ELKHART — If you like getting stared down by the Hulk, you may want to visit the Hall of Heroes Superhero Museum at its new location on Cassopolis Street.
In fact, people are already trying to get in, even though the 1915 Cassopolis St. location won’t open until Saturday.
“People are stopping in here every day,” museum director Allen Stewart said.
And that’s the point of the relocation, really, making the museum a place that people can’t miss. Until now, the Hall of Heroes has been in a building in Stewart’s back yard, in a residential neighborhood far from Interstate 90. Cassopolis Street is very different.
“People are going to be coming right off the Toll Road,” Stewart said.
He is expecting between 50,000 and 100,000 guests each year, which would be substantial growth from the 10,000 per year so far.
The new facility also allows the museum to display much more of its collection, as the square footage is doubled from the old location.
“You get greeted by the life-size Hulk when you first walk in, and he’s pretty intimidating, so hopefully that’s scares thieves off,” said Stewart.
Once you’ve passed the big guy, you can basically choose between your Marvel and your DC Comics sides of the room.
The collection has comic books and items dating back 80 years, enveloping the history of comic books. Of course, Nicolas Cage’s Ghost Rider motorcycle is on display, as is the 1965 Shelby Cobra that Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man landed and, well, dented a bit.
A Batcave that will have a set mural, rock ceiling and a Batcomputer, as well as Adam West’s actual Batman suit, is close to being completed. Batman’s IT will not be finished by opening day, Stewart said, but it is being built to impress.
“You’ll stand right here, and you’ll have the Batcomputer and the Adam West suit in your photo, so it’s like you’re in the Batcave,” he said. “It will look totally like the cave from the set.”
But Hall of Heroes is more than just cool photo ops.
“A lot of the original art will be exhibited, where we didn’t have the wall space before at the old location to do that, so people will see a lot of really cool things that they have never seen here before,” said Stewart.
Besides Marvel and DC, the museum will also feature what Stewart called “independent” heroes and studios, like Hanna-Barbera, Zorro, Tarzan, Spawn, Phantom and Underdog.
A new feature will be a superhero arcade area, with old arcade video games and pinball machines that visitors can actually play.
“It’s really cool. The nostalgia, preserving the history,” Stewart said. “Arcades back in the 80s were a huge thing, and so people will come in and really enjoy that.”
Separating the Marvel and DC sections is a row of large filing cabinets containing the museum’s comic book collection. That’s 65,000 comic books. But unlike the arcade games, these are not for playing with.
“Those are being preserved, but people will get an idea of how massive our comic collection is, and we’ll have some signs and stuff on top of the cases, explaining some of that,” said Stewart. “We’re a museum – we’re preserving history.”
He had previously explored the idea of creating a Batman-themed escape room, but found it would take up too much space. That doesn’t mean groups won’t be able to arrange something in addition to seeing the exhibits, though. One room is dedicated to parties like birthdays, and the museum will offer families a chance to get a superhero at their party.
“People call us all the time and ask if we do birthday parties. Every week we’ll have multiple calls,” said Stewart. “So this is going to be huge.”
He said that will cost about $250 and include the room for an hour, a superhero for 30 minutes and admission to the museum of up to 20 people.
For regular museumgoers, admission will be $9 for ages 10 and older, $6 for ages 3-9. That’s slightly up from $6 and $4 at the old location, but with the twice-as-large exhibition, Stewart believes that is justified.
“We didn’t double the price. We wanted to keep it affordable,” he said.
If guests then have a little extra cash on hand, they can visit the museum’s gift shop.
For Stewart, who runs the not-for-profit museum without getting paid, moving has been a tough task.
“Right now I’m exhausted. We’ve been working 12- to 15-hour days to get everything ready, because we just had that TV show here filming all day Tuesday, so we had to get it at least well enough to do filming,” he said.
The Hall of Heroes episode of Collector’s Call on MeTV will air in the show’s second season in early 2020, according to Stewart.
“Now the focus is to get everything finished and ready for the grand opening,” he said.
But even then, Stewart will hardly have time to relax. The Hall of Heroes Comic Con comes back for its third year just the following weekend.
“I’ve not been getting a whole lot of sleep, but I will be excited about it when it’s done and I’m a little less zombiefied,” he said.
When the museum opens, Stewart expects he will have to hire paid staffers to hold down the fort, since one person won’t be enough anymore.
Stewart has run the museum for more than 12 years. The old building, made to look like the Hall of Justice, headquarters of Justice League, is just about empty now and has been closed since Aug. 5. That leaves the director with some mixed emotions.
“That was my dream years ago, to build it in my back yard and share the collection,” he said. “But I never thought it would get as big as what it did. I never thought Stan Lee would come out there and film a show, and I never thought it would appear on tons of national television shows and bring visitors from all over the world. I just thought it would be kind of a cool little tourist attraction in my yard.”
Now, he says, the museum is the No. 1 tourist attraction in Elkhart County.
And the Hall of Heroes Comic Con, which will be Sept. 7-8, is one of Elkhart’s biggest events. With between 5,000 and 10,000 people at last year’s event, that too has outgrown it’s previous venue at the Lerner Theatre and downtown streets, which is why this year’s comic con is at Center Six One Five, 2707 C.R. 15, Elkhart.
Follow Rasmus S. Jorgensen on Twitter at @ReadRasmus
IF YOU GO
The grand opening for Hall of Heroes at 1915 Cassopolis St., Elkhart, is Saturday, Aug. 31., from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The museum will then be open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 12 to 5 p.m. Wednesdays are closed. Hall of Heroes Comic Con is Sept. 7-8 at Center Six One Five, 2707 C.R. 15, Elkhart.