Sunday, August 13, 2023

Muhammad Ali vs. Superman in ink

Muhammad Ali vs. Superman. Copic marker, Prismacolor pencil and Micron marker on 8.5" X 11" Bristol Board. Art by Coyote Duran.

Muhammad Ali vs. Superman. Copic marker, Prismacolor pencil and Micron marker on 8.5" X 11" Bristol Board. Art by Coyote Duran. (Please click to enlarge.)

I've always said that if I ever had the opportunity to meet Muhammad Ali, I would've likely cried my eyes out. I suppose it was a good thing that I didn't before the "Greatest of All-Time" passed away because I would've certainly made a fool of myself.

Ali set an unmatched standard of cool that I only could've dreamt to attain but this isn't to say I didn't try. Socially and ideologically outside the ring and masterful within it, there was seemingly nothing he couldn't do.

Even challenge the "Last Son of Krypton" to a fight.

In 1978, DC Comics released a one-shot I wanted so badly but never got: "Superman vs. Muhammad Ali." Now at the time of the book's release, Ali wasn't the world heavyweight champion. Ali had lost the championship to Leon Spinks that February but would regain it exactly seven months later. This little variable didn't dull my desire to have this tome in my hot little paws. And naturally we didn't have anything close to an internet then, so it wouldn't be until many years later, when I would find out what happened within its covers, thanks to any trade magazine that took the time to revisit the story.

So imagine my delight and surprise when, 32 years later, in 2010, a gentleman from DC Comics reached out to me and several members of the boxing media, offering us a comped hardcover copy of the company's re-release of "Superman vs. Muhammad Ali. What was I going to say, "NO!"?

And there it oversized edition in all of its Neal Adams-penciled, Denny O'Neil-scripted scripted and Terry Austin/Dick Giordano-inked glory. Wow. It was indeed GLORIOUS.

Just recently I was given the opportunity to revisit this truly fantastical story when my good friend Bernie, a true blue comics, boxing and music guy, proposed a commission idea celebrating one of his favorite stories featuring his favorite superhero. I would've jumped at the chance, were it not for not initially seeing the comment in my Instagram notifications. That said, I  responded with a resounding "YES"

So the commission was for a re-imagining of Ali and Superman's epic battle, which was hosted on a planet with a red star, this nullifying the "Man of Steel's" powers and ensuring physical equality. (Now the boxing facet of the story is a whole other thing. Spoiler alert: Ali cleaned Supes' clock, Howlers.)

This was to be rendered on 8.5" X 11" Bristol Board, in ink and Copic marker. As you can see in the above Instagram post, after penciling my layout with my trusty Alvin Drafting leadholder (affectionately named the "Blue Special", I used a Micron .03 marker to render what I call "wireframing," establishing and locking in my image and outline.

Once my wireframe was finished, it was time to lock my inks in even deeper with Micron .02 and .03 markers, a Faber-Castell PITT "B"-series brush pen and a Pentel Pocket Brush pen. At this point, I was REALLY happy with my progress. This was really staring to look like something special. I'm just happy I took scans of these progress shots.

Now, although this is clearly an homage to the late Neal Adams, there was no intent to bite his style and/or work. I had plenty of reference at the fore. When the book was originally released, "Superman: The Movie" hadn't been released yet, so the world didn't have arguably the finest version of our hero - he who made us believe a man could fly - Christopher Reeve, embedded in their consciousness or memories. I looked to someone who had the physique that could be believed in a professional boxing ring. I went with Henry Cavill. And of course I added a spit curl! (I mean, this is Superman, for Pete's sake.)

I also couldn't help but notice my version of Supes had a smidge of Dean Cain thrown in. Hey, I loved the guy's take on the character in "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman."

Once the inks were squared away, it was time for color. Supes wasn't going to fight in his suit, obviously, so I wanted depth, highlights and values represented with and on both men. I wanted bruising, blood, spit and sweat. I had but one hiccup. For whatever reason, one of my brown Copics just wasn't jibing with the previously laid down color on Clark, so I took a Prismacolor sienna brown to the area on which I needed coverage. Whew!

I even added the usual sport commission scrawl on the tape securing their gloves. In this case, "MSAC" stands for "Metropolis Sports and Athletic Commission." Not bad, if I do say myself. And I just did!

Again, I could never be Neal Adams - nor did I try - but I hope I served the original idea well. Most importantly I'm grateful for Bernie and his idea/commission. I'm in the process of creating my very first art book and this helped my creative process immensely. Thank you, my Brother.

And I hope you Howlers dig it too!

Questions? Comments? Complaints? Commissions? Hit me up at You can also follow me on Twitter @CoyoteDuranon Instagram @CoyoteDuran, on Threads @CoyoteDuran and on Facebook @CDCreationNation.

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