Superman at 75: The Man of Steel and me


I don’t know how old I was when I first became interested in Superman, but it was a long time ago in a galaxy far away.

Philadelphia in the Eisenhower era.

Superman @ 75

The Plain Dealer is celebrating the 75th anniversary of Superman online and in print in the coming days with a series of stories, videos, photo galleries and other content about Superman’s
legacy in Cleveland. Up next:

Friday: The Plain Dealer’s Michael
Sangiacomo and videographer David Andersen take a tour of important Superman sites in Cleveland, the hometown of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

Saturday: ’90-Second Know-It-All’ video man William Neff gives us the lowdown on Kryptonite.

Sunday: The Main Event in print and online. The tale of how the Man of Steel was created in Cleveland, with a special calendar of upcoming Superman-related events in Cleveland. Plus videos, photo galleries, Super quizzes and more.

Monday: Plain Dealer artist Chris Morris delivers an illustrated Superman timeline online and in print in PDQ.

I remember the day it happened. My brother Joe was at school, as were all my other siblings. My mother was watching her “story,” a soap opera of some kind, and I was wandering around the forbidden territory of my brother’s room.

I went right for Joe’s bureau drawer which was full of comics, the forbidden zone I was never allowed to touch.

Joe collected Bugs Bunny comics (perhaps the only comics from the 1940s that are not valuable), but he also had a lot of Superman and Batman books.

I pulled out a stack of Superman comics and went to work, doing my best to understand what was going on. I pulled out “Superman” No. 87 from 1954 and “The Thing from 4,000 A.D.” that showed Superman fighting himself. What the heck did that mean? Turns out it was a creature from the future that could transform itself into anything it met.

Next was an older comic, from 1952, “Superman” No. 79 “The Citadel of Doom.” The cover showed Luthor and Lois Lane looking at a giant television screen as Superman was pelted with giant meteorites. The gist of the story, as wonderfully drawn by Wayne Boring, was that the Earth was going to be destroyed and that Luthor’s castle was the only safe place. He lied.

I had to interrupt my mother to ask her what “doom” meant.

She said when my brother got home, I was “doomed” to get a licking for messing with his collection.

superman citadel.jpg

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Artist Wayne Boring drew one of the first comic books Reporter Michael Sangiacomo ever read.


‘Nuff said.

But my brother was cool. Joe encouraged me by reading the books with me, which was how I learned to read way ahead of all my friends.

I started collecting comics on my own, spending every dime I had on them and pestering everyone to take me to places that sold them.

Fast forward to 1989.

Through a series of bizarre circumstances worthy of a comic book, I found myself working at the largest newspaper in Ohio. One of the first things I did was track down where Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster lived and where they created Superman. Joe’s apartment house was long gone, but Jerry’s house was, and still is, right there at 10622 Kimberly Avenue. Funny thing about that street, no one knows whether to spell it “Kimberley” or “Kimberly.”

Until recently, the street sign on one end of Jerry’s block spelled it one way and the sign on the other spelled it the other way. In his letters to science fiction magazines in the 1930s, Jerry spelled it both ways.

Looking at the house, painted up in Superman blue, red and yellow, I got a little shiver: This is where comics began.

All the comics I collected my whole life started right here in this humble house in Glenville, when two high school kids came up with an idea for something different, something magical, something super.

Superman’s Cleveland footprint

View Superman in a larger map


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