Sunday, December 8, 2013

Jeff Morley's site reminded me of the sad tale of Action Comics #309 and Superman #168

The plot of this story and when the comic hit the newsstands is so sad.  You couldn't make up a story like this.

In the story JFK agrees to disguise himself as Clark Kent so that Clark Kent and Superman can be in the same place at the same time.

The story would make you think Superman is paying close attention to President Kennedy in the month he's assassinated.  A child might wonder, Superman, why didn't you save him?

The artwork for this story sold at an auction recently.

The winning bid was $112, 015.00

Here's the cover artwork for that story.

Being a comic book geek; until DC came out with their DC52 rebooting of every character and storyline in DC comics history, I've always said, if you want to be rich sell erasers to DC comics; I can tell you who we have standing in line here.  Superman is shaking the hand of Clark Kent, who is JFK in disguise.  Then we have Lois Lane, Perry White, Supergirl, Batman and Robin, Jimmy Olson, a woman I can't identify, then three members of the Legion of Superheroes who are from the 30th century, we have Saturn Girl who had telepathic abilities, Element Lad, who could turn any element into another element with a wave of his hand and like Superman is the sole survivor of his planet, and Chameleon Boy who is a shape shifter, and then behind them all is Lori Lemaris, a real mermaid in a fish tank, and then a man in a suit and tie who might be Pa Kent, Superman's earthly father from Smallville.  This artwork was drawn by Curt Swan who drew Superman for a very long time.

Superheros were not really associated or friendly with any president except, of course, FDR because the genre of Superheroes started in 1938 with the creation of Superman, though he was not the first "Superhero," he got the genre rolling. ( 1938 through the war, to the very early 1950's depending on who you talk to, is seen as The Golden Age of Comic Books. ) Then came the attack on Pearl Harbor and the entry of America into World War II.  The strong wave of patriotism and nationalism created a slew of new characters who usually had some patriotic name or costume, Captain America, Wonder Woman, whose costume is really based on the flag, Uncle Sam, etc.  FDR and the war were entwined into many comic plots.  After the war the genre diminished and comic books were attacked by idiotic opportunists in Congress and were claimed to be the reason behind juvenile delinquency.  

In a display of startling stupidity, and total ignorance of who we just fought a world war over, extreme Right-wing fools staged comic book burnings. Yes, another example that the concept of IRONY is incomprehensible to most Americans.  One of these idiots was Senator Joe McCarthy.  Comic books suffered a lot in the post war years and throughout the 1950's.  Some titles continued, of course, like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, other title stopped and some disappeared altogether.  In 1954 there was an attempt to revive the Superhero and a new Flash was created. This Flash story is credited as the start of The Silver Age  Slowly, new characters appeared and comic book were becoming popular again.

One can only imagine what could been.  Superheroes helping to make JFK cool, or cooler.  Once can only imagine how or if any superhero were to be used to perhaps promote a domestic or international policy.

In Action Comics #309 JFK wanted to enlist Superman to help promote physical fitness.  This was surely a safe non-partisan domestic police to pursue.  Who would argue against physical fitness?

JFK was also set to appear in another Superman comic, Superman #168.  Here is the artwork for the interior first page, this too is profoundly sad. 

This just gets weird.  Okay, the artwork for this title, Superman #168 was drawn by Al Plastino. He thought the artwork for this issue proudly hung somewhere in the JFK Library.  He thought that for years.  It turns out that the JFK Library never had possession of it.  Somehow someway someone else got it and kept it.  It was eventually bought by legendary musician Grahm Nash.  The facts of how he acquired it are murky.  Nash then wanted to sell it through an auction house in NYC.  

From The Daily News:
November 19, 2013

Superman has a new mystery to solve: Who stole his comic book about President Kennedy?

A prominent illustrator of Superman's comics, Al Plastino of Shirley, L.I., is suing to force Heritage Auctions to disclose the identity of the person selling his original artwork for a 1963 comic book called "Superman's Mission for President Kennedy."

Plastino, nearly 92 and in a hospital intensive care unit, had thought for 50 years that the artwork had been sent to the Kennedy Library in Boston.

He discovered only last month at the New York Comic Con that the Kennedy Library never had possession of his drawings, and that Heritage would instead be auctioning them this month, the 50th anniversary of Kennedy's assassination.

Plastino's lawyer, Dale Cendali, said his client was "visibly shaken" when he saw the sale promoted at the convention in a Heritage booth. It has an estimated value of about $50,000, she said.

"This book was very meaningful for him," Cendali said.

She said Plastino's publisher, DC Comics, had commissioned the book to promote Kennedy's physical fitness programs for children and Plastino was working on it when he heard Kennedy had been shot in Dallas.

Publication was briefly suspended, but according to court papers, the book was issued because "President Johnson wanted it published, as a tribute to his predecessor."

The publisher wrote in the book: "We dedicate to the memory of our late, beloved President this plea for his physical fitness program, to which he was wholeheartedly devoted during his life."

Cendali said Plastino adjusted the story so that it ended with an image of Kennedy in the clouds "looking down on everyone in a moving way."

She said Plastino hoped "it would help kids struggling with a tragedy make some sense of it all."

For decades, she said, Plastino bragged to friends that the original artwork was in Boston because the publisher promised in writing that it would be sent to the JFK Library.

She said he was not aware that the artwork was sold in 1993 by Sotheby's as part of a consignment from rock and roll star Graham Nash, and it is still unclear how and when Nash acquired it and who bought it.

"It's our hope that the people who own it do the right thing," Cendali said, suggesting that the art could still be donated. "Time is of the essence," she added, noting that Plastino is critically ill.

Meanwhile, she said, Heritage has postponed its sale of the illustrations indefinitely.

There was no immediate response from Heritage.

Nash could not be reached for comment.


I do not know if this was resolved or not, if the sale went ahead, I don't know.

Tragically, Mr. Al Plastino died just 3 days after the 50th anniversary of JFK's death.  Mr. Plastino died on November 25, 2013. 

He made major contributions to comics and Superman.  Mr. Plastino created the character Supergirl. He also created the Legion of Super Heros, teenagers with super powers in 1958. 

He has a website, Al Plastino.  And there's an interview with him.  

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