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I recently realized that when I posted about my trip to this year’s Superman Celebration in Metropolis, I pretty much just talked about me adopting my new kitty Lex. Although he’s pretty \S/uper, there was a lot more that happened over the weekend in the official home town of Superman.

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Metropolis is a small town in southern Illinois- in fact, you can’t go any further south without driving¬†into the Ohio River– which my friend Kevin Williams and I almost did one night thanks to a dark and deserted downtown Cairo, IL and bad on-line directions…but that’s another story.
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This year I drove up on a Thursday morning and came in the old back way on US-45 S instead of driving across the river on 1-24 from Paducah, KY. 45 turns into 10th Street once you get into Metropolis, and Superman Square and the main part of the Superman Celebration is on Market Street, about a mile or so up from this welcome sign.

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If you come in on 24 and take the Metropolis exit you’ll see the bigger sign as you head into town on E 5th Street (which is also 45) and pass Fort Massac State Park.
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The¬†Superman Celebration¬†is an annual festival celebrating the Man of Steel. This was the 37th Annual Metropolis Superman Celebration. It’s more of a small town “strawberry festival” with a Superman theme than a typical comic convention. Even though the majority of it takes place within a few city blocks, it truly is a city wide event- which makes it very unique. It’s also become a sort of family reunion for many. The town has it’s own official Superman of Metropolis Josh Boultinghouse. Nope- no padding on this 6’2″and 235lbs¬†Kal-El, and he’s as nice and friendly as you’d expect a Kansas farm boy like Clark to be. This strange visitor from another planet is actually¬†a Texas native, and has been Superman here each year since 2008.

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There’s a sign as you enter Metropolis that states the town’s population as being 65oo– but it increases to several more thousand over the weekend- many of which have become honorary citizens of Metropolis,¬†and¬†I’m one of them. I was sworn in by Mayor Billy McDaniel and Superman a few years ago!

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The town was pretty quiet when I arrived with just a few vendors and volunteers setting up tents, food trucks, booths, and other temporary attractions up and down Market Street and in Superman Square.

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By the time the sun was going down the Metropolis midway was hopping. At earlier celebrations, things pretty much were over at sundown and the town seemed to roll up the sidewalks after dark. Not anymore. Things were still going on well into the evenings each night of the festival. More after hours events have been added to the schedule, so now people have more to do than just go back to the hotel or drive over to Paducah.

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Temporary sign and spot lights illuminated Market Street, and the aroma of fair food filled the air. Corndogs, funnel cakes, cheesesteaks, Mongolian BBQ, lemon shake-ups, ice cream, souvenirs, and more were available along the 3 block stretch from 8th Street to Superman Square and the giant Superman statue in front of the courthouse, Metropolis Chamber of Commerce, and Supermuseum.

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I promised my wife I’d limit myself to one corndog a day– luckily she didn’t put a size limit on them so I got the footlong ones each time. Recent health issues have forced me to watch what I eat these days, and I loved watching them make those corndogs!

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There are dozens of events that occur during this four day festival- games, trivia contests, costume contests, celebrity Q&As and autograph sessions, mechanical bull riding, wrestling, BMX stunt show, live music, sketches, comic signings, and much more.

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And did I mention food..? Just making sure. I love all the other things happening in Metropolis that weekend, but for me foot long corndogs , cheese-stakes, and lemon shake-ups alone are worth the drive!

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On Thursday afternoon there are Opening Ceremonies, where the Superman Celebration Co-Chairs (and sisters) Lisa Gower and Karla Ogle along with Mayor Billy and Superman welcome visitors to their town.

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The Superman Celebration is put on by a group of volunteers who work all year long in preparation for the 4 day event. But they can’t prepare for everything…

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It never fails, just as things get underway and are going well some super villains always try to crash the party and spoil the fun. This year Darkseid and some of his underlings invaded Metropolis. Each year Superman is called upon to foil their evil plans to take over Metropolis, and this year he had some help from Uncle Sam.

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After order was restored to the proceedings and the invaders agreed to play nice, Superman and Uncle Sam agreed to pose for a souvenir group photo with them before they left via a boom tube. Superman later posed for photos with attendees in front of the statue as well. If you get to visit Metropolis you have to have your photo taken in front of the statue. Even the president has- google it!
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This year I was in town not only to run around as a fanboy and eat myself silly, but to help my buddy Tim Brown set up the outdoor movie screen and help run the boards for the Superman Celebration Fan Film Festival Awards, or as they are now known- the Superman Celebration Film Festival Awards. The first fan films were shown outdoors in Superman Square back in 2007, and the first annual Superman Celebration Fan Film Competition was held the following year in 2008.

