Pop Culture


Today, a comic book legend turns 75.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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