A Tribute to the of

ďAlfredo Giovanni Plastino.Ē Thatís how my friend, Al Plastino, used to tell me he liked to sign his name on his fine art work. He was fiercely proud of his Italian heritage, and it was the pure version of his given name, Alfred John Plastino.

My dear friend Al left this world on November 25th, just a few weeks shy of his 92nd birthday. Iím not ashamed to say I loved him. Iím not ashamed to say I shed some tears when I learned of his passing the next morning. The interview he granted me [Sage #183 & #184] several years back was one of my favorites and to my delight and gratitude we became friends pretty much from the start. He always had time for my calls and would call me from time to time, too. I never got over the thrill of hearing from him either by telephone or through the mail.

Despite that, he often acted as if I was doing him a favor. I canít think of a conversation we had that didnít end with his saying, ďOkay, buddy. Thanks for calling. Give my regards to your family.Ē

I think itís only fitting that I dedicate this edition of the Silver Age Sage to him.

Any one of my regular readers already know the important work Al did on the Superman title and that he was the co-creator of Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes. His list of credits for DC comics is voluminous, and I had a tough time settling on a story to attach to this tribute, but I thought perhaps ďThe Curse of Kryptonite!Ē from Superman #130, published in July of 1959 would be a good example of Alís work. As was nearly always the case, he penciled and inked the story, written by Otto Binder and edited by Mort Weisinger.

The tale begins as Superman is doing a good turn by laying a vital oil pipeline in the wasteland of Death Valley. As heís using his amazing abilities to dig a trench, though, he unearths a massive kryptonite meteor, his greatest weakness. The irradiated chunk of his home world of Krypton promptly begins to weaken our hero and despite his efforts to melt it with heat vision, which eliminates about a third of its mass and to use his super breath to blow it away, he soon finds himself beginning to succumb to its awful rays.

Lying there, Superman begins to think back to his origin, as the rocket created by his father, Jor-El sent him away from his doomed world to Earth, where the yellow sun gave him his super powers. He recalls how as Superboy he used the plexiglass shield from the rocket to make the lenses in his glasses, which made them impervious to his X-ray vision and how he had used massive tongs in the past to dispose of other chunks of kryptonite. It also seems that due to its properties, kryptonite doesnít burn up in Earthís atmosphere.

The Man of Steelís next attempt to rid himself of the glowing green mineral is to try to create a fissure with a super blow, but heís been weakened too far to make enough of a crack. He knows that if he cannot escape heíll soon fall victim to blood poisoning that will change his red corpuscles green. Heís once suffered with the affliction, but was able to recover. Later he experimented in the Fortress of Solitude in an attempt to find an antidote, but experienced only failure.

He also recalls that as Superboy he learned that the properties of Lead could shield him from kryptonite radiation and he tried keeping lead tape with him as a possible shield, but soon discovered his super speed caused friction that melted the fragile metal.

He still thought Lead could be his salvation, however, and as Superman designed a lead suit with a television camera, antenna and screen, allowing him to fly into space and try to collect all the kryptonite he could and dispose of the threat, but there was simply too much.

Superman is growing more desperate in Death Valley and tries to use his super voice to call Linda Lee at Midvale Orphanage, but heís unable to hail her due to his weakened state. Linda, of course, is Supermanís cousin, aka Supergirl.

The Man of Tomorrow is now beginning to glow green and he is feeling all is lost when suddenly a miraculous occurrence when a strong burst of air comes through the pipe and blows the meteor a safe distance away. Using his telescopic vision, Superman soon sees the answer: Krypto the Superdog is at the other end of the pipe, blowing through it and rescuing his master.

A joyous reunion takes place when a grateful Superman thanks Krypto for saving him. The final panel has our hero musing that it was a close call, but he wonders if Red Kryptonite is an even bigger threat.

The final caption tells the readers that an untold tale of the red variety of kryptonite will be coming up in a future issue.

There you have it, readers. A great little story in 7 pages flat that included glimpses of Supermanís past as Superboy, some of his prior encounters with kryptonite and his temporary solutions and even appearances by Supergirl and Krypto, all wonderfully illustrated by the great Al Plastino. Iíll give this classic story a 9 on the 10-point rating scale for sheer Silver Age goodness, neatly wrapped up with a flourish.

I only got to know Al for a handful of years, but what a blessing it was. He was incredibly generous to me, often sending copies of recent commissions and examples of his water colors. We were talking about fly fishing one day and he mailed me a box of his flies!

I confess to getting a little choked up as I was unpacking during my recent move and found that box along with the original Ferdínand strip he sent to me that I had framed. He also gifted me with an original Abbie and Slats strip that he ghosted on and once asked me what my daughterís favorite characters were. I asked her and she said Supergirl and Green Lantern and within a few days a package arrived for her with those two characters in pencil, personalized for her.

In fact, my daughter went in cahoots with Al for Christmas year before last when she got me the most wonderful commission. Sheíd sent him a photo and he provided a beautiful pencil rendering of three figures in the Bat cave: Superman, Batman and yours truly. The Worldís Greatest Detective has his arm around me while Superman is reaching for my hand and saying, ďHi, Bryan. Any friend of Al Plastino is a friend of mine.Ē He refused payment for it. When I called to thank him up and down he said simply, ďYouíre welcome. I just wanted you to have a little something to remember me by.Ē

His work on the DC titles alone assures that Al will never be forgotten. His efforts on Ferdínand and Nancy add to his legacy, along with his run on the Batman daily strip and Iím only scratching the surface of everything heíd done over a long and fruitful career.

The last few years Al became active in the convention circuit, traveling to the New York Con and the Dallas show and recently the Florida Super Con. If youíre on Facebook, look up the Florida Super Con and youíll see some wonderful photos of the man along with fellow Golden Age artists Allen Bellman and Nick Cardy. Be sure to check out the snapshots of him dancing the Lindy Hop with a young lady on the stage.

Al was so full of life, so sharp and so active that itís hard to believe I canít pick up the phone again to talk and laugh with him. One of my last conversations ended with his saying, as usual, thanks for the call, but he added, ďYou make me feel young.Ē

Al, my friend, it was my privilege to get to know you. I was definitely the beneficiary of all those conversations. Godspeed to one of the good guys.

Thanks for reading and be on the lookout next year for my article in Back Issue #73, which includes some material Al sent me about his work on Man-Bat in the daily Batman strip. Generous to the last. As always, write to me at: professor_the@hotmail.com.

Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2013 by B.D.S.

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