DC Entertainment have acquired the original art pages to Al Plastino's Silver Age classic "Superman's Mission For President Kennedy" and will donate them to the John F. Kennedy Memorial Library, per the late artist's wishes.
Back in October, Plastino revealed via his Facebook page that the pages--which he believed were donated to the museum in 1964--had actually never been checked in there and had disappeared somewhere between DC Comics and the Library, resurfacing years later at auction. The private collector who had purchased them at that time was ready to re-sell them at a special auction commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of President Kennedy's death in November, but Plastino's calls for help mobilized the comics community and the combination of public outrage and a lack of clear original ownership seemingly caused the art's sale to be put on hold.
Officially, the auction house gave no indication that they were concerned about the ownership of the work, but legal precedent tends to find that the original art belongs to the artist and that work-for-hire publishers own only the publication rights. So if Plastino donated it to the library and it never arrived, a convincing case could be made that whoever owned it later was, knowingly or not, taking possession of art whose sale was not authorized. Certainly that was the position of Neal Adams, Plastino himself and others in the comics community at the time.
Following the revelation that the John F. Kennedy Memorial Library had never received the piece, many--including comics scholar Mark Evanier--suggested that the art may have been mishandled by DC, who had promised Plastino they would deliver it to the museum. Comics publishers had a poor track record of handling and documenting original art at that time; both internal theft and accidental destruction/disposal of art pages were common. However, it's DC who appear to have stepped up to give the story a happy ending.
Writing on their blog, the publisher announced yesterday:
Al Plastino was one of the most influential and prolific Superman artists of the 1950s and 1960s. His passing last month saddened the entire DCE family.
One of Plastino's most recognizable pieces was a Superman story he illustrated that featured President John F. Kennedy titled "Superman’s Mission For President Kennedy." Among Plastino’s final wishes was for the original art for the story to be displayed at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, MA.
As a tribute to honor him and preserve his artistic legacy, DC Entertainment is pleased to confirm that we have acquired the art and will be donating it to the JFK Library, fulfilling Plastino's longtime hope for the story, which he often pointed to as one of his most important artistic contributions.
Mr. Plastino’s wife, Annmarie, and Mr. Plastino’s children, MaryAnn, Fred, Janice, and Arlene, said: "We are extremely grateful to DC Entertainment for ensuring that the original art Al Plastino created for 'Superman's Mission for President Kennedy' will be preserved as part of his artistic legacy and as a tribute to President Kennedy. 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."