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1:26 am
Thu April 18, 2013

Cleveland Celebrates Superman, Its Hometown Hero

Originally published on Thu April 18, 2013 11:39 am

April 18, 2013, is a big day for Superman. The Man of Steel, more powerful than a locomotive, turns 75. Most of us know Superman's story — faster than a speeding bullet, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

Less well-known is that the superhero is not native to the lost world of Krypton, nor the rural Kansas burg of Smallville. Superman is Cleveland's native son — at least as far as the city's residents are concerned.

As a boy, Jerry Siegel lived at 10622 Kimberly Ave., in Cleveland's Glenville neighborhood. He was a young writer full of ideas, and one hot summer night, he looked out his window at the moon and stars, and thought of what it would be like to fly.

And then the idea struck him of a man who could leap high over buildings — in a single bound, if you will. The very next morning, Siegel ran a half-mile to the apartment of buddy Joe Shuster, who was an illustrator. Together, the two 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?" asks Mike Olszewski, who heads the Siegel and Shuster Society. The organization 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," Olszewski says. "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 the comic's Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane.

Jefferson Gray, the owner of what's known as Superman's House, says fans from all over the world visit.

"We've had people from Illinois, Kansas City, California, San Francisco," Gray says. "And 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 multibillion-dollar franchise. There are thousands of comic books, numerous TV shows and dozens of movies about the superhero. And a couple of years ago, Action Comics No. 1 — the issue released on this date 75 years ago — sold for $2 million.

Some fans want Cleveland officials to do a better job of promoting the city's Superman roots. The region's tourism office has been pushing for that, as well. Mayor Frank Jackson says Thursday 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," Jackson says. "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, and in June, the Capitol Theater will premiere the latest in the Superman movie franchise, 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, like Siegel's house, Glenville High School, the site of Shuster's childhood apartment and the Cleveland Institute of Art, which Shuster attended.

The effort has already attracted visitors to the Superman House, who stop outside to pose at the big red metal "S" mounted on the front fence.

Cleveland's Superman fans hope to see a statue, museum or theme park celebrating the comic hero in Cleveland someday. In the meantime, the city will light up its 52-story Terminal Tower in hues of blue, red and gold in early June.

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

Copyright 2013 Cleveland Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.wcpn.org.

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Today, a comic book legend turns 75.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN")

BILL KENNEDY: Faster than a speeding bullet.

More powerful than a locomotive.

GREENE: That's right, Superman. And as he reaches this ripe old age of 75, the city of Cleveland has decided that it's time to reclaim the Man of Steel as a favorite son.

Brian Bull, from member station WCPN, reports.

(SOUNDBITE OF BIRDS)

BRIAN BULL, BYLINE: 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.

MIKE OLSZEWSKI: There's only one Cleveland, there's only one Superman, and why is it that we don't embrace our past, our legacy, our history?

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

OLSZEWSKI: 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 that Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, and of course, Joanne Siegel are not forgotten by their own hometown.

BULL: For you non-Super geeks, 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.

JEFFERSON GRAY: Many peoples now; we've had people from Illinois, Kansas City, California, San Francisco. We had one person came here, he's from London.

BULL: You're saying...

GRAY: Yeah, he flew over here and they set up on the porch.

BULL: Superman is a global phenomenon and a multi-billion dollar franchise. There are thousands of comic books, numerous TV shows, and dozens of movies.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "SUPERMAN")

MARGOT KIDDER: (as Lois Lane) (Unintelligible).

CHRISTOPHER REEVE: (as Superman) Easy, Miss. I've got you.

KIDDER: (as Lois Lane) You - you've got me? Who's got you?

BULL: 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.

MAYOR FRANK JACKSON: 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.

BULL: 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.

JOHN DUDAS: The Siegel's House, Glenville High School, the Schuster's House, The Cleveland Institute of Art where Joe attended.

BULL: 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

JEFF ATEN: Alright, where do you want to stand, right by the sign? Or do the Superman pose?

ALEX ATEN: Yeah, I'll stand right here. The Man of Steel.

(LAUGHTER)

BULL: 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.

For NPR News, I'm Brian Bull, in Superman's hometown of Cleveland. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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