Last week’s Superman discussion got me thinking about the Fortress of Solitude, second only to the Batcave as the best known and most important superhero HQ in comics. Superman’s Fortress has been a part of the Superman mythology almost from the start, having been first introduced over 70 years ago, in the pages of SUPERMAN #17 (July-August 1942), in “Muscles for Sale,” by writer Jerry Siegel and artist John Sikela.
Here the Fortress is referred to as Superman’s Secret Citadel, and it’s suggested that he’s still in the process of building it, although he has already gone to the trouble of carving his emblem above the door:
One of the first things we see that Superman has set up is his Trophy Room, which is modest compared to the wonders we would one day see in the Fortress:
Also unique to this early version of the Fortress is Superman’s gymnasium; in the decades to come, it’s never much suggested that Superman spends much time working out.
By 1958, the Fortress had evolved to the more familiar version that readers would grow accustomed to, as seen in “The Super-Key to Fort Superman” in ACTION COMICS #241, by writer Jerry Coleman and artist Wayne Boring. By this point the notion of the enormous key that Superman could lift was fully in place:
We also begin to see Superman indulge his sentimental side, with special “tribute rooms” created for his best friends: Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen and Batman:
Superman also devotes time to his scientific pursuits in the Fortress now, such as doing some Kryptonite research with the help of a suit of lead armor (note the camera hookup that allows him to see out, since his x-ray vision can’t penetrate lead):
Also in the Fortress is Superman’s interplanetary zoo, which seems a little cruel from today’s perspective, but hey – it was the fifties:
And then there’s Superman’s colossal diary, made of metal and engraved with Superman’s super-tough fingernails (and in Kryptonese so no one but he can read it):
By the 1980s, Superman’s Fortress of Solitude had grown to even grander proportions, as was explored in much detail in DC SPECIAL SERIES #26, a giant-size special focused on Superman’s Fortress and all the secrets that lay within, as written by Roy Thomas and illustrated by Ross Andru and Romeo Tanghal. Here we saw. For example, Superman’s Super-Weapons room, where he held all the secret weapons he’d confiscated from villains over the years:
I’ve also always liked the notion of Superman creating the colossal statues of his Kryptonian parents. A superman should be super-sentimental:
The Trophy Room only got bigger and more impressive over the years, too. I always liked the hanging ocean liner.
The Bottle City of Kandor was another longtime staple of the Fortress, a shrunken miniature Kryptonian city that Superman would visit from time to time for a little taste of his home planet.
On very rare occasions, you even get a glimpse of Superman’s living room:
Cinematic versions of the Fortress have sometimes taken a different approach, such as Richard Donner’s crystalline concept in his 1978 SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE, which looked colder and more alien, but had a striking, impressive look all its own.
SUPERMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES slowly built the Fortress over the course of its run, adding such staples as the Phantom Zone projector and the alien zoo bit by bit, but the best look at the Fortress as its most commonly thought of came in JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED, in “For the Man Who Has Everything,” in which all the most well-known facets of the Fortress are seen and utilized as Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman battle the alien warlord Mongul through its halls and chambers.
Will we see the Fortress return in MAN OF STEEL? Time will tell…