All-New Collector’s Edition C-56 (Superman vs Muhammad Ali) Homage Covers
Superman Battles the Heavyweight Champion of the World
DC’s All-New Collector’s Edition #C-56, published in March 1978, pits two of America’s greatest cultural heroes against one another in an oversized full-color paperback: Superman, the Man of Steel, and boxing heavyweight champion of the world Muhammad Ali in his first comic appearance. The All-New Collector’s Edition series published seven books in all between 1978 & 1979 before it was cancelled. The series also published Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer; Superman vs Wonder Woman; Superman vs Shazam!; Superboy & the Legion of Super-Heroes; Superman: The Movie; and Rudolph’s Summer Fun.
Superman vs Muhammad Ali is 72 pages long, based on an original story by Dennis O’Neil. The now-legendary Neal Adams adapted the story and penciled the book and cover, with figure inks by Dick Giordano and background inks by Terry Austin. In the tale, Superman and boxing champion Muhammad Ali must team-up and compete in a boxing match to determine Earth’s greatest champion, who will then battle the champion of an alien fleet prepared to invade Earth. Superman, of course, is stripped of his powers (at the Fortress of Solitude) for the match. Ali, obviously the more skilled boxer, wins the match by knockout, though Superman throughout refuses to give up. Ali, now the greatest champion of Earth, faces the alien champion to determine the fate of Earth. Meanwhile, Superman, having recuperated, disguises himself as Ali’s corner man and steals aboard the alien command ship, where he decimates the alien fleet. Ali, as he had predicted, knocks out the alien champion in the fourth round. However, both untimely events enrage the alien commander, who nevertheless orders the destruction of Earth, despite Ali’s honorable victory. The alien champion, however, moved by his commander’s treachery, deposes the commander, assumes command of the fleet, and rescinds the order, saving Earth. The alien fleet then departs as friends after a round of handshakes between champions.
Neal Adams’ cover for the book has become iconic in the industry. Known as a “wraparound,” the cover uses the front and back covers to depict a wider scene. Although Adams obviously depicts the boxing match between Muhammad Ali & Superman, the artist also fills the crowd (and the covers) with recognizable likenesses of hundreds of people and celebrities from the period (late 1970s), including in no particular order The Jackson Five; Frank Sinatra; Lucille Ball; Johnny Carson; President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn; President Gerald Ford and his wife, Betty Ford; the cast of Welcome Back, Kotter; Racquel Welch; Ron Howard; Liberace; John Wayne (with a moustache); Christopher Reeve (in glasses); Joe Namath; Kurt Vonnegut; and many more. Also in the audience are dozens of DC and MAD magazine staffers and characters, including Neal Adams, Dick Giordana and Terry Austin. Of course, Lois Lane, Batman, Hal Jordan (Green Lantern), Clark Kent, Barry Allen (the Flash), Oliver Queen (The Green Arrow) and Diana Prince (Wonder Woman) among others are also in attendance.
Despite delays (the book was scheduled to be published in 1977), Superman vs Muhammad Ali has become one of DC’s best-selling books with multiple reprints and translations. The book was reprinted in English in 2010 in two different hardcovers. One reprints the book at its original treasury size. The other is a deluxe edition with a new cover by Neal Adams and includes additional content dating back to the publication of the original magazine (content which extends the book to 96 pages). By 2018, the new release had six printings.