Today the comics community mourns the loss and celebrate the life and work of cartoonist Al Plastino, a veteran of DC Comics whose enduringly popular creations include the Legion of Super-Heroes and Supergirl. Plastino was in the news this year after it was discovered that the artwork for which he was most proud, created for a story in which Superman undertook a mission at the behest of American President John F. Kennedy, was available in a high-priced auction and not donated to the late President's museum as Plastino said he'd been promised.
Comics historian Mark Evanier writes that Plastino began his comics career in 1941, when he was just 20-years-old. Following his service in World War II, Plastino found work at DC Comics, where he remained for decades. In addition to drawing the first appearances of Supergirl, Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad and Cosmic Boy, Plastino also co-created the Superman villain known as the Parasite, who's appeared regularly in comics and other media ever since.
In addition to his regular duties as a penciller and inker, Plastino was one of a few artists who had the dubious distinction of reworking Jack Kirby pages at the behest of DC, whose editors felt that the heads of Superman and Jimmy Olsen, as drawn by Kirby, were too off-model for their tastes.
A very versatile artist, Plastino later worked on newspaper comic strips including Batman, Superman, Nancy and Ferd'nand until he retired in the late 1980s.
Plastino resurfaced in the popular consciousness this year when he filed suit against Heritage Auctions for attempting to sell his original artwork for the JFK/Superman story, artwork he discovered on the showroom floor of New York Comic Con, not in the JFK Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, where he believed it had been for the last fifty years. Plastino's comic was created to promote the President's physical fitness initiative, but publication was halted upon JFK's assassination. The story eventually saw the light of day at the insistence of JFK's successor, President Johnson, which filled Plastino with no end of pride. MaryAnn Plastino Charles, Plastino’s daughter, told the New York Post that her father was “devastated” to learn that for fifty years his greatest achievement was not in the JFK museum, but had apparently been passed through the hands of various comic book art collectors and would soon go once again to the highest bidder.
The controversy surrounding the auction caused Heritage to postpone the auction indefinitely. It's presently unknown what effect if any Plastino's death will have on the situation, but in any event, his contribution to such an auspicious comic book work as well as some of the superhero genre's most beloved characters will never be forgotten.
Plastino died from prostate cancer on Monday, November 25, 2013. He was 91.