Hall of Heroes Museum
"This is the largest superhero memorabilia collection in the world," said Allen Stewart, founder of the Hall of Heroes. He should know. Most of the collection -- over 10,000 superhero artifacts and over 60,000 superhero comic books -- is his.
The Hall of Heroes stands in Allen's back yard, built in 2006 as a replica of the Hall of Justice from the Super Friends Saturday morning TV series. "Super Friends was my favorite cartoon of all time," said Allen. "The 1978 season, when they had Super Friends vs. The Legion of Doom."
Despite its location and Allen's close association with it, the Hall of Heroes is an official museum, with a board of directors and 501(c)(3) status. Visitors are welcome (by appointment) and Allen is obviously thrilled to show them around.
Tributes are everywhere, to Plastic Man, the Teen Titans, the Hulk, the Herculoids. There are superhero Slurpee cups from the 1970s, action figures in massed hordes, a Green Goblin pumpkin bomb, a Superman hairbrush. Allen owns the red outfit worn by William Katt in the short-lived TV series The Greatest American Hero. "We're the same size," said Allen of Katt. "I put the costume on, once, and did a somersault from a trampoline over a bonfire. My wife was ready to shoot me."
One corner of the museum has its walls painted to resemble the Batcave from the 1960s TV series. A Batpole descends from the floor above. Visitors are kept off the Batpole by insurance restrictions, but Allen happily slid down for us. The biggest hazard, he said, is the rust streak it can leave on your clothes.
Showing off a structure's best features comes easy to Allen -- he's a real estate agent by day (we tried to corner him on a price for his Hall, and he put on his best realtor smile as we babbled about the deal-killing effect of basement kryptonite gas). But each week, when no one is watching, our hero sheds the disguise and whisks off to a local comic book shop to buy 40 just released superhero comics. He reads every one, then adds them to the museum's archive (Its goal is to preserve a copy of every superhero comic ever made).
The Hall of Heroes collection currently extends back to the early 1940s, "the drool stuff," said Allen. He showed us comics with covers of Uncle Sam battling Nazis at Pearl Harbor, Superman snapping photos of an atom bomb blast, and Captain America punching der Fuehrer in the face.
Reading over 55,000 comics has made Allen one of the world's foremost superhero historians. We asked if he knew when Triplicate Girl (of The Legion of Super-Heroes) became Duo Damsel. He did. "That was 1967," he said. "One of her was killed by Computo the Conqueror, a great big giant computer. Adventure Comics, right around issue #340." Allen said he couldn't remember the last time he got a question wrong.
Allen's dedication to superheroes extends far beyond passive collecting. He told us he was greenlighted as a contestant for the show Who Wants to be a Superhero?, but then the series got canceled. Earlier, he was edged out by Chris O'Donnell for the role of Robin in the film Batman Forever. "I think I could have done a better job," Allen said, "because I would have brought more passion to the character."
Every Halloween Allen turns the museum into a haunted "Hall of Villains," dresses his son as the Boy Wonder, and ties him to the Batpole. "He usually yells, 'Help me! Help me!' when people walk through."
While Allen posed for a photo wielding the Hammer of Thor, we asked if his completist approach made the Hall of Heroes a kind of superhero seed bank or survival ark. "An ark! Exactly! That's what it is!" said Allen, pleased with the analogy. If global warming drowns all coastal libraries and museums, the Hall of Heroes Museum could be the lone surviving record of human existence. At least no one would wonder why the planet was destroyed. There were so many titanic battles, so many supervillains!