Written by - Lewis Helfand
Illustrated by Lalit Kumar Sharma
Publishers - Campfire
"Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee" - Is there a more famous statement made by any other boxer or athlete? Muhammad Ali - A controversial figure, a man of great paradoxes, Cassius Clay, has remained one of the most talked about boxers. A man of paradoxes because he did not mind beating the blues out of an opponent inside the ring; but, refused to get enlisted in the war of Vietnam saying he had no quarrel with Vietcong and that he believed in peace due to his religious beliefs. Two totally strong opinions and divergent. I wonder how he reconciled these two differing opinions within himself.
This tastefully done graphic novel by Campfire publishers keeps bringing these two differing opinions to fore in our minds. Thankfully, it does not attempt to answer this paradox, instead sticks to telling his wonderful story in some gorgeous colors and illustrations. Whenever the story's pace falters, the book switches back to the present day and makes it appear that the story is being presented by a group of television anchors discussing the idiosyncrasies, travails, training and boasts of Muhammad Ali. This regular (not too often though) switch-over between present day and the story tends to give the readers a overall picture of the story as it progresses. Although, this back and forth switch works well at times, I found it a tad irritating. Whenever the switch over happens, it would have helped if the colors were changed or differed - probably show the present day in black and white and actual story of Ali in colour.
Nevertheless, Lalit Kumar Sharma has some gorgeous illustrations through out the book. The illustrations that portray boxing convey speed and violence.
Apart from Ali's story of boxing, the small vignettes of his life like his fear of flying that made him wear the parachute inside the flight; he fainting after a girl kisses him makes this legend a human.
Campfire publishers, started a few years back is one of the top new publishers in the burgeoning (small though) industry of comics and graphic novels in India. They have some great set of books that have been published so far. I specifically like their Heroes series. We like their books on Mandela and Wright Brothers as well. Their recent book in the heroes series is about Mother Teresa. I wish they are a bit more enthusiastic about maintaining their blog and their web site. Most of their books are available in Flipkart and Amazon India.