dragons-lair-storybook

32 Years Later I Get To Read This Dragon’s Lair Storybook!

Dragon’s Lair, the 1983 Laserdisc arcade game holds a very special spot in my heart. I have certainly gone on enough about it on The Retroist these last six years as well as the 10th episode of the Diary of An Arcade Employee Podcast.
Dragon's Lair ad
Why? Well, the easiest answer is I was totally captivated by the animation from Don Bluth and his studio but I also was at that right age to become enamored with the idea of becoming a valiant knight attempting to brave the perils of the Dragon’s Lair.

While it certainly has plenty of Players who seem to rail against the game…well…being a game on rails, I still find myself captivated by it today as when I first walked into my local Showbiz Pizza and saw the line of Players waiting their turn.

I think that the only real complaint I ever had about Dragon’s Lair was the lack of merchandising. It wasn’t until Dragon’s Lair 3D: Return to the Lair was released back in 2002 that we fans finally got our hands on some proper action figures!
dragons-lair-return-to-the-lair-toys

So what merchandise was available for Dragon’s Lair in the early 80s?

  • There were some excellent buttons that fans could get from the Don Bluth Animation fan club.
  • Aladdin Industries Inc. released an incredible metal lunch box.
  • Dragon's Lair - Lunchbox - PJ Gamers - OVGE

  • The Don Bluth Studios published the Tele-Story Presents Dragon’s Lair storybook – which came with an audio cassette tape to listen to while reading the story.
  • A set of Dragon’s Lair flip books that you could yet again order through the Don Bluth Animation fan club back in the day.
  • Milton Bradley produced a board game based on the popular arcade title – which I just so happened to be lucky enough to get my hands on, thanks to a good friend and co-worker at the arcade.
  • There were some cheap toys manufactured by the Larami Corporation for Dragon’s Lair but these were just cheap plastic bugs and slingshots with the game’s logo stamped on the packaging.
  • I'm happy to say that I have the Dragon's Lair Sling Darts!

    I’m happy to say that I have the Dragon’s Lair Sling Darts!

  • I think one of the greatest Dragon’s Lair produced pieces of merchandise was Fleer’s exceptional sticker and rub-off game cards.
  • Dragon's Lair Stickers C

  • Last but not least Marvel Books – yes – as in Marvel Comics, released a series of coloring books and storybooks with images from the game as well as some minor puzzles and word searches.

I am happy to say that after 32 years I finally was able to get my hands on one of those Dragon’s Lair storybooks!

Are you finally going to talk about the Dragon’s Lair book?!

Yes. Calm down, friends. I was just giving you some of my personal thoughts and background info on the merchandising for the game. Yeesh. Dragon’s Lair: The Quest for the Stolen Fortune was designed by Paty Cockrum and Marie Severin – with the word games, mazes, and crossword puzzles created by Suzanne Weyn.

It finds Dirk the Daring being summoned to the Royal Palace where he is put on the trail of the dastardly and deadly Lizard King!
dragons-lair-dirk-the-daring
dragons-lair-dirk-versus-the-pit
Naturally after the reader helps Dirk navigate the traps left behind by the Lizard King…
dragons-lair-dirk-escapes-the-fire
dragons-lair-the-lizard-king-ha-ha-puzzle
..they must attempt to vanquish the evil ruler.
dragons-lair-dirk-versus-the-lizard-king
dragons-lair-the-lizard-king-puzzle
Thankfully if a younger reader found themselves stuck they could always take a quick peek in the back of the book to get the answers they needed.
dragons-lair-the-answer-pages
Now I know that I said I was lucky enough to get my hands on this book, the truth is I was only able to read through it when I dropped in at the arcade. You see, Shea ordered the book from eBay for one of our Players – a young boy who very much like I was at that age captivated by the Dragon’s Lair arcade game.

So I guess in truth my quest for these books still awaits!

Arkadia Retrocade - Atari 2600

Atari 2600: Long Live the VCS!

The beloved Atari 2600 will turn 40 years old next year. To get a jump on that milestone, Brett Weiss has given The Retroist authorization to reprint his Atari 2600 essay, which is one of 60 chapters in his book, Retro Pop Culture A to Z: From Atari 2600 to Zombie Films.
RetroPop
Mention the words “Atari 2600” to most anyone between the ages of 35 and 55, and you’ll likely hear such effusive praise as: “Atari was great!” “I had one of those when I was a kid, and my brothers and I used to play it all the time!” “Those games were so much fun!” And, my favorite, “I got one on eBay so I could show my kids how we used to play video games. They loved it!”
Atari 2600
Released to store shelves in October of 1977, the Atari Video Computer System (VCS) is one of the most important consoles ever produced, rivaling the Nintendo NES and Sony’s PlayStation and PlayStation 2 in terms of bringing video games to the proverbial masses. While not the first video game console (the original Odyssey and the Fairchild Channel F both predate Atari’s venerable machine), the Atari 2600 (as it came to be called) made the word “Atari” synonymous with “video game” in the minds of the general public (at least until Nintendo assumed that role during the mid-to-late 1980s with the release of the NES).
Video Olympics
The Atari 2600 launched alongside nine game cartridges: Video Olympics, Starship, Street Racer, Blackjack, Indy 500, Surround, Basic Math, Air-Sea Battle, and Combat, the latter of which was the pack-in game with the system. In addition to Combat, the 2600 came with two stiff, but solid joysticks and a pair of rotary paddle controllers, which worked beautifully with such subsequent releases as Super Breakout and Warlords. The joysticks and paddles had just one button each, forcing programmers to be especially creative when designing more elaborate games. One such title, the immensely creative Space Shuttle: A Journey into Space, programmed by Steve Kitchen, utilized the switches on the console itself during gameplay.
Space Shuttle - Activision
Built with a meager 128 bytes of RAM (Random Access Memory), the Atari 2600 was originally designed to play simple racing games, crude Pong variations, rudimentary educational simulations, and basic action games. However, when the sci-fi classic Space Invaders descended upon the arcades in 1978, helping turn the coin-op video game business into a multi-billion dollar industry, an Atari 2600 port was inevitable.
Space Invaders
Released in cartridge form in 1980, Space Invaders sent sales of the Atari 2600 into the stratosphere (the cartridge itself sold more than 1,000,000 units), laying the ground for such simplified, but action-packed arcade-to-home translations as Asteroids, Missile Command, and Ms. Pac-Man.
Ms Pac Man
Some of the best, most sophisticated offerings for the Atari 2600 were released by such third-party companies as Activision and Imagic, both of which were manned (at least in part) by ex-Atari employees longing for more royalties and more recognition for the games they would program.

