Today is February 29th. Leap Day. For those that have always wondered why there are leap years and leap days here’s the reason; despite what you might think the Earth does not take 365 days to travel around the sun. It actually takes 365 and 1/4 days, so every four years they add a day to the end of February to balance everything out. The reason it is called “leap day” is that in a normal sequence of years June 3rd (for example) will fall on a Monday one year and then fall on a Tuesday the next. Every four years June 3rd will “leap over” the expected day it was supposed to fall on and end up on Thursday instead of Wednesday and thus a fun bit of calendar weirdness is born.
I have a vested interest in Leap Days because I was born on one. I made my first appearance (to use a Who’s Who term) on February 29th, 1976. So depending on how you want to look at it I am either turning thirty-six or nine this year. For most of my life I have thought of myself as a leap baby though I have recently found out that I could also call myself a leapling, which makes me sound like a young Jedi born on February 29th, or a leaper, which makes me sound like a fan of Quantum Leap. Actually I am a fan of Quantum Leap, so that term works out just fine for me.
There have been a number of famous people born on February 29th. Actor Dennis Farina, the voice of Wildcat on Justice League Unlimited is one. Actor Antonio Sabato, Jr., who played Deathstoke on Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman is another. There is also AIDS activist Pedro Zamora (best known for being on the Real World and the inspiration for Judd Winick’s graphic novel Pedro and Me) and rapper/actor Ja Rule.
Oh, and Superman.
I was in the fifth grade when I found out that Superman’s supposed birthday was February 29th. It was right around the time I started buying the comics on a regular basis and I thought and still think it is awesome. A little less than a year later in 1988 DC celebrated Superman’s 50th Anniversary and not only was there a cover story in Time Magazine (which is where the picture you see above this paragraph came from, though I had to yank this from Google Images because I couldn’t scan it myself) but also a prime time special produced by Lorne Michaels that NBC aired on February 29th of that year.
Between that and my sister Mary buying me a copy of Action Comics #600 and a VHS tape that contained 3 episodes of the Fleisher Superman shorts it was a great 12th/3rd birthday.
(The special is a bit silly. Actually it is very silly but I liked it at the time and was happy to see that Warner Brothers included it in the fourteen disc box set of the Superman films that was released in 2006.)
Superman’s 50th anniversary also made the national news. YouTube helped me find this Headline News piece…
…as well as this newscast from Sacramento, California.
That second video rode annoyed me a bit. It was nice of that station to do a piece on Superman’s birthday, but did they really have to make the fact that Superman wasn’t selling as well as he used to the hook of the story? Also I thought it was funny that they used a piece of art from Action Comics #600 featuring Lois Lane in disguise as an example of what the character looked like at the time compared to how she looked in 1938.
Oh well. News items about comic books usually have these problems. The video was neat to find nonetheless.
Apparently WWOR (Channel 9 out of New York City) got in on the anniversary fun by running a marathon of the George Reeves Adventures of Superman television series. It was hosted by Jack Larson, the Jimmy Olsen from that show and in searching for the videos I posted above I also found the introduction of that marathon on YouTube
In addition to the magazine coverage and the news reports and the television specials the Smithsonian National Museum of American History had a year long Superman exhibit starting in 1987. I was lucky enough to get to see the exhibit thanks in large part to the fact that I had two aunts that lived near Washington, D.C. and my family would make frequent trips to the Smithsonian. I never got a chance to take pictures of the various displays but my good friend Alan Leach, Jr. did and a few years ago he sent them to me. Today seemed like a good day to share them.
I’d like to thank Alan for sending me those photos. Just like finding out that Superman and I had the same birthday the timing of me getting into the comics and this exhibit being shown to the public was just perfect. It was also the first time that something in a museum spoke to me on a personal level. One of the pictures above shows the tear-away shirt the Christopher Reeve wore in one of the Superman films and that was the first time I realized that the shirt he ripped open to reveal the S underneath was actually designed to be ripped open. This exhibit was also when I learned that George Reeves wore two different colored costumes on the Adventures of Superman television series.
On another personal note I am glad that Alan got a picture of the “how a comic is made” display. The artwork is from Superman (vol. 2) #8, which was one of the two Superman books that got me to start buying the titles full time. I like when things line up like that.
I will admit to being curious as to why there is an issue of Captain America in one of the pictures. That’s…strange.
One last image before I sign off for the day. This is another picture I found through Google Images and thought it was too cool to pass up.
That is it for today, folks. I hope you liked the images and the videos as much as I did. This post has nothing to do with the Death and Return of Superman but I couldn’t pass up the chance to wish the Man of Steel a very happy birthday. I know it isn’t his real birthday but if it was good enough for DC Comics and Alan Moore then it is good enough for me.
More to follow…