Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Legion Companion And Al Plastino

 Every so often, I feel lucky.

I was in my comic store a couple of weeks ago when they were having a sale. As I was thumbing through their stock of back issues, I stumbled across this book, the Legion Companion.

It has a cover price of $24.95 but was on sale, about 70% off that. It is a TwoMorrows compendium of interviews with Legion royalty, bringing together these disparate conversations into one neat volume. From Otto Binder to Mark Waid and nearly everyone in between this book showcases creators of the Legion from multiple decades and continuities.

I have only started the book, just three interviews in and I already know that I'll be cannibalizing the Supergirl-centric bits to share here.

But seriously, this book was so cheap that I might have bought it for the Dave Cockrum cover alone!

Add to that Jim Mooney's drawing on the back, Kara holding a big place among the notaries, and the cover itself is a score.

I love TwoMorrows, subscribing to back issue and picking up Alter Ego and collections like this (for example the recent DC Implosion one). They never fail to satisfy.

I mean I can never get enough Mooney Supergirl.

But if you told me that Dave Cockrum once drew the head band Supergirl, I would have said you were lying. I appreciate that Supergirl was shown this Legion respect!

But onto the first noteworthy interview (from a Supergirl perspective), Al Plastino.

This interview was done by the book's author Glen Cadigan in 2003.

It is a nice in-depth look at Plastino's career, from his early days through his non-comic work, through his daily newspaper strips. His work on Superman is covered extensively. Throughout the interview it becomes clear that Plastino didn't particularly like comics or the characters. He says over and over that it was a job and little more.

But for the Supergirl fans out there, he is known for being the artist of her first story in Action Comics #252. He didn't draw any of her solo stories after. But he is the first artist to draw Kara Zor-El.

Here are the few comments he had to say about her.

 I think it is important to remember that this interview took place nearly 50 years after Action Comics #252. So Plastino doesn't have a lot of specifics to say.

Interesting that the main decision about her look was to have her be blonde or not. Given Lois was already a brunette star who had been in the super-costume a few times, I guess making Kara blonde was an easy way to differentiate her immediately.

Too bad Plastino doesn't remember too much more about the early discussion.

He isn't even sure if he was the one who designed Supergirl specific look or not.

I can't imagine anyone else designing her, especially since Plastino was the primary Superman artist on the book. Of course, when he looks at the folds and pleats of the art it looks like his style or what he would have designed. But then again, it is doubtful given his personality that he would have drawn her in the style someone else came up with.

Of course, there was the 'magical' Super-Girl prototype from Superman #123, drawn by Dick Sprang. I suppose Plastino could have looked at that to get his vibe.

The last question is sort of intriguing to me. Plastino drew the first Supergirl and the first Legion story. But he never followed up to see how the characters grew or if their looks changed. As I said above, and as he clearly states here, 'it was just a job.' He didn't pay attention to much in comics.

I suppose he shouldn't have much of an affection for Supergirl given he only drew the one issue. We'll get a much better discussion when I come back to this book and share some of Jim Mooney's thoughts.

This book is going to be a treasure trove for me. I see interviews from Cary Bates, Paul Levitz, Steve Lightle, Keith Giffen, and the Bierbaums are in here. Plus many more creators who worked on the Legion. Looks like I scored big because the book is on sale on line but for much more than cover price. That makes this especially sweet.

I promise I'll share the Supergirl stuff I come across. But if you are a Legion fan and you see this at a reasonable price, you should grab it!


Anonymous said...

That book looks like a fantastic purchase. Congratulations.

"But seriously, this book was so cheap that I might have bought it for the Dave Cockrum cover alone!"

I KNEW that artistic style looked familiar. Cockrum was such a great artist.

"But if you told me that Dave Cockrum once drew the head band Supergirl, I would have said you were lying. I appreciate that Supergirl was shown this Legion respect!"

Undoubtedly appreciated, but not wholly unexpected. The Legion is one of the few places where Supergirl gets some respect.

"Throughout the interview it becomes clear that Plastino didn't particularly like comics or the characters. He says over and over that it was a job and little more."

Very interesting Al Plastino interview. I'm not surprised about him considering it a job. Jim Shooter once told that most of creatives considered comic-making a job and little more up to the 60's.

Still they came up with characters, concepts... and let them loose in the wild, not caring anymore. Can you imagine current creative types doing that? They would be frightened of losing right to the next Spider-Man.