Activision in particular had a number of standout hits, including: Kaboom!, which made brilliant use of Atari’s paddle controllers; Pitfall!, a groundbreaking adventure platformer that paved the way for such legendary side-scrollers as Super Mario Bros. and Sonic the Hedgehog; and River Raid, a hugely influential vertical-scrolling shooter that was one of few games of the era programmed by a female (Carol Shaw).

Media licensing played a big part in the Atari 2600 catalogue as well, spawning such titles as: Flash Gordon, loosely based on the 1980 feature film; Journey Escape, starring virtual versions of the famed rock band Journey; King Kong, a poor man’s Donkey Kong; Masters of the Universe: The Power of He-Man, a playable take on the 1980s cartoon; Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, a great game that dark fantasy writer (and non-gamer) Harlan Ellison once trashed mercilessly in a review; Strawberry Shortcake Musical Match-Ups, a good reason for little girls to fire up the 2600; and Superman, an adventure game that broke new ground with its mission-based objectives.
Superman - Atari 2600
While the Atari 2600 was an incredibly successful system (more than 30 million units were sold during its record-shattering lifespan of 14 years and two months), it wasn’t without its share of competitors. In 1980, after test-marketing the system in 1979, Mattel released the Intellivision, which, as company pitchman George Plimpton pontificated about in a number of TV commercials, had better looking, more sophisticated games – especially when it came to sports titles and space combat games – than its popular progenitor.

Despite the advances made by Mattel, the 2600 easily won the first console war, thanks to its plethora of arcade ports and to its vast cartridge library, which contained games that were generally faster and more enjoyable than that of the Intellivision.

By 1983, the Atari 2600 was starting to show its age. The previous year saw the release of the ColecoVision and the Atari 5200, both vastly superior to the 2600 in terms of graphics and sounds. Computers such as the Commodore 64 were also taking market share away from the 2600. Further, the 2600 library was getting increasingly crowded with shoddy third-party releases that appeared to be quickly slapped together to cash in on system’s popularity. Combine this with the release of a couple of disappointing high profile titles – Pac-Man and E.T. The Extra Terrestrial – and you’ve got a recipe for disaster, meaning the Atari 2600 had all but died by 1984, which was the year, along with 1983, of the fabled Great Video Game Crash.

In 1986, the home console industry rose Phoenix-like from the ashes with the release of the phenomenally successful Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), which Nintendo began test-marketing in the U.S. in 1985 (the Japanese equivalent, dubbed the Famicom, was released in Japan in 1983). With video games once again in the public eye, Atari released a smaller, cheaper version of the system unofficially called the Atari 2600 jr., which hit retail shelves in 1986.
Atari 2600 jr
That same year, Atari unveiled the Atari 7800, which was backward-compatible with the 2600, meaning it could play most of the games in the 2600 library. Both the 2600 jr. and the Atari 7800 barely made a splash in the wake of the NES juggernaut.

The Atari 2600 met its official demise in January of 1992, with Atari focusing its future efforts on the ill-fated Atari Jaguar, which debuted in 1993.

However, to paraphrase the great Mark Twain, reports of the death of the Atari 2600 were greatly exaggerated. Thanks to a number of factors, including a wave of nostalgia and a fanzine by the name of the 2600 Connection (which began in 1990 and lasted for 100 issues), the Atari 2600 saw new life throughout the 1990s. Collectors began buying and selling games through the mail, and the advent of eBay near the middle of the decade had people retrieving their Atari 2600 systems and games from their closets and attics and selling them to the highest bidders.

While Atari officially abandoned their famed system in 1992, programmers and computer-savvy fans began producing “homebrew” Atari 2600 games during the mid 1990s. While some homebrew titles are cartridge-only, many games have been released in professional looking boxes with accompanying manuals. Many are downloadable to your computer as well.

Some of the more interesting Atari 2600 homebrews include: Blinky Goes Up, a vertical scrolling platformer; Edtris 2600, a Tetris clone and one of the earliest 2600 homebrews; Evil Magician’s Return, an Adventure-style game; Halo 2600, a simplified homage to the Xbox classic; Lady Bug, a stunning port of the 1981 Universal maze game; Medieval Mayhem, an updated take on Warlords; Okie Dokie, a puzzle game and one of the first 2600 homebrews; the Asteroids-inspired Space Rocks; Ultra SCSIcide, a Kaboom!-inspired action title; and Star Castle Arcade, a port of the brutally difficult arcade shooter. And far too many others to mention.

Online retailers dealing in homebrew titles, which are typically priced around $30-$60 each, include AtariAge (www.atariage.com), Good Deal Games (www.gooddealgames.com), and Atari 2600.com (www.atari2600.com).

