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House Party at the Hall of Heroes

Hall of Heroes!

Gathered together from the cosmic reaches of the universe, here in this great Hall of Heroes, are the most powerful forces of good ever assembled: Captain America! Deadpool! Bucky! Cartoon Hulk! The Lizard!

My wife and I have a twice-yearly tradition of spending our respective birthdays together traveling to some new place or attraction as a one-day road trip — partly as an excuse to spend time together on those most wondrous days, partly to explore areas of Indiana we’ve never experienced before. My 2016 birthday destination of choice: the northern Indiana city of Elkhart, with a bonus stopover in South Bend, both some 100+ miles north of here. Elkhart was regrettably cut a little short because the weather was miserable and tried to freeze us in our tracks, but we had enough fun to fill out another four-part miniseries starring a candy factory tour, a super-hero roadside attraction, and a selection of the “art” in Elkhart. Also, food.

Part Two of Four: a birthday celebration for a venerated super-hero at a museum made by a fan for fans.


Hall of Heroes!

This way to JUSTICE.

Deep in the heart of Elkhart, the Hall of Heroes Museum is easy to miss because it’s in the middle of a wooded residential neighborhood. The museum’s owner and founder, Allen Stewart, is a real estate agent with a longtime passion for comics, super-heroes, and Captain America who has turned his collections into one large exhibition piece. He had the Museum built in his backyard, with plans to upgrade to a larger commercial space someday. Frankly, I felt weird parking in his lawn.

Comics!

A fraction of the wall displays on hand, to say nothing of the longboxes containing 60,000+ comics spanning all the medium’s decades. I’ll admit it: his collection is bigger than mine.

We first heard about the Hall of Heroes from booths they set up at a few of our past cons. In previous entries we’ve shown readers pics of their Captain America actual-movie-prop shield signed on the inside by several cast members from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as well as the Shelby Cobra that Tony Stark crash-landed on during suit-testing in the original Iron Man. When Anne and I were still gathering birthday ideas the week before, we just happened to catch a segment about the Hall of Heroes on one of our local morning shows and remembered this was a place we might want to check out. Nice timing, that.

Cap #1!

One of their most treasured periodicals: a restored copy of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby’s Captain America Comics #1.

As luck would have it, we’d chosen to visit the day they’d planned a mini-fest in honor of Captain America’s birthday. Now 75 years old, the Star-Spangled Avenger is healthier than ever, ruling the American box office and sporting not one but two noble guys with the name and costume in Marvel’s current comics continuity. The bottom floor and a few outdoor party tents were set up for expanded collection viewing, a sort-of dealers’ room for a few other fans with comics to sell, that damaged Shelby Cobra, face-painting for the kiddos, special guest Allen Bellman (a Timely Comics artist as a teenager while Simon and Kirby were serving overseas in WWII), and two local artists selling their own self-published wares.

And, of course, the one thing every successful comic book party needs: cosplayers!

The Lizard!

Spider-Man’s old foe the Lizard sets aside his differences for good ol’ Steve Rogers’ sake.

Hulk 4 Kids!

Hulk take time out from Super Hero Squad to say hi to Flag Man. Hulk also want cake.

Deadpool + Bucky!

Even in a small-town costume gathering dozens of miles from the nearest major convention center, there’s no escaping Mandatory Deadpool, seen here with A-list film star Bucky the Winter Soldier.

Part of the first floor and all of the second are devoted to the bulk of Stewart’s impressive trove of comics, books, toys, high-end statues, and other nifty hobby collectibles. Guys like me have seen our share of action figures at cons, but they’re always boxed, stacked, hanging, or otherwise unnaturally shackled. Most of the heroes in this Hall are unboxed, posed, free-standing display items grouped with their friends, enemies, and other corporate cohorts out in the open. Touching isn’t invited, but with some pieces, I couldn’t help stopping and staring.

Super-Friends!

A selection of Super-Friends, including those brave DC heroes who entertained us on Saturday mornings but were forbidden inside the DC Comics universe.

JLA vs. Starro!

The Justice League of America faces off against Starro the Conqueror in this statue reprising the cover of their first appearance in Brave & the Bold #28.

Hulk Stash!

I like to call this section “HULK STASH!”

Alpha Flight!

This is the moment, more than any other, that I knew Stewart was One Of Us. What ordinary mortal museum devotes an entire section to Alpha Flight?

The Spectre!

The Spectre looms large and metes spiritual vengeance over in the Heroclix section.

Animation Cels!

Animation character reference sheets are among the wall decorations in between all those comics.

Disney's Spider-Man!

“Spider-Man! You’ve just appeared in your best movie in years! What are you doing next?” “I’m going to Disney World!”

Super-Suit!

A true treasure: Ralph Hinkley’s actual suit from The Greatest American Hero, autographed by William Katt. (Anyone calling him “Ralph Hanley” is banned.)

One corner of the first floor is a virtual Batman shrine. One of the most beloved, most heavily merchandised super-heroes in the medium’s history deserves no less.

BATMAN!

Back in the day it was every parent’s job to teach their kids the two words in the Batman theme song.

Batsuit!

If it doesn’t have a genuine Batcostume, it’s not an authentic Batshrine.

Batprops!

Batman naturally needs his Batprops, including this spare Batmask and the Batphone.

Batpole!

I didn’t ask if this was a real TV prop or just an amazing simulation, but its brilliance bowled me over either way: the Hall of Heroes has its own Batpole.

To be honest, the Hall of Heroes wasn’t exactly what I imagined we’d find after a nearly three-hour drive, but it’s a fun place to be. For a modest yet fair entry free, local fans and newcomers to super-heroing get to see a scintillating panoply of faces and universes, giving them a better appreciation and a deeper dive into the vast imaginary worlds of Marvel, DC, and more. Only a fraction of a fraction of those characters have ever made the transition to summer action blockbuster event movies and are likely strangers to the general public. Stewart’s Hall of Heroes is a neat diversion, a potential educational tool, and maybe even a handy gateway to new reading possibilities for kids and adults alike.

It might even spur new collectors into the hobby, though some rookies might do well to keep their expectations realistic and their hopes grounded. We chatted briefly with one young starry-eyed lady who asked if I have any comics (I casually mentioned “some longboxes”) and bragged that her boyfriend owns “a dozen boxes worth a million dollars!” I thought about my thirty-seven years of comics fandom, my 50+ longboxes, many years spent skimming Overstreet price guides, and that one short time I tried eBay on for size, and I had to fight the urge to reach over and pat her on the head.

To be fair, though, based on what we saw of Stewart’s own accumulations, he would’ve had full bragging rights to come up and pat me on the head.

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About Randall A. Golden
Hoosier since birth, geek since age 6, father at 22, Christian at 30; launched Midlife Crisis Crossover at 39. Full-time service rep; part-time internet contributor; former message board admin; inhabits Twitter as @RandallGolden. Views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of any other corporation, being, or party line.

2 Responses to House Party at the Hall of Heroes

  1. The Cutter says:

    That’s pretty awesome. I had no idea such a place existed. And it’s sad to see how much Rob Liefeld stuff is in the modern age exhibit

    Liked by 1 person

    • Funny thing is, I had just been explaining Youngblood to my wife the other day, before this shot was taken. I’d just finished reading the first issue of a brand new Marvel series (published in 2016!) drawn as an obviously loving homage to Liefeld’s oeuvre, complete with absolutely terribly drawn feet — by which I mean, everyone had stakes at the ends of their legs instead of feet. And I had to explain to her why I dropped the comic on the table and made a loud exasperated noise.

      So apparently Liefeld nostalgia is a thing now, and I will never ever understand it.

      Like

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