As most of the waking world already knows, we lost a true titan yesterday with the death of the King of the World, the Champ, the Greatest of All Time — the one and only Muhammad Ali. At the age of 74, Ali succumbed to respiratory complications due to the Parkinson’s disease he battled for more than three decades, and with him went one of the last, true-life heroes in this world.
I can’t remember a time when Ali didn’t loom large in my life. Growing up in the 70s, I was just old enough to see the excitement and admiration of the adults around me during what would be the second half of his career, following his return to boxing after he was stripped of his title for his conscientious objection to the Vietnam War. (I was five when Ali fought Joe Frazier in the Thrilla in Manila.)
In my house, he was already a hero.
So what does this have to do with Plastic Man? Once news of Ali’s death broke, the famous Neal Adams-drawn cover of 1978’s Superman vs. Muhammad Ali started making the rounds on social media, and with good reason. In addition to being a good, fun story in its own right, the cover takes full advantage of its original 10.5 x 13.5 treasury size. It’s fat with almost 200 personalities both fictional and from real life. Take a look:
Batman sitting behind Sonny Bono! Jimmy Carter and Lex Luthor! Phyllis Diller, the Jackson 5, Jerry Garcia, and Henry Winkler in full Fonzy mode. On and on, so many people in the crowd that a person could spend an afternoon — if not longer — trying to identify them all on their own. But hey, who’s that on the left side of the ring, framed by the top ropes?
Somehow, it doesn’t surprise me at all that Plas would be the kind of guy who’d enjoy a night at the fights. And like everyone else at that wonderful dream of a bout, Plastic Man would’ve known the match he was about to watch was going to the The Greatest.
This was, after all, Muhammad Ali.