Another phenomenon surrounding the renewed interest in the Atari 2600 is skyrocketing prices for the harder to find, more highly sought after games. According to the late, lamented Video Game Trader magazine, some of the more valuable carts include Chase the Chuckwagon ($64), Condor Attack ($162), Crazy Climber ($91), Eli’s Ladder ($861), Gauntlet ($1155), Lochjaw ($454), MagiCard ($545), Malagai ($385), Pepsi Invaders ($638), River Patrol ($432), and Video Life ($1585).
Video Life
If the cartridge comes with the original box and manual, the game is even more valuable. In fact, the box is sometimes worth more than the game itself since the vast majority of boxes were discarded shortly after the games were purchased.

In 2010, a man named Tanner Sandlin of Austin, Texas, while reading an article about rare and valuable video games, recognized one of the titles, discovered that it was still in his garage, and sold it on eBay for $31,600, one of the highest prices ever paid for a video game. The game was Air Raid, which he had purchased at the closeout store, Tuesday Morning, back in the 1980s. There are less than 20 copies of Air Raid known to exist.

Factory sealed titles can also be worth big bucks, as evidenced by a copy of Music Machine that sold at for $5,250 in 2009. Music Machine was originally released only through Christian book stores making it exceedingly rare today, especially unopened.
The Music Machine
Fortunately for budget-conscious 2600 fans, most of the better games in the Atari 2600 library are super cheap, due to the fact that they were released in large quantities. It’s easy to find such games as Asteroids, Combat, Defender, Dig Dug, and Ms. Pac-Man selling for a buck or three apiece at retro video game shows or stores or on eBay. Also, although not nearly as common of a sight as it was a decade ago, 2600 games still show up at garage sales, flea markets, and thrift stores (though sometimes overpriced as “antiques”).

Collecting for the Atari 2600 entails more than just game cartridges and the system itself (which was available in several incarnations, including consoles produced by Sears and Coleco). A host of tie-in merchandise was released during the system’s heyday, including a trackball controller ($15-$20); a Missile Command audio book ($20); a Starpath Supercharger for playing more powerful cassette-based games ($100); a Joyboard controller that players could stand on ($45); patches that players sent off for after achieving high scores on Activision games ($10-$50), and a plethora of third-party joysticks ($5-$25 or more).

There was even a comic book series. Published by DC Comics from 1984 to 1985, Atari Force ran for 20 issues (plus a Giant Size special), with Fine to Near-Mint copies easy to find in the $1 to $5 price range.
Atari Force
For gamers and nostalgia buffs not wanting to clutter up their media shelves with a bunch of cartridges, there’s the Atari Flashback (2004), which resembles the Atari 7800 console and comes with 15 built-in 2600 games and five built-in 7800 titles. This was followed by the Atari Flashback 2 (2005); which resembles the original Atari 2600 console and comes with 40 built-in games; the Atari Flashback 3 (2011), which comes with 60 built-in games; and the Atari Flashback 4 (2012), which comes with 75 built-in games.

Another option is emulation (stella.sourceforge.net is a good source for this), which lets gamers download and play 2600 games on their home computers.

One important occurrence of the rise of 2600 fandom was the release of Leonard Herman’s ABC to the VCS: A Directory of Software for the Atari 2600 (Rolenta Press), which was published in 1994 and updated in 2005. This was the first of a number of books on older games, paving the way for such titles as Steven L. Kent’s The Ultimate History of Video Games (Three Rivers Press, 2001), Van Burnham’s Supercade: A Visual History of the Videogame Age 1971-1984 (MIT Press, 2001), and my own Classic Home Video Games, 1972-1984: A Complete Reference Guide (McFarland, 2007).
Classic Home Video Games
Price guides followed as well, including a series of Digital Press collector’s guides and Video Game Trader magazine.

Thanks to rabid fandom and the innate appeal of older video games, which offer simple, yet endearingly timeless challenges, a number of 2600-related websites host message boards and are filled with valuable resources, including reviews, manual scans, tips and tricks (including walkthroughs for such titles as Adventure and Pitfall!), and scans of such classic videogame magazines as Atarian and Electronic Games. Some of the more lively sites include Digital Press (www.digitpress.com), AtariAge (www.atariage.com), and The Video Game Critic (www.videogamecritic.net).

Atari 2600 Facebook pages are fun as well, such as AtariAge and Atari Museum Marketplace, where you can buy and sell games.

The best thing about collecting for the Atari 2600 is that you get to play with your collection. Baseball cards, stamps, pottery, wine bottles, and other such collectibles may be nice to look at, but video games are much more interactive. Just be sure to think twice before you break open that factory sealed cartridge. It may be worth a small fortune.

MY FONDEST ATARI 2600 MEMORY: After spending the first few years of the existence of the Atari 2600 playing it at various friends’ homes, I finally got one of my very own in 1983. I bought it with 10 cartridges from a high school classmate for the unthinkably low price of $10. It was the second system I owned, after the ColecoVision, which I had received for Christmas in 1982.

Jack Davis

R.I.P. Jack Davis (1924 – 2016)

It was a sad day for fans of sequential art the other day as it was confirmed that the legendary cartoonist and illustrator Jack Davis passed away at the age of 91. While it can’t be denied that he lived a long and fulfilling life – for those of us that loved his art style it still hurts to know we won’t be seeing any new artwork from Davis.

