University of Arizona

Celebrating Superman Week with the Special Collections Comic Book Collection

Celebrating Superman Week with the Special Collections Comic Book Collection

This week the town of Metropolis, IL is holding the 36th annual Superman Celebration Festival.  The festival is held between June 12-15 and features celebrity speakers, costume contests, and other events celebrating the man of steel with crowds for the event expected to reach over 30,000!  In an effort to boost tourism to the struggling town, Metropolis, IL declared itself the official home of Superman in 1972, which was later approved by Illinois House of Representatives Resolution 572.  Soon thereafter the town began to fashion itself on the fictional home of Superman by handing out free "Kryptonite" to tourists and even naming its paper The Daily Planet.  There were even plans to build a Superman theme park, but the concept quickly died due to the OPEC oil embargo of 1973 (Campbell-Dollaghan, 2013). The town takes this designation very seriously and even has a 15ft bronze statue in the center of the town's Superman Square as well as a Superman Museum which houses thousands of items devoted to the superhero.

The character of Superman was created in 1933 by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster while the two were attending high school in Cleveland, OH.  The duo sold the rights to the character in 1938 to Detective Comics and Superman made his debut in Action Comics #1 in June of that year.  Superman was an immediate cultural sensation and spawned the superhero genre of comic books.  Over the decades, there have been numerous films, TV shows, newspaper strips, video games, and countless other merchandise items based on the character. 

The Special Collections Comic Book Collection (MS 474) is comprised of roughly 880 items housed in 11 boxes from the Golden Age (late 1930's-early 1950's) and Silver Age (1956- circa 1970) of Comic Books.  Disparate genres are represented within the collection, which includes horror, humor, war, adventure, cowboy, romance, and science fiction titles.  A portion of the collection is comprised of superhero comics and contains numerous titles featuring legendary superheroes (Batman, The Sub-Mariner, and Dr. Strange) and   lesser known superheroes (The Black Cat).  The collection contains a number of titles starring Superman, including Action Comics, and Superman comics with the majority of the issues dating from the 1940's.  The stories and themes of these issues are varied and have Superman confronting recurring villains, such as the notorious trickster Mister Mxyzptlk; while others deal with concerns of contemporary society, such as a film crew commissioning Superman to film a nuclear explosion as he is the only man on Earth who can withstand the awesome force of the detonation!


Works Cited:  Campbell-Dollaghan, K. (8/22/2013).  Metropolis: The Real Life Town that Superman Couldn't Save.  Gizmodo.  Retrieved from