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Arts and Entertainment

Superman exhibit opening at Cleveland Hopkins Airport tells world he was born here
Highlights the creation of 2 Cleveland teens in the gloomy 1930s

Kevin Niedermier
The first Action Comic featuring Superman came out in 1938. The artwork is by Joe Shuster. They sold for 10 cents then, but a copy can be worth more than $140,000 today.
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Back in the 1930s America was in the Great Depression and World War II was on the horizon. The gloomy prospects inspired a pair of Cleveland teenagers to create a character that could rise above it all. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster developed Superman at their homes in the city’s Glenville neighborhood. This evening an exhibit telling the Superman story will be unveiled at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. As WKSU’s Kevin Niedermier reports, the exhibit is to let the world know that the Man of Steel was born right here.

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There are five literary characters considered to be known worldwide: Tarzan, Mickey Mouse, Robin Hood, Sherlock Holmes, and Superman.  But, with the possible exception of Walt Disney creating Mickey Mouse, most people don’t know who created the other characters. This spurred Cleveland’s Siegel and Shuster Society to build the Superman exhibit at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, a place where people from around the world will see it. 83 year old Erv Fine of Beachwood is Jerry Segal’s first cousin. He’s a founder of the Siegal and Shuster Society, and helped put the Hopkins exhibit together. Fine says he remembers Superman’s early years.

 “Jerry was one of the older cousins, I was one of the younger cousins. I remember him vividly. I went up to visit them at their studio at 105th and Euclid. By that time they had a bunch of drafting tables and artists and writers working and it seemed top be a great success at that time. I remember the first Action Comic coming out introducing Superman that you could buy for a dime. And nobody believed my cousin did that and I had to convince everyone in the neighborhood because I was only 9 or 10 back then. And of course everyone followed it and fell in love with Superman.”

Original Superman adventures set in Cleveland

Superman grew from those 10 cent comics to movies and to a television series and cartoons shows. Siegel and Shuster Society President Mike Olszewski says Cleveland is the stage for much of Superman’s original adventures.

“A lot of the early characters were based on people they knew. In fact the first few issue took place here in Cleveland. George Taylor, who was editor of the Cleveland Star, was based on a fellow named Wilson Hirshfeld. He was editor of the Glennville Torch Newspaper. The high school paper where Siegel and Shuster worked. He went on to become editor of the Plain Dealer.”

Superman exhibit started out as a much smaller idea

One of Siegel and Shuster Society’s big accomplishments has been restoring Jerry Siegel’s Cleveland home. Erv Fine says the idea for the airport exhibit started as a much smaller idea.

“We thought a sign at the airport would be nice announcing to passengers that Cleveland is the home of Superman. We approached city council and they liked the idea and passed legislation authorizing a lease with the airport. Everyone seems to get excited where you talk about Superman and they want to get on the bandwagon. It’s like motherhood, baseball and apple pie. It’s truth, justice and the American way.”

Fine says the exhibit teaches the Superman story in many different ways.

“There’s a phone booth that changes Clark Kent into Superman as you pass by, there’s an old television set that has clips from the old days of the movies and T.V. shows, and a lot of the points of interest around Cleveland that are related to Superman. The older generation might know Superman originated here, but a lot of the younger generation is surprised to hear it. So we just want to spread the news.”

To maximize exposure, the Superman exhibit was located in the baggage claim area where 80-percent of the airport’s traffic passes through. Only ticketed passengers would see it if it was in a concourse. It will be unveiled at Cleveland Hopkins Airport this evening at 5:30.

Related Links & Resources
Siegel and Shuster Society of Cleveland

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