July 25, 2008

Up, Up and Away: Case Western Reserve Lecturer Debuts Documentary of Cleveland's Favorite Super-Son

University members also showcase ancient species, new media at Cleveland Ingenuity Festival


For his 70th birthday, Superman is being celebrated at the Cleveland Ingenuity Festival July 25-27 with the showing of Last Son, a documentary work-in-progress on the world's most popular superhero and his native Cleveland creators. The documentary is directed by Brad Ricca, lecturer at Case Western Reserve University.

Last Son combines an examination of Superman's origin with an in-depth look at the life and influences of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, teenagers from Cleveland's Glenville neighborhood who created the "Man of Steel" in the 1930s. Ricca takes viewers up to 1940, two years after Superman's debut in the first issue of Action Comics.

The film will be shown at the Ingenuity Festival on Saturday, July 26, at 12:30 pm and Sunday, July 27, at 4:30 p.m.

Darin Croft, assistant professor of anatomy, and Jared Bendis, creative director of new media, also will take part in Ingenuity Fest, the annual three-day celebration of innovation and creativity held in downtown Cleveland.

Among the many presentations and exhibits on display at Playhouse Square Friday, July 25, through Sunday, July 27, are Croft's nine reconstructions of ancient Bolivian species collaboratively created by an artist and a paleontologist. The exhibit also highlights steps in the process of turning skeletons into images of living animals.

Bendis debuts his installation, Hands Across, in which participants stand in an oversized photo booth, placing their hands and feet in the right position. Each individual picture will be connected to another, looking as if they are holding hands and forming a chain of people that grows over the course of the event.

Ricci's documentary covers the origins of Superman's creation, from his initial (and unpublished) concept in 1933 to his introduction to the world in 1938. His film also sheds light on Cleveland's people, economics and architecture and how they influenced the character's genesis.

Not only does Last Son sort out the question of who was the real inspiration for the character of Lois Lane, it also includes newly discovered home movies of Siegel and Shuster.

A native Clevelander himself, Ricca remembers his father telling him as a child that Superman was created here in his hometown. Ricca visited some of the local landmarks later in life, including Siegel's former home, and realized that as Cleveland evolves over time, many of the physical ties to the time of Superman's creation are disappearing.

Ricca is a member of the Siegel and Shuster Society, a local organization with a goal of raising awareness of Siegel, Shuster and Cleveland as the birthplace of one of the most recognized fictional characters in the world.

Cleveland Ingenuity Festival director James Levin, another member of the Siegel and Shuster Society, heard about Ricca's work-in-progress and asked to showcase it at this year's festival.

Once the film is completed, Ricca will be submitting Last Son to a number of film festivals.

While the film takes viewers up to 1940, when Superman was just beginning to become a media sensation, appearing in comic books, a radio show, a newspaper comic strip and a balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, Ricca is also working on a yet-untitled book that continues coverage up to Siegel and Shuster's deaths (1996 and 1992, respectively) and beyond.

Ricca continues to read comic books. "I'm an English major so I like to balance the high-brow with the low-brow," he said. "Sometimes comics and literature actually switch those positions."

He also has had some minor, non-speaking roles in the movies X-Men (2000) and Dogma (1999).

For more information contact Susan Griffith, 216.368.1004.

Posted by: Kimyette Finley, July 25, 2008 01:37 PM | News Topics: Arts & Entertainment, Cleveland, Collaborations/Partnerships, College of Arts and Sciences, Events, Faculty, HeadlinesMain, School of Medicine, Technology, features

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