About Al

 
 

        Al Plastino learned to draw from copying the masters of old — literally. “ I used to go to the Metropolitan Museum in NYC — Dad would drop me off. I copied Renoir, Monet, Rembrandt, Raphael, Michaelangelo, all the masters.” He laughs as he reminisces. Looking back, it was a rather inauspicious beginning for the man who would go on to help immortalize some of the best known Superheroes — Superman, Supergirl, Superboy, Batman, Batgirl, Legion of Super Heroes.

        All this from someone who used to look down on comic art. “In my day, a cartoonist was the worst thing you could be.

        ”Born December 15th, 1921, Plastino says he began his career in art while still in grade school. “My third grade teacher saw my work; we used to have these little yearbooks. I contributed some drawings. When I got to 6th grade, I was painting the scenery for the plays. I did posters for Thanksgiving, Christmas, she encouraged me, bought me books.” He was accepted in to the High School of Industrial Arts  in NYC and when he graduated, began illustrating for a magazine called Youth Today. He was accepted at Cooper Union in New York to further his art training but decided to keep working as a freelance artist.

        Plastino was in the Metropolitan one day, copying a Renoir, when a man came up and handed him his business card. “ I don’t know whether you’re showing off, but you’re good,” Plastino related. The man was a mapmaker and young Plastino found himself illustrating maps of real estate. “Not much pay,” he recalls, laughing. “But I learned a hell of a lot.”

        During World War II, Plastino was drafted, along with his brothers, who happened to let slip that Al was building a model airplane from his own sketches, plans and scrap balsa wood.   The army became interested, fast. “They looked at it, they liked it,” he recalled. They liked it so much, in fact, that they gave him an extension and sent him to Grumman Aerospace Corp., the Inventor’s council and then to the Pentagon in Washington D.C.

        A week later, Plastino received a telegram to report for duty at the Pentagon and was assigned to the AGO – the Adjunct General’s office where he began drawing and painting posters for the war. He was then sent to Steinberg’s Studios in New York and did drawings for the army training manuals. He soon learned from Steinberg that DC Comics was looking for an illustrator to do Superman. “ I did a sample drawing for DC Comics editor Mort Weisenger. They were paying $55 a page at the time.

        Pretty soon Plastino was not only drawing Superman for DC editor Weisenger, he also began work on a series of new characters including Supergirl and the Legion of Super Heroes — all based on the Superman story with writer, Otto Binder. “Mort was responsible for really building up the Superman character with those ideas. I thought they were crazy at the time”. Plastino also worked on Superboy, Superdog, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen and all of the spinoffs during the 50’s.

        His work on Batman came about from a request by writer/editor Jack Ellsworth. “People that created strips didn’t necessarily draw them,” Plastino related. Even though Bob Kane was the creator, Ellsworth knew Plastino was an artist who could really make the stories come to life. (Al would go on to draw the strip for Ledger Syndicate through the 70’s).

        In the 60’s Al was working on a Superman story featuring John F. Kennedy concerning Youth Fitness and called on Superman to help him. Halfway through the story, Kennedy was assassinated but was asked by President Johnson to complete the story. The original artwork is housed in The Kennedy Library.

        A character named “Hap Harper” was the start of Al’s relationship with United Features Syndicate. He went on to do the pantomine strip Ferd’nand in the early 70’s while he was still drawing Batman. The strip became Al’s and appeared in more than 400 newspapers around the world. Plastino also drew the “Nancy and Sluggo” comic strip for Ernie Bushmiller and later ghosted “Peanuts” for Charles Shultz when he underwent heart surgery back in the 1980’s.

        He credits his childhood for his later ability to help out a lot of different artists. “ I was able to do any one style,” he recalls. “ I could copy anyone. It goes back to my basic drawing and painting at the museum”.

        These days, its rest and relaxation for the 86 year old who loves to fish and golf. He spends as much time as he can with his wife, 4 children and 6 grandchildren. Occasionally he’ll hear from an old friend and artist but those calls get fewer and fewer as Al slowly becomes the last of his kind from the golden age of comics.

        He speaks with mixed emotions of the art he has become famous for: “I really wanted to be a fine artist. I love to paint with watercolors and oils. Landscapes are my favorite subject matter and it is usually of places like Smith Point and other areas on Long Island — my home of 50 years”.  His work has and continues to be displayed at Galleries on Long Island and is also auctioned  to charities and church organizations as well. “I get a great deal of satisfaction when a letter arrives from a fan or I meet someone in person and they tell me how much they enjoyed my work and how it has influenced them. Knowing I have helped to inspire others and the fact that they can recognize the craftsmanship of the art, to me, is the greatest honor anyone could receive.”


 
  1. Name: Alfred John Plastino

  2. Born: December 15, 1921 in New York City

  3. Resides: Long Island, NY

  4. Comic Book Credits: DC Comics: Superman (1948-68); Superman and Batman (World’s Finest Comics 1967-69), Jimmy Olsen (1961-65); Lois Lane (1957-60)

  5. Co-Creator: Legion of Super Heroes 1958; Superboy (1957); Supergirl (1958)

  6. Marvel/Timely Comics: Captain America 1942; The Patriot (1942-43); Sub-Mariner 1940’s; The Vision (1942-43)

  7. Comics Shop Work: (Jack

  8. Binder Studio) 1940, Harry Chesler Studio (1938-45), Funnies Inc. (1941-46), SM Iger Studio (1940-41)

  9. Chesler Publications/Dynamic, etc. Dynamic Man (1941-44), Johnny on the Spot (1945), Rocketman (1941, 1946)

  10. Featured Comics: Green Lantern 1941

  11. Novelty Comics: Phantom Sub (1942-43); Sergeant Spook 1942 Bluebolt (1943)

  12. Magazine Enterprises American Air Forces 1944; non-fiction US Marines 1944

  13. Syndicated Comic Strips: Abbie n’ Slats (1957); Barry Noble, formerly Hap Harper, Washington Correspondent (1946-48); Batman and Robin (1968-72), Ferd’nand (1970-89), Nancy (1982-84), Superman (1960’s) Peanuts (1983)