Jack Davis really got his start when he obtained a job with William Gaines of EC Comics – providing illustrations for the covers of Tales from the Crypt from issues #29 to #46. He also provided the art for some of the legendary stories from that comic series like “Foul Play”, “Tight Grip” and “Lower Berth” to name a few.
Foul Play - Jack Davis - Tales from the Crypt
Davis also worked on Gaines’ other EC titles such as The Haunt of Fear, The Vault of Horror, Two-Fisted Tales, Incredible Science Fiction, Terror Illustrated, Frontline Combat, and Piracy. Sadly Dr. Fredric Wertham helped put a nail in the coffin of EC Comics and Jack found work briefly with Marvel Comics on their title The Rawhide Kid. Although there was one publication from EC that survived the witch hunt that Wertham started and it might be what David is best known for and that was Mad Magazine!

Image courtesy of the Scott Eder Gallery.

Image courtesy of the Scott Eder Gallery.


Of course you probably saw his artwork in your youth and didn’t even realize it – as David also did the toy catalog for Marx Toys in 1975.
Image courtesy of the Ephemerist.

Image courtesy of The Ephemerist.


Numerous TV Guide covers…
Image courtesy of Drew Friedman.

Image courtesy of Drew Friedman.


Image courtesy of Drew Friedman.

Image courtesy of Drew Friedman.


…and even some of the inner artwork for TV specials like 1974’s Out to Lunch.
Image courtesy of the Muppet Wiki.

Image courtesy of the Muppet Wiki.


Jack Davis also did film posters, album covers, and even found his art style being used in TV Commercials like this one from back in 1979 for Chex Cereal!

[Via] D Heine

While it is most certainly a sad thing that Jack Davis has passed away and another reminder just how brutal 2016 has been – we can take some measure of comfort no matter how small that he left us with an amazing amount of work to enjoy as his legacy, work that will entertain for many more years to come.

Marty Ingels - PacMan

Voice Of Pac-Man – Marty Ingels 1983 Interview!

Video Games Magazine 1983
In the February 1983 issue of Video Games you could have seen what games were worthy of keeping your eye out for as well as articles on the Atari 5200, the Games Network (playing games through a cable provider), Super Pac-Man, and even an interview with the legendary Ralph H. Baer.
Ralph H. Baer
It is the second interview in the magazine that interested me more in my youth, when Sue Adamo sat down to chat with Marty Ingels on his role as the titular Pac-Man from the Hanna-Barbera Saturday Morning series that ran on ABC from September 1982 until November of 1983. Ingels was well known for being married to The Partridge Family’s Shirley Jackson and being the voice of Beegle Beagle from The Great Grape Ape Show as well as being the voice of Autocat from Motormouse and Autocat.

He was also a talent agent which is how he landed the gig for providing the voice for Pac-Man…because originally he was trying to get in touch with 20th Century Fox by phone for his client Robert Culp (The Greatest American Hero)!
Robert Culp
So grab your favorite beverage and take a moment to read that 1983 interview from Video Games magazine.
Video Games - Marty Ingels - PacManVideo Games - Marty Ingels 2 - PacMan
Here is that second page.
Video Games - Marty Ingels - PacMan3
Now that you know some of the behind the scenes events that landed Marty the role, why not take 12 minutes out of your busy schedule and watch The Greatest Show In Pac-Land!

[Via] Denzel Crocker

Mega Visions

Sega Fans Should Check Out Mega Visions Magazine!

You might have heard the big news that Sega’s iconic mascot for the Genesis, Sonic the Hedgehog, turned a whopping 25-years-old today! That is correct, it was 25 years ago on June 23, 1991 that everyone’s favorite high-speed hedgehog made his debut with…well…Sonic the Hedgehog!

[Via] Sonic the Hedgehog

That is some exciting news and plenty of reason to celebrate to say the least but there is another SEGA related bit of news to rejoice. A group of members from the SEGA Nerds have started a Kickstarter campaign to help them bring an interactive digital magazine to life with Mega Visions!

As you can see from that video there are quite a few nifty features planned for Mega Visions. From the Kickstarter Page:
“We’re still finalizing our sections and features we’ll have in Mega Visions. In fact, much of that will depend on the feedback we receive from you, but here are some of the great features you can expect to see:
Cover story: Every issue will feature an incredibly well-researched cover story that can range from a particular SEGA game, series or industry icon.
Retrospective: Along with our cover story, you’ll see a retrospective that delves deep into the history of a particular SEGA game or series.
Reviews and Previews: No magazine is complete without reviewing the latest and greatest games, and we plan to review each and every new release from SEGA and Atlus, as well as bringing you early previews of your most anticipated games!
Retro Reviews: We love the classics, and we’ll feature a special section specifically devoted to reviews of classic SEGA titles from the SG-1000 all the way to the Dreamcast and beyond!
The Water Cooler: This section is where we’ll deliver all the news, rumors and other interesting tidbits that you might have missed elsewhere.
Mega Visions Spotlight: We love featuring all the great talent in the SEGA community, and this feature allows us to showcase a different person each issue. You can expect to see awesome collectors, cosplayers, musicians, artists and more in this section.
Mailbag and Art Section: We want to ensure you have a voice in each issue, so we’ll devote several pages to answering your questions about just about anything, and we’ll also showcase some of the great SEGA art produced by the SEGA community.
Face-Off: There are times when the Mega Visions staff doesn’t agree, and the Face-Off is where we debate about a particular SEGA, Atlus or general gaming issue.
In the Arcades: SEGA’s history is rooted deep in the arcades, and we plan to take a trip back in time to showcase our favorite arcade games from the past.”

Being a digital magazine obviously means Mega Visions will also be digitally delivered by way of a custom app that readers can find on iOS, Android, and Kindle app stores. Hop on over to the Mega Visions Kickstarter page to not just Meet the Team behind the magazine but see what types of rewards you can obtain for becoming a supporter.

Mega Visions Does

Just remember when you visit the page to…Say it…Say it…SEGA!

