Superman to be displayed at JFK

by Michael Pantaleon
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In 1963, President John F. Kennedy enlisted the Man of Steel for help as part of a national physical fitness campaign. Something very similar to Michelle Obama’s use of pop culture in her own campaign for fitness. More than 50 years later and now the drawings are going to be displayed in in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

The comic was titled “Superman’s Mission for President Kennedy,” created by Al Plastino in late 1963. President Kennedy was actually in collaboration with Plastino for the issue.


In the issue, the president tells Superman, “Our forefathers were hardy folks, because they walked to school, chopped trees, tilled the soil. But modern inventions like the auto and the tractor have made our youth ‘soft.’ We must show our youngsters that everyone has to keep fit, not just sports heroes!”

Superman responds, “I’ll do all I can to help close this ‘muscle gap!” Then goes on to whip some youngsters into shape.

It’s a reminder and tribute to Kennedy’s stance on fitness, especially now since childhood obesity has become such a major problem in this country. It’s also a credit to Kennedy’s use of pop culture and social media to get his message out. When Kennedy was assassinated, the comic was delayed by DC Comics. President Lyndon B. Johnson requested for it to be published because fitness had been so important to Kennedy. Plantino wanted to donate his hand-drawn black and white storyboards to the JFK library, which DC Comics eventually did after buying them off at a New York auction. It was in honor of Plastino’s passing away in December at 92.


An iconic and incredibly popular American superhero teaming up with a youthful, spirited president of the United States of America sounds like the best team-up in comic history. What kid wouldn’t listen to their message to get in shape and stay fit?

Source: The Boston Globe

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