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Animation, live action, superheroes, sci-fi, humor, drama- many different types of entries with varying skill levels were entered this year from all over the world. Some of my favorites were A Special Day, Captcha, Monkaa, Lapwing, Batman and Jimbo, Breakfast With Clark, Comic Potential, Dark Therapy, Fallen Heroes, Light Games, Grayson: Earth One, Little Heroes, This Is Joe, Wonder Woman fan film trailer, and Boy Wonder. Some winners were in attendance, and others sent in a video acceptance speech- and some were funny themselves. I was upstairs in the sound booth running the program that cued up each video while Tim hosted the awards.

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One new category was added this year-¬†‚ÄúSuper Grab Bag‚ÄĚ. Entrants had to make a short film that included a mop, avocados, and a dentist.¬†Doctor Guacamole by¬†Thomas Hayes won this honor. I’ve liked his Villains Day Off films, and I really dug this one, too.¬†Thomas was there to accept his award, which looked amazing this year.

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The outdoor movies took place at night on 8th Street next to Artists Alley/Writers Way and across from the Noel Neill/Lois Lane statue.¬†After helping Tim get it up and running, I hung¬†out¬†and kept an eye on¬†Artists Alley/Writers Way¬†Thursday night while some of the artists and writers set up early. I worked on a sketchcover while listening to some tunes and enjoying the A/C- a precious and treasured thing in Metropolis in June. Earlier in the day I ended up¬†painting a direction sign for it. It can be a bit hard to find the entrance if you don’t know where to look.

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Karla offered me a table to hang out at there, so since I had my markers and some sketchcovers with me to work on back at the hotel at night I set up shop the next morning. Had fun and even sold one- thanks, Jim! (You can see more about my adventures in Artists Alley here.)

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Over the weekend I ended up chatting with Mama Wanda and Papa Cliff Helm (Lisa and Karla’s parents who watch over AA/WW), artist buds Ben Glendenning and former Memphian¬†Mike Norton, a few of my other fellow MSCA/Memphis Mafia like Lonnie Easterling and Jim Hall, as well as several of the usual suspects that visit each year. Also enjoyed meeting and talking to Ben’s dad Joe and some of Ben’s on-line gaming friends that met up for the first time¬†in Metropolis.
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This year writers Kurt Busiek and another former Memphian John Jackson Miller and artist Alex Saviuk were comics guests at the Celebration, too.

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Speaking of guests, Arrow‘s¬†Caity Lots¬†(Black Canary/White Canary) was there (along with The Flash‘s Candice Patton/Iris West).

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They were signing autographs at the Baymont Theater (same location as the Film Festival and auction). I got a signed Black Canary photo for my wife Nicki.
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Ben got a photo, too- but it’s for charity. Caity signed it and one of Ben’s hand drawn Black Canary/White Canary art cards for the charity, too.
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Ben also got guest Jerry “The King” Lawler to sign an art card for the charity, too. Jerry was at the former Chamber of Commerce location signing autographs with other guests John Shea (Lex Luthor/Adventures of Lois and Clark),¬†Stacy Haiduk¬†(Lana Lang/Superboy),¬†Diane Sherry Case¬†(Lana Lang/Superman: The Movie).
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Got to talk a bit to Stacy and John while we there. John seemed to be having a lot of fun meeting the fans. Saw Jerry again later that weekend at our hotel and in Artists Alley when he stopped by. The King is a big comic fan and artist himself.

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Oh, and Jerry brought his ’60s TV Batmobile to Metropolis! It was parked in Superman Square over the weekend.

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Jerry’s Batmobile had some classic car company in Superman Square.
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One was a 1950 Nash Rambler– which was used as Lois Lane‘s car in the 1950’s TV series.
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To tell the truth, even the Metropolis Police cars are pretty cool!

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Seriously- how geeky cool is the Metropolis Police Department..?!! I had to pick up one of the police patches on an earlier visit to Metropolis.

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The Batmobile was not the only bat-vehicle in Metropolis- the Bat-Boat was on display at the Americana Hollywood Museum just up the street. Unfortunately it has seen better days. Being outdoors in the Metropolis elements has taken it’s toll on the replica¬†boat over time. “Holy-Rusted-Metal, Batman!” ūüôĀ

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On Sunday I took a quick drive over to the car show being held at the Fort Massac State Park. Joe and Papa Cliff rode over with me in my Batmobile (okay- it’s a Dodge Caliber– hey, I’m not a millionaire like Bruce Wayne).

