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Stolen Superman collection returned, suspect in jail

Stolen Superman collection returned, suspect in jail

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GRANITE CITY • In the end, things played out the way they do in the Superman comic books. Good conquered evil. Justice prevailed. A tale of the vulnerable being victimized spawned a chain of good will that spread not only across the country, but the world.

Mike Meyer, who lives off Social Security checks for a mental disability and a part-time job at McDonald's, had his stolen Superman collection returned in its entirety this week after police tracked down the loot and the alleged thief.

The good news came one day after Meyer, 48, of Granite City, received his first glimpse of the generosity sparked by a story that spread from one comic book collector to the next via a network of online message boards and email lists.

Dozens of their letters, comic books and figurines were delivered to his house — just the start of what has been promised in the flood of messages and calls from people who read his story in the Post-Dispatch last week.

Meyer, who lives alone with his dogs Krypto and Dyno, has been a Superman collector most of his life. Sometime the week of Aug. 29, he was tricked out of more than 1,800 of his favorite Superman comic books, along with hundreds of figurines and other memorabilia.

Meyer suspected an old acquaintance he encountered at a comic book store just days before noticing the huge gap in his collection. The man had invited himself to Meyer's house and asked to see where he kept the most precious items. Then the man left while his girlfriend watched movies with Meyer.

On Friday, Granite City police announced they had arrested and obtained charges against Gerry Armbruster, 37, of the 2200 block of Iowa Street in Granite City. Police said Armbruster was linked to the Superman case after being caught Thursday forcibly robbing jewelry and money from a 76-year-old who had hired him to do renovation work on a business there.

"I felt very happy and felt justice was served," Meyer said in a phone interview Friday from work. He said the Superman comics and movies have taught him not to react with revenge or contempt, and that "you cannot give evil for evil."

"I forgive him, but I'm not going to forget," he said.

The morals of the comics appear to have left an imprint on others as well. Many who sent cards and donations said they felt compelled to carry out the spirit of Superman. Donations have come in from Florida, Colorado, Alaska. The story also spread internationally.

"I am keen to know if you can put me in touch with the poor chap who was done such a rotten turn," wrote a man named Paul, from Australia.

"This is by far the most horrible thing I read this month, or even year," said Adrian, from Canada.

"I told my wife, and we were literally in tears because we felt so badly about what happened," said Ben Bittner of Shakopee, Minn., who has a brother with special needs.

He wanted to know how to send a care package to Meyer, explaining, "Comic book fans believe in paying it forward."

A Facebook page dedicated to Meyer has more than 2,100 "likes." Celebrities and publicists associated with Superman films, past and future, have expressed interest in reaching out to him.

Cleveland, Ohio, officials have offered to pay Meyer's way to the city for a grand tour of the house where Joe Shuster created Superman. The Chamber of Commerce in Metropolis, Ill., which bills itself the "Hometown of Superman," also has a plan in the works. A group called Superfriends of Metropolis plans to drop off hundreds of donations next week.

"It boils down to that spirit of swoop in and save the day. We want to right what was wrong the way our superheroes do in the comics," said the group's Keith Howard of Belleville, who spearheaded the effort.

Jon Bogdanove, an artist who was under contract with DC Comics through most of the 1990s and drew for its "Man of Steel" comic book, sent a personal drawing and some of his recent work.

Bogdanove said he was inspired by the support shown by the comic book collector groups and wanted to do his part.

"I think, as kids, that's the kind of lesson we get from Superman," he said. "Superman is really about doing whatever you can to help."

Police said they also received packages in the last week that were sent for Meyer.

Armbruster is charged with one count of residential burglary in the Superman theft, and one count each of robbery and aggravated burglary for the more recent incident, which left the elderly man with minor injuries. Armbruster was held at the Madison County Jail in lieu of $100,000 bail.

As for his Meyer's collection, he now has close to double what he had lost. Meyer said he wants to give the donations to charity, possibly delivering them to a children's hospital.

"People were generous to me," he said. "This is how I can be generous in return."

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