Game of Thrones Psychology - Dr Travis Langley

Game of Thrones Psychology: The Mind is Dark and Full of Terrors

I don’t think that George R.R. Martin when he began to craft the idea that would become the series of books that makes up A Song of Ice and Fire back in 1991 ever entertained the notion that it would be so widely embraced much less become adapted into a cultural phenomenon thanks to HBO’s Game of Thrones television series.

A Game of Thrones

Martin’s epic tale wouldn’t see print until 1996 and of course is continuing today with the soon to be published sixth novel in the series entitled The Winds of Winter, but even from the first novel – A Game of Thrones, we fans were treated to a rich tapestry of characters and locations…as well as an overwhelming abundance of deceit, treachery and murder. It only makes sense that Dr. Travis Langley would gather some of the same contributors from Captain America Vs. Iron Man: Freedom, Security, Psychology and delve into such topics from the books and TV series as in Dave Verhaagen’s look at whether King Joffrey truly ranks the title of psychopath (Yes!) and Erin Currie’s examination of the reasoning behind certain characters actions as they choose to either embrace personal freedom or accept security by bowing down or “kneeling” to varied Westeros group or individual of higher power.

Game of Thrones Psychology even broaches the subjects of parenting psychology with Stephen Hupp’s essay, one of my favorites in the book, where he looks at the child rearing styles of some of the Houses in Westeros. Like the Stark’s displaying responsiveness and demandingness – elements of what is considered an authoritative parenting style. As opposed to say the disengaged approach of House Baratheon…which I think is putting it mildly…especially in regards to Robert Baratheon.
Robert Baratheon

Lara Taylor Kester’s essay looks at how it is the likes of Arya and Daenerys are able to endure and survive the hardships of abuse and loss of Family and even point out they are made into stronger and more understanding characters through the posttraumatic growth.
Daenerys - Game of Thrones

Other contributors to Game of Thrones Psychology: The Mind is Dark and Full of Terrors include Colt J. Blunt, Mark Caldwell Jones, Dana Klisanin, Martin Lloyd, Dawn R. Weatherford, Wind Goodfriend, Janina and Jay Scarlet, Josue Cardona, Jenna Busch, William Black Erickson, Patrick O’Connor, Kyle Maddock, Laura Vecchiolla, and Jonathan Hetterly.

You can pick up your copy Game of Thrones Psychology starting Tuesday 6/21 or you can hop over to Sterling Publishing’s Official Sitefor the night is dark and full of terrors!

[Via] Drink the Wine 1

Superman vs Muhammad Ali

Superman vs. Muhammad Ali

To honor the passing of the great Muhammad Ali, Brett Weiss has given The Retroist authorization to reprint his epic Superman vs. Muhammad Ali essay, which is one of 60 chapters in his book, Retro Pop Culture A to Z: From Atari 2600 to Zombie Films.

RetroPop

The tabloid-sized Superman vs. Muhammad Ali is much more than a big, bold, brash, beautifully illustrated comic book. At least it is to me.

Before I break down the storyline and pepper you with fresh quotes from the great Neal Adams, who penciled and co-plotted this bulky bad boy, let’s hop aboard the Tardis and travel back in time to 1978 to a small suburb of Fort Worth, Texas, where Superman vs. Muhammad Ali graced me-free of charge-with its four-color goodness.

As a kid I loved comic books more than just about anything in the whole wide world. During the long, hot Texas summers, when I wasn’t riding my bicycle, building models, digging in the dirt, or playing basketball, I was usually planted on my bed, the couch, the front porch, or anywhere else I could find some solitude, thrilling to the exploits of such stalwart arbiters of justice as Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, The Flash, and Green Lantern.

Money was pretty tight in those days-my buck-a- week allowance was enough to purchase three new issues, give or take a few cents. To supplement my collection, I would trade with my best friend, who lived next door. Better yet, my mom would take me to a couple of used bookstores in the area, where comics were typically half of cover price. Still better was the local thrift store that sometimes had comics for just 10 cents each?score!

When Superman vs. Muhammad Ali hit the stands, I was mesmerized by its now-classic cover, its massive size (I was unfamiliar at the time with any former tabloid releases), and its pitting of two of the world’s most well-known figures against one another. I wasn’t much of a boxing fan, but everyone knew Muhammad Ali was a great fighter, and I was intrigued by the premise.

However, as with the AMT KISS van model kit that came out the previous year, Superman vs. Muhammad Ali was something I desperately wanted, but couldn’t afford. The $2.50 cover price was a deal-breaker as I just couldn’t bear spending two-and-a-half weeks’ worth of allowance on a single comic book, regardless of its size or its overall awesomeness.

Enter my older cousin Randy, who, at the age of 16, owned thousands of comic books, mostly Marvels, DCs, and Warren magazines (his mom paid for subscriptions to several titles per month). When my family would visit his family, the big kids would run off to who knew where, and the adults would sit in the kitchen talking, leaving me with hours and hours of reading time in what I considered to be the greatest library in the history of humankind. I was like Henry Bemis in the classic Twilight Zone episode “Time Enough At Last” (1959), but without the tragic ending.

One day during the summer of ’78, while Randy’s family was visiting my house, he walked in the front door, Superman vs. Muhammad Ali in hand. After the obligatory hugs and “hellos” and such, Randy asked me if I wanted to borrow the sacred tome. My eyes must have bugged out of my head because Randy, the kind soul that he was (and still is), asked if I’d like to keep it. Needless to say, I took him up on his offer, plopped down on the nearest chair, and devoured the issue like a man in the desert chugging a cold glass of Gatorade. Brain freeze had never felt so good.

