Robot 6

Superman artist shocked to find his art at auction

Al PlastinoFormer Superman artist Al Plastino was startled to learn his original artwork for “Superman’s Mission for President Kennedy” is up for auction — and not in the John F. Kennedy Memorial Library, as he had been led to believe.

According to the New York Post, Plastino was at New York Comic Con when he learned another exhibitor had the artwork, and that Heritage Auctions was scheduled to sell it (with a starting bid of $20,000 per page) on Nov. 22, the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination. Plastino, who is 91 and has prostate cancer, posted a plea for help on his Facebook page, and the comics community quickly responded with offers of legal help.

Plastino drew the story “Superman’s Mission for President Kennedy” in 1963 to promote Kennedy’s physical fitness program, as part of a collaboration between DC and the Kennedy administration. The issue was scheduled to go on sale in late November, but editors quickly pulled it and substituted other material when Kennedy was assassinated. Shortly afterward, President Lyndon Johnson’s staff asked DC to go ahead and run the story, which they did, adding a special commemorative page showing Superman saluting a ghostly image of Kennedy.

After the story was done, Plastino said, his bosses at DC were supposed to donate the original artwork to the Kennedy library. It’s not clear what actually happened, but the library has no record of ever receiving the pages, and the current owner acquired them in a Sotheby’s auction in 1993 for $5,000. “We have no reason to believe our consignor does not have the right to sell the piece, and nobody has shown us any evidence that he doesn’t,” Heritage’s senior consignment director, Steve Borock, told the Post. Borock also responded on Facebook, saying, “We have no reason to believe our consignor (One we have known for many years and who has an excellent track record with us) does not have the right to sell the piece, and nobody has shown us any evidence that he doesn’t … We’re all very sorry to hear that Al Plastino never got the art back from DC, but we all know the sad realities of the comic publishing business back in those days. Heck, it’s one of the reasons I am on the board of The Hero Initiative and the reason Heritage helps support them.”

Nonetheless, Heritage has put a hold on the auction, and Neal Adams’s daughter Kris Adams Stone says a legal action is being prepared to stop it all together. She argues that Plastino did not sell the actual art to DC — “He never gave up ownership of the art because DC never purchased it from him or paid sales tax” — so it still belongs to him.

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Comments

7 Comments

Well damn. That sucks.

I think it would be fair to find a way to reimburse the buyer the $5000 he paid for the art, but I think Al has a claim to the work as well and it should reside in the Kennedy library if that’s Al’s wish. Best of luck Al.

Are we not getting the complete story here? Other news sites reporting on this story have mentioned that the story was originally drawn by Curt Swan and then donated to Jackie Kennedy after JFK’s assassination. When they gave the okay to go ahead and print the story, it had to be re-drawn and that is Plastino’s version.

@Rob. Reimbursing 5000.00 would not work. what about the interest lost since 93 for the purchaser? He would have likely purchased the art thinking he owned it after paying for it.

Assuming there is even proof of this and he is supposed to own the piece then i would say DC might have to purchase the art back at a proper market value since they would have been the ones to not have met their end of the deal.

its going to be hard to prove however…that and would set a precedent…you have all this original art floating around…does that mean these would have to go back to the owner?

According to Al Plastino, Curt Swan only drew a splash page and the Kennedy Library has no record of ever receiving that art either.

Let it go to auction.

If Plastino can’t provide physical evidence (signed legal documentation) that the art should have been donated instead of sold into private hands, or automatically deferring into the hands of the publisher, which a great deal of comics art does anyways, then it should go to auction.

I seriously hope there’s more to the argument than, “that’s not what I was told…” and that DC didn’t pay sales tax… Because if there isn’t, the consignor should push for the auction. DC didn’t “ma[k]e good on their promise “? Big deal. How many other artists did the big two not make good on promises over the past seventy years?

@Aaron B. Your post is so wrong, I don’t know where to start. First, as creator of the art, it belonged to Plastino, not DC. It was not DC’s (or anyone elses) property to sell, unless they first bought it from him. What was to be done with the art should have been his decision alone. Yes, a lot of art over the years was never returned to the artist, but that doesn’t make it right.

Second, I find your attitude about Plastino potentially being robbed to be pathetic. So should ever comic creator be ripped off or lied to? Does other people’s personal property mean nothing to you? Is this the way you would want to be treated?

Just because a lot of comic book creators have been ripped off over the years doesn’t make it alright & doesn’t mean it should be ignored when it can be prevented.

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