Allen Stewart: Super CollectorPublished 11:21pm Monday, January 30, 2012
Comic book enthusiast Allen Stewart emits as much character as the superheroes he collects.
An Elkhart, Ind., Realtor, Stewart has devoted a large portion of his life to collecting comic books and superhero memorabilia. His collection became so large he built a museum on his Elkhart property to house all of it.
The Hall of Heroes Superhero Museum contains more than 55,000 comic books, thousands of superhero-themed toys and countless pieces of rare superhero memorabilia.
The museum is designed to look like the Hall of Justice building featured in the 1970s cartoon, “Super Friends.”
It is a must see for anyone wanting to unleash his or her inner superhero.
“It’s so great because people just love it,” Stewart said. “It doesn’t matter your age. If you’re 10 or you’re 80, you are going to come in here and find something from your childhood.”
The 41-year-old has a history and teaching degree and does guest lectures at Indiana University South Bend. He also shows teachers how to use superheroes in the classroom to help get students interested in all subjects.
“You use Captain America to teach World War II, and the kids really get into it and they remember things, like about FDR and Hitler and Churchill,” he said.
Stewart spent seven years as a black belt fitness instructor in the Army, training soldiers in martial arts and American fighting styles. He once published his own line of comic books and was one of five finalists to play Robin in the 1990s Batman movies.
He said the best way to describe himself is Batman.
“Batman didn’t have any super powers, but he tried to be the best both mentally and physically, and I have patterned myself after that,” he said. “It probably sounds nuts, but it is true. The only thing he has on me is height.
I’m challenged in that area.”
The museum is divided into sections showcasing more than 75 years of comic-book and super-hero history. It is the largest collection of its kind in the world.
One section resembles the Batcave seen in the 1960s Batman television show, complete with fireman’s pole and tons of Batman memorabilia.
The Hollywood Heroes section contains movie and television memorabilia signed by the stars, including Adam West, Hugh Jackman, Linda Carter and more. He has a Superman emblem signed by the late Lane Smith, who played Perry White in the television show, “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.”
“He is one of the nicest actors I ever met. I actually spent one night gambling with him on a riverboat,” Stewart said.
The museum contains one of the two original costumes worn by William Katt on the show “Greatest American Hero.”
Stewart says the museum contains the third most-expensive comic book: an original copy of “Captain America,” issue No. 1 from 1941.
“It is the most important comic book of World War II because it shows Captain America punching out Hitler,” he said. “Not only that, but the comic book comes out nine months before Pearl Harbor.”
The second floor of the museum offers most of a collection of more than 55,000 comic books that includes every superhero comic from 1957 to the stuff that came out this week.
He is currently looking for donors and sponsors to help fill the gap of missing comic books from 1938 to 1957.
“We are the only organization dedicated to acquiring and preserving an original copy of every comic book,” Stewart said.
The museum offers several special events throughout the year. It will host a Wonder Woman Day event on Feb. 18 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wonder Woman will be on hand to sign autographs. Visit the Hall of Heroes Musuem Facebook page for more details.
Stewart is married with a son and daughter. He said his wife doesn’t share his love of superheroes.
“I wish she was, but she’s not,” he said. “I can’t get her to dress up as Wonder Woman or Super Woman or anything like that, which would be pretty cool.”
Those wanting to visit the museum need to make an appointment by calling (574) 293-0755. It is located at 58005 C.R. 105, Elkhart, Ind. Admission is $5 adults and $3 for children younger than 10.