THE PLOT
After a brief introduction of the two far-famed contestants, Superman vs. Ali begins in Metropolis, with Clark, Lois, and Jimmy searching for boxing great Muhammad Ali in order to do an exclusive interview. They find the Louisville Lip shooting hoops with some neighborhood kids, but before the interview can get underway, the fabulous foursome is interrupted by the sudden appearance of Rat’Lar, the green-skinned leader of a savage alien species called the Scrubb.

Backed by an armada of 100 powerful warships orbiting the planet, Rat’Lar demands that Earth’s greatest champion battle the mightiest Scrubb warrior. Ali and Superman each argue that they should be chosen as champ, with Rat’Lar insisting that the dueling duo fight one another to determine Earth’s true champion. To make things fair for Earthling Ali, the match takes place on Rat’Lar’s home planet, Bodace, which has a red sun. As Superman fans well know, he requires the energy of a yellow sun to have super powers.

Ali trains Superman on the finer points of the “sweet science” at the Kryptonian Crusader’s vaunted Fortress of Solitude, but when the actual match begins, it quickly becomes clear that Ali is the vastly superior pugilist. With Jimmy Olsen acting as broadcaster, and with citizens of thousands of intergalactic worlds looking on, Ali dances around the ring, connecting blow after blow (“float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” the real-life Ali famously said, describing his fighting style), pummeling Superman to a bloody pulp.

As an impressionable 11-year-old, the image of Superman lying unconscious on a stretcher, his face bruised and swollen, shook me up considerably (I was equally stunned-but in a good way in this case-by an earlier scene in which Superman stopped a tidal wave by crashing his fists together).

Crowned Earth’s champion, Ali must now face Hun’Ya, a big, bald, blue, muscle-bound bruiser. Paying homage to Ali’s cocky reputation for predicting the round in which the fight will end, Rat’Lar asks the famous fighter to do just that. For those who haven’t read the issue, I won’t reveal the final round or the victor, but it’s a close, dramatic fight, with Ali and Hun’Ya each getting in his share of punches.

During the epic bout, Superman, having quickly recovered from the beating dished out by Ali, disguises himself as Bundini Brown, Ali’s corner man, and steals the Scrubb command ship, sabotaging the alien armada in the process. The space battle takes its toll, however, and Superman is once again down for the count.

Naturally, the heroes, along with a surprise helpmate, eventually save the day, with Ali proclaiming at the end of the issue (via a striking two-page spread): “Superman, WE Are the Greatest!”

ADAMS HAS THINGS COVERED
Drawn by Neal Adams, the cover to Superman vs. Muhammad Ali is one of the most iconic in the history of the industry. As the People’s Champion and the Man of Steel duke it out in the ring, no less than 172 celebrities, politicians, comic-book creators, super-heroes, and other luminaries look on, including such diverse figures as Andy Warhol, Gerald Ford, Berni Wrightson, and Donna “Wonder Girl” Troy.

The inside front cover features a number code identifying each member of the audience. As a kid I had a great time going through the list of names and finding the corresponding images on the wraparound cover. I was especially delighted to discover a number of TV and movie stars in the mix, including Lucille Ball, Raquel Welch, and Ron “Horshack” Pallilo. Adams’ detailed illustrations are uncannily lifelike, meaning most of the more famous people are instantly identifiable.

The legendary Joe Kubert was originally slated to draw Superman vs. Muhammad Ali, but things didn’t quite pan out.

“Joe did a wraparound cover, and it was submitted to the Muhammad Ali people,” Adams revealed to me in a recent phone interview. “Apparently Joe’s rough style didn’t translate into likenesses that the honorable Elijah Muhammad [Ali’s manager] was happy with. I’m quite sure that DC was happy with what Joe was doing, and I’m sure he would have done a fine job, but everything had to be run past Elijah, and he didn’t like what he saw.”

Best known for his work on Hawkman and Sgt. Rock, Kubert wasn’t accustomed to drawing Superman, and his sketchy style wasn’t the ideal fit for drawing recognizable faces. “Maybe Kubert wasn’t the best direction to go,” Adams said. “For likenesses, you need someone who draws a little bit more realistically, so I was then approached. I agreed to do it, but I didn’t want any contributions that Joe had made to be wasted, so I took his layout and traced it for the double-spread cover. So that cover is really Kubert’s layout.”

While it may have been Kubert’s layout, Adams had the idea to put famous folks in the audience. “I suggested it,” Adams said, laughing. “If you’re gonna have this fight between Superman and Muhammad Ali, aren’t celebrities going to come, just like in a regular fight? Dumbest idea I ever had [more laughter]. It was a whole lot of extra work.”

According to Adams, it wasn’t a legal requirement to get a celebrity’s blessing to put his or her likeness on the cover, but DC, much to his chagrin, did it anyway. “You didn’t really need to get celebrities’ permission, but DC was becoming a little bit corporate by that time, so that’s the route they took. The problem with asking people is that some of them will turn you down.”

Celebrities who said “no” to being featured on the cover created more work for Adams. “Out of a given number of celebrities, certain people turned us down, so DC comes back to me and says, “Can you patch over this,” and I said, “come on, I got a hundred people here, and now I’ve got to start making patches”

To disguise a certain cowboy actor known as the Duke, Adams employed a creative, yet quick and easy fix. “I started putting mustaches on people,” Adams said. “So John Wayne is in the audience [to the left of Johnny Carson, above and to the right of Lex Luthor’s bald head], only he’s not identified as such because he has a mustache.”

In the year 2000, ESPN Magazine contacted Adams about producing a similar cover for a special “100 Greatest Athletes of the Century” issue. Their art director called him and said, “I don’t want to take a hundred photographs of these various people and put them on the cover. Do you think you could do that cover over again and put those people in the audience?” Adams quickly agreed and was very happy with the results.

