Hall of Heroes Superhero Museum Houses One of the Largest Superhero Memorabilia, Art and Comic Book Collections in the U.S.
Writer & Photographer / Lois Tomaszewski
When thieves broke into the Hall of Heroes Superhero Museum in Elkhart in March, Executive Director Allen Stewart took it personally. As the only museum dedicated to comic books and the superheroes that so many people know and love, he was confident that he would find the rare comic books taken from the display case in the robbery that lasted only about four minutes in the middle of the night.
Stolen from the museum’s vast collection were the extremely rare Captain America #1 comic book, among other rare comics, and collection pieces signed by Lou Ferrigno, the original Hulk from the 1970s and ‘80s TV show, who visited the museum recently. In total, the value of the items taken was about $1.5 million.
“They knew what they wanted to take,” Stewart says.
Stewart was right. He found the Elkhart museum’s stolen collection items listed for sale online in Florida. Stewart bought these back and notified the police. A Florida couple is now accused of the Elkhart theft as well as others throughout the country, according to news reports about the incident.
Just like the outcome of the Marvel or DC movie plots, the good guys won this time. That satisfies Stewart because he really does enjoy the exhibits and artifacts he shares with visitors around the world.
Hall of Heroes opened in 2007 at Stewart’s Elkhart home. Housed in a building designed to look like the Hall of Justice, the museum was opened to the public displaying items from Stewart’s personal collection.
“I started this as a small, local museum to house and preserve one of the largest superhero memorabilia collections in the world,” Stewart wrote in a blog post in 2017 that detailed the need to find a larger space. “Our attendance and collection had grown. We have now become an international tourist attraction that brings superhero fans from all over the globe to visit our amazing museum.”
After 12 years in a residential area, the museum moved to the busy Cassopolis Street commercial corridor on the north side of Elkhart. This location is convenient to the toll road.
The museum owner bought the building in May of 2019, spent three months renovating the space and reopened in August of 2019. During the pandemic and thanks to a grant from the Community Foundation of Elkhart County, additional renovations and reorganizing have added 22 new display cases and new signage to enhance the visitor experience.
A lifelong collector and comic book publisher, Stewart is a recognized expert on this type of memorabilia. He has been featured on the television show “American Pickers” and many others, and was filmed in 2011 and 2012 for the late Stan Lee’s “Super Fans” show. The museum has also been visited by actors who have made their superhero roles legendary to fans, such as Ferrigno. The museum has also been the recipient of movie and television artifacts, such Adam West’s personal Batman costume he wore in the 1970s and 1980s at public appearances, and one of the six shields used by Chris Evans in “Captain America: The First Avenger,” which is autographed by the entire cast of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Agents of Shield.”
The museum is welcoming to fans, but Stewart has added even more opportunities for people to connect, cosplay and celebrate the superhero genre. The annual Comic Con in Elkhart has been hosting fans and celebrities since 2017, and it has grown steadily.
The first Comic Con was held in multiple venues in downtown Elkhart. It moved to a larger event space and settled into the RV Hall of Fame and Museum. The Hall of Heroes Comic Con is held in early March, and features at least a dozen guest appearances by actors, producers, artists and others involved in the comic book industry.
While Stewart is himself a superfan, he enjoys seeing generations of families coming to the museum and connecting over the old and new collection pieces. Lunchboxes, toys, cereal boxes and other merchandise connect an older generation with the younger one. More than 70 years of history are housed inside the museum.
“These things take you back in time,” Stewart says. “You see things you had from your childhood.”
Hall of Heroes Superhero Museum is located at 1915 Cassopolis Street in Elkhart. For more information, call 574-333-3406. Also visit hallofheroesmuseum.com or find the museum on social media.