|By Eric C. Rodenberg
ELKHART, Ind. – What may be the only superhero and comic book museum in the world is moving from its humble backyard beginnings to a storefront easily accessible from a major toll road.
Allen Stewart, a 49-year-old real estate broker, is moving the Hall of Heroes Superhero Museum, to a new location. He hopes to be open in the new location by Labor Day weekend. “I guess I’ll have to commute to work," he said with a smile.
Thirteen years ago, Stewart built a two-story replica of The Hall of Justice in his backyard. He says it is the only one of its kind in the world, adding that it is also one of the largest attractions in the state of Indiana. Stewart began collecting when he was 9-years old; that gave him 40 years of collecting to get this far.
In the museum are more than 10,000 toys and props used by superheroes, more than 60,000 comic books, including a Captain America No. 1 from 1941 on display. The Silver Age (1956-1969) includes all of the first Marvel comics as well as several rare tin toys from the era, including the Marvel Superhero Express tin train.
When Stewart got hooked on the Superheroes, he fell hard. To him, it is literature, art and showmanship. Stewart is a fond collector of comic book pages and animation art. “Just trying to save the historical record,” he says.
The Hall features both Marvel and DC characters.
Superhero fans can see such things as a replica of the Bat Cave set from the 1960s Batman television series including actor Adam West’s personal Batman costume. The original shield used in the film Captain America, the first Avenger in the museum’s Hollywood Heroes section is another item fans will want to see.
The new facility will allow the museum to display a 1965 Kirkham Shelby Cobra re-creation seen in the first Iron Man movie, and the motorcycle prop used by Nicholas Cage in the 2007 film Ghost Rider, both of which have been stored in a backroom because Stewart did not have room in his backyard museum for them.
His opening on Labor Day weekend will be just in time to greet visitors to the Sept. 7-8 Hall of Heroes Comic Con, which will be held at the new Center Six One Five event center on the north side of Elkhart.
That event usually draws about 10,000 superhero fans to Elkhart, Stewart says.
As a two-time guest of Stan Lee’s popular show Super Fans, Stewart was asked how he got his collection in front of the Marvel comics creative source. “I never looked for him,” he says, “Stan Lee found me.”
Stewart admits that Stan Lee’s “finding him” put the museum on the national map. Since then, eight national television shows were filmed in his backyard. Now thinking of his new store, Stewart begins to spin the numbers.
“We’ll be twice as big,” he says, “we’ll have three to five times as many visitors. We’ll do a lot of promoting with billboards along the toll road. It’s just going to get bigger and bigger.”
The new store will be located at 1915 Cassopolis St. in Elkhart. The new store offers twice the space and is more easily accessible off Exit 92 of the Indiana Toll Road. “We’re going to easily have visitor numbers of 30,000, up to 50,000 and beyond with the new location,” Stewart said. “Over 10,000 visitors came to see me when I was nearly impossible to find, then they brought friends and it just grew. It’s really going to catch fire now.”
Contact: (574) 522-1187