Matt Hinrichs

Self-Styled Siren
Campaspe

Spatula Forum
Nik Dirga

Tales from the Longbox
Chris Mosby

TangognaT

The Third Banana
Aaron Neathery & Friends

Thrilling Days of Yesteryear
Ivan G. Shreve, Jr.

Toner Mishap
B2 et al

Trusty Plinko Stick
Bill Doughty

TV Barn
Aaron Barnhart et al

Unqualified Offerings
Jim Henley

Various And Sundry
Augie De Blieck

Video WatchBlog
Tim Lucas

When Fangirls Attack
Kalinara & Ragnell

X-Ray Spex
Will Pfeifer

Yet Another Comics Blog
Dave Carter



A Brief Political Disclaimer:

If this blog does not discuss a specific political issue or event, it is not because this writer finds said event politically inconvenient to acknowledge - it's simply because he's scatterbrained and irresponsible.




My Token List of Poli-Blogs:

Alicublog
Roy Edroso

Eschaton
Atrios

Firedoglake
Jane Hamsher

James Wolcott

Lance Mannion

The Moderate Voice
Joe Gandelman

Modulator
Steve

Pandagon
Amanda Marcotte & Friends

The Sideshow
Avedon Carol

Skippy, the Bush Kangaroo
Skippy

Talking Points Memo
Joshua Micah Marshall

This Modern World
Tom Tomorrow

Welcome to Shakesville
Melissa McEwan & Friends



Blogcritics: news and reviews
Site Feed



Powered by Blogger



Twittering:
    follow me on Twitter