METROPOLIS, Ill. – When there’s an ice cream social in Superman’s hometown, the flavors of superheroes can outnumber the flavors of ice cream.
Superman’s fictional city of residence in comic books, film and television is, of course, Metropolis.
Can you blame a real-life city – Metropolis, Ill. – for cashing in on the connection?
Metropolis, Ill., was founded in 1839, 99 years before Superman first saw print in Action Comics No. 1.
An Ohio River town on the southernmost tip of Illinois, the “real” Metropolis became the adopted hometown of Superman in 1972, thanks to declarations by the Illinois State Legislature and a more powerful entity, DC Comics.
Tourism-savvy Metropolis smartly embraces all things super. A 15-foot Superman statue on Market Street is photo-op central. Barack Obama once posed for a photo in front of the statue. Two blocks away is a statue of actress Noel Neill, who played Lois Lane in the “Adventures of Superman” TV series.
Inside the door of the JM Walters Professional Building is a phone booth, just in case you-know-who needs to change clothes.
Soft drink machines along Market Street are adorned with Superman logos. Soda-pop culture?
The chamber of commerce office doubles as a Superman gift shop.
Visitors can browse at a Super Museum, which is home to more than 20,000 Superman-related artifacts (including deceased Superman actor George Reeves’ poker and canasta set) from super hoarder Jim Hambrick’s multi-million-dollar collection.
And, one weekend per year, Metropolis is more supered-up than usual.
During the second weekend of every June, Metropolis stages a Superman Celebration that seems equal parts state fair and Capetown.
A meet-and-greet for the 33rd annual celebration was held at a Dippin’ Dots ice cream parlor near the Superman statue. Among those crowding the room were Clark Kent and Lois Lane impersonators, plus an assortment of costumed heroes and villains.
Dough (pronounced Doug) Hubler, an elementary school teacher from Tennessee, masqueraded as the Marvel Comics version of Hercules. Hubler said his scoops of vanilla bean ice cream looked like “clouds of Olympus.”
Hubler didn’t descend from Olympus to sample the ice cream. He came to Metropolis because he’s a lifelong Superman fan.
“My earliest memories are of George Reeves flying across the TV screen, so it has been embedded in me,” said Hubler, who has an “S” tattoo on his upper right arm.
Door prizes were given away at the ice cream social. Though costumes were not required, the first two winners were dressed as Wonder Woman (alias Barb Fisher, who traveled from the Chicago area) and Brainiac (alias Scott Doran, a Buckhead, Ga., resident whose wife attended the University of Tulsa).
Doran made a trial run as Brainiac at the previous Superman Celebration, but heat made his green makeup run. Now he’s equipped with a sun-resistant formula, and he sometimes goes without makeup so he can walk Market Street as Lex Luthor.
“I guess my baldheaded-ness inspired me,” Doran said when asked why he dresses up as evil-doers at Super-mecca.
On the first day of the celebration, an older gentleman clad in a yellow-and-gold Superman costume was often asked to stop and pose for pictures. If you want to see him smile, ask him what his name is. He pulls out a driver’s license that reads “Superman JH Horn” of Riverdale, Ill. He said he had his name legally modified.
Said Horn, “I got tired of people telling me I couldn’t sign my name ‘Superman.’ Well, yes I can.”
The official Superman impersonator of the celebration is Josh Boultinghouse, a 29-year-old actor who grew up in Richardson, Texas, and played football at Central Arkansas.
Boultinghouse zips from location to location to make appearances during a celebration that features celebrity autograph signings (Brandon Routh from “Superman Returns” was among guests this year), feats of strength and costume contests. Boultinghouse was present at a kid-oriented “science of Superman” demonstration and, when the instructor asked what Superman must overcome in order to fly, laughter followed when a child answered “gravy.”
Boultinghouse said the cool thing about the Superman Celebration is that it attracts people from all over the country and the world.
“You see people from all different walks of life that agree on the character and the principles that Superman stands for,” he said.
A short walk away from the celebration’s epicenter is the town’s “other” museum – a Hollywood Americana Museum where passers-by can sit on a “kryptonite” boulder. Sections of the museum are dedicated to singers, actors, robots and monsters. A headline from an old magazine questions whether Army life will change Elvis.
Metropolis also is the home of Robert Stroud, known as the Birdman of Alcatraz. Stroud is buried there. But the Birdman is no better than a second-fiddle attraction in the most super town on the planet.
Original Print Headline: Illinois town’s ‘super’ celebration defies gravity
Jimmie Tramel 918 581-8389