Superman Celebration 2012 pt4: “It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s…Lois Lane!”
Before I post my blog on the costumes seen around Metropolis, IL at the annual Superman Celebration I wanted to do one on a special sighting over the weekend- Noel Neill, the original Lois Lane and First Lady of Metropolis!
I was at my table in Artists Alley/Writers Way when I got a couple text messages telling me Noel was at Planet Krypton for the 1:00pm “Superman: The High-Flying History of America’s Most Enduring Hero” panel with author Larry Tye (and guests). Superboys John Rockwell (first actor to play the role of Superboy in a 1961 pilot for the proposed series, The Adventures of Superboy) and Gerard Christopher (Superboy/Clark Kent in the Viacom production of The Adventures of Superboy) along with writer/publisher Larry Ward and Supermuseum owner Jim Hambrick (who apparently couldn’t make it to the panel) were scheduled to be there. When Noel made her unscheduled appearance the room began to fill fast! The only thing faster than Superman in Metropolis is word of mouth! (You can read Larry Tye’s account of it here.)
I did my best impersonation of The Flash and hightailed it up the street. Noel hadn’t been scheduled to make any personal appearances during the celebration weekend and surprised everyone- including Larry Tye and Gerard Christopher, by joining the panel. She didn’t take any questions from the crowd, but Larry Ward, Noel’s agent/manager/biographer/friend told some stories about her, and she’d shake her head, smile, or grin sheepishly. Working with Noel has provided Larry with plenty of stories to share! After the panel she stayed to take pictures with fans and say hit to old friends.
She had just moved across the country and barely settled into her new Metropolis address just prior to the celebration.
I have gotten to be good friends with Noel and Larry Ward, who is always by her side. Noel has been living in Tuscon, AZ for the past few years, but after having to commute 2000+ miles to Metropolis each June (an easy feat for Superman, not so much for Lois Lane) she is now an official resident of Metropolis. Larry, who lived in Tuscon, too- had gotten married earlier in the year, bought some property in Metropolis (including the historic Massac Theatre), and moved his wife, step-son, and Noel to the official home of Superman. Which I guess is now officially the home of Lois Lane, too!
She’s a great lady and is always very kind and giving to her fans- and her fans love to give back. (Cake from the 2007 Phoenix Comic Con staff.) Up until some health issues arose she had been extremely busy and was going to more conventions and appearances than other celebs half- heck, a third or quarter of her age! (She turns 92 this year!)
I’ve run into her at every Superman Celebration since (except 2011), as well as several other cons over the years- San Diego Comic Con, Phoenix Comic Con, and Memphis Film Festival to name a few. (That’s us together in front of my Bushi Tales booth at the 2007 SDCC. Noel won an Ink Pot Award at that con in 2008.)
We talked a lot about our trips to Metropolis, and the next year Len came as a guest of honor! (Photo- Noel and Len in PHX.)
She is one of the hardest working folks I’ve ever met, and she and Larry are great ambassadors for the City of Metropolis. I still don’t know how Larry has managed to keep up with her over the years- must be his long legs and her short legs!
A couple of my favorite Superman Celebration memories are from 2005 when I first got to be a guest. On Friday night I got to go to a press mixer and be on a panel with writer Mark Waid, artist Steve Stanley, Superman Scott Cranford, Margot Kidder and Noel. The next day we all were together at the main tent for a Q&A and were joined by John Schneider. Before the Q&A started Steve heard Noel’s voice coming from the tent, and thought we were running late. We both went running across the parking lot like Batman and Robin- sans capes and theme music! When we got to the back of the tent there was Mark Waid standing near the entrance stairs. We each told the other to go first- and replied each time, “No- you go first!” We were all afraid of interrupting Noel. I really don’t remember who finally did go first, but we all finally took our seats on stage!
We soon found out that Noel had gotten there early and was just chatting with the audience. A few minutes after the Q&A officially got started John Schneider arrived, and before he could sit down he had to come down to Noel’s end of the stage and tell her how big of a fan he was! That same year The Metropolis Chamber of Commerce announced the formation of “The Noel Neill Statue Committee“.
During the 2009 Superman Celebration Noel attended the ground breaking ceremony for the new Lois Lane statue. The celebration staff and city had worked extremely hard to make this a reality. They sold bricks, did fundraisers, and worked out a deal with Bantera Bank to lease the property for a $1 a year.
That was a great day for her and her fans, and for once Lois Lane was being interviewed!
The following year at the 2010 Superman Celebration a “larger than life” sized bronze statue of Noel Neil as Lois Lane in her iconic pillbox hat and notepad was unveiled with a little help from the official Superman of the Metropolis Celebration, Josh Boultinghouse.
The statue was sculpted by artist Gary Ernest Smith and made by Metal Arts Foundry- the same foundry in Lehi, UT that had made the the giant Superman Statue. (Utah was my home growing up- and I didn’t live too far from Lehi and Salt Lake City!)
I heard that the statue was sculpted larger than life size because Noel is “larger than life”! Just looking at all of the inscriptions on the brick surrounding the statue you can see just how much Noel is loved.
The new statue stands on the corner of 8th and Market Street- just a few blocks up Market from Superman Square and the Superman statue. That’s Larry Ward (right) and Noel’s friend voice actor Jeffrey Breslauer (left) spell-checking Lois- she’s a great reporter, but is notorious for being a bad speller.
It was a great pleasure for all of us fans to get to see her this year. Noel wasn’t able to make it last year, and with the recent move I just didn’t think I’d get a chance to say hi to her at all this trip. Again, she surprised us all!
The one thing I look forward to each year more than getting a Christmas card from Noel is getting to see her in person!
Looking forward to seeing you again soon, Noel- stay \S/uper!