Supergirl Co-Creator Al Plastino Passes Away
so long and thanks for all the fish
Interrupted by World War II, Al Plastino wouldn’t bag the job that would put him in the comic history books until 1948, when he went to work for DC comics drawing stories in the Superman family, c0-creating both Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes in their first appearances. Plastino died yesterday at the age of 91, in the midst of a battle to regain the rights to some of his original art, so that it could be donated to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.
From the blog of comics historian Mark Evanier:
Plastino was [until yesterday], I believe, the only person alive who drew Superman comics professionally before about 1967. He started in 1948. His earliest known comic book work was in 1941 for a little-known company called Dynamic Comics. After serving in World War II, he freelanced in and out of comics until connecting in ’48 with DC, where he worked until the early seventies. For most of that time, he was the second-string Superman artist. Wayne Boring was the main guy through the fifties, then it was Curt Swan. The stories they didn’t have time to do were done by Plastino. He drew some memorable stories for the Superman line of comics, including the first stories of Supergirl and also of The Legion of Super-Heroes.
Supergirl was one of those characters where sexist tropes and motivations accidentally create a more interesting character than might otherwise have been created: as a female counterpart to Superman she of course had all of his powers. She was still a teenage girl in 1948, however, and so her parental figures barred her from acting as a superhero until she got older, confining her stories to the comfortable tropes of teen romance and misunderstandings with the occasional superheroics thrown in. But since her stories were being told in a time when Superman was at his most canonically powerful; a morally unimpeachable perfect gentleman and unflappable savior, Supergirl’s relative imperfections and mistakes actually turned out to make her comics a lot more interesting in comparison, ensuring their popularity. And her age and blood relation to Superman meant that the two would never be paired as love interests, unlike many of the “female version of male superhero” sidekicks, like Batwoman or Hawkgirl, that proceeded her at DC comics.
Plastino was proudest, however, of a Superman story he wrote and drew to promote President John F. Kennedy’s national fitness program, in which Superman worked with JFK, and even trusted him with his secret identity. Its publication was delayed after Kennedy was assassinated, but eventually ran in tribute to the fallen president. Plastino had been told by DC that his original art for the piece had been donated to the JFK Presidential Library, only to find it, fifty years later, up for auction. He sought to force Heritage Auctions to disclose the identity of the seller so that it might be returned, or donated as was originally claimed.
(via DC Women Kicking Ass.)
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