Superman comes home to Metropolis

By Gus Bode

Hero For a Day

Southern Illinois town celebrates Superman

It is not everyday that a person get to dress up as a childhood hero. And there are reasons why. Good reasons. Most of them involve men in white coats taking you away. But every year, thousands of people do it anyway.

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They come to Metropolis and don the red, blue and yellow costume that flew through their childhood. They dress up as Superman.

The line between fiction and reality blurred this past weekend during the city’s annual Superman celebration. From the simple blue T-shirt to the full costume, the mark of Superman was visible everywhere.

One man dressed in a full costume said, “Well, it’s Superman Days in Metropolis. You don’t get as much action dressed as Batman.”

While crime fighting was at a minimum, there was plenty of action spread throughout the small southern Illinois town. It came in the form of game booths, weight-lifting and arm-wrestling competitions, tennis tournaments and other spectacles.

People stood in lines for hours to collect autographs from Margot Kidder and Marc McClure, who played Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen in the Superman movies.

Scores of children participated in a “create a cape” activity sponsored by the Metropolis Planet. They transformed red plastic sheets into that famous cape and wore them proudly as they walked, ran and seemingly flew through the town. Others simply strolled through the concourse of vendors and feasted on the corn dogs and funnel cakes.

After several hours walking through the June heat, one woman said, “There are only two things that can kill Superman one is Kryptonite, and the other is funnel cake.” Kryptonite was on sale at the Super Museum gift shop for $5 a fragment. Funnel cakes were available for $3 on the street.

No funnel cake-related fatalities were reported, and as any comic book reader can attest to, Superman always survives. Not only does he survive the fiendish plans of the villains who haunt his life, but he has also survived every incarnation of technological media.

From his first days as the comic book creation of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Superman has lived as a hero in comic books, a radio show, several television shows and cartoons, multiple movies and numerous video games. Through it all, he has always remained the quintessential good guy.

Steven Kirk, who flew with his wife, Vicki, from Los Angeles for the celebration, explained Superman’s enduring popularity.

“No matter how much he changes, he always stays the same,” Kirk said. “Even if they change his powers, his costume, whatever underneath it all it’s just as the statue says:Truth, Justice, and the American Way.”

The ever-changing media that Superman is presented in has had little effect on his fans, other than to draw more of them in.

“I’m a fan from way back-from the original series,” Kirk said.

“We met somewhere in the middle,” he added.

The connection the two found through Superman was so strong that Steven proposed to Vicki in a Superman costume. They’ve been married for two-and-a-half years.

Like many people at the festival, 5-year-old Alex Valentine expressed his fascination with Superman through his clothing. The trademark logo adorned his hat, his shirt and even his socks. He carried a Superman figure under his arm and explained his adoration of the man of steel.

“He’s cool,” he said. “He can fly, [and] he has comic books.”

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