Since moving to New York, I’ve become accustomed to daily jokes (mostly poorly formed) about Dorothy, but was ambushed yesterday during a BBQ when someone started in on Superman growing up in Kansas. Now Superman wasn’t originally from Kansas (born on the planet Krypton, he was sent to earth to evade the destruction of his home planet. But Kansas can claim him, much like we claim Eisenhower even though he was originally born in Texas before being raised in greener pastures). The movie apparently invokes multiple Kansas sports references as Clark Kent is spotted wearing a Royals T-Shirt (it’s nice that it’s once again fashionable to root for the boys in powder blue), watching a KU football game on television, and his father briefly brings K-State into the conversation.
With the latest Superman remake, Man of Steel, crushing box offices this weekend as the biggest June weekend opening ever, we learn that Superman can defeat aliens and find a new role for female supervillians. However, (and full disclosure, I wasn’t able to make it to the theaters to see the movie yet) one solidly burning question remains – does Superman wave the wheat or rock back and forth to the Wabash? In pursuit of this pressing question, The Jug is here to fill in the information we know and decipher what we don’t. Let’s look at the body of evidence:
As mentioned above, Superman can be seen watching a KU football game. Unless this movie retroactively traveled back to 2007 when KU won the Orange Bowl, it’s difficult to imagine someone watching the Jayhawks for pleasure unless they’re an ardent fan. Granted, I’ll flip on about any Big 12 game as long as it’s competitive, but I still have to give the point to the University of Kansas here. More painful, though, is that Clark Kent can be seen in a scene wearing a generic grey KU Athletics shirt, complete with faded Jayhawk logo. KU gets two points for the shirt.
Score: KU 2, K-State 0
The geographical divide of Kansas is well understood. Jayhawk fans don’t normally venture west of 81, while Johnson County isn’t necessarily saturated with Wildcat fans. Now I can find plenty of K-State graduates living in the Kansas City area and a few flags sporting crimson and blue in Salina and Wichita, but we’re cognizant of the general geographical trends (although K-State fans are definitely easier to find across the state, while KU’s base is much more concentrated in the east). I’m personally willing to give the nod to the whichever program can demonstrate Superman grew up on their side of Topeka. But that’s a tricky undertaking.
Superman’s locales (growing up in humble Smallville, moving on to work in the big city of Metropolis) are as cleverly named as we’d expect of a mid-20th century comic, but there it is. Little is said about Smallville’s location for much of Superman’s existence, although his boyhood home of Smallville was first revealed in 1949 in the comic Superboy. It’s not until the 1990s that the DC Comics hero starts to develop this aspect of his backstory, although the hints are a bit conflicting. A 1993 novel discussed Clark Kent’s parents driving home from the Great Bend airport. If they’re flying out of Great Bend, they are definitely west of I-135, which would imply case closed. They’re in a rural central location, not so far west that Denver International is convenient but also not anywhere near Kansas City, while also northwest enough of Sedgwick County that traveling through Great Bend is more convenient than ICT in Wichita.
Adding fuel to this theory is the 2005 “Repo-Man, Part 1″ edition of the comic. Smallville is described as 55 miles from Salina and on the same parallel as Junction City. Tracing a line west on I-70 lands a traveler around Dorrance (between Russel and Ellsworth, right below Wilson Lake). Wilson, KS is also approximately 50 miles west of Salina. Finally, Hutchinson took a page out of Topeka’s playbook when the city rebranded itself as Google, and will call itself Smallville all day during June 21, 2013 (a great comparison of the two towns found here).
Arguing for Superman’s location in eastern Kansas was a 12 issue comic known called The Kents published from 1997-1998. The western-style comic, set in the 19th century, describes Smallville as within a day’s horse ride of Paola, KS. Paola is less than a 30 minute drive from the Missouri border and I assure you I’m not riding my horse more than 40 miles in a day, so Smallville was located in the central-far-east portion of Kansas here. However, this was a rather obscure comic and the more mainstream stories point to Clark Kent’s upbringing taking place in out west. The nod goes to K-State.
Score: KU 2, K-State 1
Yet since that time Superman has mellowed and we would expect him to switch allegiances. A disciple of Bill Snyder’s approach, he now refuses to break the law in order to pursue his goals and will not kill, regardless of circumstances. Strong sense of morality and code of ethics governing his approach to everyday life? That lasted for about two seasons in Lawrence when Turner Gill was coach. Mark Mangino was a slime before Turner, and since his departure Charlie Weiss has been going after kids that can’t stay out of trouble to bolster his recruiting classes. The basketball team has academic/legal issues almost every year – including this one.
I was never a fan of the Bobby (T)Huggins hire, but he left after a year. Frank Martin was angry, but I respected him. Bruce Weber and Clark Kent would get on just fine. I imagine he would prefer to watch Wildcat hoops (and would love the traditional, successful, home-grown talent that Deb Patterson and Wildcat Women consistently put on the court). Yet getting back to Snyder, I like to quote Joseph Loeb, a producer/writer on Smallville (the TV series), when he stated, “In many ways, Clark is the most human of us all. Then … he shoots fire from the skies, and it is difficult not to think of him as a god. And how fortunate we all are that it does not occur to him.” The most humble coach in NCAA football is also one of the most successful of all time, spending his off-time mentoring youth and helping build the community rather than partying in the Bahamas while creating the most remarkable turnaround in football history. Bill Snyder is Superman, and that’s a persona Clark Kent couldn’t help but root for.
Score: KU 2, K-State 2. Going into overtime.
Man of Steel is directed by Zack Snyder. That last name sound familiar? Any relation to legendary coach Bill Snyder? Who cares! They share a surname, and that’s all that should matter. Plus Zack directed 300, so if anyone in Hollywood can appreciate a group of underrated warriors that are transformed in into an awesome force standing up to legions of challengers by exhibiting peerless talent, leadership, and dedication to their craft, it’s this man. Superman’s allegiance goes to K-State. Every (Super)Man A Wildcat?