At the southern tip of Illinois and across the Ohio River from Paducah, the small town of Metropolis devotes the second weekend of every June to their world-famous Superman Celebration. More than just a carnival acknowledging their local heritage and history, the Celebration invites tourists from all walks to come join in their festivities. Their Main Street’s center of attention is the also-world-famous Superman Museum, dedicated to their most important fictional resident, the great and powerful Superman. Also major draws: the special guests from various Superman movies, TV shows, and other related Super-works who drop by for autographs and Q&As.
We’ve previously attended in 2001, 2006, 2008, 2012, and 2016. When the 39th annual Celebration added one of the highest ranking legends on Anne’s bucket list, this weekend became a fixed point in time on our calendar.
Full disclosure up front: I don’t mean Dean Cain, who brought the Man of Steel to life on TV’s Lois & Clark. Anne first met him at Wizard World Chicago 2012, but I missed the opportunity because I was in someone else’s line (no idea whose). We also saw Cain from not far away at this year’s Hall of Heroes Comic Con, where he had the longest line of any guest in attendance and I had a freshly smashed knee that regrettably proved a tremendous disincentive to adding extra-credit activities to our to-do list, especially since navigating Cain’s line required a few flights of stairs. It took another two months before I could resume walking up or down any stairs without wincing or yelping.
Also full disclosure: Cain wasn’t on the original guest list. Earlier this year the list included Erica Durance, a.k.a. Lois Lane from Smallville. After Durance canceled, Dean Cain came aboard and the Celebration’s celebrators resumed celebrating. A few townspeople we chatted with in two different lines, many of whom attend every single year and can tell you which guests graced them exactly when, mentioned that this is the third time in the past dozen years that Durance has been announced as a Celebration guest only to withdraw later.
But the important thing in this moment: Dean Cain!
Our primary objective, the main reason Anne absolutely positively had to be at this Celebration no matter what, was the chance to meet the Margot Kidder. For our generation, her version of Lois Lane was the definitive version of the bold, savvy, sometimes pushy ace reporter who kept that meek Clark Kent in his place. Anne watched the original Superman: The Movie so many times on videodisc as a kid (yes, I mean videodisc — look it up, kids) that she memorized it. All of it. Every line. Could recite it from start to finish.
So Anne had to meet Margot Kidder. It wasn’t Ms. Kidder’s first time in Metropolis, but her last visit coincided with my son’s graduation, which on our adult responsibility scale just barely edged her out by a really narrow margin. This time around, a conflicting graduation ceremony wasn’t an issue.
Sharing the autograph space with Kidder was another familiar face: Sarah Douglas! We previously met Ursa from Superman II at our first Celebration in 2001, but it was great to catch up with her and take a much, much better photo this time. Just our luck: during a lull in the autograph line when Kidder had to take a break, Douglas got bored, began visiting folks along the line, and posed for a pic here and there for fun.
Prior to their joint autograph line, Kidder and Douglas also shared a lively Q&A in which Douglas and the moderator took turns stopping Kidder whenever she began a fun Hollywood anecdote not quite suited to an all-ages audience. Both confirmed the pleasure and occasional oddness of working with Marlon Brando. Kidder summed up the first year of her working relationship with a still-unseasoned Christopher Reeve as being like “Lucy and Charlie Brown” until he eventually developed the confidence that showed through the screen. And both agreed flying harnesses were terrible contraptions back in the day.
The fourth and final headliner was a gent I’d met before, but not in Metropolis: James Marsters! For purposes of Superman relevance, he occupied the better part of a Smallville season as the arch-villain Brainiac.
While he’s had roles on other shows such as Torchwood and Caprica, fans in general know him better as Spike from TV’s Buffy and Angel. As one of the longest-lived vampires in the Buffyverse, Spike’s character underwent quite the evolution over the years from vicious villain to neutered comic relief to annoying sidekick to love interest to royal screw-up to rock-bottom seeker of redemption to sacrificial hero to dead guy to ghost to revivified-but-still-undead hero at the end of Angel‘s run. Marsters’ performance ran the gamut and put to shame any and all TV shows that try to turn a big selfish jerk into a hero in three episodes or less. If we learned anything from Spike, it’s that changing from villain to hero is not that easy.
I had the pleasure of meeting Marsters years ago at Wizard World Chicago, where he kindly listened to me natter on about why I identified with Buffy season 6 and may be among the very few in the world to admit publicly to doing so. Back then things were tighter for us and I couldn’t afford both an autograph and a photo op. Thanks to the good citizens of Metropolis and their top-notch Celebration organizers, I now had the chance to complete the experience.
And the best thing about our Saturday at this year’s Superman Celebration?
Dean Cain and James Marsters: both equally cool with our thing for jazz hands.
To be continued! Other chapters in this special MCC miniseries: