POR: Kyle Hagerman March 08, 2009
On their honeymoon to Metropolis, Ill., where they reveled in the annual Superman Celebration and met the original Lois Lane, Kyle and Mandy Hagerman thought they had glimpsed a gem.
An employee of the Super Museum, stuffed with more than 20,000 items relating to the Man of Steel, showed off the first comic book that Superman appeared in. It was the original, published in 1938, she told the couple.
Kyle peered closer. He scoffed.
The original comic cost 10 cents. This one had a 75-cent stamp on it.
A reprint. He should know. He owns one himself.
The museum employee leaned in close to Hagerman.
“Most people don’t know that,” she whispered.
That’s because most people aren’t like Hagerman.
Most don’t fill an entire room in their house with Superman memorabilia. Most don’t play the love song from the Superman film series at their wedding or wear a Superman wedding band specially ordered from Canada. Most don’t find a spouse who’s not only willing to put up with his obsession but fully embraces it.
And most don’t plan to pass on their passion to their firstborn. At least Clark Kent Hagerman knows what’s in store for him. Mom presses the headphones against her belly so the little guy can hear the strains of the movie soundtrack.
This is Kyle Hagerman’s life, one in which the fictional superhero pervades everything from crackers to car accessories and a lack of appreciation of the man in the red cape is repelled like so much kryptonite.
He isn’t sure how he developed this fascination. His parents gave him a Superman squeaky toy that he played with in the bathtub when he was 2. In the days before commercially produced plastic figures, he used molds to make his own plaster characters.
“I’d spray paint them and drop them, and they’d break, and I’d cry, and we’d start the whole process again,” he said.
When the action figures finally came along, Hagerman accidentally dropped one down the seat belt compartment during a family trip to North Dakota. He cried most of the way there.
Hagerman always dressed up as Superman for Halloween, always blows out the candles on a Superman birthday cake.
“My parents never told me, ‘Oh, that’s just fantasy,’ ” he said. “They just let me live that dream.”
When he was 17, he met Mandy at a friend’s birthday party. At the time, Mandy was infatuated with Dean Cain, the actor who played Superman on the 1990s TV series. She spotted
Hagerman and thought he was cute. Then she saw the Superman necklace he was wearing.
She was hooked. They dated for eight years and got married four years ago.
The couple’s home is awash in Superman paraphernalia, beginning in the entryway, and spilling into the master bedroom and bathroom before reaching its apex in a room with a doormat nailed to the door that reads: “Fortress of Solitude. All Friends and Heroes Welcome.”
Don’t ask Hagerman how much Superman stuff he has. He can’t count it all.
Untold numbers of comic books and action figures. Superman clothes, posters, stickers and fast-food toys. Christmas ornaments, bubble bath, toothbrushes and lunch boxes. Nutcrackers, paperweights, clocks and banks. Statues ranging in size from less than an inch (his brother bought it for him in Paris) to seven feet (only 500 of them were manufactured, and Hagerman sent back the first one he received due to a crack that ran the length of Superman’s side). An arcade game that was shipped from Minneapolis to Denver, where he and his brother picked it up in a cargo van and hauled it back to Grand Junction.
There’s the Superman piñata that won’t ever be filled with candy and pounded into oblivion.
The Superman money bank with the audio recording that declares “I am Superman. I am the Man of Steel. Up, up and away!” The platinum edition of a comic he bought with cash earned from mowing lawns one summer.
He begged a local movie theater to sell him a 5-foot-by-8-foot vinyl banner that hung in the theater when “Superman Returns” was released a few years ago. The banner had already been spoken for, though, so he found one on eBay.
This is an obsession Hagerman feeds constantly by seeking out and acquiring new, old and obscure treasures, whether it’s at the mall or on the Internet. There’s no assurance that a stopping point is forthcoming.
“It’s a never-ending search. I’m always looking,” he said.
When he looks, he looks closely. He checks for paint and cracks. He recently found a Superman figurine whose manufacturer neglected to apply the dot of black paint that made up one of Superman’s eyes. He put the box back on the shelf.
“I’m not going to buy it without an eye,” he said matter-of-factly.
Hagerman began keeping every piece of memorabilia sealed in its original packaging when the comic book series ended briefly in 1992. He occasionally pokes around to see how much the pristine items are worth, but not because he would ever think about selling even one of them.
Sometimes, he just likes to know their value.
Given how much as his life will be defined by Superman, it’s hard to imagine Clark Kent Hagerman not sharing Dad’s passion — at least initially. But what if the little guy’s a rebel?
What if the Superman lamp his parents bought and the Superman quilt made by a co-worker don’t take?
No problem, Hagerman said. It just means more stuff for him.
At 28, a fifth-grade teacher and on the verge of becoming a first-time father, some may think Hagerman is clinging to some childhood fascination. But don’t count his wife among them.
“They seem to think it’s silly that he collects toys,” Mandy Hagerman said. “But it’s just who he is.”