METROPOLIS, Ill. - Wanted: tall, handsome, muscular man willing to wear tights in public. Ability to leap tall buildings a plus, but not required.
The town of Metropolis - Illinois, that is - is seeking a Superman for its upcoming festival honoring the Man of Steel, but the big block of ''kryptonite'' parked downtown must be scaring the true Clark Kents away. In the list of applicants so far, big bellies and bald heads rule.
''I think these guys must have forgotten what Superman looks like,'' said Jim Hambrick, co-chairman of the Superman search and owner of the Super Museum.
Most of the applicants don't even come from Metropolis, which shares its name with the fictional city where the superhero regularly saved reporter Lois Lane for all sorts of catastrophes and evil-doers.
One candidate is from northern Illinois. Another intends to fly in - presumably not under his own power - from Atlanta. Most are from Paducah, Ky., just across the Ohio River.
This is the first time in the 22-year history of Metropolis' Superman Celebration that a superhero hasn't just fallen in organizers' laps, said chamber director Becky Lambert, whose staff is fielding the applications.
In previous years, a local with all the right attributes always surfaced to play the part. But this year, it appears there aren't many residents of this tiny but tidy Ohio River town willing to squeeze into red-and-blue tights, strap on a cape and strut around for everyone to see.
For one brief weekend, the successful applicant will be hero to as many as 70,000 adoring Superman fans expected for the June 8-11 festival, and even get paid a few bucks for the honor.
Organizers say the job requirements are fairly simple. Superman needs to be at least 6-1 and weigh somewhere near the 225 pounds listed in his official DC Comics biography. He can't have a paunch, he needs to have dark hair, and he really shouldn't have a drawl.
At 6-feet tall, 200 pounds, dark-haired and somewhat muscled, Michael Bauer of Paducah figures he looks the part.
''It's always been a running joke that since I live near Metropolis, I must know Superman,'' he said. ''I thought it would be fun to actually be Superman.''
No word on Bauer's prospects, but the choice is particularly important this year. Two former Lois Lanes, Noel Neill of TV fame and Margot Kidder from the Christopher Reeve films, are scheduled to appear.
So what happens if Superman doesn't show?
Maybe organizers could hire a villain to proclaim Superman is being held hostage.
''That would probably be a lot easier,'' Hambrick said. ''We'd get a lot of baldies in here wanting to play Lex Luthor.''