ELKHART – In celebration of the 60th anniversary of three of Marvel’s top heroes, and the Hall of Heroes Superhero Museum’s 15th year, Bill and Linda Reinhold joined guests at the Hall of Heroes, 1915 Cassopolis Street, Elkhart Saturday.
The museum began as less than a pipe dream for Elkhart County realtor Allen Stewart, a lifelong fan of comic books and the superhero stories that reside within them.
“Believe it or not, I spend more time on this than I do on my real estate business,” he said. “This is definitely my passion.”
The Hall of Heroes began when Stewart created a two-story replica of the Hall of Justice in his backyard 15 years ago.
“Everyone thought I was totally nuts,” he recalled.
Still, he welcomed others to join in his passion. Three years later, Stan Lee came out with Adrianne Curry to film an episode of “Super Fans” and the event catapulted the museum into what it has become.
“We’ve now been on maybe a dozen national television shows,” he said. “There’s been celebrities and you know, you start getting vehicles from Marvel films and shows, and it’s become way crazier than I ever imagined it was going to be 15 years ago. I just built that to house the collection and share it. I just wanted to share it with people and it became so much bigger. ”
Even 15 years ago, Stewart’s backyard collection was the largest collection of superhero comic books in the world, and today original artwork and Hollywood memorabilia stored at the nonprofit have more than doubled.
“The focus has shifted,” he explained. “People love that higher-end stuff.”
Stewart doesn’t neglect his comic book fan roots, though. This year marks the 60th anniversary of Spider, Hulk and Thor, which came out in comics in 1962. At the Hall of Heroes Marvel Day Saturday, hundreds came, many in costume to exhibit their passion for the universe.
The Reinholds, who are veterans of the Hall of Heroes Comic Con, joined in the dual celebration Saturday. They recounted their memories in the comic book industry.
“I kind of fell into it by accident way back in 1972,” Linda said. “I was in New York and had been doing advertising, but I started working at Estee Lauder at a nice department store and I just hated it, and I really wanted to get back into some kind of art.”
She pulled all her resources to find a job that would change the course of her life. She landed an interview with Stan Lee.
“I go into the building and into the elevator when this lovely young woman comes in behind me and says, ‘Where am I go?’ and I told her what floor, and she says, ‘Oh! I’m going there, too! ‘ She hooks arms with me and she says to no one in particular, ‘Can’t’ we get this poor girl a job? ‘”
The woman, she later found out, was none other than Joan Lee, Stan Lee’s daughter. People rushed over, saw her portfolio, and hired her on the spot, rushing her into the production office.
“They were short on staff at the time because it was summer and a lot of people were on vacation,” she explained.
At just 24 years old, her career in comic books had begun. At Marvel Comics, she became a colorist for Amazing Spider-man, Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Man-Thing, and many other titles.
Just a few years later, she and her ex-partner would Barry Windsor-Smith go to form the Gorblimey Press. They made prints for 10 years before breaking up and Linda moved back home to her parent’s house.
“I applied for a job and I went home with 28 pages of Bill Reinhold artwork under my arm, and kind of brushed up on lettering and I lettered for our first job together,” she said.
She became Bill’s colorist long before they were ever romantically involved, almost two years sooner.
“He says I just had to make it through a couple of boyfriends,” she said
They married in 1987 and had two children, one who is a musician and another who is a graphic designer.
“The gene runs in the family,” Linda said.
At First Comics with her husband, Linda would color for American Flagg, Grimjack, The Badger, Corum, and more before eventually returning to Marvel with her husband to color for The Punisher, Barbie, and the Silver Surfer.
“It’s funny, Bill is the kind of guy who likes things the way he likes them,” she said. “From the get-go, he was calling me 2, 3, 4 times a day to suggest colors for certain pages… But the whole time I was with Marvel and worked with other people, it was very helpful for me to interact with the creative team. Sometimes the writing will indicate the kind of colors to use or the mood. Colors can really move a story along so it can make it bad. I’ve seen poor coloring destroy good artwork over the years. It was important for me to know what the creative team were thinking. It made my job a lot easier. ”
“It’s fantastic, being in a relationship like we have, doing work that gets published together, being able to work together and talking about the work, giving each other critiques,” Bill said.
Bill started drawing professionally in 1981 but he was an artist long before that.
“As a kid, I liked to draw a lot,” he said. ‘In eighth grade, I was trying to draw comic book stories on notebook paper. I drew a guy called Rocketman that we made up… I met these two artists that were drawing their own stories, and I never imagined trying to draw comic book panels and the story yourself. I’d just do single figures or whatever. That really got me interested in the story-telling side of it. It’s one thing to do just do drawings of characters but it’s another thing to have to tell a story with that. “
After he graduated, he stopped drawing and became a drummer before eventually going back to art and to the American Academy of Art in Chicago to learn commercial illustration.
He worked for Noble Comics and First Comics, and eventually began drawing The Punisher for Marvel in 1987.
“I love story-telling,” he said. “That’s the main thing about comic books, not just the drawings.”