Was Al Plastino's Superman-JFK Artwork Stolen?

by Armand Vaquer
Above, the cover of Superman issue no. 170.
It is interesting that this story should hit now, since the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy is coming up next month.

There is a bit of a flap over some original artwork that appeared in the July 1964 issue of Superman (no. 170). The issue contained the story, "Superman's Mission For President Kennedy" that was penciled and inked by Al Plastino. In the story, Kennedy enlists Superman's help to get flabby Americans to become physically fit.

As I have this issue in my collection, I remember it well. On the very last panel of the story, it stated that the original artwork would be donated to the John F. Kennedy Library at Harvard University (at the time, that was where the library was planned to be located).

Above, the Plastino art. Note the last panel stating that the original art will be donated to the Kennedy Library.
According to a story at Bleeding Cool.com, the Plastino original artwork is now up for auction at Heritage Auctions. They are looking to get $200,000 for it.  Somehow, the artwork never made it to the Kennedy Library and they have no record of ever receiving it.

Artist Al Plastino is quite upset over this.

 He said:
Please help if you can. The art I donated and thought for all these years was being housed at the Kennedy library at Harvard is now being auctioned off on the anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination. And now I am finding out that the art may have never made it to the library. The archivists tell me there are no records of it ever being received. I asked for the art back and they will not give it to me. I asked for the consigner’s name and they will not tell me that either. They tell me I have no rights to my work and that it is too late to get it back.
I don't blame Plastino for being upset about his artwork, intended for the Kennedy Library, ending up in someone else's hands, possibly by theft.

However, the story gets more complicated.

The story was originally scheduled for Superman no. 168, but it was pulled when Kennedy was assassinated. This version was drawn by artist Curt Swan and inked by George Klein. The editor of Superman, Mort Weisinger, published an announcement in the current issue stating that the artwork would be donated to Jacqueline Kennedy.

Above, editor Mort Weisinger's announcement containing a panel of the Swan/Klein artwork.
Later, President Johnson asked National Periodical Publications (DC Comics) to publish it, and it is speculated that the Swan/Klein artwork was donated already, so it had to be re-drawn and Plastino got the assignment.

Herein lies the confusion or complication.

It appears that the Swan/Klein artwork may have been donated directly to Mrs. Kennedy and not to the Kennedy Library (I assume there was a foundation set-up to get the library built at the time). But, as it shows on the last panel of the Plastino version, his artwork was intended to be donated to the Kennedy Library. It is possible that both versions were intended to be donated (the Swan/Klein art to Mrs. Kennedy and the Plastino art to the Kennedy Library) by National.

Since it was stated on the last panel of Plastino's version that it was to be donated, how did it end up not going to the Kennedy Library, but eventually to an auction house in 2013? Could the artwork have been stolen? What happened?

Heritage Auctions should pull the artwork from their auction schedule, put it on hold (treat it as possible stolen property) and begin an investigation to see if the artwork was stolen as well as the chain of custody since 1964. That would be right thing to do.

UPDATE: Bleeding Cool reports that Heritage Auctions has withdrawn the auction for the Plastino artwork and will investigate.  For more, go here.


  1. Since Mr. Plastino never owned the artwork how can he ever have donated it as he states?

  2. An article in the NY Post has Mr. Plastino and his daughter speaking about how much the artwork means to them and their family, how proud he is of it and how he so desperately wants his grandchildren to see it. The writer never asked or answered the question of why have they never cared even enough to have ever gone to the museum and attempt to view it.


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