Category Archives: Giant-Sized Geography!

Talk About the Bronze Age of Comics

23+ Real-Life Statues Honoring Some of Our Favorite Characters from Comics and Animation 

1. Superman (Metropolis, IL) 
Well, it’s shaping up to be a summer in which no one from my neck of the woods — and probably yours — is going to have much of an opportunity to go on any fun road trips. But that’s okay! While we rediscover the joy of vacationing in our own backyards, that gives us more time to plan where we want to go for our next big adventure. For instance, have you ever been to Metropolis? Replacing an older fibreglass statue that was riddled by bullet holes, this two-ton, 15-ft. tall statue of the Man of Steel was dedicated in 1993 to the citizens of Superman’s official hometown (and site of the annual celebration saluting Earth’s mightiest champion). Built by the same company that made the giant Emmy statue outside Hollywood’s Television Hall of Fame, this bronze statue has so far managed to deflect all incoming bullets.

2. Lois Lane (Metropolis, IL) 
What’s a Superman without a Lois Lane? Located three blocks north of the town’s Superman statue is this bronze representation of the world’s most fearless reporter. Dedicated in 2010, it’s purposely designed to resemble Noel Neill, who played Lois Lane in the film serials Superman and Atom Man vs. Superman, as well as the 1950s television show Adventures of Superman.

3. Archie Andrews (Meredith, NH) 
Born in California, Bob Montana lived in the small New Hampshire town of Meredith for 35 years. As part of the town’s 250th anniversary celebrations, this statue of Archie sitting on a park bench was commemorated in Meredith’s Community Park. The first artist to draw the adventures of Archie, Jughead and the rest of the gang in Pep Comics in 1942, Montana illustrated for Archie Comics until his death in 1975 at age 54.

4. Captain America (Brooklyn, NY) 
This 13-ft. bronze statue of Brooklyn’s most famous son has moved around the borough since it was unveiled in 2016 in honor of Cap’s 75th anniversary. The inscription “I’m just a kid from Brooklyn” is a reference to a line in the 2011 film Captain America: The First Avenger, which confirms Brooklyn as the official birthplace of the star-spangled Avenger. The statue made an appearance at San Diego’s Comic-Con and was shuttled to several spots around Brooklyn, including Barclays Center and Prospect Park, before it found a final resting spot (for now) at Brooklyn’s Liberty View shopping mall.

5. Dick Tracy (Naperville, IL) 
“I’m on my way.” The most incorruptible cop in the comics has collared plenty of bad guys over his long career, but one thing he can’t vanquish is seasonal flooding. Originally sited near the Dupage River, the 9-ft. tall bronze statue would often find itself partially submerged by rising floodwaters; it was relocated to a spot just outside the Naperville Township building. Local resident Dick Locher, who wrote and drew the Dick Tracy strip from 1983 to 2011, said after the statue’s move he was relieved to see Tracy back on the beat: “The city can rest now because he’s back in charge.”

6. Andy Gump (Lake Geneva, WI) 
Debuting all the way back in 1917, The Gumps was the first comic strip to tell a continuing story, and it became one of the industry’s earliest smash hits. Though the family was drawn as ordinary and dealt with many of the same types of everyday situations as their readers, the Gumps — led by patriarch Andy — were as famous as a family could get in those days and they made their creator, Sidney Smith, a very wealthy man. Smith lived in Lake Geneva, and the Chicago Tribune was so pleased with the success of his strip it had a statue made of Andy Gump and placed it on Smith’s property. When Smith died in 1935, the town moved it to a downtown park. It was smashed during a drunken riot in 1967 — years after the strip went out of print — but the town rallied to build a replacement, which stands there today.

7. Andy Capp (Hartlepool, England) 
First appearing in British newspapers in 1957, Reg Smythe’s Andy Capp is a drunken lout who spends more time playing snooker, taking naps and getting into fights with his wife than holding down a job — not the kind of fellow, in other words, who tends to get immortalized as a statue. But both Smythe and Andy Capp hailed from Hartlepool, and that was good enough for the residents of that Northern England town. In 2007, after years of fundraising, a life-size statue commemorating Andy Capp was erected near the Harbour of Refuge pub in Smyth’s hometown. Since then, the bronze sculpture — forever holding a pint in its hand — has shown the same predilection for movement as its layabout inspiration.

