Saving the humble house where Superman was born

Diterbitkan: Sabtu, 22 November 2008 12:00 AM

(Ubah saiz teks)

No ‘Man of Steel walks among us but ordinary Joes around the world can be counted on to have the steely determination to save Superman creator Jerry Siegel’s childhood home in Cleveland.

THIS is a story about ordinary people, strangers who came together to rescue the legacy of Superman.

In the comic book, the superhero was born in planet Krypton but his original, more earthly beginnings, was a humble home in Cleveland, Ohio.

Legendary home: This is 10622 Kimberley Avenue where Siegel spent his early years. — Picture courtesy of Glenville Development Corporation. Located at 10622 Kimberley Avenue in Cleveland’s Glenville neighbourhood is the house where Jerry Siegel, co-creator of Superman, spent his childhood. Siegel died in 1996 at the age of 81.

Along came Brad Meltzer, author of the newly published The Book of Lies that touched on the death of Mitchell Siegel, Jerry’s father.

Siegel junior was just 17 when his dad was gunned down during a robbery in 1932.

Meltzer’s research for the novel in the past two years took him to Cleveland to see for himself the actual house where the “Man of Steel” was born.

“I wanted to see the exact spot where young Jerry Siegel sat in his bed on that rainy summer night, where a 17-year-old kid stared at his bedroom ceiling and gave birth to the idea of Superman,” Meltzer wrote on his website.

But the author was devastated when he saw that the house, owned by another family now, was almost crumbling down.

He decided to do something about it. He rallied friends, the Siegel family members and Glenville Development Corporation, which is in charge of the neighbourhood.

What followed was an online auction of artwork donated by authors and artists.

Response from Superman fans raised US$107,000 (RM385,000), enough to save the dilapidated house.

Repair works have since begun, said Glenville Development Corpo-ration executive director Tracey E. Kirksey.

The chimney and roof have been replaced and other new construction materials are being ordered.

“We will maintain its original look,” she said.

The restoration effort is expected to be completed by next month “depending on Cleveland weather”, as this mid-West city is often buried in snow during winter.

According to Kirksey, the locals in Glenville had been galvanised by the effort to rescue Siegel’s home. The house, she said, had long been a magnet for Superman fans.

“There is a family living there but they are quite used to having people wanting to peek inside.”

Once the work on the house is completed, there will possibly be efforts to sell some of the bricks from the house or replicas of street signs bearing the names of the two Superman creators.

(Streets have been named after Siegel and Joe Shuster, the artist who co-created Superman. Shuster’s home, unfortunately, is long gone.)

But Glenville’s push to promote Superman-related products would need the prior approval of DC Comics, Kirksey said.

In an e-mail interview, Meltzer said the incredible response from the people to save Superman’s house proved that ordinary people could change the world.

That, by the way, is the name of his website, ordinarypeoplechangetheworld.com, where he wrote about his search for Siegel’s house. It was also the site where the online auction took place throughout September.

Meltzer feels that Americans sometimes lose sight of their history.

“We are a country founded on our own legends and myths, but we don’t always ask which of those legends are true. My novel, The Book of Lies, is about exactly that.”

He said people around the world loved Superman because “he matters”.

Asked how his interest in Superman began, he replied: “I was seven. I read. I loved.”

Ironically, however, he prefers Batman.

“I like Batman better. But with Superman, the best part of the story is Clark Kent. Why? We’re all Clark Kent. We all know what it’s like to be ordinary and wish we could help people.”

He has an answer on how Superman was born. “Because a little boy named Jerry Siegel heard his father was murdered and, in grief, created a bulletproof man,” Meltzer wrote on his website.

To him, there is a Clark Kent in everyone; “the idea that all of us, in all our ordinariness, can change the world.”

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