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A ‘Grounded’ Superman gets lost in Philadelphia

From Superman #701

From Superman #701

The Man of Steel’s much-discussed yearlong walk across America starts off on the wrong foot this week in the City of Brotherly Love.

Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Michael Klein takes note of a caption box in Superman #701 that sets the scene in “Philadelphia, Pennsylvania … the South Side,” specifically, on the 500 block of S. 48th St. The thing is, the city doesn’t have a “South Side” — it’s South Philadelphia or, more commonly, “South Philly” — and even if it did, that block wouldn’t be in it. You see, the intersection of 48th and Larchwood streets is in West Philadelphia (aka University City, aka where the Fresh Prince of Bel Air was born and raised).

“Is this the comic book version of revisionist history?” one commenter asks. “Maybe you should have started in Texas.”

The misstep is, of course, one of the pitfalls that comes with setting a story in such a specific real-world locale. With Lex Luthor otherwise occupied, perhaps the geographical goof will fill the role of archnemesis in the “Grounded” arc, as J. Michael Straczynski and Eddy Barrows take Superman through Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon and Washington. (I’m guessing the “South Side” caption will be changed for the collected editions.)

Okay, so Straczynski botched the neighborhood, but how did Superman #701 score with the other Philadelphia touchstones? Well

“[Superman] stops at a diner for a ‘Philly cheese steak sandwich’ but is short on money,” Klein writes, “so the waitress allows him to work it off by cleaning the storeroom. He also thwarts drug dealers by setting their stashes on fire with his X-ray vision and talks a woman off a ledge. Standard stuff.”

We’ll have to wait until Wednesday to learn whether it was the term “Philly cheese steak sandwich” that drove the woman to the ledge.


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