Some of you may have seen this week’s page of Black Snow and wondered “What the hell is that giant hand?”
Eagle-eyed readers may even recognize this giant hand from some guest art by Sean Harrington a few years back.
So what is it? It’s a Detroit landmark! The Monument to Joe Louis, often referred to as The Fist, to be exact.
Who is Joe Louis and why does he have a giant hand dedicated to him in Detroit?
This is what the always correct Wikipedia has to say on the monument:
The Monument to Joe Louis, known also as “The Fist”, is a memorial to the boxer at Detroit’s Hart Plaza.
Dedicated on October 16, 1986, the sculpture, commissioned by Sports Illustrated magazine from the Mexican-American sculptor Robert Graham, is a 24-foot-long (7.3 m) arm with a fisted hand suspended by a 24-foot-high (7.3 m) pyramidal framework.
It represents the power of his punch both inside and outside the ring. Because of his efforts to fight Jim Crow laws, the fist was symbolically aimed toward racial injustice. Graham referred to the sculpture as a “battering ram”.
The sculpture was vandalized by two white men in 2004, who covered it in white paint and left a sign which read, “Courtesy of Fighting Whities”. Graham responded that the piece was “working” if it aroused passion.
And if you don’t know a damn thing about boxing and have never heard of Joe Louis, here’s a brief Wikipedia summary on him:
Joseph Louis Barrow (May 13, 1914 – April 12, 1981), better known as Joe Louis, was an American professional boxer and the World Heavyweight Champion from 1937 to 1949. He is considered to be one of the greatest heavyweights of all time. Nicknamed the Brown Bomber, Louis helped elevate boxing from a nadir in popularity in the post-Jack Dempsey era by establishing a reputation as an honest, hardworking fighter at a time when the sport was dominated by gambling interests. Louis’ championship reign lasted 140 consecutive months, during which he participated in 26 championship fights; a 27th fight, against Ezzard Charles, was a challenge to Charles’ Heavyweight title and so is not included in Louis’ reign. All in all, Joe was victorious in 25 successful title defenses, a record for the heavyweight division. In 2005, Louis was ranked as the #1 heavyweight of all-time by the International Boxing Research Organization, and was ranked #1 on The Ring’s list of the 100 Greatest Punchers of All-Time.
Louis’ cultural impact was felt well outside the ring. He is widely regarded as the first African American to achieve the status of a nationwide hero within the United States, and was also a focal point of anti-Nazi sentiment leading up to and during World War II. He was instrumental in integrating the game of golf, breaking the sport’s color barrier in America by appearing under a sponsor’s exemption in a PGA event in 1952.
Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena, home of the Detroit Red Wings of the National Hockey League, and the Forest Preserve District of Cook County’s Joe Louis “The Champ” Golf Course, situated south of Chicago in Riverdale, IL, are named in his honor.
Many consider this man who grew up in Detroit to be the greatest boxer of all time. What monument would be more fitting than a giant punch? And how perfect is a giant flying punch statue for a superhero comic?
Oh, and old Joe also fought hard for racial equality, so many consider him to be something of a real life superhero.
So in our effort to more accurately portray Detroit I knew early on that I wanted this monument to be included somehow. And I’ve got to say, I’m happy with the way it turned out.