Superman #170: "Superman's Mission For President Kennedy!"

Superman #170
 "Superman's Mission For President Kennedy!"
 July, 1964

 Script: Bill Finger; E. Nelson Bridwell
 Art: Al Plastino

 This tale was prepared in close cooperation with the late President John Fitzgerald Kennedy and was scheduled for publication in SUPERMAN #168, when word of his assassination reached the DC Comics offices. The story was immediately taken off the press and other material was substituted in its place. White House officials had informed the DC Comics staff that President Lyndon Johnson wanted the tale published, as a tribute to his predecessor. The memory of the late and beloved president this plea for his physical fitness program, to which the late president was wholeheartedly devoted to in life... "Superman's Mission for President Kennedy!"

 Spring weather causes part of an alpine mountain to thaw out in faraway Switzerland -- resulting in a thunderous avalanche... VR-R-OOOM! At the offices of the Daily Planet in Metropolis, mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent is listening to a radio bulletin... and learns about the American and European exchange students who were on a alpine bike tour on the upper trails -- This is most certainly a job for the Man of Steel! Clark Kent changes to Superman, and flies into Lois Lane's office. After learning she is working on a photo layout for Perry White, he continues on his way, and the girl reporter regrets missing out on this particular scoop! Now at super-speed, the Man of Steel arrives at the site of the avalanche... As he soars down, Superman selects a huge shale blade... for making an instant rescue and also clear away the avalanche at the same time...

 The Man of Steel gives a mighty push and makes like a human bulldozer... VROO-OO-OOSH! It takes an avalanche to clear an avalanche! Once the trails have been cleared, Lana Lang arrives in a helicopter with her television news crew... She and her crew had been doing a recording on next year's winter games -- and have now received a news break of their own! The European bicyclists are in tip-top shape and the American cyclists are suffering from fatigue! The following day finds Lana Lang's story on the two groups of cyclists being seen throughout the nation -- including the television set in Lois Lane's office... She vows never to be busy when the Man of Steel flies in for a visit!

 Lana's report is also seen by President Kennedy, who asks his aide to contact the Man of Steel! Superman arrives at the White House within the hour and is asked to perform a task which may prove far more daunting than moving mountains! He is asked by the president to get the nation's youth in shape! While the nation's forefathers were a hardy breed, modern teenagers may feel they have no need for physical development! United States astronauts such as Colonel John Glenn attribute the success of his orbital flight to his own physical and mental fitness as much as the youth of America must think the same way! These children must learn that everyone must keep fit -- because once we lose our physical alertness, our mental awareness will follow suit! Superman agrees and promises to do all he can about this "muscle gap"!

 As the Man of Steel begins his one-man mission, he sees a group of youths running a cross-country race... These runners are acting as if they are out on a Sunday stroll and need some zip to win this contest! He proposes they run a real race with him running at one hundred and fifty-millionths of his normal speed -- and the first one who catches him will get his autograph! As Superman makes an effort to move slowly -- the kids make an honest effort to keep up with him! As they run together, he reminds them to pace themselves -- to breathe deeply -- and to relax as they run -- because they still have a long way to go! At the finish line, all of the runners have caught him, and all of the five kids will receive his autograph! They have also learned how to run this race and will be showing their rival school a thing or two!

 Superman visits another school and sees two boys who are having trouble losing weight and getting into shape! The Man of Steel carries the two overweight boys from the gym, and uses his super-hearing to detect a rumbling underground hot water stream! Superman dives down... PLOO-OO-SH! He is now through the ground and tells the kids to stand by! SSSSSS VRO-OO-OOSH The two boys now have their own turkish steam bath! After a few hours of the heat, the fat is melted off of them, and they are brought back to their gym coach!

 The following day at another school, the Thompson Twins are having problems with developing their own self-confidence! The Man of Steel brings them to the woods and shows them a space dome he has built for travel to the moon! Now on the lunar surface, one Thompson Twin has just broken the Olympic pole-vaulting record and the other has completed a record-breaking hurdle! This is Superman's way of giving each twin confidence by having them exercise here where the moon's gravity is one-sixth that of Earth! Back on Earth, the Thompson Twins are easily winning all of the events! At the White House, President Kennedy congratulates Superman on the results of his one-man campaign! He must now return as mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent at the Daily Planet before Perry White starts to miss him!

 At the Daily Planet, the gruff editor has started the staff on the president's physical fitness program! Now Clark Kent must watch his diet with no bread and no pastries! After lunch, they take the stairs and not the elevator! When Perry notices that Clark is not even breaking a sweat, the mild-mannered reporter gets some water from a drinking fountain on his face without anyone seeing him! Back inside the office, the staff spend fifteen minutes on exercising... and the mild-mannered reporter must pretend that the exertion is too much for him!

 On Saturday, Perry has arranged for them to go on a ten-mile hike at the park, and expects them to don full field packs like his own! As Jimmy Olsen exclaims that he is not likely to make it through the entire ten miles, Clark tells him none of them will because it is starting to rain! The falling rain becomes a torrent... and the Daily Planet staffers take cover in a cave... to resume their hike when the rain has stopped! As they enter the cave... CR-RRASH! A loose boulder falls and traps them inside! Since they are all tired, Clark suggests they take a rest before trying to dig their way out! The cub reporter regrets that his Superman Signal-Watch is out for repair! Whle the others are napping, the mild-mannered reporter squeezes the boulder back up into the ceiling -- where it will not fall again! He will explain that the Man of Steel arrived -- seeing their predicament with his x-ray vision and -- well, he will have to think of something!

 Just as the boulder is secured, the others witness Clark's tremendous feat, and Perry attributes this to their physical fitness program making a real man out of him! Superman's secret identity is still safe! The following day finds a big parade passing through the city of Metropolis... with the cub reporter and the Jimmy Olsen Fan Club and Supergirl -- with her own fan club! They have gathered together in observance of the president's physical fitness program to build strong Americans! The climax of the parade arrives with fireworks and is watched by the Man of Steel and President Kennedy from the reviewing stand... Both are rightfully proud that thanks to Superman, the youth of America have taken a real interest in the physical fitness program!

 The American and European bicyclists bore witness to the biggest avalanche they ever thaw!

 President Kennedy had been dealing with a "missile gap" and needed Superman's help to deal with a "muscle gap"!

 When two overweight kids run out of steam, it's up to the Man of Steel to provide the turkist steam bath, and make it worth the weight!

 One wonders if these Thompson Twins grew up to become rock musicians like their counterparts on Earth-Prime.

 Although the mild-mannered reporter cannot perspire, Perry White can make him sweat!

 Clark refuses to cave-in to despair and risks his dual identity to save his friends.

 The original art for this story was thought to have been donated to the John F. Kennedy Memorial Library at Harvard University in 1964.

 Artist Al Plastino learned that the Library had never received the original art and it had come into the possession of Heritage Auctions.

 The pages were to be auctioned off on the fiftieth anniversary of President Kennedy's assassination.

 The art has been in the possession of a private collector for two decades and who had purchased them from a Sotheby's auction.

 This particular Superman story held a special place in the artist's heart and he proudly told his family about the art being donated to the Kennedy memorial library.

 When news of this story broke, Heritage Auctions pulled the original art pages from auction, and DC Entertainment stepped in to acquire the original art for donation to the Kennedy Library (per the late artist's wishes).

 "Superman's Mission For President Kennedy!" was finally put on display and a new generation got to see the Man of Steel's greatest feat for the late president themselves.

 This review is dedicated to the memory of Superman artist Al Plastino

 Steve Chung
 "Superman's Review For President Kennedy!"