Way back in the late 1990s, I was working on a potential new publication along the lines of Starburst and INFINITY for Titan, which never happened, but I did commission a small amount of material for a “dummy”, including this article I found today on an old hard drive by Bill Savage, about Superman’s ‘real’ home town of Metropolis, Illinois. I thought it was high time it got an airing, albeit with some inevitable but small updates…
What do you do when the local economy is in a spiral, and your town just happens to be named after a famous, fictional town? Well, in the case of Metropolis, Illinois (USA), which shares the name with Superman’s big city, the decision was made to celebrate the coincidence and build a statue in homage to the famous superhero.
The early 1970s saw the beginning of Metropolis’ longtime association with DC Comics’ Man of Steel, one of the world’s best-known and best-loved comic characters. On 21st January 1972, DC Comics declared Metropolis the “Hometown of Superman” and on 9th June 1972, the Illinois State Legislature passed Resolution 572 that confirmed this, also declaring Metropolis the “Hometown of Superman”.
A ten foot statue was erected in front of the town hall, and yearly celebrations complete with a Superboy/ Supergirl contest, parade and an original play began.
The local newspaper is named The Metropolis Planet, inspired by The Daily Planet, the fictional paper in the Superman comics and other Superman media. The mayor even swears-in honorary “ambassadors” to live up to Superman’s creed.
The town was also portrayed in Superman #92, in a story titled “Massacre in Metropolis!”, continued into Adventures of Superman #515″, as a town whose citizens idolise what is to them the real-life Man of Steel.
As the years progressed and popularity of the annual celebration in June grew, the media became involved. National interest was sparked. Plans for a Superman theme park, dubbed “The Amazing World of Superman”, were put into place. A 200ft-tall Superman statue was to be among the features of the park.
Unfortunately for Metropolis, and the rest of us, money ran out for the theme park. Media interest declined. The park was never built, the project scrapped halfway. What remained was the original ten-foot statue and the yearly celebrations.
These days, Metropolis is seeing a renewed interest in the “faster than a speeding bullet” superhero, first created in 1937 by Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster. A new, 15-foot statue was erected in 1992 with the help of local contributions. The tradition of the plays and parades continues, complete with occasional guest appearances by the stars from the films and television shows.
Several years ago, Jim Hambrick, a Superman memorabilia collector from California opened a Super-Museum and comic store across the street from the statue.
Today, the annual Superman celebration, which started as a “Homecoming” for local residents has now evolved into a four-day celebration that attracts Superman fans and families from around the world and has a line-up that includes appearances by comic book artists from across the United States. Some 47 States and six different countries were represented at the 2016 Celebration and it has become something of a phenomenon.
So, if you’re ever in the American Midwest, and you’d like to enjoy a bit of small town charm along with a big-time comic hero, go to Metropolis, Illinois.
Stop into city hall and pick up a packet of free Kryptonite and a license plate. And don’t forget to visit the Super Museum!
• The Metropolis Super Museum is online at supermuseum.com
• The 41st annual Superman Celebration runs 6th – 9th June 2019 – www.supermancelebration.net
• Visit the Metropolis Tourism web site: metropolistourism.com
• VICE: Why Is This Tiny Illinois Town Obsessed with Superman? (2017 article)
• Anyone else found a place right out of a comic book or a movie? Tracked down an elusive film or TV location? Do you live in an elusive film location and were there when it was used? Let us know and share your stories!
Bill Savage was a wonderful, exuberant and much-loved Doctor Who and Kurt Vonnegut fan who I met at a couple of US conventions back in my Doctor Who Magazine editorship days, along with Joy Johnson and others.
Among other things, I remember him asking Who actors to record answer phone messages in the style of their characters that Bill hoped would delight anyone who called him.
We kept in touch until his sudden passing in 2013. I know he’s still much missed by family and friends and I hope re-presenting this feature honours his memory in a way he would have liked.
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One of many guest posts for downthetubes.