NECA’s Muhammad Ali vs Superman Captures the Greatest Fight of All Time Perfectly [Review]
He's young. He's handsome. He's fast. And he can't possibly be beat. Such was the opponent Superman had to face to save humanity in the classic 1978 DC Comic that pit the "Last Son of Krypton" against the original "People's Champ," aka "The Louisville Lip," aka "The Greatest," aka Muhammad Ali. Now on the verge of the 40th anniversary of the one-shot comic Superman vs. Muhammad Ali, NECA has chosen to honor one of history's greatest boxing bouts with a deluxe action figure set that captures Neal Adams' style of the icons about as perfectly as possible.
Written by Dennis O'Neil with art from the aforementioned Neal Adams, Dick Giordano, Terry Austin, Gaspar Saladino and Cory Adams, Superman vs. Muhammad Ali teamed the comic hero and the real life athlete against an alien invasion. I mean, when you have to two greatest champions of Earth starring in one comic, that's exactly the kind of adventure you expect them to share. It doesn't matter who won, because we all won the moment DC and Muhammad Ali agreed to do this story.
Okay, I mean technically, Muhammad Ali wins, because Superman is reduced to mere mortal status due to the location of the fight being on another planet that orbits a red star. Superman never learned how to fight, he just throws punches at people until they fall down, so Ali just does his thing.
There's a reason why Muhammad Ali was one of the greatest trash-talkers in history, and it isn't because the dude couldn't match his word with action. I mean, Ali even said himself, "It's not bragging if you can back it up." He also said, "I'm not the greatest, I'm the double greatest." If you can beat up Superman, who is going to say you're wrong?
I could talk about how amazing Ali was at cutting a promo all day, but we're here to talk about action figures, and these two are great. NECA makes good use of recycling body molds from its Rocky line for Ali and re-purposing the Christopher Reeve Superman for this iteration. Both get all new head sculpts and paint apps though, so this isn't an egregious use of existing assets. NECA's always done a solid job reusing existing products to give new takes on earlier releases, and Ali and Superman are another strong set of toys that emphasize the company's efforts in that regard.
You'll notice the comic-themed paint apps immediately, and NECA's paint team delivers another impressive interpretation of the comic style once again. The toy-maker has done a handful of comic-inspired repaints over the years, but the heavy inking here makes Superman and Ali stand out from earlier attempts. I'm glad the colors are more solid on both Superman and Ali, giving them a more rounded visual. Though I've liked what NECA did with other comic figures in the past, relying too heavily on a particular color scheme from a comic cover or interior page somewhat limited how you could display them. While the shading does hint that Ali and Superman should be seen from a given direction for "optimal" display purposes, the flat skin tone and costume tone do offer more flexibility.
Both head sculpts are strong, and do nail the way Adams interpreted both Ali and Superman in the '70s. The mouthpieces showing is just a nice bonus that keeps the two characters from looking too stiff. Superman's spit curl is easily noticeable, Ali's determination and grit come through with just a glance. Both portraits also fit for posing them in action or a more defensive stance. Whether you have Ali laying a cross into Superman's face or want Superman delivering a solid jab to Ali, the figures adapt to any situation easily thanks to strong sculpts.
It also helps that the two have some strong articulation to help you replay the big bout however you see fit. Both have plenty to offer in the upper body and arms, and you can get fairly creative without the balance being thrown off. The legs do have some flexibility, but the paint apps don't really suit you rotating the knees or hips too much. The default stances are strong enough to carry each figure through a number of boxing poses though, so it's not too much of a concern.
NECA's had a good run of inspired takes on DC Comics characters and events, and that will continue into 2017 and beyond. Superman does come with a few alternate hands beyond the boxing gloves, but Ali is strictly here for business. Beyond that, there's not much to complain about regarding this set. Both figures have great sculpts, terrific paint apps, and the set manages to bring together a moment in comic book history that I never thought would be commemorated this way.
The NECA Superman vs Muhammad Ali Special Edition 2-Pack is available now for ~$40-50. This set was purchased for review.