The Real-Life Superhero Behind Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co.

Ellen Lindner, store manager of Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co., stands in her Gowanus-based studio where she illustrates graphic novels and knitting magazines.
Ellen Lindner, store manager of Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co., stands in her Gowanus-based studio where she illustrates graphic novels and knitting magazines.

Saturdays are the busiest days at Brooklyn Superhero Supply Company, according to store manager Ellen Lindner, who has arrived at the storefront after a train delay. 

Lindner cleans windows in preparation of opening the store.
Lindner cleans windows in preparation of opening the store.

She moves with superhuman speed through the chores that need to be done before she can open up shop.

Mopping, restocking, and feeding the pet fish happen in a whirl of activity while curious passerby peer through the windows.

Inside the store is all the paraphernalia a superhero could ever need, much of it handmade by Ellen and her volunteers.

Out of all the glamorous chores, feeding the organization's fish is her favorite, according to Lindner.
Out of all the glamorous chores, feeding the organization’s fish is her favorite, according to Lindner.

An obvious question about what’s actually in the cans of “Immortality” is met with a deadpan response from Lindner: immortality, of course.

The store's stock includes cans of superpowers, dark matter and immortality.
The store’s stock includes cans of superpowers, dark matter and immortality.

“If you can’t tell people that there’s chutzpah in the cans of ‘chutzpah’ with a straight face, you might have a hard time working here,” she says.

Like all superheroes, BSSCo has a secret identity.

The shop is part of 826NY, a nonprofit tutoring organization founded in 2004 by author Dave Eggers. Proceeds from ray guns and secret identity kits sold here go to fund writing workshops for students 6-18.

This particular Saturday is a good day at the store. Lindner has organized a book sale, and the stock of Nine Novels by Younger Americans is flying off the shelves. As she celebrates in her office, a volunteer runs down to tell her that someone has come in to donate money— music to a nonprofit’s ears. 

BSSCo. collects and publishes the work of students and young authors who attend their workshops.
BSSCo. collects and publishes the work of students and young authors who attend their workshops.

The donors present Lindner with a check for $1150, and ask sheepishly if they can take photos trying on capes. The staff enthusiastically ushers them to the Capery.

The neighborhood around the store is still stalwart Brooklyn, but rapidly giving way to scores of gentrifying young people, says Lindner. With them also arrives sky-high rent, which shutters neighborhood classics in favor of Whole Foods chains.

BSSCo’s kryptonite might just be landlords who’d like to turn a higher profit.

The classroom area in the back of 826NY where students will start attending creative and expository writing workshops in the fall.
The classroom area in the back of 826NY where students will start attending creative and expository writing workshops in the fall.

It’s lunchtime and Lindner has decided to repatriate a dying plant from the store to her studio.

A native New Yorker, Lindner runs through an opened fire hydrant at an imptomptu Brooklyn block party.
A native New Yorker, Lindner runs through an opened fire hydrant at an impromptu Brooklyn block party.

She takes an artist’s pride in the streets of Brooklyn as she walks, even showing off the Gowanus Canal as a native oddity, if not a great beauty. Her studio, with its high ceilings and industrial feel, is around the corner.

“It’s so important to have a creative space if you’re an artist in New York,” she says as she turns the key. “Otherwise I’d go from work to subway to home and get nothing done.”

Lindner holds the door open at her studio. The plant in her hands has been relocated from the store to this sunnier space.
Lindner holds the door open at her studio. The plant in her hands has been relocated from the store to this sunnier space.

She also admits that sharing a space with other busy artists motivates her to keep up with their productive pace. 

At her studio, Lindner alternates between illustrating her graphic novels, working on freelance projects and spending time with the other artists.
At her studio, Lindner alternates between illustrating her graphic novels, working on freelance projects and spending time with the other artists.

Lindner is no slouch herself, with a graphic novel coming out this fall, and a portfolio of work inspired by her experiences living abroad. 

Lindner focuses on her knitting project on her laptop.
Lindner focuses on her knitting project on her laptop.
Although she prefers classic pen and pencil for her graphic novels, Lindner turns to digital art to illustrate a more technical drawing for a knitting magazine.
Although she prefers classic pen and pencil for her graphic novels, Lindner turns to digital art to illustrate a more technical drawing for a knitting magazine.

Her heroines are smart and compelling— not unlike the woman who penned them and whose day job might be the envy of every young superhero who walks through the doors of BSSCo.

Lindner wraps up at her studio, balancing her creative endeavors with a hectic day at the shop.
Lindner wraps up at her studio, balancing her creative endeavors with a hectic day at the shop.


 

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