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Al Plastino’s original artwork for the 1964 story “Superman’s Mission For President Kennedy” is at last on display at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, where the late artist thought it had been for the past five decades.
“We are just thrilled that these came home to where they belong,” his daughter MaryAnn Plastino Charles, who traveled from Alabama to Boston to see the art, told The Associated Press. “This has been a long time coming. My father thought for so many years that it was here.”
A prolific Golden Age artist who passed away Nov. 25 at age 91, Plastino was surprised to discover at New York Comic Con a month earlier that the pages hadn’t been given five decades earlier to the library, as he’d been led to believe, but were instead set to be sold at auction by a private owner on the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. Plastino spent the last weeks of his life campaigning for the return of the artwork, leading Heritage Auctions to put the sale on hold until questions about ownership could be resolved; in December, DC Comics purchased the art for donation to the library.
Comics | Once the paperwork is complete, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library will officially own the original artwork for the 1964 DC Comics story “Superman’s Mission For President Kennedy,” fulfilling one of artist Al Plastino’s final wishes. Plastino, who passed away Nov. 25 at age 91, was surprised to discover at New York Comic Con a month earlier that the pages hadn’t been donated to the library five decades earlier, as he’d been led to believe, but were instead set to be sold at auction on the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. The auction was put on hold until questions of ownership could be resolved, and Plastino spent the final weeks of his life campaigning for the return of the artwork, even petitioning a judge to force the auction house to reveal the name of the seller. DC Entertainment intervened in December to acquire the pages and give them to the library. “We are thrilled to receive this historic artwork and look forward to sharing it with the public when the legal transfer is completed,” library director Tom Putnam said in a statement. [Newsday]
The York (Pennsylvania) Daily Record reports had been conservatively estimated to fetch $50,000 and $75,000, but the historical significance of the issue (cover-dated February 1964), and the timing of the auction — no coincidence, mind you — helped to drive up the price.
The cover shows the Superman greeting a line of well-wishers, including Lois Lane, Supergirl, Batman and Robin, and, somehow, Clark Kent. In the story, “The Superman Super-Spectacular,” written by Edmund Hamilton and penciled by Swan, Superman must figure out who can portray Clark on a television show honoring the Man of Steel so he can protect his secret identity. He ends up turning to President Kennedy, who dons a mask and make-up to shake Superman’s hand on air.
The issue was already so far into production when Kennedy was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963, that it couldn’t be stopped, and Action Comics #309 was released just days later.
The anonymous seller purchased the original art in the 1970s for $75.
Legal | Artist Al Plastino has asked a New York judge to order Heritage Auctions to reveal the name of the consignor who put up for sale his original art for the 10-page story “Superman’s Mission for President Kennedy.” Heritage says the sale has been canceled and the art returned to the consignor, who bought it at a Sotheby’s auction a decade ago. The JFK story was originally scheduled to run in a DC comic dated November 1963, but it was quickly pulled when Kennedy was assassinated. The story was published the following year at the request of the Johnson administration. The last panel of the comic stated the artwork was to be donated to the Kennedy Library, and Plastino believed that to be the case until this fall, when he discovered it was being put up for auction. [Reuters]
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Former 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.