Superman Homepage Meet and Greet

June 15, 2010: Mr. Freiman Goes to Metropolis

By Barry Freiman

Not since 2008 when Steve Younis and Neal Bailey led a contingent of Superman Homepage staff has the Superman Homepage had such a strong presence at the annual Superman Celebration in Metropolis, Illinois. The town adopted Superman as their official son in the early 1970s though the annual Superman Celebration events began following "Superman: The Movie". Barry Freiman, Adam Dechanel (who flew in from the U.K.), Ralph Silver, and Jamie and Ronda Kelley (Clark Kent and Lois Lane) all represented the Superman Homepage staff at this year's festivities. They were joined by Sam Rizzo, the Editor-in-Chief of the Superboy Homepage (that site's coverage of the weekend is worth a look-see and listen). What follows are Associate Editor Barry Freiman's thoughts on the weekend:

Adam flew into Chicago from London and we drove a rental car from the Second City to Metropolis. Having lived in Chicago for eight years, I'd wanted to visit Metropolis long before now but was turned off as each year went by daunted by the thought of a six or seven hour drive. I was scared by Metropolis promotional material that described the small town as far as one could go from Chicago and still be in Illinois, which is true given Metropolis borders Paducah, Kentucky.

There is no easy way to get to Metropolis. The nearest international airport is two hours away. There's an Amtrak train station about an hour or so away. Adam and I elected to drive. Well I drove - Adam was the navigator... on roads that were, to his English way of thinking, backwards. Because I don't drive in the city, it had been some time since I'd driven and didn't realize how much my eyesight had deteriorated in my right eye since the last time I'd driven. To compensate for my droopingly tired and overworked right eye, we took frequent rest-stop breaks, which was an education of itself to Adam who'd only been to large American cities before. The great American truck stop was a new experience for him.

Statue Sign We drove toward the highway exit to Metropolis and saw a huge billboard of Superman announcing Metropolis at the next exit. Then there was Superman on a huge water tower. I pulled over to the highway shoulder so Adam could get out of the car and take photographs of the statue sign and water tower.

Our plan was to find the hotel and check in but, before finding the hotel, we followed the signs to the "Giant Superman Statue" and ended up in Metropolis town square. We parked by the self-proclaimed world's largest "Dip 'n Dots" (freeze-dried ice cream dots). Given I've only ever seen the freeze-dried ice cream products in vending cases at movie theaters, I'm not sure how huge a feat that is but good for them nonetheless. Later in the weekend, Adam bought the Superman flavor Dip 'n Dots for himself and me - in fruity flavored Superman colors. I'd have preferred a less intense flavor like vanilla or chocolate, I think.

Turning the corner around the courthouse, the seemingly staid-from-the-front court building gives way to 15 feet of Superman. The Superman statue is the second to grace that spot. It's certainly the highlight of anyone's trip to Metropolis. The number of photographs taken featuring visitors with hands on hips and chests puffed out probably coincides exactly with the number of visitors to Metropolis. It was Thursday and the sun was beginning to set so we took some pictures, went shopping at the Superman Museum's store, and headed over to our hotel.

When researching Metropolis hotels I had one prerequisite: wifi access so that I could check in with Steve and get contemporaneous reports up on the Superman Homepage. Unfortunately, our room was on the end of the hotel that had virtually no wifi because we were furthest from the lobby-located router. Adam figured out that there were others in the same boat as us and heroically found an access-friendly area of the hotel fire-escape from which he emailed brief reports and photo files. The area had very little ventilation and was hot and humid with poor lighting and a weak signal - and every so often the type of people who sound like they'd be the subject of a Jeff Foxworthy joke came out of their room and asked Adam if he could get them porn on his computer; so Adam really did go above and beyond to keep our readers informed.

Barry Freiman with the Noel Neill Statue By the time I woke up, Adam had already been awake for hours and toured downtown Metropolis without the crowds - this was pretty much how things went every day. When I woke up it was to the sounds of intense thunder and lightning. With the first event of the day the Noel Neill statue unveiling outside, and me stupidly leaving my Superman Returns umbrella at home, I wondered how we were going to cover the unveiling and whether it would indeed take place as scheduled. Minutes before the 10 AM start time, the rain subsided. There was a long, full of local politicos series of speeches all lauding Miss Neill, the First Lady of Metropolis. I half-expected a military-clad Gus Gorman to drive up with tar-infused Kryptonite.

Town Superman, Josh Boultinghouse, a good friend to the Superman Homepage, accompanied Miss Neill to the covered statue and helped her unveil it as balloons rose behind them. At virtually the same time, the clouds parted and the sun came out. What followed were scads of poses with the statue. Noel, sick with a cold and seemingly more frail than the last time I'd seen her about two years ago, toughed it out though, cracking jokes and smiles, reminiscing about George Reeves, and engaging every fan she could. She truly does have the grace of a Nancy Reagan or Jackie Kennedy and the plucky spirit of an Eleanor Roosevelt or Lady Bird Johnson - the First Lady moniker certainly fits.

After the unveiling, we headed over to the main tent for the first panel with Ilya Salkind. We sat in the front row with Ralph, Jamie, Ronda, and Sam. Sam recorded the panel for broadcast on the Superboy Homepage. Ilya had only a half-hour in which he talked about assembling the team of cast and crew for "Superman: The Movie".

Barry tries on Superboy's boots Adam and I went to the Super Museum after the panel with Ilya. We spent a few hours there. We were a little surprised that items were seemingly left unprotected to the elements and discoloring under fluorescent lighting but, overall, the museum's contents are impressive. We took scores of photographs which should give you an idea of the museum's incredible inventory of collectibles. The boots I'm pretending to try on belonged to the Bizarro Superboy on TV's syndicated series "The Adventures of Superboy".

