So screwed up on SO many levels.
Today, we're going to talk about blasphemy. Now, some things are fun to blaspheme and others are almost trendy. A story about Superman fighting Muhammad "Holy Crap I converted to Sunni Islam and then named myself after The Prophet even though before that my name was Cassius Clay" Ali is bound to bring up some touchy subjects. In fact, I've oh-so-skillfully implied one of them in that last sentence...hell, maybe even two of them. Religion aside (because that's a road I do not want to wander down), the blasphemy is going to be my talking about a sick, sick man. Muhammad Ali suffers from Parkinson's Disease, a condition we're reminded of every time the man speaks or makes a public appearance these days. The problem is that I AM going to have to make fun of Muhammad (the Boxer). Since he's ill, there's this weird "kicking a cripple" vibe here, but really, when you see what he signed off on in 1978 you'll understand exactly why no one is above pop culture analysis. On a final note before I get this puppy rolling (please do not roll your puppies), let me just say that I purposely did NOT post this article last week because it was Muhammad Ali's birthday. You know, because I'm the kind of guy that wants you to be able to enjoy your b-day cake no matter what religious icon's name it has written upon it.
If you glanced at the cover above, you might have missed the weirdest thing about it. Since this comic came out in 1978 (which is funny and you'll find out why later), the cover price of $2.50 strikes me as somewhat insane. I mean, that's not that much money really, but back then you could buy a whole bushel of strippers...or so my Grand-daddy tells me. Let's not get into him...he's lived a full life and I really don't want to know about it. Neither do you. Two other things of slight interest include a cameo by Lucy of I Love Lucy fame....which makes this article kind of cyclical because Superman once appeared on an episode of her show (see the end of this article for proof) and the fact that DC comics definitely wanted to cash in on the whole "Star Wars" thing. Considering the fact that the year before this came out Star Wars hit the silver screen, I'm somehow not surprised.
Now, when I first heard about this, my first question was WHY? Why would Muhammad Ali want to have himself presented to children (and filthy proto-geeks) as someone who can and will beat up Superman if he gets the chance? How much money did DC comics pay him to sign off on this project? As you'll soon see, Muhammad Ali obviously signed a contract that can be best summarized as such: "Muhammad Ali will totally rock the world and is the best man ever created and you'll let him write his own dialogue because he's the man and if you even thing of presenting him as weak he'll punch you in the face." I'm sure the actual contract was wordier than that, but I think these panels illustrate what I'm talking about. When the PLOT gets involved, it'll become far too obvious. Check it:
So you're terrific at making slam-dunks on seven-year-olds that are half your height? Apparently, egotism is a positive tactic in a professional boxer. On an unrelated note, most sexual predators ALSO "move among the neighborhood youth with casual ease." Gah.
And now we get to why Muhammad Ali is a psycho. I can't prove that he wrote his own dialogue, but I'd bet money one it. Pay close attention to the transition between the first and second panel.
Um. Muhammad? What the crap? Muhammad totally just pulled a "I want to brag and talk about myself at this party so I'm going to just randomly do it even if it doesn't fit into the current conversation." Either that, or anytime someone says the word "greatest" he goes apeshit and starts rattling off people you don't know that he's beaten up (Sorry, but boxers from my father's childhood just don't have a file in my brain). Can you imagine if Superman was the same way? NO ONE would want to talk to him ever.
Aquaman: "So what do you think I should do about the whole Coral Reef Embargo?"
Superman: "Hold it right there, Fish Face! I'm the greatest! I've saved the world 2,309 times and have turned back time by knocking your entire puny planet off its orbit...with my MIND! I'm not saying I could pop your skull like a grape, but I could totally pop your skull like a grape."
To Muhammad Ali's credit, he does point out something that I've always wondered about Superman. He's an alien. He happens to look human and like to bang Earth girls when he can, but...he's still just about as human as something from H.R. Giger. Luckily, he's been granted citizenship by EVERY NATION in the U.N....so that means that (after checking a history book) Superman is NOT an American citizen. I mean, he is. But he's also a citizen of Iraq, Vietnam, Israel, Cuba, China, Japan, & Russia, oddly enough. So despite all his anti-communism and his slapping of the Japanese (see WW2 Cartoons Article), Superman is very much a citizen of the world. I really shouldn't be bugged so much when comics make no sense. I mean, they haven't for a long time, why should it bother me? But still. When did the United Nations get together and say "Alright. Raise your hand if you don't want to grant citizenship to the immortal alien that can melt your face off from 50 yards away. Ah, I see we're all agreed." :sigh:
Yep. Muhammad Ali is insane. From the look of the last few panels, Muhammad Ali has no qualms arranging fights with things that don't generally lose boxing matches. You know, like concrete walls or suburban utility vehicles. Luckily, the evil aliens offer to negate Superman's powers so that he and Muhammad can beat the crap out of each other...and the winner of that fight gets to beat the crap out of the Alien champion. So the main plot of the book is all about how two guys CAN'T compromise and have to bludgeon each other excessively to win their argument about who should fight. Somehow I don't see that being repackaged for an after-school special any time soon. Violence solves everything, kids!
Sweet Science = not gay
"The Sweet Science" is apparently a super-fairy term for the manly art of Boxing. Muhammad Ali takes some time out to teach Superman a bit about boxing. If you care, pay special attention to his "rope-a-dope" technique...it'll be important later.
