Leon Bibb: Cleveland needs to embrace Superman's origins; Man of Steel part of city's history

CLEVELAND - The dateline on this story is "CLEVELAND", but it probably should also read "METROPOLIS" in parenthesis because as far as Superman is concerned, the two communities are the same. 

When I was growing up in Cleveland, stories of Superman and how he fought for "truth, justice and the American way" were as close to me as the nightstand next to my bed where I piled copies of my comic books. At the time, I knew nothing about the creators of the heroic figure, who were not only here from Cleveland, but also from my neighborhood and the high school that I would attend.

However, at the Glenville High School of my youth, not much was said of Superman's creators who had walked the same hallways more than 30 years before. It was not until later did I learn creators Jerry Siegel and Joseph Shuster penned the first stories and drawings of Superman while they were high school boys at Glenville.

My earliest memories of Superman came during breakfasts of Cheerios or corn flakes. As I chomped down breakfast before going to elementary school, I rushed through a Superman comic book, usually for the umpteenth time until the next issue was released. Bites of cereal were mixed with page-turnings to see how Superman would come to the rescue of citizens in need.

In the evenings, when I was sent to bed by my parents, Superman, in his blue, red, and yellow suit with the trailing red cape, would accompany me.  Even by flashlight beneath the covers of my bed, his heroic feats of saving the world from catastrophe, putting criminals behind bars or flying Lois Lane from the jaws of trouble in a nick of time, his story captured my attention.

Superman was so much a part of the lives of boys my age. My cousin, Ronnie, received a Superman suit one Christmas. Ronnie so much believed the suit had power, wearing his Superman duds; he climbed on the top of the garage behind his house. Just as Superman had done, Ronnie leaped off the roof, intending to fly. 

Flight eluded him. In his backyard, it was a sprained ankle Ronnie received instead. It was the only time I saw Superman, still in his cape, carried by his parents into the house for bandaging. Still, neither Ronnie nor the rest of the boys I knew were dismayed. 

That just showed there was only one Man of Steel. It was not Superman's suit that helped him to fly. It was what was inside Superman that gave him flight. It was what he possessed because of his birth on Krypton. Superman had more than we mortal men... or kids. Thank goodness he was on the side of right.

On this 75th anniversary of the release of the first Action Comics featuring Superman, a man who could fly and who possessed world-shaking strength, X-ray vision and the ability to ward off bullets simply by letting them bounce off his chest, Cleveland is picking up its own speed in drawing more attention to this city as the real birthplace of the "Man of Steel."

I am glad the city has begun a bigger push to honor the memories of Siegel and Shuster, and the heroic figure they created. However, it is not enough.

I am pleased the Maltz Museum for Jewish Heritage in suburban Beachwood has long had a display on the origins of Superman. The museum has paved a wonderful pathway to the past, highlighting the accomplishments of a couple of high school boys who breathed life into the character.

The Superman exhibit in the baggage claim area of Cleveland Hopkins International Airport is a welcome addition. It highlights the history of how the hero came to be from his birth on sheets of paper to comic books to television and movies.

The story of the man who was born on Krypton and came to earth as a child in a rocket ship launched by his parents just as the planet was exploding has long been a worldwide story that has held the attention of billions of people.

It is now time for Cleveland, which is the real birthplace of Superman, who disguised himself as mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent as he worked for the Daily Planet newspaper in Metropolis, to fly to higher areas with the Superman story. There should be Superman-oriented conventions and more exhibits for the world to see. We owe him that. We owe Siegel and Shuster that. 

Cleveland should give more honor to Superman who has saved the world so many times in comics, television, and movies. He, in his disguise, brought distinction to the Daily Planet newspaper (Really, the Plain Dealer. DP =,PD.  Get it?). 

Siegel and Shuster did not realize what they were starting as they drew their comics strip character in between their homework assignments. Later, the money they got in selling the story to a national comic book company was a pittance of they should have been paid. We owe great deal to them and the legacy they left.

So c'mon, Cleveland! Let's find a way to elevate the story even more. This is a story thatwas given to us by a couple of Glenville High School boys who found a way to touch the hearts and souls of people throughout the world for the generations that would come. The two boys grew up to manhood and lived long successful lives. But they left us something which has long inspired us: Superman.

It is time for us to even louder proclaim that Cleveland is really the planet Krypton. This is where Superman was born and where Superman still lives.

Look! Up in the sky. It's a bird; it's a plane. Well, you know the rest.

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