Saturday, June 09, 2007

Superman Celebration 2007 - Metropolis, IL

Priscilla and I are just back from a day in Metropolis, IL, self-proclaimed hometown of Superman and host to the annual Superman Celebration. It was a warm day, not a cloud in the sky, but we didn't have to look up to see the superheroes. They were plenty to be found on the ground, wandering around, looking for a damsel in distress or a camera to stand in front of.

Thus this picture of Priscilla with Spider-Man, who had one of the better costumes (even if it did ride waaaaaaay too much in the back.)

Of course the costumes were only a small part of the fun. Jim Hambrick's Super Museum is there, and even though it's open year round, it's still a lot more fun to look at when you're among Superman enthusiasts. Personally, I love it because I see all the old Superman toys that I used to have (and some I used to covet) all kept in pristine condition in glass cases. And of course, there's the movie and television artifacts collection that will keep you ooohing and ahhhing. Kirk Alyn's boots reside here. George Reeves' super-suit and almost complete Daily Planet set are there for you to walk in and be a part of. There are myriad costumes and set pieces from the 1980's Saturday morning live action Superboy show. The Christopher Reeve collection is probably the most interesting, with a complete 1978 screen-worn Superman suit, all the wigs that Chris wore for each movie, Marlon Brando's wig, General Zod's suit, and several props including a breakaway brick wall. Chris Reeve and Helen Slater's flying harnesses are there, as well as George Reeves' flying pan. Speaking of Helen Slater, there's a room devoted to Supergirl. Perhaps the most extensive wardrobe collection belongs to the Lois and Clark room, where there are a couple of Dean Cain super-suits and street suits, and Teri Hatcher's nightclub dress, wedding gown, and superhero costume.

The main reason we chose today to go was so we could meet the celebrity guests. First up, we met Noel Neill, the First Lady of Metropolis. She was the main person that I came to see. Noel, of course, starred opposite George Reeve and Kirk Alyn in the early Superman movies and the 1950's TV show, as well as a myriad of other films and shows. At nearly 87, Noel is still looking sharp, even though she doesn't move as fast as she once did. She is a gentle soul, though, and she treated everybody with great care and respect. At one point, during the celebrity Q & A session, she took great pains to acknowledge a severely disabled person in the audience and smile and wave to them. She spoke several times at length about George Reeves, always with great respect and admiration for the man. She seemed somewhat irksome at a mention of the recent bio-pic Hollywood-land starring Ben Affleck, and denounced (in the most meek and humble way) the falsehoods that it told about George Reeves. She to this day holds that he did not, in fact, commit suicide. She also talked about her recent cameo in Superman Returns, but expressed quite a bit of dismay that Lois Lane was "pregnant and didn't have a husband." Her Lois Lane, she told me later, wouldn't have done such a thing. Of course, her Lois and Mr. Reeves' Clark Kent never became seriously romantically entangled. Noel was a complete doll. Imagine yourself at age 87, signing autographs all day, and then getting up and down repeatedly to take photos with fans. Priscilla commented that she must be having writer's cramp. Instead, Ms. Neill laughed and said no, but rather that she was beginning to have trouble with her eyes.

Helen Slater was a slightly different story. I was interested to see her, because I grew up with a slight crush on her after seeing her in Supergirl. Helen is a bit more refined than most. This was her first time at a festival of this nature, and I think she was put somewhat ill at ease with the convention crowd, or more likely the more geek-intensive set. I seemed to have a bit of a hard time holding a conversation with her, as she seemed to pay more attention to the people who were in her entourage, and she almost missed a few photo ops and autographs because of it. Of course, this was after a long hot day full of interacting with people and fielding who knows what kind of questions, so I can sort of understand her situation. That being said, though, she is an accomplished actress, having appeared in The Secret of My Success, and--more recently--episodes of Law & Order: SVU, Grey's Anatomy, Crossing Jordan, and The New Adventures of Old Christine. Many of her fans wondered if she'd consider playing Supergirl in a sequel to the movie. Her response: "I'm 43!" 'Nuff said.

Jerry Maren was a real treat to see. His list of movie credits include The Great Outdoors, Spaceballs, Tron, Planet of the Apes, and Superman and the Mole Men. You may, perhaps, remember him best as one of the Lollipop Guild, particularly the green Munchkin who offered Dorothy a lollipop on behalf of the Lollipop Guild and welcomed her to Munchkin Land. According to Jerry, there are only 9 cast members of The Wizard of Oz still living. (All of them are munchkins, by the way.) Jerry got paid $50 a day for his work on Wizard and sees absolutely zero in residuals, which is quite a shame. He does, however, earn money through personal appearances. He and his wife were simply a delight to meet. Jerry is advancing in age, but he still has a sharp sense of humor, even if he occasionally needs people to repeat what they say.

I also happened to meet Len Wein, who is an extraordinary comic book writer and artist, and who had a hand in some of my favorite comic books as a child. What a fun and great guy!

Jon Bogdanove, who drew approximately a ton of the Superman: Man of Steel comics, just happened to stand next to me at the Celebrity Q&A session also. I had tried to meet him earlier, but some guy in front of us had brought in like 50 comics to get signed, and some other guy stood there and talked to him for nearly twenty minutes, so I had given up. However, he graciously signed my book there at the Q&A session, and he's a really nice guy.

So it was a great day. I expect that it will only be topped by the upcoming Reality TV Convention. Stay tuned!


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