Superman has been living quietly in Alabama.

His friends are there: Lois, Jimmy and Perry; Batman, Robin, Batgirl and Captain Marvel Jr. among them. All of them are living, or living again, so to speak, in an exhibition of Superman merchandise and memorabilia in Gadsden's Center for Cultural Arts.They've had quite a few visitors. About 7,500 people have dropped in, some to relive their childhood fantasies, others to make the world's most famous costumed superhero a part of theirs.

"It's been a real popular" exhibit, said Bobby Welch, executive director of the center.

The collection, titled "Superman: Many Lives, Many Worlds," was placed on tour by the Smithsonian Institution in connection with Superman's 50th anniversary in 1988. Many of the items in the exhibit were donated by DC Comics Inc., which publishes Superman comics.

The Gadsden exhibit, which concluded this week, was the last showing in the United States for a while. The traveling supershow now heads to Australia.

"I think this is fabulous," said kindergarten teacher Camelle McNair as she escorted her class through the exhibit.

Among the collection of rare Superman items, the kids saw copies of "Superman" and "Action Comics" many times their age, including "Action" issue No. 1, the Man of Steel's first appearance, and "Superman" No. 1. The first issue of Action, of which only nine or so exist, would cost more than $30,000 today. It cost 10 cents in 1938.

In all, the collection is worth more than $1 million. The scope of the collection, which features more than 100 items, makes it clear how much the Kryptonian Colossus has become a part of the American cultural psyche.

Besides Superman comics, visitors to the exhibit can see movie posters from the Superman films of the 1940s and 1950s that starred Kirk Alyn and George Reeves and the later, big-budget Christopher Reeve films; public service posters and flyers with Superman promoting reading and libraries, U.S. savings sonds and stamps, Scouting and UNICEF.

Original artwork by classic Superman illustrators include a 1945 page by Joe Shuster who, with Jerry Siegel, created the Man of Steel in 1933 - five years before anyone would agree to publish him.