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There was a great variety of cars- old and new, custom and classic, finished and works in progress. We even saw the Lois Lane Nash Rambler! Papa Cliff stopped and talked to the owners before they hit the road back to New York. And yes, they were driving the Nash back. Apparently that little car can scoot!

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I hadn’t been able to check out the car show before, and will definitely not miss it the next time I get the chance.

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I had several folks tell me they passed on it because it looked like it was just newer cars.

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Nope- the newer ones were towards the front, and as you traveled through the park more and more older cars were parked- mostly under the shady trees which sort of made them hard to see from the main road. I do recommend stopping in for at least a few minutes if you’re at the celebration next year.

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Cosplayers are all around Metropolis, and the official Superman- or his cousin Supergirl, aren’t the only ones¬†to wear a costume while in the M-town. Some days the supers outnumbered the non-costumed visitors.

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Capes are optional while visiting Metropolis, but strongly encouraged. French Maid costumes..? Well, if you’re brave enough.

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Over the weekend I saw all ages of cosplayers getting on on the fun- including whole families.
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Even the dogs don capes and super-suits…talk about super-pets! Hey- anyone remember “Superpup“..?!

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On Sunday there’s even a whole parade of costumed supers taking it to the mean streets of Metropolis.

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Some DC characters are represented, some Marvel

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…some are¬†green…

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…but all were having fun as they made their way past the¬†waving to the crowds gathered up and down the 3 block parade route along Market Street.
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The parade ended up stopping in front of the Superman statue for a group photo before the big costume contest. Not everyone in the parade participated in the contest, but there were still several entries again this year. Moving the costume contest to Sunday has really helped keep people in town and the celebration party going.

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The costume contest takes place under the main tent next to the Superman Statue. This year’s contest had 3¬†cosplayer judges. I’ve judged the contest before and didn’t envy them!

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The event was hosted by the official Superman and emceed by Brian K. Morris (far left)- one of the writer guests and a great cosplayer himself.
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To be in costume, or not to be, that is the question:¬†Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer the Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune wearing tights and a cape, or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles¬†with¬†a Stark suit of armor…

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The costume contest was great again this year, but after it I saw two of my favorite cosplayers- Superman and Batman from Superman: Red Sun. It’s a 3-issue comic series¬†with the premise- “What if Superman had been raised in the Soviet Union?
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I was¬†—Ā—É–Ņ–Ķ—Ä –≤–Ņ–Ķ—á–į—ā–Ľ–Ķ–Ĺ–ł–Ķ (super impressed) with the attention to detail on the costumes- real Russian patches and medals, but I think I was even more impressed that anyone would/could wear wool in the summer heat of Metropolis! I mean, just look at that fur cap/cowl- unreal. When I got back home I had to track down and order some of the patches and medals for my bat-collection.
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Backtracking a bit- on Saturday night comedian Scott Long performed at the Baymont Theater. It was a benefit for the Save The Massac Theatre, which is a non-profit organization raising money to restore the historic Massac Theatre in Metropolis. Scott was selling tees and CDs and donating a portion of the sales to the Massac, so I bought a CD for me and a tee for Timmy. There was a silent auction going on as well.

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After Scott’s performance was alive auction to also benefit the Massac Theatre. Over 100 items were up for auction, including a signed Superman alarm clock from Noel Neill‘s personal collection. It went for BIG bucks at¬†the end of the auction.

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I donated my Lex painting (signed by Michael Rosenbaum) and¬†did a Superpup sketchcover. I¬†ended up winning a few signed items- a Batman and Robin¬†movie serials DVD and an 8″x10″ B/W photo signed by John “Robin” Duncan from the serials. Timmy ended up winning the “George Award“- given each year to the Superman Celebration Volunteer of the Year! He’s been working hard to grow the film festival, and also does the celebration’s website, as well as taking on events like the outdoor movies.

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To give you a little history on the Massac Theatre– it was built in 1938 (the year of Superman’s first publication),¬†was one of the first buildings in Metropolis to have A/C,¬†had 727 seats with 542 on the main floor and 185 in the balcony,¬†housed a stage,¬†a movie screen, and state of the art projectors. When owner and former manager¬†Eddie Clark passed away the theatre was closed in 1977 and never used as a theatre again- only briefly was it home to a radio station before finally abandoned.¬†The city of Metropolis placed the building on its condemned property list in 2009 and the Save the Massac committee was formed to help save the former jewel of Metropolis. In 2010¬†the building was named to Landmarks Illinois‚Äô annual Ten Most Endangered Historic Places list.

