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"Superman's Mission for President Kennedy"

Today is the 42nd anniversary of the death of President John F. Kennedy, and our subject is a story from Superman #170 titled "Superman's Mission for President Kennedy." The story revolves around Superman encouraging the youth of America to join Kennedy’s “Presidential Fitness Program.” .This program was a nationwide campaign to encourage physical fitness in America’s young people.

It was prepared “in close cooperation” with President Kennedy, and originally scheduled for publication in Superman #168, cover-dated April 1964. However, Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963, and DC decided not to run the story. "Superman's Mission for President Kennedy" was replaced by a story called “Luthor -- Super-Hero!” (pictured left).

The “Metropolis Mailbag” letters page for Superman #168 was also pulled, and replaced by an "In Memoriam" page (pictured below) written by editor Mort Weisinger. That page featured a reprint of a New York Times article on the Superman-Kennedy meeting, with a panel from the never-to-be-seen story, written by Bill Finger and E. Nelson Bridwell and drawn by Superman artist supreme, Curt Swan:
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.Months after Kennedy's untimely death, President Johnson's administration contacted DC and informed them that Johnson wanted the story published, "as a tribute to my great predecessor." The Kennedy family also gave their OK.

The story finally saw print in Superman #170, cover dated July 1964. But with the nation still mourning the sudden, shocking loss of John Kennedy, DC apparently didn't think it proper to feature the slain President on the issue's cover. Although the Kennedy story was the book's opening tale, the cover featured the imaginary story "If Luthor were Superman's Father." This always bothered me, so I took the Kennedy splash page and Photoshopped a fake cover that should have been the book's real cover (fake cover pictured at the top of this page, the book's actual cover pictured right).

Unfortunately, in the months following Kennedy's death and DC's decision to pull the story, Curt Swan's original art had either been given to Jackie, as stated in the Times article, or simply lost. Sadly, the tale had to be completely redrawn by Al Plastino. Below are several pages from "Superman's Mission for President Kennedy."

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"Muscle gap!" This is a political in-joke... a play on "Missile Gap," a phrase used by Kennedy during his Presidential campaign to describe the supposed gap between the arsenals of America and the Soviet Union. As the President requested, Superman crosses the country, promoting physical fitness for America's youth as only the Man of Steel can!
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After inspiring the youth of America, Superman reports back to President Kennedy in the White House.
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Yes, President Kennedy knew Superman's secret identity! He even posed as Clark Kent once! But that's another story. Back at the Planet, Perry White has joined the Presidential effort, and gone fitness crazy. He forces the staff of the newspaper -- including Jimmy Olsen, Lois Lane, and Clark (Superman) Kent -- to do push-ups! Clark feigns weakness.
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Finally, Superman organizes a huge parade to promote Kennedy’s Presidential Fitness Program. Supergirl and Jimmy Olsen lead the way, backed by members of their fan clubs. Then President Kennedy offers Superman his thanks for a job well done!
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ASTRONAUT SUPERHERO - MAJOR MATT MASON!