Martin Gray said...

Isn't it a fantastic read? Not quite as good, but still fun and fascinating, is the Legion Outpost sister book Cadigan edited for TwoMorrows... remember, if you can't find a physical copy they're usually cheap digitally from the company website.

What was that business with a Clark and Lois wedding? Maybe Nick Cardy took over ghosting the Superman newspaper strip after Plastino, I believe L&C were married there.

I suspect that even though he didn't love the subject, Plastino may have had a wee smile at how much pleasure he gave so many of us.

Anonymous said...

Super girl's design and look evolved over the first four years of the character's existence, in Plastron's origin story she is supposed to be 15, she looks more like she is 12. The skirt has ruffles (which would come and go showing up for the last time whenever Andru & Esposito had to draw her in the Superman feature in the late 1960's) and her hair underwent subtle revisions as the feature progressed. I credit Jim Mooney with perfecting the character's design in a lot of ways.
This is a great book I have it myself, TwoMorrow is a godsend, they make the effort to do the interviews...priceless historic information.


Professor Feetlebaum said...

Al Plastino was the subject of a book "Al Plastino The Last Superman Standing", published by TwoMorrows. Written by Eddy Zeno, it was completed shortly before Plastino passed away (I believe it came out after). In it, Plastino talks about Supergirl:

"Mort talked to me about the idea of Supergirl. I wasn't aware that Otto Binder was that involved in creating the character. It was just part of the job. I went home and later brought in a sketch to show Mort. I made her blonde and as attractive as I could, putting a black wig on her for the disguise. I wanted to maintain the same type of costume but gave her a skirt to be more girlish. No need to make her big and muscle-y. She had the power already"

After the quote by Plastino, Zeno added this: "Al's children later disclosed that wife Ann Marie was the original model for Supergirl."

"Al Plastino The Last Superman Standing" is available through TwoMorrows Publishing. In Stock Trades and Discount Comic Book Service also have it for sale. Some pages are up for preview on TwoMorrow's site. You can check out a nice commission that Plastino did of Superman and Supergirl standing near the Fortress of Solitude.

Because he did the covers for Superman #123 and Action Comics #252, I think Curt Swan should also be considered as possibly contributing to Supergirl's design.

"What was that business with a Clark and Lois wedding?"

Plastino was probably talking about "The Superman Wedding Album" one-shot that DC published in 1996. Plastino and Nick Cardy each contributed a couple of pages. As far as I know, Plastino was not involved with the Superman newspaper strip that ran until 1966. He DID draw the Batman strip in the late 1960s or early 1970s. I think Superman made some appearances there.

Anj said...

Thanks for great comments.
Love that Plastino stuff Professor, thanks for the info!

Martin Gray said...

Thanks Prof. As regards the Superman newspaper strip, I was going by Wikipedia which cites a Jerry Bails book as saying Plastino was the ghost artist on that from 1960-1966... I'd guessed Cardy followed him and that's why they were both in the Wedding Album. Of course, Plastino's years on the books and cardy's covers would justify their presence anyway. Wikipedia, on the newspaper strip, has nothing much on who drew it after Curt Swan left in 1960.

Basically, I know nothing!

Anonymous said...

Thanks prof for the info. Reading about how much Otto binder was involved in creating her, I now wish the tvshow would credit him with it instead of the regular shusters.

Professor Feetlebaum said...

Martin: Jerry Bails' "Who's Who of American Comic Books" DOES credit Al Plastino as having ghosted the Superman comic strip from 1960 to 1969, which is odd, because the strip ended in 1966. IDW has published 3 volumes of daily Superman strips from that period. A quick flip through found no strips by Plastino. All were drawn by either Curt Swan or Wayne Boring. Some stories that Plastino had drawn for the comic books were adapted for the newspaper strips.

Nick Cardy DID ghost some Batman strips for Plastino in 1972.

Otto Binder SHOULD get some credit for Supergirl. Weisinger may have come to him with the initial idea, but her origin and Midvale Orphanage and all were probably Binder's ideas. Most likely, the legal agreements between DC and the estates of Siegel and Shuster give them sole credit for any characters derived from Superman. Maybe that will change someday. Bill Finger is finally getting some credit for Batman.

Anj said...

Given Binder wrote so much Mary Marvel, I agree he should get some Supergirl credit. She was in his wheelhouses!