Today’s post is 1000 words, 13 photos, a 5 minute read. Enjoy!
Welcome back to Traveling With Tom. Last week, I wrote about my experience at Fort Massac State Park at the southern tip of Illinois while my Traveling Partner attended QuiltWeek across the Ohio River in Paducah, Kentucky. Fort Massac is on the edge of the city of Metropolis, the self-declared home town of Superman. There’s an interesting story about how this all came to be. Read on for the rest of the story.
Located on the north bank of the Ohio River, Metropolis is the county seat of Massac County. Its 2020 population is estimated to be close to 6000 people, about a 9% decrease (about 600 people) from the 2010 census. Metropolis appears to be a town in decline, about 20% of the population lives below the poverty line. In addition to tourism, Metropolis is home to the Honeywell Uranium Hexafluoride Processing Facility, a riverboat casino, and Harrah’s Metropolis Casino/Hotel. If the late afternoon traffic is any indication, most of the people work outside the city, most likely Paducah across the Ohio River.
Metropolis was founded in 1839 near the abandoned Fort Massac by a merchant from Pittsburgh and a local landowner. They had the vision that the city would become a transportation hub on the Ohio River, thus chose a grand name for their town, Metropolis. Agriculture was the main industry for most of its history until 1972 when tourism became much more important. It was in 1972 when the Illinois State Legislature passed a resolution declaring Metropolis the “Hometown of Superman.” This effort was supported by DC Comics the owners of the Superman franchise. Soon fans began coming to Metropolis to soak up everything Superman.
The first Superman comic book was published in 1938. It didn’t take long for the “man of steel” stories to spin off into radio serials, books, movies, tv shows, theater, and now video games. As the story goes, Superman was born on the planet Krypton and shipped as a small baby to Earth just before Krypton was destroyed. He was adopted by a farm couple in Smallville who named him Clark Kent. He had superhuman abilities and used them for the benefit of mankind by fighting crime and evil in the world. The adult Clark Kent lived in fictional Metropolis working as a journalist at the Daily Planet. His love interest was fellow journalist Lois Lane.
Superman, the Statue
The original idea for a statue of Superman was for a 200-foot tall statue in a theme park where visitors would walk between Superman’s legs to enter the park. That never happened. The next iteration was a seven-foot statue made of fiberglass. It wasn’t very popular and locals mocked it by shooting holes in the statue. It was replaced by a 15-foot, three-ton statue funded by the purchase of engraved bricks by local citizens. That statue still stands today in front of the Massac County Courthouse. Here are a few of my photos.
Since the last time I was in Metropolis in 2019, Superman got a new paint job and an upgrade of the fence surrounding the statue. He looks fresh after enduring the elements for the past 30 years. He is the man of steel after all! Here’s a photo of Superman looking over Market Street, the main street in Metropolis.
Here’s a view from a block and a half down Market Street.
Several businesses line the three or four blocks seen in the photo above. Across the street from the statue is a phone booth where Superman changes into his Superman get up. There are also a couple of cut outs where visitors can have their photos taken. Next to the cut out is this mural.
There is the Super Museum that sells all things Superman. There is a small museum with a small fee. Above the museum is a statue of Superman taking off to save the world.
In front of the store is this cute statue of Super Big Boy. This is a take-off on the Big Boy Diner mascot with his big hair-do and double-decker hamburger. As a personal aside, there was a Big Boy Diner in Bismarck, North Dakota. I remember eating at the drive-in, it was a big deal for a country kid.
I missed taking a photo of the Lois Lane statue. She was Clark Kent’s love interest. Of note, the Metropolis Planet, the weekly newspaper, is seeking nominations for its annual Lois Lane Award given to a woman in Massac County active in volunteerism in their community. The award will be given out at the annual Superman Celebration coming up in a couple of weeks, June 9-11, 2023. It’s the 45th celebration.
The city was preparing for the celebration by sprucing up the large mural on the side of a building a couple of blocks down from the statue. Looks like she was almost done with the job. Lucky me being in the right place at the right time!
If you find yourself in the vicinity, Metropolis is a short drive from I-24. It’s worth a stop to check out the statue and all things Superman. I recommend stopping at the coffee and ice cream shop a block down the street from the statue. In addition to the Super Museum there are a couple of antique shops, a clothing shop or two, a home goods store, a novelty shop, a furniture store, a vape shop, and a few service businesses on Market Street.
Another personal aside. Several years ago, I was working on an employee training project in Columbia, Missouri with two young staff members from Comedy Sportz in Chicago. One night when we were in Columbia, we went to a restaurant where there was a wait and had to give a name for the wait list. One of the Comedy Sportz folks quickly said: “Superman.” After a short wait, the hostess called out quite loudly: “Table for Superman.” We got some curious looks as we were escorted to our table! Ever since then, when we have to leave a name when waiting for a table, I use Superman.
Up next week, Pickwick Landing.
Until then, happy travels!