Muhammad Ali, with a punch ready to be smiled, enchanted, and thrown, is rarely captured by a picture taken by Abbas Attar in the jungle at Rumble, one of the most famous matches of the boxer in 1974. In the next moment, illustrated by Rafael Ortiz, Ali shocks George Foreman, and the panel retracts with force.
This powerful combination of photographs and comic book art is featured in a new graphic novel, “Muhammad Ali, Kinshasa 1974”, which reproduces the events of the famous heavyweight title fight in Zaira, now the Democratic Republic of Congo .
The graphic novel, which is out on Tuesday, was written by Jean-David Morvan, who interviewed Abbas for his first account and used the photographer’s collection of photographs to help tell the story. He also made Abbas, Who died in 2018, the authors of the book. A French version of the graphic novel, featuring shades of Hiroyuki Oshima, was published last year.
Morvan is no stranger to this hybrid format. His graphic novels about photographer Steve McCarry and Stanley Green also include comic book illustration and photography. “I believe photography and comics are very complementary because the comic is used to tell a long-form story and photography is the instantaneous art of ‘here and now’ of a fraction of a second,” he said in a E-mail.
Just as any good comic book hero has a “secret origin”, the graphic novel sheds light on Ali’s past, parts of his childhood and leading the fight against Foreman. Ali’s quest to regain his title included victories over Joe Frazier and Ken Norton. During the foreman boxing, the crowd can be heard, “Ali bomaye!” (“Ali, kill him!”)
Morvan set the ground rules for the creative team in Ali’s storytelling, including dropping the photos: “We always decided not to cut the photo, not to bubble it over, and not to put it again,” Morvan said.
In the scene above, the local crowd hugs Ali. This was not true for Foreman, who has been described as “error after error”, with Dago, his German shepherd, bred “used by Belgian colonists, who joined to suppress the rebellion of the population Huh.”
Ortiz, who drew the graphic novel, adopted Morvan’s initial suggestion: “the idea that we never see Ali’s feet on the ground,” He said in an email, the boxer was known to swim like a butterfly and sting like a bee, which helped explain Ali’s antics in the ring. In one scene, he depicts Ali’s dizzying pace reminiscent of the Flash in a way.
Ortiz said he spent hours watching the video of the incident, to give readers a feeling that he had a seat in the fight. “I like to imagine myself as a film director with a camera in my hands, wandering around looking for the most important angle, selecting the most important or representative frame,” he said.
Abbas, in his narration of the novel, recalled Ali being given a knockout punch in the eighth round.
“I’m so lucky,” he recalled. “Ali turns his head for a fraction of a second to see his opponent on the ground,” and Abbas, who switched to a camera for color, got his shot. “I have my suspended moment.”