Esquire, April 1968: The Passion of Muhammad Ali
If you’ve seen any of Lois’ covers, or variations of his covers, it’s probably his photograph of Muhammad Ali, which is sometimes cited as the greatest magazine cover of all time. The cover is almost completely white, with Muhammad Ali, shirtless, pierced all over his body with arrows. Like a martyr. Ali had refused military service, claiming conscientious objector status through his conversion to Islam. Ali was sentenced to jail, stripped of all his titles, and condemned as a draft dodger—some even called him a traitor. The idea of this cover was to suggest that he was a martyr to his religion, but George Lois chose a Christian martyr to represent him—specifically, St. Sebastian.