Superman has always been a very important part of Will Bruhn's life and always will be. It was his love of Superman and his belief that Metropolis existed that brought the Philadelphia native here to create a new life for himself and his family through the opening of his Daily Star Comics, located at 300 W. 10th St. set for Saturday, Nov. 3.
As a child, Bruhn looked up to Superman. He spent time reading comic books and collecting as many as he could at a neighborhood comic book shop. Bruhn, now 45, was always wearing a Superman shirt of some kind.
It was one of Bruhn's neighbors who told him one day that a friend of his had traveled across country in the 1970s and had gone through a town named Metropolis. But, the neighbor did not know where the town was. From that point, Bruhn believed there was a Metropolis.
A dream destroyed
That information became a problem for Bruhn when he was a teenager attending Jones Junior High School in Philadelphia where there were knife fights and riots, "which scared the heck outta me at 13 years old. My comics are what gave me the strength to go to that school," he recalls.
Even though it was against the rules to bring comic books to school, Bruhn would not stop taking them. He also talked about Metropolis, even though he was not sure of where the town was located. His guidance counselor even took him to the library and unlocked the maps, wanting Bruhn to show him where "this Metropolis" was.
"I couldn't," said Bruhn, who told his guidance counselor, "Just because I don't know where it is, doesn't mean that it doesn't exist."
The guidance counselor tried to break him. At one point, he told Bruhn that if he kept talking about Metropolis, he would end up jumping out a window like George Reeves. Bruhn even had kids his own age telling him if he continued like that he was going to go crazy. After weeks of trying to get him to stop bringing comic books and not mention Metropolis, the guidance counselor wrote Bruhn's father a letter. The whole subject of Superman and Metropolis was something Bruhn's father did not approve of, and emphatically told his son there was not Metropolis and did not want Bruhn mentioning anything about Metropolis.
"Dad always thought he was right," said Bruhn, noting his father was an alcoholic and his mother died when he was 2.
His father took him to Comar, a mental illness welfare program, and Bruhn was assigned a counselor. From the ages 13 to 16, he went to therapy twice a week, arguing with the counselor that there was a Metropolis. "I said that there had to be a place where people could celebrate Superman and what he stands for. I believed there was a statue."
Bruhn said the counselor tried to put words in his mouth by saying Bruhn thought he had super powers. "That's not what I said," he said, pointing out it was, "No, I don't believe I have superpowers. I would like to have superpowers."
Bruhn's father made him draw three hours a day after school. If his drawings did not meet with his father's approval, he would have to start all over. Bruhn loved to draw comics, but it got to the point where he did not even enjoy drawing.
"I wasn't allowed to have comics, I couldn't draw what I wanted, I couldn't follow my dreams," Bruhn said. "I jumped around like a flea on a hot brick, trying other things like Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who, D&D (Dungeons & Dragons), but none of that stuff never made me (as) happy as being into my Superman stuff."
Bruhn said if a person would have asked his friends to describe him back then, they probably would say he was not a very happy person.
When Bruhn was 13, he was stricken with arthritis. When he was 17, he experienced his first Crohn's disease attack, which led to two surgeries and a two-month hospital stay. Throughout his teen years, he had so many blockages he was in the hospital every other month, spending more time there than in school — he was in the 10th grade for four years. He had a total of four surgeries because of the disease.
During this time, The New Adventures of Superboy comic book had been cancelled and Bruhn was tired of fighting with his father and the counselors. "I didn't have the strength to keep fighting. It was just easier to give up at that point," he said. His dad was overjoyed.
"I had to get rid of all my Superboys. Everything I had, had to go, I wasn't allowed to even wear a Superman costume," he said.
And his collecting of Superman memorabilia stopped. However, he was allowed to watch a new television show called Lois & Clark every Sunday, but was never able to talk to anyone about it.
"[Dean] Cain's version of Superman really inspired me to stay positive when I was in and out of the hospital in the '90s," he said, noting that he watched Lois & Clark re-runs while recovering in 1999 from his fourth surgery due to the Crohn's.
At one point in his teenage years, Bruhn wrote Cain telling his story and how much Lois & Clark meant to him. But, Bruhn never heard back from Cain. Later, he guessed the reason could have been that Cain kept switching agents.
Because of his absenteeism due to his
medical problems, Bruhn ended up dropping out of high school. Later he went on to receive his General Education Degree. Because of his father's drinking, there was no money set aside for Bruhn's college education. However, Bruhn spent a lot of time on the campus of Penn State hanging out and drawing Anime with his friends.