Rare Superman Artwork, Featuring JFK, Flies Home to Boston

After more than 50 years, the long-lost comic is on display.

Image via JFK Library and Museum

Image via JFK Library and Museum

It’s a bird, it’s a plane—wait, no—it’s a series of rare comic book art that’s been missing for several decades, but has finally returned to its rightful place here in Boston.

Thanks to the superhero-like actions of DC Comics and the curators at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, for the first time ever, pages from a special Superman comic book that were thought to have been lost forever are now on display for the general public to enjoy.

Created by the late and legendary comic book artist Al Plastino, who is known as “one of the most influential” Superman illustrators of his time, the rare artwork features President Kennedy and Superman in a special-edition DC Comics called “Superman’s Mission for President Kennedy.”

In the early 1960s, DC Comics partnered with the White House to create the comic to promote Kennedy’s “Council on Physical Fitness” initiative, to get people to eat better and exercise. The comic book was in the midst of production when Kennedy was assassinated, however, so the company decided to pull the special edition that they’d been working on. Luckily, because of the importance of the message and because they wanted to commemorate Kennedy, the White House later told DC Comics to go ahead with printing the comic.

In the 1960s, Plastino thought the story’s original artwork that he illustrated for the limited-edition comic book wound up at the JFK Library here in Boston. But as the 50th Anniversary of the president’s assassination approached in November 2013, news surfaced that the comic book was up for auction in California, blind-siding Plastino. “I found out a few weeks ago that my work is going up for auction at Heritage House in Beverly Hills. They will not return it to me or tell me who the consigner is,” Plastino wrote on his Facebook fan page at the time.

In November of last year, Plastino asked the community for help getting all 10 pages of the artwork back, which were set to be auctioned off at $20,000 each. At the last minute, after DC Comics worked with the auctioneers, the pages were pulled from the showcase despite the fact that auctioneers confirmed they had legally purchased the pages in 1993. Soon after, at the request of Plastino, DC Comics was able to purchase the special JFK issue. Sadly, however, Plastino passed away before it made its way to the museum.

As part of Plastino’s dying wish, he wanted the Superman comic to get back into the hands of the JFK Library at all costs, and his former employer, DC Comics, made sure it happened. On Thursday, they went on display. “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,” said Tom Putnam, Director of the Presidential Library, after unveiling the artwork.

Plastino’s family, who has been updating the artist’s Facebook page in the wake of his death, said they were pleased that DC Comics was able to secure the copy of “Superman’s Mission for President Kennedy,” and get it to the library. “We are extremely grateful [that it] will be preserved as part of his artistic legacy and as a tribute to President Kennedy,” they said in a statement in November. “This art was always very, very special to Al and our whole family and it would have meant a great deal to Al to know that DC Entertainment stepped in to make this possible.”

The family has included some digital images of the comic book, which are in black and white, on Plastino’s Facebook fan page. Those that want to see the pages in person can visit the JFK Library through May 31, where they will remain on display.