Al Plastino, who died yesterday, was one of the most prolific and influential Superman artists in history. During his tenure in the 40s and 50s, he drew a clean-cut Man of Steel who looked a lot like the G.I.s who’d recently returned home to start families, don gray flannel suits, and like Ike.
Joe Shuster’s laughing-daredevil Superman had greeted the world with a grin so wide it squinted his eyes. Plastino drew Superman with a clear-eyed, baby-blue gaze of concern for us, his charges. He was America’s Dad.
Plastino drew the story that introduced Superman’s cousin Supergirl, and was a regular artist on lots of Superboy tales as well, so he drew his fair share of Krypto stories.
In Adventure #247, he introduced the Legion of Super-Heroes. (The issue’s iconic cover was drawn by Curt Swan and Stan Kaye.)
He designed the rocketship-tail Legion HQ, and introduced many of the the retro-future trappings that make these classic Legion tales so charming.
He also drew one of my personal favorite panels, in which Superboy, thinking he’s just been rejected for membership, goes all “CHOKE! SOB!” because 1958.
(Turns out, of course, that the Legion was just hazing him, because dicks.)
Superman met JFK three times.
In Action #285 (February 1962), he presents his cousin Supergirl to the world. JFK greets her warmly. (“I know you’ll use your super-powers not only to fight crime, but to preserve peace in our troubled world!”)
In Action #309 (February 1964) — the issue that was still on many newsstand shelves when Kennedy was killed on November 22, 1963 — Superman got him self in a tight spot. A live television show honoring the Man of Steel requires Superman and Clark Kent to share the stage at the same time. The Man of Tomorrow appeals to the leader of the free world for help, and POTUS agrees to don a rubber Clark Kent mask and glasses to pass himself off as Superman’s alter ego.
"I knew I wasn’t risking my secret identity with you!” a beaming Superman confides. “After all, if I can’t trust the President of the United States, who can I trust?” 1963, ladies and gentlemen.
Kennedy was originally scheduled to make a third appearance just two months later in Superman #168 (April 1964), in a story promoting the President’s Council on Physical Fitness. Yet in the wake of the assassination, the story was pulled and replaced with another “Luthor, Hero of Lexo” story.
The letters page scheduled for that issue was pulled as well and replaced with an In Memoriam by editor Mort Weisinger, which featured a clipping from the New York Times about the planned story.
Later, President Lyndon Johnson contacted the DC offices and urged that the story see print; the Kennedy family concurred. Lacking Curt Swan’s original art, however — which had, in fact, been donated to the Kennedy estate — Al Plastino stepped in to redraw the story. The Kennedy tale, looking a good deal more rushed and crudely drawn than Plastino’s coolly controlled norm, finally appeared as the lead story of Superman #170 (July 1964). DC felt it best not to picture Kennedy on the issue’s cover, opting instead to feature an Imaginary Story that explored what would happen if Luthor were Superman’s father.
— Adapted from Superman: The Unauthorized Biography, Chapter 6: “Not a Dream! Not a Hoax! Not an Imaginary Story!”, pp.132-3.
Here’s an awesome piece that Jordan Morris wrote for Bullseye. He’s been hosting, and he’s really been kicking ass.
The Outshot: Superman For All Seasons
Growing up, I never got what people liked about Superman. I was into the high drama of the Uncanny X-men. I loved the heavy metal style of Spawn. But Superman? Superman was just… boring. He’s unconditionally virtuous. He always does the right thing. He’s Ned Flanders with heat vision.
But these days I feel differently. The story that changed my tune was Superman for All Seasons by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale.
Superman stories tend to drop the blue guy into genre pieces. He’s a sci-fi hero. He’s a detective. Sometimes he’s meet cute-ing in a romantic comedy. Superman for All Seasons is different. It’s a simple coming of age story. Our hero grows up in Smallville, feeling different. Then he moves to the big city to try and make a name for himself. Simple.
Ach… okay… there’s also a nuclear submarine, and flying robots and a villainess in a bustier who has a poison gun… it’s still a comic book. But relatively speaking? Simple. Classic.
The art style owes a lot to Norman Rockwell. He’s even thanked at the top of the book. And they’re not using Rockwell for ironic effect. It’s not David Lynch, exposing the darkness behind America’s white picket fences. They’re using the Rockwell style to tell a story that’s beautiful and emotional… and… I mean this in the best possible way… All American.
There’s one panel that made me get Superman in an instant, after a lifetime of trying to figure out what the big deal was. A tornado hits Smallville. Superman saves the day. Ma and Pa Kent are singing his praises and he says to them… “I could have done more.” That’s what makes Superman interesting. He always thinks “I could have done more.”
Really, don’t we all think that? Like, a lot? We’ve all got some kind of powers - time, money, skills - and I really think most of us try and use them for good. But no matter how much we’re doing, there’s always a voice telling us we should be volunteering, spending more time with our families, writing that screenplay, picking up that musical instrument we haven’t touched since high school.
It’s not really a book for younger kids. It’s light on action and it maybe gets a little corny… several scenes literally take place in a malt shop. But its perfect for someone just finishing high school, or maybe about to leave for college or starting a job.
It drives home a wonderful point. We can behave virtuously. We can succeed. But we still might feel a little sad. And that’s okay.
That feeling of wanting to do more is part of what makes a hero.
Something I wrote for the Bullseye radio program.
You guys, Jordan gets it.
Paul F. Tompkins' new show on Fusion is pretty great if you haven't seen it yet or got around to getting Fusion on your TV.
Basically, Tompkins discusses big time issues with puppets (i.e. immigration reform with an alien puppet) and there are a few clips of it to watch at Fusion.net that you should absolutely watch right now.
Yerd Nerp is the sensational character find of 2013. Mark my words. MARK THEM.
Limited Collectors Edition C-39, Featuring Secret Origins Of Super-Villains, November 1975