“Ali and [Michael] Jordan were number one and number two,” Adams said. “So in place of Superman, we have Jordan fighting Ali, with the other 98 greatest athletes of the century looking on. Unfortunately, a lot of fans didn’t get to see the cover because all three million issues went to subscribers. I got a lot of money to do that, and the cover actually turned out better than the cover on the comic book. As unbelievable as that sounds [laughs].”

JULIUS SCHWARTZ-LARGE AND IN CHARGE

The late, great Julius Schwartz edited Superman vs. Muhammad Ali, which suited Adams just fine, even though Schwartz was a known taskmaster. When I asked Adams about Schwartz’s reputation as a tough, but fair editor, Adams said, “Julie was my favorite editor. He didn’t put up with any crap from anybody, but he didn’t hurt anyone either. He was just grumpy. He must have read something about editors in a book somewhere that said that that was how editors were supposed to be [laughs]. He was kind of like Perry White [more laughter].”

Adopting a more serious tone, Adams said, “Superman vs. Muhammad Ali was Julie’s pet project, but he couldn’t act warm and caring about it, because Julie was Julie. But you could tell that it warmed the cockles of his heart, and he didn’t mind giving me the extra work of putting people [celebrities] in and taking people out. He couldn’t find more money for me to do it, but he didn’t come begging for me to do it, either. He was a pain in the ass from beginning to end, but without that attitude, we couldn’t have gotten a project like this done.”

SIZE TRULY DOES MATTER
According to an interview published in The Amazing World of DC Comics #10 (1976), Sol Harrison, DC??s Vice President of Operations at the time, played a key role in launching the oversized format used for such special projects as Superman vs. Muhammad Ali.

“We were looking for a new format, because our magazines weren’t getting proper placement among the 120 magazines on the newsstand at the time,” Harrison said. “Returning from a trip to the World Color Press plant at Sparta Illinois, I began to play around with different sizes for comics. None of the sizes seemed to work, since they couldn’t be put on a newspaper high-speed color press. But by opening the comic up, with one less fold, we could create a tabloid size comic that would stand out on the newsstand.”

The first tabloid comic published by DC starred a famous fictional character, but it wasn’t a man or woman in cape and tights. “I convinced Carmine [Infantino] that we should test it,” Harrison said, “and we launched this new format with Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” which was released in 1972, a full six years before Superman vs. Muhammad Ali.

For Adams, the new format didn’t pose any special problems in terms of illustrating the story. “I didn’t have a problem with it because the original art was practically the same size” he said. “My stuff I tend to draw detailed, so you’re going to get a pretty good product no matter what.”

IT’S IN THE DETAILS
Adams is clearly the star of the Superman vs. Muhammad Ali show, adapting and expanding upon the story and penciling the entire issue. However, he gives ample credit to his collaborators, particularly inker Terry Austin, who was a fan favorite during the late 1970s and early ’80s for his work embellishing John Byrne’s pencils on The Uncanny X-Men. Austin, along with the late, great Dick Giordano, inked the star-spanning tale.

“Terry Austin had become Dick Giordano’s assistant at that time, and he was a geek-out,” Adams said. “Every time I would indicate something, he would put even more in. You know that double-page spread that looks like Queens or the Bronx, where the characters are walking down the street and you see all that stuff? Nobody else would have done all that. I indicated it, but I’m doing it thinking that somebody-one of Dick’s assistants-is going to screw it up. They’re just going to quickly ink it, and that’ll be the end of it. But suddenly there was Terry Austin, and he just went crazy.”

The city scene Adams referred to is spread over pages two and three, and it is indeed a wonder to behold. The setting is a summer day in Metropolis. The sidewalks and store fronts bustle with activity, from a kid bouncing a basketball to a clerk manning a fruit stand to Lois, Clark, and Jimmy looking for Ali. Birds, signage, garbage cans, windows, antennae, traffic lights-it’s all there, clearly indicating that Austin went above and beyond the call of duty.

“And it wasn’t just that,” Adams continued, praising Austin’s work on the rest of the issue. “There’re multiple spaceships and all kinds of stuff that he put in. That’s standard practice for today, to put all that stuff in, but that’s if somebody’s making a lot of money. In those days, the inking went for probably $25 or $30 per page, and the background guy probably got $10 a page if he was lucky. Now, try to imagine putting all that background stuff in for $10 per page. He was totally insane. That’s not even minimum wage.”

THE PLOT THICKENS
As mentioned earlier, Adams is credited with adapting Denny O’Neil’s original story. When I asked Adams about this, he said: “Julie came up with the original conflict. Denny and I both did outlines-we went off and plotted. Mine was a little bit more direct. Denny’s kind of meandered around a bit. Julie liked my outline better and pushed it on to Denny, which wasn’t a great situation because he did it right in front of me [laughs]. I didn’t like that.”

According to Adams, O’Neil tried to make the best of things. “Denny agreed to the job and started working with the combination outline, but he kind of got lost in the story. He was going through a difficult time with all the work he had-his tremendous workload. It was not a good time for Denny. He started the story, but it went south. Julie and I had a meeting, and by the end of the meeting it was determined that I was going to finish the script. It was the one time Julie became a little bit heartless during the project; at a certain point he took the whole catfish boat and threw it in my face and said to just do it.”

Adams didn’t particularly care for the way the whole thing went down (he described the script changing hands as “rough” on both he and Denny), but he was certainly up to the task at hand. “It was the proper solution,” he said. “Julie was running into problems. The story was running into problems. Denny needed a break, and he got the break. I finished the story, and it was no burden.”

