Some time ago, we looked at the Superman story that had the great misfortune to come out in the days immediately following the assassination of President Kennedy fifty years ago this week.  What you may not know is, that tale wasn’t the only Kennedy-related story that DC had on tap in those heady days of 1963, and the story of the second one is as interesting as the first.  Your Major Spoiler (retro) review awaits!

SUMMARY

Pros
A DC Silver Age clockwork tales.
Plastino’s a pretty good artist.


Cons

Curt Swan didn’t draw it all.
The first story is the most interesting, and also the shortest.

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

READER RATING!

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (1 votes, average: 4.00 out of 5)
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Superman170CoverSUPERMAN #170
Writer: Bill Finger/E. Nelson Bridwell/Jerry Siegel
Artist: Al Plastino/Curt Swan
Inker: Al Plastino/George Klein
Letterer: Uncredited
Editor: Mort Weisinger
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: 12 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $240.00

Previously in Superman: The election of a young, charismatic president in 1960 was thought to be the beginning of a whole new age, with the Kennedy White House referred to by many as ‘Camelot.’  Even DC Comics got in on the act, with the aforementioned Action Comics #309 (wherein President Kennedy pulls Superman’s fat out of the secret identity fire), but also with a story featuring Superman assisting with the President’s Council On Physical Fitness, one of Kennedy’s favorite causes.  With a street date of April 1964, that story was intended for print in Superman #168, which should have been on sale in January of ’64.  Instead, we got a different tale, with an explanation appearing in #168’s letter column…

Lettercol

Given the circumstances, it’s kind of a classy move by DC, holding off on putting out a story when an entire country was mourning the loss of their leader.  Still, a few months later, President Johnson’s White House requested that DC go ahead with the story in Kennedy’s memory, sending Plastino to his drawing board again to create a new title splash for the issue…

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After that nice tribute, we leap into the story proper, as Clark Kent overhears reports of a sudden avalanche endangering a group of schoolkids somewhere in the Alps.  A quick-change later, and the Man Of Tomorrow whooshes away to save the day, but not without consequences…

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The bad press about the state of American youth is heard far and wide, even in Washington DC, where John F. Kennedy takes issue with the representation of his country’s youth as sad-sack layabouts, and calls in the favor he earned by helping out Superman some months before…

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Putting the commander-in-chief’s plan into action, Supes sets out to help the students of the United States through careful application of his super-powers.  Teaching one group to run by chasing him for his autograph, Kal-El follows up with a display of powers that changes the laws of physics and/or human physiognomy…

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He even helps to build the confidence of the youth of America but dragging them into space in a rickety dome of his own design, because there’s no way that could ever go wrong…

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Indeed, the Presidential Super-Plan works so well that the adults begin to adopt better habits themselves, following the example that Superman has set for their young, which becomes problematic for Superman’s ongoing masquerade as common milquetoast Clark Kent…

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Things get even worse, as Perry’s gung-ho attitude leads to the Planet’s staff (which, by the way, seems to consist of four people) going on a hike in the mountains, and getting trapped in an underground cavern thanks to an avalanche and a random boulder.  Thinking his friends are all asleep, Clark decides to move it and blame the whole thing on Superman, when suddenly…

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Depending on the source, rumors have it that this story was redrawn by Plastino after Curt Swan initially did it, but either way, it’s a cute little Silver Age tale, albeit one that probably wouldn’t be remembered at all in a world where the 35th President of the United States did not have his life cut short.  I also can’t find any reports of whether DC contacted the Johnson White House about this story or vice-versa, but either way, the back story on how ‘Superman’s Mission For President Kennedy’ made it to print are fascinating,  Interestingly, the cover of this issue is NOT dedicated to the lead story, possibly because they didn’t want to feature the late President on a cover three months after his death.  The cover instead is given over to the backup story, a tale of Luthor’s dedication to turning his obsession with Superman into a ‘Celebrity Jeopardy’ joke…

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Curt Swan’s art is probably the best part of this weird and not-as-Freudian-as-it-sounds little story, leaving us with an issue that does what Weisinger reputedly wanted his books to do: Entertain us for a while, and leave us wanting to buy the next issue.  Superman #170 is memorable mostly for real-world historical reason, but still serves as a solid example of Silver Age DC madness, earning 3.5 out of 5 stars overall.

Rating: ★★★½☆

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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