Muhammad Ali was the captain of his debate club in High School. Somehow I'm not surprised. Oh, and I like how if you read this page wrong, it sounds like Muhammad is explaining how he punches people in their BRAINS.
Muhammad Ali meets the comic book writers: "So then on page 34, Superman is like totally impressed with my Sweet Science and looks longingly at me in a heterosexual way and totally agrees with me that I have a doctorate in the Sweet Science. You know. Because I am the Greatest. Capital G."
Speaking of being the greatest, now that Superman's had his powers negated, I wonder how the fight is going to go:
Not well. While the text on the pages says that Superman punches Muhammad Ali, every image provided shows Superman taking it to the face. And here we see the other part of Muhammad Ali's contract: He had to be better than Superman. Muhammad Ali IS the greatest as far as this book is concerned as even the crowd starts pleading for Superman to take a fall and let Muhammad win before he kills the man of steel. Funnily enough they don't plead for Muhammad to stop SLAUGHTERING Superman, but mercy isn't part of the Sweet Science curriculum. Speaking of punches to the face, it's time to blaspheme a bit.
Superman: "Seriously Muhammad, stop punching me in the face, you're going to give me Parkinson's Disease."
Muhammad Ali: "AHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHA!"
In the early 1980's Muhammad Ali would be diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, a crippling and chronic disease affecting the motor functions (as well as causing potential mental dysfunction and speech problems). Parkinson's Disease is most often caused by nothing at all (the word's . There are a few specific types of neurological disorders that are similar and related that DO have specific causes, unlike normal Parkinson's Disease. The reason I mention this is that Muhammad Ali does NOT have your standard Parkinson's Disease. In 1997 it was confirmed that he suffered from "Dementia Pugilistica", also known as "boxer's dementia", "Punch-drunk syndrome", or just "being punched in the face too many times Parkinson's." I think I mention it because suddenly I have less sympathy for Muhammad on the subject of his disability. We don't pity smokers too much if they get lung cancer, because, well, they knew the risks. If a shop teacher is missing a few fingers, it's funny, because losing a digit to a band saw is sort of an occupational hazard. Apparently, Boxer's Dementia has stricken a lot of professional boxers, just as carpal tunnel syndrome strikes out at construction workers and musicians. Of course, musicians don't box with a "hole in their brain's membrane" (according to the Mayo Clinic in 1980). Muhammad Ali was obviously dedicated to his craft, as if you look at his career history you see a weird tapestry involving doctors telling him he should retire before he does more damage to himself. It's kind of sad and maybe poetic, but the fact that we've got a guy who legitimately had boxing-related brain damage at the time this was written needs to be pointed out.
Sorry for the seriousness, but when a site called Head Injury Theater finds out about a celebrity who's suffers from the having too many head injuries, it needs a little analysis and attention.
And now, for random strange things that need to be pointed out:
When the comic shows what type of aliens are watching the fight, I don't know why I laugh every time I see the albino Chicken People. Seriously. I'm laughing right now.
I think it's become clear that Clark has been spending too much time around Muhammad Ali.
So we've got a plot about aliens, Sweet Science, Muhammad Ali, AND a Greek Goddess of wisdom? And she's the referee now? Why? This is just getting random.
Speaking of random, please check out the two pages featuring the speech Muhammad Ali delivers before fighting the alien in the ring:
I'm speechless. When I finish my dictionary, I think the above page is definitely going to go under the "batshit insano" entry. I...I...don't know what else to say.
Muhammad Ali is scary...except not scary because he's a great fighter, more like scary in that "Guy on the subway who won't stop screaming about the elves listening to his thoughts" way. :shiver:
I can't believe there's a real "name" for a "not letting the other guy hit you" move. Rope-a-dope my ass, you're BLOCKING. Wait...does this mean that a lot of boxers DON'T know how to do this? It's slowly becoming clear why so many great boxers have Boxer's Dementia/Parkinson's. Christ. Don't let them punch you in the face, that's the key.
Luckily it all works out, as the alien fighter puts on a muumuu and decides to make peace with the brave earthlings that totally kicked his people's ass.
Well, actually that's not true. This book came out a bit later in 1978...and, get this: Muhammad Ali wasn't the world champion anymore. So technically Leon Spinks (the guy who beat up Muhammad to get the Title in 1978) should be shaking hands with Superman there. Well, maybe not, but when this book came out what we really had was the story of how the Earth was saved by Superman and the guy who totally lost the big fight last month to someone with a name nowhere near as cool as Muhammad.
What's kind of sad is that THIS is sort of Muhammad Ali's last great moment...and it's a comic book. Muhammad Ali would return, reclaim his title, and retire within the next couple of years. He was a great athlete, but man, I'm scared of him. It takes dedication to be considered the GREATEST at taking and giving punches to the face and as such Muhammad Ali gives a weird message by modern sensibilities. I mean, it's almost a story some sappy creative writing student turned in for extra credit: Great fighter rises to the top, finds religion, wins, loses, wins, loses, retires and then spends the next twenty years famous but slowly degenerating because he has to pay the price for his Greatness. I don't know what the moral is. If you're positive, it might be that all great things come at a price. If you're more of a Negative Nancy, it might just be that we had some stupid celebrities back in the day that got paid to give themselves brain damage. Either way, it makes for a good story.