The American Super Heroes Museum, 20 W. Lafayette St., is like a superhero itself, complete with secret identity: “Whoosh! Turn your back for a minute and it’s changed,” remarked owner Dane Nash as he laid out several more vintage Superman artifacts. “It’s always changing.”
And, indeed, the entire exhibit grows and changes as Nash continues to add elements from his truly epic-sized personal collection. For the most part the museum focuses on Superman and Batman (though Nash says he plans on expanding into other heroes, sometime in the future). Superman’s his real fixation, as he owns and displays screen-used costumes from literally every era of superdom, ranging from Kirk Alyn and George Reeves’ costumes from the 1940s and 1950s, to Helen Slater and Christopher Reeve’s 1980s outfits and even Tom Welling’s blue-and-red Smallville ensemble.
The Batman section is somewhat smaller, but that’ll change soon enough, as Nash will be adding the full-sized Michael Keaton-era Batmobile and Adam West Batboat to the display. Don’t bother looking for anything from 1997’s Batman and Robin, though. Like most sane people in the civilized world, Nash prefers not to acknowledge the George Clooney/ Arnold Schwarzenegger debacle ever happened.
The exhibit is an extraordinary walk through hero history, detailing Superman’s somewhat more humble origins, all the way through the 1993 death of Superman and last year’s Superman Returns. It’s also fascinating to see old newspaper clippings of 1930s Superman adventures, when the Man of Steel was an unabashed Man of the People, a proto-socialist who would threaten a bank with utter destruction if they didn’t offer fair loan practices.
What you might notice missing are collectors-edition comics themselves. Nash sold most of his collection — including Action Comics No. 1 and Superman No. 1 — in order to pay for some of the most valuable pieces, including the George Reeves costumes. But you will see a truly mind-boggling array of bric-a-brac from all eras, 1930 to 2007. Perhaps most impressive (to my nerdy self, at least) is a pair of signed sketches by Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster.
“I’m working to make sure every 5-year-old kid comes out of there wanting to be Clark Kent rather than Lex Luthor, because there’s way too many Lex Luthors in the world already,” Nash says.
For more information: www.heroesmuseum.com.