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It didn’t look good, even when the city won the property by imminent domain after a lengthy court battle. I mean, a few stray cats had taken up residence and there was a tree growing in the middle of it! The good news was the bones of the building and its foundation were still solid.

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Then Larry Ward (Noel’s manager/agent and biographer) stepped in, purchased the property, cleaned out the debris that had been collected since the roof collapsed years before, put a new roof on it, and then made a fantastic deal for the Save The Massac Theatre¬†group to buy the property from him. The group now owns it and fundraisers and restorations continue. I’ve got to say that I am ecstatic to see work being done on this old building. I’ve been hoping it could be saved since I first saw it in 1999, and can’t wait for the day when I get to sit and enjoy a movie and other events there. It reminds me of several old theaters in Memphis I went to as a kid that aren’t around these days- many of the buildings either standing in ruins or completely demolished.

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There’s a lot of great architecture in Metropolis, but unfortunately many like this old bank are falling into disrepair. It’s happening all over, and I’ve seen it in other southern Illinois cities- especially other river cities like Cairo. That town looks almost post-apocalyptic. Even in my small town there are buildings that need a face-lift because of neglect. Luckily for Metropolis there are folks that have restored many of the old properties (there’s a cool bed and breakfast¬†in town I want to stay at), and the Save The Massac Theatre¬†group that are working hard to preserve pieces of their local history brick by brick.

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One fun local place you should stop in at is the Metropolis Planet. Unlike it’s namesake “The Daily Planet“, it’s a weekly newspaper and only one story tall. It’s located just up from¬†the Massac Theatre and Metropolis Post Office on East 5th Street (American Way) and¬†is within walking distance of Superman Square.

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I’ve always driven by, but never gone into their offices. If you do they will give you a set of three free business cards- Lois Lane, Clark Kent, and Jimmy Olsen. You can also pick up a free souvenir copy of¬†The Daily Planet.¬†Sometimes during previous celebrations some of the guests like original Lois Lane¬†Noel Neill have done signings there. I stopped by there before heading¬†out on Monday.
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Finally late Sunday after the costume contest the celebration came to a close with the last¬†event of the weekend- the closing skit. Like the opening skit, it’s become a traditional part of the opening/closing ceremonies.
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After some laughs, it was then time for Superman, Lisa, Karla, and Mayor Billy to thank the crowd of attendees and wish everyone safe travels back to their hometowns.

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We wrapped up the weekend upstairs at Fat Edd’s Roadhouse¬†on Sunday night. It’s just up the street from the Superman Square as you head towards the river and casino. The Chamber and celebration staff threw a wedding reception¬†for Josh and his wife Kelley and invited everyone to come celebrate.

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The two were recently married and had Metropolis as a honeymoon vacation- even though it was a working one for Josh. “This looks like a job for SUPERMAN!
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Food, drinks, and laughs were enjoyed by everyone.

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Some more than others!

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It was a great way to wind down after a long weekend, and day goodbyes to many of our Metro friends and family. Won’t see many of them until next June.¬†The weekend was another successful Superman Celebration– the only big hitch was a city wide power outage for a couple hours on¬†Thursday¬†night.

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I was in Artists Alley drawing when the lights went out. I opened the door and it was almost just as dark outside as in! Timmy and I headed across the Ohio River to Paducah, KY for dinner during the black out, and power had been restored by the time we got back to town.

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I’m not exactly sure what plunged¬†Metropolis into darkness that night, but I’m guessing Darkseid was behind it! ūüėČ

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Once Timmy and I got his sound equipment and lights packed up and out of the Baymont on Monday morning it was time for us to fly.¬†We stopped by the chamber’s new location to do some last minute shopping and so longs, and went by Lisa and Karla’s Creations The Florist shop to say goodbye to them as well. There we¬†were introduced to my new kitten Lex¬†(see photos and link at the top of this blog for that part of the story). We had planned on stopping to eat on the way home, so Timmy called ahead to Lambert‚Äôs Cafe in Sikeston,¬†MO to see if it was okay to bring my rescue kitty with us.

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They were happy to keep Lex in one of their offices while we ate. Lambert’s has become a tradition, too.¬†We try to stop in any time we’re that way on I-55 heading to Metropolis, Cape Girardeau, Chester, or St. Louis. Just look for the green signs for the Home of the Throwed Rolls.

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Lots of great memories were made again this year in Metropolis. Hope you get a chance someday to make ones there, too.

Stay \S/uper!

Lin