Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Steel Never Ages

Magnet # 280:  Superman Flying Though Space

Material:  Metal, Paper, Mylar Shell

Purchased By:  Me

Happy Birthday to Superman, who turns 72 today. Yep, this is the official day that DC has dubbed his birthday and it was in June of 1938 when Action Comics # 1, which featured Superman's debut, first hit newsstands. Not only was it a big deal for the Man of Steel himself, it was also the day that introduced the comic book superhero to the world. And every superhero that has followed since, from Batman to Spider-Man to Wolverine to Hellboy and even Vampirella owes a debt to Superman for blazing the trail.

Superman became very popular very quickly - within two years, he was featured in the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, a fitting appearance as he would become almost as much of an American icon as Thanksgiving itself.  DC kept adding more comic titles featuring the Man of Steel and they all sold amazingly well and they were even given by the Navy to its sailors during war.  Superman had his own radio show in 1940 and by 1952, the Adventures of Superman was airing on television, with George Reeves starring as Superman.  It enjoyed a certain deal of success but nothing like when the Man of Steel finally came to the big screen courtesy of Christopher Reeve in 1978.  It became one of the six highest grossing films at that time and one of the top ten reviewed films of the year.  Its success helped make other superhero films possible and generated three sequels.  And although those films seemed to grow less impressive with each sequel and the 2006 revamp of the series, Superman Returns, was not terribly impressive, Superman has still done well with television.  In the 1990s, Lois & Clark:  The New Adventures of Superman, featuring Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher in the title roles, proved to be pretty popular.  And Smallville, in which Tom Welling stars as Clark Kent, not Superman, has run a whopping nine seasons - the tenth will be its final.  Few television shows manage to achieve such a successful run.  It seems to be just a matter of time before more Superman projects are brought to the big and small screens.  The world just can't seem to get enough of the original superhero.  Personally, I'm hoping to see Tom Welling wear the tights and cape in a Superman film one day - he's been one of the best actors to tackle the character to date.

So where is the best place to celebrate this special day? That would be Metropolis, Illinois, the official home of Superman. The town was originally founded as Metropolis City back in 1839, just about a century before the Man of Steel first appeared in print. But by the 1970's, Superman was becoming an international icon and the town wanted to be known as the superhero's official home base. They approached his publisher, DC, and asked if they could use the character's trademark and the company obliged. Since then, Metropolis has undergone a transformation, naming its streets after characters from the comic and erecting a giant statue of Superman right in front of their County Courthouse.  And a new one featuring actress Noel Neill as Lois Lane has recently been unveiled.  It's also home to the Super Museum, which is owned by Jim Hambick, one of Superman's most avid fans.  Since 1959, he has collected every bit of souvenirs and collectibles of the Man of Steel he could get his hands on and 20,000 of them are on display here.  He even has a Superman costume worn by George Reeves and the crystal that allowed Christopher Reeve's Superman to create the Fortress of Solitude.  Unfortunately, the best time to visit Metropolis has just passed earlier this month - the Superman Celebration, where about 25,000 pack into this town of 6,000.  This year was the 32nd Annual Celebration and it featured celebrities from Superman shows.  It's too bad they didn't have it coincide with Superman's birthday.  But even though it's over, you can still check out Metropolis anytime over the next year or wait until the next Superman Celebration.

I admit, Superman is not one of my favorite superheroes, although I do like him.  What can I say, he's a little too perfect and too good to be as interesting as other superheroes - to me, anyway.  But I'm happy to celebrate the anniversary of the Man of Steel's birth on this day - it's thanks to him that there's an incredible world of superheroes around today that so many of us love to follow.

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