Official Press Release
The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum today announced that it has unveiled a special new display of rare Superman artwork created by legendary comic book artist Al Plastino featuring President John F. Kennedy. The story, told in ten hand-drawn story boards, was written in collaboration with the Kennedy White House in an effort to promote the President’s initiative encouraging physical fitness. The never-before-displayed original artwork will be shown in the Library’s museum through May 31, 2014.
In 1963, the Kennedy White House launched a highly innovative marketing effort in collaboration with DC Comics (then called National Periodical Publications), the publisher of Superman, to create a story that would promote the President’s Council on Physical Fitness. A hallmark of the Kennedy Administration, the Council established physical fitness curriculum for the country and initiated a national publicity campaign on the topic. In “Superman’s Mission for President Kennedy” JFK calls upon Superman to help inspire the nation to exercise, eat better, and get stronger.
“The alliance between the Kennedy White House and the Superman comic strip designed to promote President Kennedy’s physical fitness initiative demonstrates how innovative the administration was in communicating and advancing key initiatives,” said Tom Putnam, Director of the Presidential Library. “Thanks to the Superman artist, Al Plastino, and the generous donation of DC Comics, we are pleased that this artwork will be available for the public to view for the very first time.
The Superman piece was in production when President Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963, and the project was set aside. Eight months later, with the encouragement of President Lyndon Johnson, the story was published as a special tribute to President Kennedy. The final page of the published version states that the story’s original artwork would be donated to the Kennedy Library, which was then in the planning stages.
Al Plastino, who drew Superman for 20 years, took special pride in his drawings for this story. In late 2013, nearly a half a century later, when the artist learned that his original artwork was slated for auction, his family contacted the Kennedy Library to see if it had any record of the material ever being part of its holdings. A thorough search showed no evidence that the artwork had ever been offered to the Library or was ever a part of its collections.
In December 2013, just a month after Mr. Plastino passed away, DC Comics acquired the original drawings and offered them to the Kennedy Library, where they have become part of the permanent collection.
Upon securing the artwork, DC Comics issued a statement saying, “As a tribute to honor him and preserve his artistic legacy, DC Entertainment is pleased to confirm that we have acquired the art and will be donating it to the JFK Library, fulfilling Plastino’s longtime hope for the story, which he often pointed to as one of his most important artistic contributions.”
The ten story boards for “Superman’s Mission for President Kennedy” are in the original black and white; color was added to them prior to publication. The artwork will remain on display through May 31, 2014.
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