Location of Superman’s hometown sparks geographic divide

A Kansas community is staking its claim as the hometown of one of the world’s most recognizable superheroes with a temporary name change, but it hasn’t ended the debate over where the Man of Steel grew up.

The Hutchinson City Council has agreed to rename the city “Smallville” on Friday, the same day the fictional Clark Kent will be inducted into the Kansas Hall of Fame.

In 75 years of Superman appearances in comics, television, movies and radio shows, “Smallville” has often been depicted as being in Kansas, but it also has showed up in Iowa, Maryland, Pennsylvania and a few other places. DC Comics co-publisher Dan DiDio said it’s clear Smallville is in the Sunflower State — but exactly where remains a mystery, The Kansas City Star reported.

“Smallville is always in Kansas,” DiDio said “I always say it’s in the heart of Kansas. Wherever you find the biggest field, the biggest open ground, the best area for farming, that’s always where Smallville is, right in the center of that. That flag has been planted.”

But there’s no consensus where that is. Some fans put the fictional town location west of Salina, while others are pretty sure it’s southwest of Lawrence.

Ever since Clark Kent’s hometown was first named in the second issue of the “Superboy” comic book in 1948, fans have tried to place the fictional town on real maps. Kansas didn’t enter into the picture until 1978 in “Superman: The Movie.”

Then came the question of where in Kansas. In Action Comics No. 822 from 2005, Smallville is about 55 miles west of Salina and directly in line with Junction City. That would put it somewhere near Dorrance, population 184.

In response to the TV show, “Smallville,” speculation ramped up on websites including KryptonSite.com after the show’s 2001 debut and fans watched for clues, such as on highway signs and ZIP codes on mail.

Some fans noted the coordinates of a dam outside Smallville are, in real life, in the northeast corner of Osage near Richland, a ghost town 25 southwest of Lawrence. Another episode shows a map that puts Metropolis in southwest Kansas, near Dodge City, and Smallville about 200 miles to the east, near Wichita — or roughly where Hutchinson is located.

Laura Siegel Larson, daughter of writer Jerry Siegel, who created the superhero with comic book artist Joe Shuster in 1938, will attend the Hall of Fame induction on Friday in Topeka as Superman’s guest.

“I believe a real Smallville could exist, and no matter what it’s called it would become known as that place that produces truly exceptional individuals,'” Larson said.

Regardless, the new Superman movie opening Friday, “Man of Steel,” leaves no doubt that the superhero’s boyhood home is in Kansas. Clark Kent, played by Henry Cavill, wears a Royals T-shirt, watches a Kansas University football game on TV and is quizzed as a boy by his teacher about Sunflower State history.