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It’s a Bird. It's a Plane. No, It's a "Super" State Holiday!

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Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created Superman while they attended Glenville High School in Cleveland in the 1930s. (Dimple Monkey/Flickr)
Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created Superman while they attended Glenville High School in Cleveland in the 1930s. (Dimple Monkey/Flickr)
June 12, 2018

By Anna Huntsman/Broadcast version by Mary Kuhlman
Reporting for the Kent State-Ohio News Connection Collaboration

It’s a bird. It’s a plane. No, it’s a “super” state holiday!

A bill in an Ohio Senate committee could designate June 12 as Superman Day in Ohio, likely beginning in 2019. The holiday would honor Superman’s creators, who developed the character while they attended Glenville High School in Cleveland in the 1930s.

“I got the idea once figuring out that the people who created Superman as a comic book were all from my neighborhood,” said Rep. Bill Patmon, D-Cleveland, who proposed the bill in the Ohio House last year. By neighborhood, he means Ohio’s 10th district, which includes Glenville, where Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster dreamed up the superhero, who first appeared in Action Comics in 1938. “These two young Jewish fellows ... believed in the ethic of truth, justice and the American way,” Patmon added, in reference to Superman’s iconic motto.

The official text proclaims “On this day, let it be known that Superman is faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.” The Ohio House passed the legislation on April 11th by a vote of 86-4, and the bill is currently waiting for its first hearing in the Government Oversight and Reform Committee in the Senate.

“After a first hearing, it will still need to have a proponent and opponent hearing before it would be voted out of committee,” said Alex Strickmaker, legislative aide for Patmon, in a June 11 email. “June 12 will stay as the date that Superman Day will be celebrated if the bill does pass and become law in the future. This means that it will not be celebrated this year.”

Patmon sponsored additional Superman legislation in the past, such as funding the Superman Foundation through purchases of Ohio license plates that feature the Superman insignia. He said Superman means a great deal to all Ohioans.

“To us, it’s another feather in our cap - we’ve had creativity and entrepreneurship in this state for a very long time, and done some very unique things,” he said. “Superman is just one of them.”

Jerry Siegel, co-creator and author of the first Superman comics, was born in Cleveland’s Glenville neighborhood in 1914. According to the official fan site, Superman Super Site, Siegel met co-creator and illustrator Joe Shuster in 1930 while they were students at Glenville High School. They created Superman in 1932 while working together on the school’s newspaper.

“When he was first created … he was basically a ‘super man’ that wasn’t necessarily fighting for good,” said Neil Cole, creator and owner of the Superman Super Site.

Because of this, Siegel and Shuster were unable to sell Superman to comic book publishers until they re-developed the character to be more similar to the one famously known today. They eventually sold the character to Detective Comics (now known as DC Comics), where Superman first appeared on the cover of Action Comics No. 1 in June, 1938. A copy of that comic book sold for more than three million dollars on eBay in 2014.

Cole said while the character has changed in many ways in the 80 years since that first appearance, Superman’s core values have stayed the same. When the character first rose to popularity, the comics were based upon patriotism and supporting troops in World War II. Years later, when the character appeared in the TV series Smallville, the character tackled current issues, such as drug use.

“It’s like there’s a Superman for every generation,” Cole said. “There’s always changes that are made to the character based on what society and current events and everything are, but at the core, he always stands for … truth, justice and the American way.”

The Cleveland Public Library commemorated Superman’s Ohio roots in the past with its comic book and graphic novel gallery, research materials and a special exhibit in 2013 for the 75th anniversary of the comic’s publication. They recently featured a collection of Superman artifacts and memorabilia called “Superman: From Cleveland to Krypton.” The library also offers a book club program called ‘Get Graphic!”, where subjects like the Ohio impact of Superman books are discussed.

“Cleveland is the birthplace of a superhero,” said Valentino Zullo, leader of the Get Graphic! Program and former scholar-in-residence at the Cleveland Public Library. “Cleveland likes to really celebrate, especially those who are in the literary community,”

Zullo said his fascination with comic books began when he was younger and used visual elements to learn English, his second language. The child of two immigrants, he said he interprets Superman’s story as one similar to a refugee or immigrant.

“[Siegel and Shuster] create this character, this outsider, and he decides to come here and help, rather than just invade and take over,” he said.

Aside from recognizing the comic’s anniversary and its Ohio creators, Zullo suggested Superman Day could also honor Superman’s legacy as a humanitarian.

“I think it would be a really interesting thing to turn Superman Day into a giving day,” he said. “That is really what Superman did. He was invested in uplifting people. He was invested into making the world more just.”

Siegel and Shuster were inducted posthumously into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 1992. Shuster died in 1992 and Siegel four years later.

Patmon encouraged Ohioans to celebrate Superman by buying a license plate, sticker or seeing a Superman movie. Siegel’s childhood home in Glenville, located at 10622 Kimberly Avenue, is open to visitors and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Patmon said Superman’s legacy is especially important for his Glenville constituents. “[Superman] has been a hallmark for that community and for its inventors for a very long time,” Patmon said. “It means a lot to us.”

This collaboration is funded in part by Media in the Public Interest and the George Gund Foundation.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH