Incoming: SUPERMAN VS. MUHAMMAD ALI

© DC Comics, Inc.

Just arrived here, the “Deluxe Edition” of this great comic first published in 1978. Not only do I love the art by Neal Adams and the story by Denny O’Neill and Adams, this comic holds a lot of memories for me. Doing production work on it was one of my first big jobs when I started working on staff at DC in 1977. I was already an O’Neill/Adams fan because of their GREEN LANTERN/GREEN ARROW run, and the art for this was huge, intended for tabloid size publication, and much larger than the other comics art I was working with then. The inking by Dick Giordano (with backgrounds by Terry Austin) was also wonderful to see.

Imagine my shock when production manager Jack Adler told me the art was the wrong proportions, and I had to cut off about a half inch from the sides of each page! I did it, reluctantly, it was the only choice for printing prep then. The physical pages had to be sent to the separation house in Connecticut to be photographed for coloring, and they had to be the right proportions, there were no computer scans to resize. I think there were a few pages where art had to be extended about a half-inch on the sides, too, so somewhere in there are some art extensions by me, but I have no idea where.

Later, when I had a large handful of thin art strips, I took them to Jack, asking what I should do with them. He took them, and the next time Neal came into the Production room, Jack gleefully waved them in Neal’s face. “See? I TOLD you they were the wrong proportions! Why don’t you listen to me?” Or something like that was what he said. I don’t remember Neal’s reaction exactly, I’m sure he wasn’t pleased, but later pages came in at the right proportions.

This version is much smaller than the original tabloid printing, but the reproduction is also much better, so you won’t miss anything. (And I think there’s a tabloid-size version available, too.) It’s been recolored to match current standards, and that works fine, though there’s the usual tendency to overuse airbrushed highlights on the faces, particularly noticeable on Ali’s face. The design work is better than on other recent DC reprint hardcovers I’ve reviewed recently, though I don’t see the point of adding an aged paper look to much of it, including the cover. To me, that simply says, “Oh, look at the funny old comics, aren’t they cute?” This book can stand proudly next to any comic published today, it’s top notch work by everyone involved, and a fine tribute to Ali and what he stands for. No need to give it the “cute” treatment.

4 thoughts on “Incoming: SUPERMAN VS. MUHAMMAD ALI

  1. Tony

    When you say “but the reproduction is also much better”, you mean compared to the original tabloid from the 70’s only, not compared to the current tabloid-sized hardcover, right? Because I shelled out 40 bucks for the latter and I’d hate to discover the smaller version is better.

    Also, completely agree on what you say about the “cute” treatment, and your other keen observations, as usual.

  2. Pingback: Todd Klien Reminices about Superman vs Ali | The Comic Archive

  3. Lawrence

    This is a wonderful comic. I didn’t know anything about it. The janitor at my school, a good friend of mine, and I were in my room one day after school; we were talking about oversized and giant-sized comics that seemed as big as we were when we were kids; you’d buy this giant comic that would be wider than your shoulder-to-arm-to-fingertip ratio and almost as tall as you so that when you held the comic in a sitting position, it covered you from something like head to waist. Of course, most of us put them on the floor and lay down to read them. Great stuff when you’re a kid. I second everything you’ve said about this, Todd. The story is great, the art is top-notch; there’s nothing lacking here and everything you want out of a real-life-hero-superhero-combination story.

    I do, however, feel chagrin when I think of the cost of this. DC needs to make an oversized paperback available to fans at an affordable price. First, it would replicate the size of the original; second, it would guarantee the life of the story to a wide audience of people. I don’t know what it costs to do this, but I simply won’t spend this much money. (My copy cost me nothing, actually. So I guess I should shut up.) I’m not impressed with the physical nature of the product as it currently stands enough to put out this much money. Or DC needed to add something else extra to make it worth the fans’ worthwhile to spend this much money. They did the same thing with Neil Gaiman’s _Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?_, charging an arm and a leg for a hardback that didn’t provide anything better than the actual comics themselves.

    There being no other editions available of the Ali comic, DC should do things right and put this out for a price everyone can afford; they could at least do this some time in the future after they’ve made their big profit off these editions. I hope they (whoever “they” truly are, I don’t know) do.

    Sorry for using your great blog for my soapbox.

    Like I said, this is a great comic; it’s wonderful that it’s back out. (But the Marxist bit of me feels jilted when I can’t just run down to the comic shop and get the change out of my pocket and buy this instead of an ice cream and a soda or for the price of a burger, fries, and Coke float. But it was a bit pricey even its own original day. Phillip tells me his mother refused to buy it because it was so much more than a regular comic . . . ah, well . . .)

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