Word Balloons: Metropolis, Illinois, to celebrate Superman
METROPOLIS, Ill. — Part comic convention, part county fair, the Superman Celebration in Metropolis, Illinois, is set to kick off on Thursday.
As a fan of Superman since seeing Christopher Reeve fly across the screen in 1978's "Superman: The Movie," Metropolis was a must-see attraction for me. My wife, Annette, and I had visited twice before, and last year we decided to take the whole family to the Superman Celebration.
From Thursday to Sunday, this small town of 6,500 will welcome thousands of out-of-towners to celebrate the town's favorite fictional son.
Located off Interstate 24 across the Ohio River from Paducah, Kentucky, this Metropolis was named before Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's creation of the Man of Steel's home city. But in 1972, the town officially adopted the character, with DC Comics' permission, and in 1979 the first Superman Celebration was held. A 15-foot-tall statue of Superman is the center point of Superman Square.
Other "super" photo ops in Metropolis include the Planet Globe outside the Metropolis Planet Newspaper, 111 E Fifth St.; the Noel Neill/Lois Lane Statue at Eighth and Market streets; and the "Kryptonite" boulder at E Third St. and Ferry St.
Just across from the Superman statue, at Sixth and Market streets, is the Super Museum.
Jim Hambrick's Super Museum has more than 20,000 items on display, including artifacts and props from nearly every iteration of the Metropolis Marvel, from the 1940s serials to the George Reeves TV series, to "Smallville" and the current "Supergirl" TV series.
The museum is open year-round, but to get the biggest bang for your Metropolis buck, comic fans should make the trek at least once during the Superman Celebration.
Every year, stars of "Superman" programming past and present descend upon the celebration. Last year, we were able to hear Dean Cain (Superman in "Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman") and James Marsters (Luthor in DC Universe Online) speak to fans; we also briefly saw Margot Kidder, Lois Lane in "Superman: The Movie," who appeared at the celebration last summer and sadly passed away just weeks ago.
For this, the 40th year, the town will welcome Brandon Routh, who played Superman in 2006's "Superman Returns."
Two stars from "Krypton," Syfy's show examining Superman's home planet, are scheduled to appear: Shaun Sipos, who plays Adam Strange; and Blake Ritson, who plays Brainiac.
Other guests from the hero's cinematic and television past include John Haymes Newton, Superboy in season 1 of the 1980s series; Aaron Smolinski, baby Superman in 1978's "Superman: The Movie"; Jeff East, young Clark Kent in "Superman: The Movie; Jack O'Halloran, the Kryptonian villain Non in "Superman: The Movie" and "Superman II"; and Ilya Salkind, producer of "Superman: The Movie," "Superman II," "Superman III," the "Supergirl" film and the "Superboy" TV series.
There are paid photo ops and autograph sessions, but the town also offers free panels where guests can hear from most of the special guests.
"Super Friends" animator Philo Barnhart is scheduled for this year's Artists Alley, as is Alex Saviuk, a previous illustrator of the "Superman" comic book perhaps best known for his work on "Web of Spider-Man" for Marvel Comics. Art Baltazar, who was an artist and writer for "Superman Family Adventures," and Peter Poplaski, who created the covers for "Superman: The Dailies" and "Superman: The Sundays," collecting the comic strips, also are set to attend, as is Michael Eury, the editor-in-chief of TwoMorrows' Eisner Award-nominated Back Issue magazine.
Once you've seen the variety of special guests, you can wander up Market Street to find super-memorabilia of all sorts for sale, along with food, art, T-shirts and more.
The Metropolis Super Con, a comic-book convention with assorted comics and collectibles, is held at 725 Market St. from Friday-Sunday of the Superman Celebration.
It's about a nine-hour drive from Oklahoma City to Metropolis, Illinois; it's somewhat quicker flying — and statistically speaking, it's still the safest way to travel.