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Archive for March 20, 2013

Superman’s 75th anniversary deserves a superhero welcome

I’m reposting this article by Mark Naymik from the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the original can be found here :

But this was too important for me to just let pass.  This is NOT my writing (although the pictures are mine), all credit goes to Naymik and the Plain Dealer.


Cleveland needs to start cashing in on Superman.

Local boys Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created the comic book hero during the Great Depression in a Glenville home.

The world should know this.

It doesn’t.

This is not a trivial matter to be debated by comic book nerds at their gatherings. When you look at it through the lens of lost tourism dollars and branding, the ongoing failure of our civic and elected officials to capitalize on this Cleveland story is truly comical.

And this failure is about to be exposed.

Thursday, April 18, marks the 75th anniversary of Superman’s 1938 appearance on the cover of DC’s “Action Comics” No. 1.

But does anyone outside a comic book store know this or even care?

Superman is the archetypal superhero who has inspired a multibillion-dollar industry. Movies. Television shows. Merchandising.

So, how many years have city leaders been planning to leverage Superman’s anniversary?


The answer can’t even be measured in months. Credit for any efforts to highlight the anniversary this summer goes to the Siegel and Shuster Society, a group of volunteers dedicated to preserving Superman’s place here. It’s behind the push for an Ohio Superman license plate. It organized and paid for the Superman Welcoming Center at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. And it organized an international fundraiser that raised money to repair and preserve Siegel’s former Glenville home.

To date, our leaders have been riding on the society’s cape.

What’s most embarrassing is that while our civic leaders don’t seem to understand how big a deal this is, the leaders of Metropolis, Ill., do. It’s a speck of a town on the Ohio River that has no connection to Superman’s creators, but it happens to share a name with Superman’s fictional city. Civic leaders have capitalized on that name.

The town attracts more than 120,000 visitors a year to celebrate Superman, including more than 60,000 alone to its annual Superman festival.

Sure, it’s just a bunch of men in tights. But it’s men in tights with wallets. (Of course, women and children also participate.)

Back here in Cleveland, when the Superman Welcome Center opened in October at the airport, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said Superman is “a big part of who we are.”

So why haven’t city leaders embraced his identity and spread the word? I can’t recall any serious effort to formally honor Siegel and Shuster’s legacy. I do remember that someone stole a plaque honoring Siegel and Shuster and that a man drove his car through the ornamental fence that surrounds Shuster’s former home.

We have also never used Superman as a branding tool. We should. Think about the potential. Cleveland: Home of Rock and Roll. Home of Superman.

Instead, we try to wrap our identity around the “Global Center for Health Innovation,” formerly known as the med mart.

Copy of 100_3326What are we thinking? Home of Superman. Or Global Center for Health Innovation. Which of those is more likely to get families visiting the city?

I’m not really comparing the medical mart to Superman. Both are worthy. I just think we have missed the opportunity to exploit the populist appeal of Superman and its subculture.

Why can’t Cleveland become a major comic book convention town? Why aren’t we using Superman to build up our creative arts? I’d love to see the Greater Cleveland Film Commission, which likes to brag about winning production work on comic book movies, put some energy into the idea.

City leaders use the “A Christmas Story” house in Tremont to promote our city, and the only part of the house used in that movie was its exterior. Superman was created in a house here. So why do leg lamps get more attention here than the Man of Steel?

At the moment, Northeast Ohio’s visitors and convention bureau, Positively Cleveland, makes no mention of the 75th anniversary of Superman. When the bureau fields questions about Superman, it refers callers to people at the Siegel and Shuster Society or to Plain Dealer reporter Michael Sangiacomo.

Sangiacomo, a comic book author and widely recognized expert, knows more about Superman  than I know about my own kids. 

He thinks the city can still salvage the anniversary. He’ll soon detail in the paper a list of coming events that he hopes will make this the “Summer of Superman.”

Sangiacomo thinks about the anniversary constantly, and he’s full of ideas. He envisions, for instance, a space such as the Galleria downtown turned into a temporary Superman exhibition site by tapping Superman collectors who live right here in Northeast Ohio. He and others could go on and on.

“Superman is the most recognizable fictional character in the world,” Sangiacomo said. “And no other city in the world can say, ‘He is ours,’ yet we don’t bother to say it.”

I’m not a Superman fan or comic-book reader, but I know a missed opportunity when I see it. Sadly, big ideas have become our city’s Kryptonite. City leaders have profoundly flubbed Superman’s 75th anniversary.

But it’s never too late to tap Superman’s power.



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