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Superman, Son of Cleveland, Turns 75

Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 1:37 PM

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Today is a big day for Superman. The comic book legend turns 75. We all know the story, popularized in his stories and the 1950s TV show, which told of a man "faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound”. But did you know that the Man of Steel is NOT native to the lost world of Krypton, NOR the rural Kansas burg of Smallville? Today, Cleveland is celebrating its native son, and as ideastream's Brian Bull reports, some say it’s about time.

Photo Gallery

A new Superman display at Cleveland's airport informs people about his ties to the city (pic by Brian Bull) Jeff Aten takes a photo of his son, Alex, in front of the Superman House (pic by Brian Bull) Superman fans check out the latest titles at Carol & John's Comics (pic by Brian Bull) A fence outside where Joe Shuster's apartment used to stand displays Action Comics #1 (pic by Brian Bull) Mike Olszewski, President of the Siegel and Shuster Society, in front of the Superman House (pic by Brian Bull)

Slideshow

So I’m sitting here on the front steps of 10622 Kimberley Avenue in Cleveland.  This is where Jerry Siegel lived, as a boy.  He was a writer full of ideas. One hot summer night, he looked out his window at the moon and stars, and thought of what it’d be like to fly.

And then the idea struck him of a man who could leap high, high over buildings in a single bound, if you will.  The very next morning, Jerry ran half a mile down to the apartment of buddy Joe Shuster, who was an illustrator.  And together, those kids came up with the idea of Superman.

“There’s only one Cleveland, there’s only one Superman, and why is it that we don’t embrace our legacy, our past, our history?”

Mike Olszewski heads the Siegel and Shuster Society which raised $150,000 to fix up this house. 

“It’s really amazing when you look up and think a child developed this building block for popular culture.  And look what it became.  We really have to make sure Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, and of course, Joanne Siegel, are not forgotten by their own hometown.”

For you non-Supergeeks, JoAnne Siegel was Jerry’s wife, and the inspiration for Daily Planet reporter, Lois Lane. 

As for the Superman House’s owner, Jefferson Gray says fans from all over the world visit. 

“Many peoples now, we’ve had people from Illinois, Kansas City, California…San Francisco…and ah, we had one person came here, he’s from London…he flew over here, and they set up on the porch.”

Superman is a global phenomenon, AND a multi-billion dollar franchise. 

There are thousands of comic books, numerous TV shows, and dozens of movies….including the 1978 Superman movie starring Christopher Reeves and Margot Kidder.  A couple years ago, an Action Comics #1 – the issue released on this date 75 years ago—sold for $2 million. 

Some fans want Cleveland officials to do a better job promoting the city’s Superman roots. 

The region’s tourism office has also been pushing for that, and Mayor Frank Jackson says today is “Superman Day” in the city. 

“The Man of Steel in a steel town, the strength that he had, that’s all part of what Cleveland is.  We’re a tough community that has overcome many challenges and obstacles, and Superman is a good representative model of Cleveland.”

City libraries and malls will host comic book displays and conventions, while in June, the Capitol Theater will premiere the latest in the Superman movie franchise, the “Man of Steel”.

Local businesses are also promoting Superman’s 75th birthday.  John Dudas of Carol and John’s Comic Book Shop says they’re doing commemorative tie-in promotions, and handing out maps of local sites relevant to Superman’s origins.

“The Siegel’s House, Glenville High School, the Schuster’s House, the Cleveland Institute of Art where Joe attended…” Dudas reads, running his finger across the map.

This effort has already attracted visitors to the Superman House. 

Today, Jeff Aten poses his teenage son, Alex, next to the big metal red “S” mounted on the front fence…

“Alright, where do you want to stand, right by the sign? Or do the Superman pose…” “Yeah, I’ll stand right here..”

A local resident sees the two and cries out, “THE MAN OF STEEL!” as both laugh.

Fans here hope to see a Superman statue, museum, or theme park in Cleveland someday. 

In early June, the city will light up its 52-story high Terminal Tower in hues of blue, red, and gold. 

It’s the same building Siegel and Shuster saw when they envisioned their Man of Steel leaping tall buildings “in a single bound.”

Tags

Arts and Culture, Literature, Motion Pictures (Film, Video), Community/Human Interest

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