One of the dreams for many fans is to be able to make money off their hobby. Whether that’s turning costuming skills into a brand of cosplay paraphernalia like Yaya Han, or taking thematic cues from J.K. Rowling’s books to write and play songs as touring band like Harry and the Potters. The notion of earning a living from fandom is a goal many people, I’m sure, aspire to.
That makes complete sense, of course. After all, fandom is all about passion. When something speaks to you on such a personal level that you try to surround yourself with it, and share it with as many others as you can, you’re willing to use your resources to partake more deeply in that fandom by paying to go to conventions or buying t-shirts declaring your love for it. But what if, instead of having to spend your own money on that, people were able to pay you do what you were already going to do anyway? Instead of having to schlep yourself to a job you were, at best, ambivalent about and use that money to order the latest artifact of your passion, what if you could wake up and just do that thing you really loved?
This past weekend, I visited Allen Stewart’s Hall of Heroes Super Hero Museum. Stewart was once a kid who enjoyed superheroes like so many others. He collected comic books and watched them on TV, and just kept on doing that as he grew into adulthood. He eventually got a job, got married, and had kids but his interest in superheroes didn’t wane. He kept reading comics, and collecting the toys and statues. As he was able to earn more money, he was able to start securing more expensive items: original comic art and animation cels. Eventually props from TV shows and movies; he’s got full costumes worn by Adam “Batman” West and William “Greatest American Hero” Katt, as well as one of the shields Chris “Captain America” Evans wiedled.
When it became too much for his basement, he moved it to another outbuilding on his property, which he had converted to look like the Hall of Justice from the Super Friends cartoon. Which then became a bona fide museum, where visitors can be given guided tours of the collection. But beyond showcasing what Stewart has amassed as a collector, he’s able to relay the excitement and enthusiasm of what superheroes have meant to people for generations. His interest in history helps in particular when discussing the older material from the 1940s and ’50s.
He’s clear, too, that he’s celebrating the heroes specifically, regardless of their medium of origin. While many characters originated in comics, he has seemingly no interest in the likes of Chris Ware or Harvey Pekar, and would rather look at Space Ghost or Gatchaman, which were created for television. Because his passion is in the heroes themselves, and what they can inspire us to become. That’s evident in talking with Stewart, even if he doesn’t say so expressly.
But in taking his passion and turning it in to an income stream, Stewart is able to become even more enthused about his interest. He’s able to put more time and effort into something he loves, and that passion fuels his desire to do the work that’s associated with it. And if that’s not a means to get you up and working every morning, I don’t know what is!