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Celebrate Superman at 75

by Cass Teague

Henry Cavill is Superman in Man of Steel.

Henry Cavill is Superman in Man of Steel.

This is the perfect season to celebrate one of the most iconic heroic characters in American culture—indeed, in the global culture. In the 1930s, with the world on the brink of total disaster with the Great Depression in the U.S. and the rise of fascism and Nazism and the Japanese empire leading into World War II, two Cleveland natives, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, came up with an answer—a super-powered savior from outer space, raised on Earth and dedicated to “truth, justice and the American way” to give hope in a time of despair. Superman debuted in Action Comics #1 dated June, 1938.

The locale and the hero’s civilian names were inspired by the movies, Shuster has revealed.

“Jerry created all the names,” said Shuster. “We were great movie fans and were inspired a lot by the actors and actresses we saw. As for Clark Kent, he combined the names of Clark Gable and Kent Taylor. And Metropolis, the city in which Superman operated, came from the Fritz Lang movie (Metropolis, 1927), which we both loved.”

Laurence Fishburne is Perry White, and Amy Adams is Lois Lane in Man of Steel.

Laurence Fishburne is Perry White, and Amy Adams is Lois Lane in Man of Steel.

Seventy-five years later, Superman, along with his alter-ego mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent, has been portrayed in every medium known to man, including comics, novels, art, music, television, and film. In the most recent film, the Man of Steel, the son of Kypton is played by Henry Cavill with Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Laurence Fishburne as Perry White and Harry Lennix as General Swanwick. The Man of Steel hits theatres everywhere on June 14, directed by Zack Snyder and rated PG-13. According to Snyder, Cavill was “the perfect choice to don the cape and S shield.”

“There’s a very real story behind the Superman character,” said Cavill, explaining that everyone’s goal has been to explore the difficulties his character faces as a result of having multiple identities—including his birth name, Kal-El, and his alter ego, Clark Kent. “He’s alone and there’s no one like him,” Cavill said of Superman’s vulnerabilities. “That must be incredibly scary and lonely, not to know who you are or what you are, and trying to find out what makes sense. Where’s your baseline? What do you draw from? Where do you draw a limit with the power you have? In itself, that’s an incredible weakness.”

In the real world, Metropolis, Illinois has totally embraced the role of the home of Kal-El. Each June, their Superman Celebration brings thousands of fans from around the world to a free street festival, with presentations by actors and artists who have been involved with Superman projects; autograph and photo sessions;  a $1,000 costume contest; special activities for kids; a charity auction; a car show; bike ride; live music; rod race; and much more. This year’s 35th annual Superman Celebration will feature actors Margot Kidder, Michael Rosenbaum, Alessandro Juliani, and Tracy Scoggins, and runs from Thursday, June 6 through Sunday, June 9. Details are available at: 1-800-949-5740, <www.supermancelebration.net> or <www.metroploistourism.com>. See you there!

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