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Hometown of Superman

Field review by the editors.

Metropolis, Illinois

Metropolis is the the self-proclaimed "Hometown of Superman," celebrating its local hero every possible way it can. The local bank is "home of super financial services." The town newspaper calls itself The Planet. A sign in the grocery store informs customers: "Just as Superman stands for truth, justice and the American Way, Food World stands for quality, convenience and friendly service."

souvenir kryptonite Souvenirs are available everywhere -- our favorites are the Superman piñatas. The Chamber of commerce used to give free packets of Kryptonite to children. Hey! Isn't that like handing out bullets in Dealy Plaza?

Things haven't always been rosy in Metropolis.

Superman statue.
The $120,000 Superman.

In 1972, the town had plans to build a thousand-acre, $50 million "Amazing World of Superman" theme park, with a 200-foot-tall statue. Cars would drive between Superman's legs to enter the park. Then the Arabs shut off the oil and the bankers shut down Metropolis's dream.

The town took over a decade to recover. Then, very cautiously, Metropolis scraped together a thousand bucks in 1986 and put up a seven-foot fiberglass Superman in the town square. It quickly became a target for literal-minded vandals who wanted to see if the Man of Steel was stronger than a speeding bullet. He wasn't, and once again Metropolis's efforts to celebrate their hero were thwarted. What could a small town like Metropolis do?

In 1993, they did quite a bit. The perforated Superman vanished and was replaced by a 15-foot-tall, two-ton, projectile-proof bronze Superman, funded (officially) with engraved bricks purchased by citizens for 35 bucks apiece. That's a lot of bricks for a town of 7,200, considering that the new statue cost $120,000.

It may be that Metropolis's other main event of 1993 -- the arrival of Merv Griffin's Riverboat Casino -- made the Superman upgrade possible. Still, Metropolis insists that Superman and Merv are not be mixing messages; there'll be no Jor-el Blackjack or Krypto Craps to entice Superman pilgrims. At least, not this year.

Across the street from the Man of Bronze sprawls the Super Museum, the life's work of Superman-obsessed Jim Hambrick. Exhibits include George Reeves' belt and the Power Crystal from the '79 movie.


A photo op with the Man of Plywood.

Despite its newfound success, something about Metropolis doesn't sit right with us. Wasn't Superman's hometown really Smallville, where he grew up with his family? "Nobody's ever questioned that," a Chamber of Commerce lady told us. "Don't you remember, he moved to the metropolitan area, Metropolis." Sure -- but that wouldn't change his hometown. The lady gave us a sharp look and quickly walked away, as if Metropolis had realized this years ago and was keeping quiet about the whole thing.

And what's the deal with the giant grocery clerk on the east side of town? He's twice the size of the Superman Square statue.

November 2004: Reader Gerard Kaszubowski writes: "According to Superman lore, Smallville (wherever that may be in Kansas) would be the hometown to Clark Kent.  Clark Kent did not emerge or was named Superman until he moved to Metropolis.  Hence, Metropolis would be Superman's hometown since it is the first place on earth he appeared and was named." But Clark Kent was Superboy in Smallville. Mike W. points out his own hometown is Durham, where he was a RegularBoy, not San Francisco, where he was first RegularMan.

April, 2000: Gahh. The web giveth and the web taketh away. According to the CofC, lawyers from DC Comics read about the free kryptonite on this page and made the town stop this generous practice. The town failed to submit the "Kryptonite" for approval by DC, and the chunks presented a choking hazard for children anyway.  

(Metropolis, Hometown of Superman: The very bottom of Ilinois. Look at a map.)

Super Museum | The Statue

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