- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 14, 2010

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - One of America’s most enduring superheroes has begun a cross-country trek in Philadelphia.

In the pages of DC Comics’ latest issue of Superman, which hits stands Wednesday, the Man of Steel embarks on a yearlong journey of more than 1,000 miles with a single step. But for all his strength, insight and intelligence, he still has a thing or two to learn about geography.

The 500 block of South 48th Street is described as the city’s “South Side,” though no such neighborhood exists in Philadelphia. The area is actually a section of west Philadelphia known as University City, and the flub has generated a little bit of good-natured ribbing from locals.

“We really love to hear that because it means people are reading it and there’s a sense of area pride,” DC Comics co-publisher Dan DiDio said. “If we stand corrected, that’s OK.”

Superman issue No. 701 marks the first installment of the 12-issue “Grounded” series that aims to re-establish the 72-year-old superhero’s role as defender of the powerless, a theme that resonated with Depression-era readers.

“At a time in our history when the economy had crashed, and we were recovering from an expensive world war (before we began numbering them), when there was great political upheaval … he stepped out of the shadows as someone who supported all sides, as long as they were fair and decent,” writer J. Michael Straczynski told The Associated Press in a recent e-mail.

“Those times sound a lot like these times, so it makes sense to bring him back around to that role.”

During his trek through the city of Brotherly Love, Superman foils a crew of heckling drug dealers, saves an elderly man having a heart attack and talks a despondent woman off a ledge _ literally.

Our Krypton-born, Kansas-bred protagonist lacks schooling in the finer points of ordering a cheesesteak _ he inelegantly dubs it a “Philly cheese steak sandwich” _ but the waitress taking his order lets the faux pas slide. She also cheerfully allows the cash-strapped superhero, who was a vegetarian in another DC series several years back, to work off his bill by cleaning a storage room.

This is really supposed to be Philadelphia?

“They didn’t do very well, but they tried,” Robert Lefevre, manager of Brave New Worlds comic book store downtown, said with a laugh. “Maybe they confused us with Chicago, which has a South Side. And ‘Philly cheese steak sandwich,’ nobody says that.”

Still, he said customers are responding positively to the issue and sales have been brisk.

Superman’s next stop is Detroit, where issues like unemployment and poverty will be woven into a superhero story line, DiDio said. Subsequent locations will be determined based on a recently completed essay contest that asked fans to write about their town and how Superman inspires them.

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Online:

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