A Visit to Superman’s Hometown in Metropolis, Illinois(?!)

On the way to St.Louis, traveling on Rt. 24, from Paducah Kentucky, I couldn’t resist the signs for Metropolis, Illinois. My  first thought was to grab a cute photo of the sign for my husband and to make tracks for St. Louis.As we drove into town, I realized it would take a bit longer. I didn’t know there was a statue, a newspaper called The Planet and a museum.

An old town on the Ohio River, Metropolis sits in the far southeast corner of Illinois. Still maintaining its history and buildings, the town has tied its tourist status to Superman.In 1972, DC Comics named Metropolis, Superman’s hometown.

Every year, the town hosts a four-day Superman celebration in the second week of June.Unknowingly, by only a few days, I had missed the chance to shoot hundreds of people in blue tights and red capes as they swarmed or flew into town.Disappointed at the missed opportunity, I still checked out the museum and store.

As I wandered, my faint knowledge of comics made me question the hometown issue.(While I admit to reading Superman, Archie and Veronica, and Millie the Model; my favorite was a comic about codes and spies during WWII . )I was concerned because I thought Superman, born on Krypton, was  raised on a farm in Smallville . I realized that as an adult he worked for the Planet in Metropolis, but to me that’s not a hometown.

When I returned home to Memphis,  I checked several dictionaries for “hometown” . The consensus is the town of one’s birth, childhood or main residence. For me ,there’s a difference. I consider New York City my hometown because I was born and raised there. I’ve lived in Memphis a great part of my adult life, but it’s not my hometown. Even today, natives will hear me speak fast and say “You’re not from here, are you?”

The Cambridge Dictionary refined its definition by adding ” especially the one in which they were born and lived in while they were young.”

Back to Metropolis, it seems that DC Comics changed the location of Superman’s childhood in Smallville  many times in its comics. Over its history, Smallville has been located in Kansas, Pennsylvania, northeast New Jersey and Maryland.Maybe it was just easier to choose a town like Metropolis and be done with the hometown issue. Of course then there is the town of Krypton, Kentucky (population around 3,400) and Smallville, Mississippi in Jackson County and how they missed out on the title.

I think that Metropolis was smart to trade in on the PR value of its name and has tried to do right by Superman and the town.
But on the highway, next to the Superman billboard, is this man in the grocery store parking lot . If something were to change, he looks ready to help out.

So my question is : what do you consider to be your hometown? If someone asks “Where are you from?” What do you answer?

About unsouthernbelle

I am a native New Yorker , transplanted to Memphis, who is a photographer, teacher, and wanderer. I am inspired by the beauty and stories that resonate from abandoned places and found objects. View all posts by unsouthernbelle

10 responses to “A Visit to Superman’s Hometown in Metropolis, Illinois(?!)

  • Paul Boocock

    Big John seems the perfect modern super hero!!
    I live in a huge city similar in size to your home town but I really consider just a small part of it my home town, one borough in fact, the rest of that city is really just places I visit sometimes! Though I’m the residents of those places have similar feelings, this city is really just a collection of villages really.

  • southernbelle

    Superman’s day job at Big John’s Market….

  • Jennifer

    Wow, they have a Superman celebration? That sounds really fun! As an observer … had no idea Superman had a hometown. How interesting. I’m not sure I have a hometown anymore. 😦

    • unsouthernbelle

      Imagine all those middle-aged guys running around in blue tights.We moved quite a bit so I know its hard but I still consider Manhattan my hometown.Maybe we can just go out and choose a hometown. That would be fun!

  • Carol Dunnigan

    How funny! When we moved from FL to CO about a month ago, we drove past it. I was in the moving truck with my husband, and the 3 kids were following in the Jeep. My son and his girlfriend were taking a nap, but I shot a picture of the water tower and texted it to him asking if he wanted to stop – this is a 22 yr old who dresses like Superman on cruises and for Halloween – he has his own costume. He actually wanted to sleep! I was so bummed!

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