Further elaborating, Adams said: “It was easy for me. Denny had written a bunch of stuff along the way, and I just took every bit of his stuff and molded the dialogue from his to mine. You don’t see a break in the continuity. You can’t tell what Denny wrote and what I wrote. At the end of the day you’d have to call the writing of the script a collaboration between three people: myself, Denny, and Julie.”

As most anyone who has read Superman vs. Muhammad Ali will attest, the final product was a success, despite some difficulties along the way. “Superman vs. Muhammad Ali was a big load,” Adams said. “It seems like a nice, simple book, but it was a big load, and it’s better for something like that to be in the hands of one person. It turned out to be easier for me to simply finish it up by myself. I don’t see me solving the problem so much as relieving Denny of the burden. He was just so busy with other writing projects. I don’t normally collaborate with people in terms of script writing. I either do the story, or someone else does the story. If someone else does the story, I leave it alone, and I don’t have an opinion. Other people are comfortable working together on a script, but I’m really not.”

SUPER SOCIAL RELEVANCE
While it was Julie’s idea to pit the Last Son of Krypton against the Louisville Lip, Adams takes personal pride in having worked on the project, especially considering how few African-Americans were portrayed in comics as positive role models in those days. Seven years prior to the release of Superman vs. Muhammad Ali, Adams and O’Neil brought more color to the world of four-color graphic fiction with the introduction of John Stewart in Green Lantern vol. 2 #87. “There are a lot of people who consider the creation of John Stewart to be one of the breakthrough moments in the culture of America,” Adams said. “I have black guys coming up to me all the time at conventions-even now-with tears in their eyes, because of John Stewart.”

Adams is only a casual sports fan (“If the World Series is on, I might watch three games,” he says, “and I paid attention when Mike Tyson was knocking everyone out”), but he’s admired Muhammad Ali for years. “If you look at the first comic Dennis O’Neil and I did with a black Green Lantern-that guy, John Stewart-was another Ali, he just happened to be an architect instead of a boxer, and he became a Green Lantern.”

TURBULENT TIMES
Muhammad Ali, the only heavyweight champion to hold the lineal championship three times, is one of the two or three most famous athletes in the history of professional sports while Superman, the first-ever super-hero, is one of the most recognizable fictional characters on the planet.

Sales of Superman comics have fluctuated over the years, but he’s always been considered a good role model and a popular figure. Since shortly after the publication of his first appearance in Action Comics #1 (1938), Superman has remained in the public eye as one of the country’s brightest, most beloved pop culture icons, helping the helpless, protecting the oppressed, and fighting the good fight for “truth, justice, and the American way.”

Muhammad Ali, on the other hand, while he’s a beloved hero and an American institution nowadays, was a controversial figure during his time in the ring, dividing the general public along racial, cultural, political, and religious lines.

Born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. on January 17, 1942, Ali changed his name in 1964 after joining the Nation of Islam, a black Islamic sect founded by Wallace D. Fard in Detroit in 1930. In 1934, Elijah Muhammad assumed leadership of the group, which espoused economic, political, and social independence for black Americans. Such controversial figures as Malcom X (circa 1960s) and Louis Farrakhan (who leads the Nation of Islam today) followed.

In addition to his unorthodox (relative to the average American citizen) religious beliefs, Ali staunchly opposed the Vietnam War and refused to take part in the conflict. In fact, his religious faith kept him out of the military altogether. He was eventually arrested and found guilty of draft evasion (though he didn’t spend any time in prison), losing his boxing title and license in the process. His appeal, which made it to the U.S. Supreme Court, was successful, but he didn’t fight for nearly four years during the process.

Ali’s vocal opposition to the Vietnam War escalated in 1967, when he said, “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong… No Viet Cong ever called me nigger.”

“Ali’s stance against the Vietnam war was a big deal and had a lot to do with the public’s negative attitude toward him,” Adams says. “He was willing to give up his title to not fight in a war that he didn’t believe in. His braggadocios nature and Islamic faith were also sore points with some people. In America he was considered an anti-hero. As a result, Superman vs. Muhammad Ali sold better overseas that in did in the states.”

ORIGINAL OR REPRINT?
Today, Superman vs. Muhammad Ali, which was published under the All New Collectors’Edition imprint as Vol. 7, No. C-56, goes for more than $100 in near mint condition. Good reading copies can be found online or at any number of comic book conventions around the country for $20-$25 each.

In 2010, DC re-released Superman vs. Muhammad Ali as a hardcover graphic novel. This new edition includes a brief forward from Adams, an afterward by Jenette Kahn (DC’s publisher when the comic-book was released), 11 pages of pencil sketches by Adams, and a reproduction of the wraparound cover with corresponding key code. The Deluxe version ($19.99 suggested retail) is the standard size of a graphic novel while the Facsimile edition ($39.99) is larger to more faithfully evoke the original tabloid-sized issue.

“We recolored the story for the reprinting, but we followed the color scheme that we originally did,” Adams said. “We just souped it up and rounded it and made it better. Everybody loves it.” And, of course, instead of newsprint, the story has been reprinted on sturdy white paper stock.

From Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman (1943) to King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962) to Avengers vs. X-Men (2012) to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), pop culture is riddled with titanic tussles between famous formidable foes. Superman vs. Muhammad Ali, with its larger-than-life characters, larger-than- comics format, and lavishly detailed art, is one of the more memorable entries in this always dynamic subgenre.

Brett Weiss is the author of eight books, including the “Classic Home Video Games” series, The 100 Greatest Console Video Games, and his latest, Encyclopedia of KISS: Music, Personnel, Events and Related Subjects. Check his website for more info: brettweisswords.com.