ELKHART — Since he shares the likeness of "Lois and Clark" actor Dean Cain, and staged a fight with "Arrow" actress, Katrina Law, Elkhart native Allen Stewart lives a super life.
But the founder of Hall of Heroes Super Hero Museum, the only superhero and comic museum in the United States, is a hero to many people for his advocacy for preserving the history of comic books and superheroes. Now, Stewart is moving the famous museum to the north side of Elkhart.
“We are only moving 10 minutes up the Indiana Toll Road on Cassopolis Street and that new facility will be opening on Labor Day weekend,” Stewart said. “It’s going to look completely different from what it looks here. I mean nothing will look the same at all.”
Since Hall of Heroes opened its doors in May 2007 on Stewart's property along C.R. 105, superhero memorabilia has poured in as donations and purchases were made. Stewart needed more space for the new items, including a 9-foot-6-inch tall statue of the Hulk and a 1960s Batmobile.
Stewart said the new facility at 1915 Cassopolis St. is twice the size of the old museum. Some of the new rooms will include a space identical to the garage scene in the "Iron Man" movies and a room resembling the Bat Cave.
“We had to come out of my backyard,” Stewart said. “There’s not enough parking. We’ve been out of room for stuff, so even though we’re doubling our space, we have enough (stuff) to fill that space.”
Stewart said the old facility brought in 10,000 people a year. He estimated the new facility will bring in between 30,000 and 50,000 people a year.
Besides the admission fee and gift shop, the new facility will have new sources of revenue, including an arcade area and a children’s birthday party room. The increased revenue will go toward another new facility, which Stewart projects will be completed within the next five years.
“We are hoping to be buying some land up, hopefully next year, up on C.R. 17, up by the RV Hall of Fame,” Stewart said. “And then within five years building something four times the size of the new building, about 20,000- to 30,000-square-feet.”
Since the new building is already filled up and new memorabilia keeps coming in, the museum will need even more space to display or store everything.
At the current location, the museum is run by volunteers and one or two people run the facility at a time. At the new building, Stewart said the volunteers will become paid staffers and two people will need to be running the facility at a time. One of the museum’s volunteers, Sarah Williams, works as a cosplayer by dressing up and acting as comic book heroes and villains.
“I was looking for something fun to do,” Williams said. “I’ve always watched online different Comic Cons, people cosplaying. So, I saved up, went to (Elkhart) Comic Con … came back the next summer, attended the museum and started cosplaying for them.”
One of Williams’ favorite cosplaying roles is the Batman villain, Harley Quinn. She dresses and acts as the character at the Elkhart Comic Con and other Hall of Heroes events. For this year’s Comic Con, she will be cosplaying as Harley Quinn from the Batman Arkham video game series.
Williams and another volunteer, Ryan Downer, will both be on staff at the museum’s new location. They will be on call to cosplay for kids’ birthday parties as the birthday kid’s hero of choice. They will also be helping move everything from the old facility to the new one.
“The display cases that you see throughout the museum, instead of against the walls, they’ll be in rows of six, three and three back-to-back (in the new facility)” Stewart said. “Then, wall space for the all of the artwork to be displayed.”
A national television show is coming to town to film in the new facility August 20, so Stewart plans to have everything moved by that date.
Stewart said he does not receive any of the revenue made from the museum. He currently works as a real estate agent, so people have wondered why he continues to focus on the museum.
“It’s because I believe in preserving the history,” Stewart said. “Even in the beginning years of the museum, I’ve taken money out of my own pocket to support the museum before it became big nationally.”
He currently holds the largest comic book collection in the world. He is also one of the foremost comic book historians in the world.
The museum keeps Stewart young by reminding him of his childhood. He also enjoys seeing older attendees come in with their children or grandchildren and recognize memorabilia from their childhood. The old comic books and items also educate children about where their favorite movie heroes come from.
“It’s got some of the rarest stuff you could ever find,” Carter Lansdowne, a young museum attendee from Mount Vernon, Illinois, said. “Especially some of the one-of-a-kind things, like the suits and the cars.”
IF YOU GO
NAME: Hall of Heroes Superhero Museum
ADDRESS: 1915 Cassopolis St., Elkhart, Ind.
DATE: Opening Aug. 31 at 10 a.m.