Muhammad Ali took his continuing new act - morose, low-key and in no humor to talk about his upcoming heavyweight title defense - to Noo Yawk yesterday, only for the sake of plugging a comic book about to hit the newsstands.
Pow! Woomf! Zowie! It's in the book: pitted against Superman, the fictional Man of Steel, in a match to save the earth, Ali scores a second-round knockout.
"I see you win this fight with Superman," pressed one Clark Kent type at the press conference. "Is that part of the agreement you had for doing the book?"
Ali - whose Feb. 15 Las Vegas opponent, Leon Spinks, isn't quite Superman but at this stage of the champion's career could be at least as threatening as Earnie Shavers - admitted he hadn't even read the comic book.
Learning the book sells for $2.50 a copy, somebody wondered aloud if the rematch would go for $3.50 . . .
One magazine that Ali did see, according to a $4 million suit he filed infederal court, Manhattan, during his visit, was the February issue of Playgirl. The complaint is that a nude portrait by artist Tony Yamada, entitled "Mystery Man." exposed - and he does mean exposed - the champ to public ridicule. It was clearly and unmistakably he, Ali maintained, in a portrayal offensive to him personally and as a member of the Muslim faith; below the belt in more ways than one. He asked the court to halt circulation of the issue . . .