8. Steve Canyon (Idaho Springs, CO)
Let this monument be a stark lesson in the dangers of embracing passing fads. In the late 1940s, the small town of Idaho Springs, CO, wanted to change its image as a dusty old gold rush town. Deciding to capitalize on the popularity of newspaper comic strips, they christened a nearby gulch “Steve Canyon,” after the star of Milton Caniff’s popular adventure strip. Canyon was just the sort of upstanding man of action that people could look up to post-war America, and Idaho Springs wanted to get in on the ground floor of this exciting new character. When the canyon thing didn’t bring in the tourists, the town commissioned a statue of the character and dedicated it to “all American cartoon characters who serve the Nation.” The strip ended its run in 1988, but the statue still stands in the town’s Heritage Park, just off the I-70.

9+. Popeye (Chester, IL; Alma, AK; Crystal City, TX; Boston, MA) 
Is there a trophy for the comic-strip character that inspired the most statues? Because if there is, then Popeye the Sailor Man might be a contender for the prize. Elzie Segar, man behind the Thimble Theatre strip where Popeye first appeared, was born in Chester, IL, in 1894; the town erected a statue of Popeye in Segar’s honor in 1977. One of Popeye’s most famous traits is his love of spinach, and so several spinach-growing communities like Alma, AK, and Crystal City, TX, have erected statues to Popeye in recognition of his contributions to their livelihood. And then there’s the polished steel statue of Popeye created by sculptor Jeff Koons and purchased by Wynn Resorts CEO Steve Wynn for $28 million in 2014; it now stands inside his Encore Boston Harbor casino and resort. Why Popeye? There’s certainly a nautical connection with the harborside casino, and Wynn is known for decorating his properties with eye-popping works of art that go beyond the typical “hotel art.” This certainly qualifies.

10+. The rest of the Popeye cast (Chester, IL) 
Almost 30 years after Segar’s hometown raised a statue to Popeye, the town started the Popeye & Friends Character Trail in 2006, adding new statues honoring the rest of the Thimble Theatre cast each year. Wimpy, Bluto, Olive Oyl and Swee’Pea are some of the more recognizable characters, but hardcore Thimble Theatre fans will also be thrilled to find Castor Oyl, Sea Hag, Alice the Goon, Poopdeck Pappy, and Popeye’s nephews (Pipeye, Pupeye, Peepeye and Poopeye) scattered all over the town, with King Blozo (of course) holding court in front of Chester’s City Hall.

11+. The whole Peanuts gang (Santa Rosa, CA) 
Born in Minneapolis, Peanuts creator Charles Schulz moved to the city of Santa Rosa, just north of San Francisco, in 1969; he lived and worked there until his death in 2000. From the Sonoma County website: “A modest man, Schulz nixed the idea of sculptures of himself. However, he approved statues of his characters. In tribute, the city of Santa Rosa sponsored “Peanuts on Parade” art projects, in which local artists decorated five-foot-tall fiberglass statues of a single character.” There’s an official bronze statue of Charlie Brown and Snoopy in the town’s Railway Square that’s inscribed: “In celebration of the life and works of Charles M. Schulz from the people of Santa Rosa and his fans across the world.”

12. Charlie Brown and Snoopy (St. Paul, MN) 
While Schulz spent the latter part of his life in California, he grew up in St. Paul, MN. For five summers after Schulz’s death in 2000, local artists designed and displayed their own renditions of the Peanuts characters and placed them all over the Twin Cities to celebrate his work. Proceeds from these Peanuts statue promotions help fund the Charles M. Schulz Fund, established to create and maintain the bronze sculptures commissioned to honor Schulz’s creations, arguably some of the most famous comic characters ever published. At Landmark Plaza, you can visit representations of Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, Sally, Lucy and Schroeder, while Peppermint Patty, Marcie and Woodstock hang out at nearby Rice Park.

13. Dennis the Menace (Monterey, CA) 
Somehow it seems appropriate that a character known for being a menace would incite some naughty behaviours in other people. Cartoonist Hank Ketcham, who created the freckle-faced trouble-maker in 1951, commissioned the 3-ft. tall statue and had it installed in 1988 in the Monterey playground designed by him and sculptor Arch Garner. It disappeared the night of Oct. 25, 2006, and it wasn’t found until 2015 when it was discovered in a Florida scrap metal yard. People at the yard recognized the character and learned that the statue was stolen after doing an Internet search. Though the statue was returned to its rightful owners, it had already been replaced with an identical one in 2007 — this time securely anchored in cement.

14. Astro Boy (Hanno, Japan) 
If you ever find yourself in Hanno, Japan, just northwest of Tokyo, follow the main street to the right at the intersection in front of Kannon-ji Temple and then turn left at the Hanno Kindergarten. There you will find a bronze statue of  beloved manga and anime character Astro Boy (better known in Japan by his original name Tetsuwan Atomu). A plaque next to the statue features a picture of Astro Boy creator Osamu Tezuka attending its unveiling in 1983.

