Man of Steel in spotlight on his 75th anniversary 

“It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Superman!”

Seventy-five years after crashing onto Earth as a baby in a rocket ship, the Man of Steel has landed in San Francisco.

Superman and his alter ego, reporter Clark Kent, are the focus of an exhibition at the Cartoon Art Museum through Sept. 8.

“Superman: A 75th Anniversary Celebration”  includes original art, sketches, storyboards and movie memorabilia. There’s enough to satisfy fans of any age.

Creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster met as high school students in Cleveland. They spent years trying to sell a daily newspaper strip without luck. In 1938, the company that is now DC Comics published a Superman comic book, and it was an overnight success.

Curator Andrew Farago says it’s easy to understand why Superman has become such an icon.

“He’s endured because he really shows us the best that we can be,” Farago says. “That’s something that is timeless — someone who will always do the right things for the right reasons.”

Hundreds of artists, writers and others have worked on the superhero over the years, faithfully rendering him in exquisite detail in comic books, merchandise and more. Several of them will be on hand to sketch and sign autographs at a public reception for the show July 27.

The exhibition offers a fascinating look at how Superman has changed over time.

There’s Superman of the 1940s, bending the gun barrel on a Nazi tank like it’s a piece of licorice. There’s  Superman of the 1950s TV show, played by actor George Reeves.

Farago says DC Comics tried to tone down Superman in the 1950s and make him less political at a time when audiences were fascinated by science fiction. Outer space stories appeared, and Superman’s relationship with Lois Lane took on a “kind of goofy, soap opera tone.”

The art on display includes an illustration of a teary-eyed Lane in a wedding dress beside a smiling Kent in a top hat and tux. Above her head is a thought bubble: She’s wearing the same dress, smiling happily and on the arm of Superman.

In the comics right now, she’s not even in the picture.

“Currently, he and Wonder Woman are an item,” Farago says.

Kent’s career has also shifted with the times, Farago says. After the Daily Planet, he moved to TV. These days, he’s doing a website.


Superman: A 75th Anniversary Celebration

Where: Cartoon Art Museum, 655 Mission St., S.F.

When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays; closes Sept. 8

Tickets: $3 to $7

Contact: (415) CAR-TOON or (415) 227-8666,

Note: A reception runs from 6 to 9 p.m. July 27; admission is $10.

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Cathy Bowman

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