Al Plastino, the veteran Superman artist whose name recently made headlines when a piece of his artwork turned up at auction decades after he was told it was headed for a museum, has passed away. He was 91.
Plastino, one of the most prolific Superman artists of all time, began his time with the character in 1948 and continued to draw him regularly until about 1970 and periodically for decades after that.
Most recently, he became emboiled in a legal dispute with a Dallas auction house over the sale of a ten-page story Plastino drew in 1963 titled "Superman's Mission For President Kennedy." The story was meant to run as a means of promoting the President's physical fitness initiative, but had to be delayed when Kennedy was assassinated, after which time the story ran with a reworked first page that showed a spectral JFK standing benevolently over the Capitol Dome.
DC Comics had assured him that the Kennedy Library at Harvard but somehow or another never made its way there. Current legal thinking would suggest that the pages were still legally Plastino's, since original art belongs to the creator unless otherwise stipulated. Still, while it appears to have been somebody at DC back in the '60s who mishandled the art, the fact that it has been auctioned at least once before and is in the possession of a private collector who believed himself to be the legitimate owner had complicated Plastino's efforts to retrieve the work.
The auction house first stood their ground but later withdrew the auction, saying that they were looking into the chain of events leading up to the current owner buying the art at auction years ago.
Comics historial Mark Evanier broke the news when he posted to his blog, posted to his blog:
As some of you may have heard, veteran comic book artist Al Plastino has been locked in a messy squabble lately regarding the ownership of the original art he drew in 1964 for a Superman story about President John F. Kennedy. The battle has come to a sad ending for Mr. Plastino, who died this afternoon. He was 91 and had been battling prostate cancer for some time.
According to Evanier, Plastino was last person left alive who drew Superman comics professionally before about 1967. He began his comics work in 1941 for a little-known company called Dynamic Comics and moved on to freelancing for DC Comics after the second World War. He also worked on the syndicated Batman strip and, according to Evanier, was briefly considered as a potential replacement for Charles Schulz on Peanuts (needless to say, everyone saw the fault in that before anything was published).