15. Various anime characters (Nerima, Japan) 
If you happen to be in Tokyo and you don’t want to travel out to Hanno to see Astro Boy in action, fret not. Opened in 2015, Oizumi Anime Gate opened in April 2015 on the pedestrian deck outside the north exit of Oizumi Gakuen Station. It’s a symbol of Nerima, a city within Greater Tokyo that prides itself on being “Anime City Ichiban,” or the No. 1 city for anime (Toei Animation has its headquarters in Nerima’s Ohizumi Studio). The gate features life-sized bronze statues of popular anime characters, such as Astro Boy, Joe Yabuki from Ashita no Joe, Tetsuro Hoshino and Maetel (seen here) from Galaxy Express 999, and Lum from Urusei Yatsura. The site also offers a chronology of Nerima’s anime industry and a “Graphic Wall” where visitors can experience and enjoy Nerima animation.

16+. Various creations of Shotaro Ishinomori (Ishinomaki, Japan)
Manga Road is the name of a walkway that can be found in Ishinomaki, a city in Miyagi Prefecture on the northern part of the island of Honshu. Lined with images of characters created by influential manga artist Shotaro Ishinomori, such as Kamen Rider and Cyborg 009, the road leads to the Mangattan Museum, a spaceship-shaped building dedicated to the Ishinomori’s work. Eagle-eyed tourists will spot not just the statues of Ishinomori characters, but also images of them on benches, mailboxes and even manhole covers all around the city.

17. Gigantor (Kobe, Japan)
Are you getting the feeling that Japan really likes statues of its animated characters? This 50-tonne statue of Gigantor (known as Tetsujin 28-gō in its original 1950s manga series) is located in Kobe’s Wakamatsu Park, where it towers over visitors at 60 feet in height. Completed in 2009, the sculpture honors the character’s creator, Mitsuteru Yokoyama, who was born in Kobe in 1934. It was also built to symbolize the city’s rebuilding after a devastating earthquake in 1995 that caused the deaths of nearly 6,500 people and left 300,000 homeless.

18-19. Desperate Dan and Minnie the Minx (Dundee, Scotland)
First appearing in the British magazine The Dandy in 1937, Desperate Dan is the world’s strongest man, with a beard so tough he shaves with a blowtorch. Though originally a desperado (hence the name), he evolved to become a hero to the underdog. Minnie the Minx is a 13-year-old terror who first appeared in The Beano in 1953; both she and Desperate Dan can be found in both books published by D.C. Thomson & Co. and on the streets of Dundee, where the publisher is based.

20. Corto Maltese (Angouleme, France) 
Created by the Italian comic book creator Hugo Pratt, Corto Maltese is the star of a series of adventure comics that began in 1967. Depicted as a “rogue with a heart of gold,” he’s an enigmatic sea captain who sailed the seas during the early decades of the 20th century, meeting and befriending several real-life figures during his travels. Pratt moved to France in 1970 and began a series of short Corto Maltese stories for the French magazine Pif Gadget, which explains why this statue stands vigil over Angoulême, home of France’s International Comic Book Festival.

21+. Franklin the Turtle and friends (Toronto, Canada)
Based on the Franklin the Turtle series of children’s books by Canadian authors Paulette Bourgeois and Brenda Clark, Franklin was a long-running animated series that ran in the 1990s and early 2000s. The young star of the show “could count by twos and tie his shoes” and had your typical child-friendly adventures with his best friend, Bear, and the rest of the animals living in the quiet town of Woodland. Located a short ferry ride away from Toronto’s downtown core, Toronto Island Park features a children’s garden filled with bronze replicas of characters from Franklin’s world, Storybook Place Amphitheatre, a wooden playhouse and — fittingly — a turtle pond.

22. Tintin (Brussels, Belgium)
The statue of Hergé’s most famous creation likes to travel around almost as much as the boy reporter who inspired it. Commissioned in 1976 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Tintin magazine, the bronze statue of Tintin and his dog, Snowy, was originally located in Wolvendael Park before it was moved to the Centre Culturel d’Uccle (Uccle Cultural Centre). Several copies were made of this statue, all of which can be found in various places around Hergé’s hometown.

23. Paddington Bear (London, England)
It seems right to end our journey with this statue of a character who was known for taking a few journeys himself. This monument to Paddington Bear sits in Paddington Station, the London transit complex where the friendly bear from “Darkest Peru” was discovered by the Brown family that adopts him. Created by British author Michael Bond, 1958’s A Bear Called Paddington was the first children’s book in a long line of books that led to several television series and films starring the bear who “tries so hard to get things right.” The life-sized bronze statue of Paddington was unveiled by his creator in 2000.