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Old city billboard greeted visitors.
Old city billboard greeted visitors.

Superman's Hometown

Metropolis, Illinois

Metropolis is the the "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."

Superman statue.
Superman statue.

Souvenirs are available everywhere -- our favorites are the Superman piatas. The Chamber of commerce used to give free packets of Kryptonite to children -- until lawyers from DC Comics read about it on the Roadside America website and made the town stop (Metropolis failed to submit the "Kryptonite" for approval by DC, and the chunks presented a choking hazard for children anyway).

Things started out rosy in Metropolis. On June 9, 1972, the Illinois House of Representatives officially proclaimed that Metropolis was the Hometown of Superman. The following year the "Amazing World of Superman" museum opened in town. Metropolis had plans to build a thousand-acre, $50 million Superman theme park, with a 200-foot-tall statue. Cars would drive between Superman's legs to enter the park.

Then OPEC shut off the oil and the bankers shut down Metropolis's dream. After only a year, the Amazing World of Superman closed its doors forever.

The town took over a decade to recover. 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?

Souvenir Kryptonite: no longer legally available on the streets of Metropolis.
Souvenir Kryptonite: no longer legally available on the streets of Metropolis.

In 1993, they did quite a bit. The perforated Superman vanished and was replaced by a 12-foot-tall, two-ton, projectile-proof bronze Superman, funded (officially) with engraved bricks purchased by citizens for 35 bucks apiece. That was 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. Metropolis insisted that Superman and Merv were not sending mixed messages, and although the casino flourished (Merv sold out to Harrah's in 2000) there has been no Jor-el Blackjack or Krypto Craps to entice Superman pilgrims.

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.

Anyone can be a super person in Metropolis.
Anyone can be a super person in Metropolis.

Despite its success, something about Metropolis didn't sit right with us. Wasn't Superman's hometown really Smallville, where he grew up with his family? 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.

Update: 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 as 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." Superman was merely Superboy in Smallville.

Super Museum

517 Market St., Metropolis, IL
Downtown, just north of Superman Square, on the southwest corner of W. 6th and Market Sts.
Daily 9-5. (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
Adults $8.
RA Rates:
Major Fun
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Superman StatueSuperman Statue, Metropolis, IL - < 1 mi.
Lois Lane in BronzeLois Lane in Bronze, Metropolis, IL - < 1 mi.
KryptoniteKryptonite, Metropolis, IL - < 1 mi.
In the region:
Herod Cave and Fairy Cliff Cafe Ruins, Herod, IL - 34 mi.

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