Superman, Green Lantern and Flash have been waiting for Rusky South.
When the door to Krypton Comics swings open and the bell rings, the shop workers immediately greet South by name. By the time he reaches the counter, his copies of “Superman,” “Action Comics,” “Green Lantern,” “Superman Unchained,” “The Flash” and “Walking Dead” are there for him in a neat stack.
South likes all his comics, but he's most excited for the Superman issues.
South is the biggest fan of Superman you're likely to meet: He already bought his tickets for the "Man of Steel" movie this weekend, he always wears a Superman ring on his thumb and a Superman watch on his wrist, and he recently had breakfast with Superman. (Well, it was actor Brandon Routh, who played Superman.)
Then, of course, there's the room. The Superman room.
It's a small upstairs bedroom painted red and blue in his Papillion home. Covering each wall, from floor to ceiling, is South's Superman collection.
Some are baubles (Pez dispensers, a blow-up Superman doll or a stuffed animal of Krypto the Superdog) and others are serious collector pieces (a statue of Superman boxing Muhammad Ali, a very heavy replica of the key to Superman's Fortress of Solitude and a handmade table in the shape of Superman's “S” symbol that's also carved with “Rusky” in Kryptonian symbols).
“I know some collections that would beat him, but not from around here,” said Dean Phillips, co-owner of Krypton Comics.
On a recent visit to the store, South traded stories of Superman collectibles with Phillips, and they talked about their hopes for “Man of Steel” and their breakfast with Superman.
Routh, who starred as Clark Kent and Superman in 2006's “Superman Returns,” came to Krypton Comics for Free Comic Book Day last month to sign autographs and pose for photos.
South and Phillips picked him up from the airport and, over pancakes at Leo's Diner, South and Routh bonded over having young boys about the same age — Routh's son Leo is not quite 1 and South's son Logan turned 1 last month.
It was tough to avoid asking a lot of questions about Superman (and the tights), but South wanted to treat Routh like a normal guy. He didn't tell him that he had several action figures and statues of him back at his house.
South's Superman room serves as a history of the hero. On a top shelf are statues of Superman from all eras, beginning with a replica from his first appearance, 1938's “Action Comics” No. 1. New pieces, such as a toy from “Man of Steel,” share shelf space with vintage items including a 1960s-era model kit of actor George Reeves as Superman.
Batman — and the 1989 film by Tim Burton — was actually what got South into superheroes, but his love of Superman began with 1992's “The Death of Superman.” It's still his favorite story arc about the Man of Steel.
When “Superman” No. 75, the issue in which Superman dies, was released, it sold out almost immediately. South's father worked for a company that distributed magazines and comic books and traded a comic shop owner some old issues of “Heavy Metal” to get the store's last copy for his son.
That copy has a prominent place in the collection — right next to a piece of kryptonite.
South, who works at Union Pacific, doesn't appear to be the uber-nerd stereotype you've conjured in your head. Yes, his license plate says “Jor El” (the Kryptonian name of Superman's father), but Superman hasn't taken over his life.
“He's always been pretty balanced,” said his brother, Ryan South. “When he was younger, he bought a ton of stuff and collected a lot more.”
South's family has always been supportive, including his wife, who surprised him with a Superman topper for their wedding cake and once took him on a trip to Metropolis, Ill.
“She's pretty understanding,” he said.
On Christmas, the 32-year-old still gets a lot of toys.
“He has a Christmas list that looks like that of a 5-year-old boy. It's funny,” Ryan South said. “Every year on Black Friday, my family and I always hit Krypton Comics in the early-morning hours to get the best deals and stuff you can only get on that day.”
South now is passing his love of Superman on to his young son. The first clothing item they bought him was a Superman hoodie.
This summer brings more Superman-related events for South to experience. This weekend, South will take his wife and parents to see “Man of Steel” (“They get to see my reaction,” he said), and he's going to Comic-Con International in San Diego next month with his brother.
The new film is exciting, and it has caused South to step up and defend his favorite character.
“Everyone's whining that there's not going to be kryptonite in the movie, which I don't know is true or not. But all someone has to do is pick up an innocent bystander and that's how you get him. Because he cares,” he said.
It's those sort of qualities that make Superman such an admirable character to South.
“What bugs some people about him is that he's so powerful,” South said. “But he has the biggest weakness because he's a chronic worrier. I always feel like I relate to him in that way. And he always sticks to his principles, which most people don't. That's what I like about him.”
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