Super Friends in front of the Hall of Justice: inspiration for the Hall of Heroes Superhero Museum.
Super Friends in front of the Hall of Justice: inspiration for the Hall of Heroes Superhero Museum.

Hall of Heroes Superhero Museum

Field review by the editors.

Elkhart, Indiana

Allen Stewart is the superhero of superhero history. By day he's a mild-mannered Indiana real estate agent. But by night -- or at least during his off-hours -- he sheds his disguise to become master of the world's largest collection of superhero artifacts and memorabilia. This includes nearly 70,000 comic books; no duplicates.

Allen Stewart: superhero historian.
Allen Stewart: superhero historian.

For years Allen sheltered his trove in his back yard, within a custom-built 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." But the collection eventually outgrew the Hall, and in late 2019 Allen moved it into Elkhart and officially opened it to the public as a museum. "Most private collectors like to hoard their stuff and not tell anybody," he said. "I wanted to show it off. To share the history."

The Hall of Heroes Superhero Museum building is neatly divided into halves -- DC characters on one side, Marvel on the other -- by a bank of industrial-size file cabinets, dozens of them, housing Allen's comic collection. We asked if visitors could flip through the issues, and Allen said that for average fans it wouldn't be necessary, because all of the really important comics -- "the drool stuff," as he calls it -- are out on display (Also, Allen has the only key). He's still on the hunt for two million-dollar comic books -- Action #1 (first appearance of Superman) and Detective #27 (first appearance of Batman) -- but he owns pretty much everything else, including Captain America #1 (punching der Fuhrer in the face), which can only be seen here and at the Library of Congress.

Mole Man was the first villain to fight the Fantastic Four in 1961.
Mole Man was the first villain to fight the Fantastic Four in 1961.

If the museum were only comics, Allen said, he'd have only 20 percent of his visitors and just a fraction of his collection. But Allen has cast a web worthy of Spiderman; "I collect everything," he said. The museum has superhero toys, Hollywood props and memorabilia, original art and animation cells. Tributes are everywhere: to Plastic Man, the Teen Titans, the Herculoids. A Hanna-Barbara showcase enshrines Blue Falcon and Dynomutt, Hong Kong Phooey, Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels; a Saturday Morning Cartoon exhibit features Space Ghost, Johnny Quest, and Underdog. There are superhero Slurpee cups from the 1970s, action figures in massed hordes, and a Green Goblin pumpkin bomb. There's the world's first superhero toy: a Superman wooden doll from 1939 that Allen calls "a weird, creepy thing" because it has a face like George Reeves, who didn't appear as Superman until the 1950s.

Featured relic: Incredible Hulk and Amazing Spider-Man Toilet Paper.
Featured relic: Incredible Hulk and Amazing Spider-Man Toilet Paper.

One of the more unforgettable items in the museum is the Spiderman-Hulk Toilet Paper from 1979: an entire comic book feature ("The Gamma Gambit") on a toilet paper roll, still in its original box. "Can you imagine?" said Allen, trying to wrap his head around the concept. "You use it, then someone else uses it, and then you wouldn't know what happened. You'd never be able to fill in the blanks." Most surprising to us: nowhere in The Gamma Gambit story is there a bathroom or a toilet.

Film and TV relics? Allen has life-size Marvel superhero statues from Hollywood theater premieres, including a 9.5-foot-tall Hulk, which stands at the front door to discourage potential thieves. There are Fortress of Solitude crystals from the 1978 Superman movie; Chris Evans' screen-used Captain America shield; Ryan Reynolds' Deadpool mask; Nicolas Cage's original Ghost Rider Hellcycle; and Jim Parsons' screen-used Green Lantern shirt from The Big Bang Theory. The museum even has the 1965 Shelby Cobra onto which Robert Downey Jr. crash-landed in the first Iron Man film. Visitors are welcome to sprawl in the Downey dent for photos.

Astride Nicolas Cage's Hellcycle from Ghost Rider.
Astride Nicolas Cage's Hellcycle from Ghost Rider.

One of Allen's most treasured artifacts is the personal Batman costume of Adam West, who continued to dress up in it for 20 years after the 1960s TV series had been cancelled, stopping only when he he was threatened with a lawsuit by Warner Bros. "To have Adam's Batman costume means so much to me, because that was my childhood," said Allen. "What's great about it is that it's never been cleaned, so you've got Adam West food stains on the chest, where he dropped chili from a hot dog or something. It just doesn't get any better than that."

Not all superheroes are equally super, which Allen finds endearing; he cited as examples Infectious Lass, who "could make people sneeze;" and Stone Boy, who "could turn to stone, but then he couldn't move. He'd get rigid and fall over; that was his power." All have a place in Allen's museum, and he doesn't look down on fans of even the most implausible characters. "If I judged someone else, I'd be judging myself," he said. "After all, I'm the guy who collected all of this."

We asked Allen if his completist approach to superhero history and lore made his museum a kind of superhero seed bank, or perhaps a survival ark. "An ark! Exactly! That's what it is!" said Allen, pleased with the analogy. If rising sea levels drown all coastal libraries and museums, the Hall of Heroes Superhero Museum could be the lone surviving record of human existence -- and no one would question why our civilization was destroyed. There were so many titanic battles, so many supervillains!

Hall of Heroes Superhero Museum

Address:
1915 Cassopolis St., Elkhart, IN
Directions:
North of the city. On the west side of IN-19/Cassopolis St. just north of the DQ and KFC.
Hours:
M-Tu, Th-F 11-5; Sa 10-5; Su 12-5. Closed Wednesdays, the traditional new comic book day. (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
Phone:
574-333-3406
Admission:
Adults $10.
RA Rates:
Major Fun
Save to My Sights

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In the region:
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