Next up was the Superman Homepage Meet and Greet at the Superman Statue. People showed up in waves over the next hour. We handed out Superman Homepage T-shirts to as many as we could. I spoke personally with several Superman Homepage regular readers and we truly have some really nice fans frequenting the website. By the end of the Meet and Greet, "Superman" movie producer Ilya Salkind stopped by. I'd interviewed him in 2005 and, as we took a picture together, he whispered to me that he has always really liked that interview, that it was an important interview that finally helped fans to embrace his contributions to the Superman franchise. I was and remain truly flattered by the compliment and recommend you read the interview - it had always been one of my personal favorites now even moreso knowing it means something special to Ilya too.

Barry with Ilya Salkind We talked to Ilya about a number of things. I brought up the "Superboy" TV series, only the first season of which is out on DVD. Ilya would love to release the remainder of the series but that decision is Warner's and they have no plans to release subsequent seasons at present due to the low sales on season one. Ilya hopes that, when "Smallville" ends its run next year, and the Chris Nolan "Superman" movie is hopefully released in 2012, Warner will be looking for previously unreleased material and that road increasingly leads to the last three seasons of "Superboy". I told Ilya about the upcoming "Young Justice" cartoon series featuring a Superboy character and suggested the time may be coming to make an earlier push with Warners. Time will tell.

Following the Meet and Greet, I went back to my room and passed out. I'd hoped to attend the 7:30 PM showing of "Superman II" but my body rejected the idea in favor of sleep.

Saturday was autograph day. It was all about getting the famed signatures of the famed Superman dignitaries in town for the Superman Celebration. Thanks to Steve, Adam and I had VIP Access to the signings with "Smallville" stars Laura Vandervoort (Kara Kent/Supergirl) and Sam Witwer (Davis Bloome/Doomsday). VIP Access meant we had about 30 seconds with each star but it was quality time.

Curiously, the VIP list included two guys dressed as "Star Wars" stormtroopers. All I could think of was the "Triumph the Insult Dog" line from the "Attack of the Clones" premiere when a Spock look-alike showed up: "Look a nerd from another dimension."

I had Sam sign the back of my "Smallville" Season Eight DVD. I asked him where he thought Doomsday ended up following the eighth season finale's events. He believes Doomsday ended up buried underground so that he can ultimately climb his way out and assume his role as Superman's killer.

Laura Vandervoort and Sam Witwer I asked Laura to sign my "Smallville" replica prop Kryptonian bracelet which Kara wore throughout her time on the show. She was gracious and even prettier in person than on the show if that's possible. She said she would like to return to "Smallville" to finish out Kara's arc this season though no one's asked yet. When Adam followed, she remarked how much she liked his English accent.

After we left the "Smallville" signing, we did some shopping and walked down to Ilya's latest signing where I had him sign the metal case containing my 14-Disc "Superman" Movie Collection. Ilya's convention manager, Kenny Richardson, is a good friend to the website and to me personally. Kenny actually has hooked me up with several "Superman" comic book writers of the past with whom I've conducted interviews for the website. He recently hooked up with Ilya who has this year begun making the rounds of comic book shows to meet and talk to Superman fans. If you have the chance to attend a panel featuring Ilya Salkind, I highly recommend you attend - he's an engaging speaker with truly funny, interesting, and heart-felt comments about the making of the "Superman" movies from the moment the idea came to light through the light of the last reel of "Superboy" in 1992.

As a late boomer/early Gen X'er Superman fan, Carmine Infantino was a creator, an artist, and a leader of the DC Comics of the past. I walked over to Infantino and he'd been doing signings all day and was finished. I smiled, said I understood, and asked if I could just shake his hand. We shook and he said to give him what I wanted for him to sign, that he'd sign it. I was delighted. He signed an image of the Flash from a chapter devoted to Infantino's contribution to the Flash, from "The Flash Companion" from TwoMorrows Publishing. He commented he'd never seen the book before and wasn't crazy about the artwork on the cover. I basked in the honest, untainted by corporate parent musings of a DC legend from an era forever gone. I'd never met Julie Schwartz but Infantino was exactly as I'd imagine Schwartz would have been.

Clark and Superman By this time, I was ready for a break. Adam went shopping and I believe personally ensured the Super Museum store would profit substantially from the weekend. He repeated that again one more time before we left - returning to the hotel with about five pounds of candy Kryptonite to bring back to London. I have visions of him never getting through customs and reporting in the days to come that "Superman Homepage staff reporter Adam Dechanel was detained by customs officials at Chicago's O'Hare airport when it was revealed he was attempting to smuggle five pounds of Kryptonite to the United Kingdom."

Sunday morning we decided to hit the road early. We missed out on the costume contest but got a sneak preview. As we were loading our luggage into the car, we ran headlong into Charlee Chartrand, known as "Superboy" and another good friend to the Superman Homepage, dressed as Mon-El. When he couldn't get through a locked door into the hotel, I suggested that perhaps the lock was made of lead.

Metropolis was an incredible experience. The city of Metropolis is a gracious host. Everyone we met from the City was lovely and genuine. It speaks highly of small-town America that the town devoted to the Man of Steel is full of some super men and women.

This weekend wouldn't have been the same without Adam Dechanel, Ralph Silver, Jamie and Ronda Kelley (Clark and Lois), Sam Rizzo, Kenny Richardson, the members of the Superman Homepage who attended the Meet and Greet, Josh Boultinghouse, and Ilya Salkind. Look for lots more photographs and video reports in the weeks to come from the Superman Homepage (and over on Sam's Superboy Homepage too).

Barry

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