Fortress of Solitude

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This article is about the Superman comic. For Jonathan Lethem's 2003 book, see The Fortress of Solitude (novel).
Fortress of Solitude
Superman187.JPG
The Silver Age Fortress of Solitude, from Superman #187 (June 1966). Art by Curt Swan and George Klein.
Publication information
Publisher DC Comics
First appearance Action Comics #241 (June 1958)
In story information
Type Base of operations

The Fortress of Solitude is the place of solace and occasional headquarters for Superman in DC Comics.[1] Its predecessor, Superman's "Secret Citadel", first appeared in Superman #17, where it was said to be built into a mountain on the outskirts of Metropolis. By issue #58 (May–June 1949) it is referred to as the Fortress of Solitude, seems at a glance to be a freestanding castle, and is said to be located in a "polar waste." However, when the Fortress finally reappears in 1958 and for the first time takes center stage in a story ("The Super-Key to Fort Superman", Action Comics #241), it was once again an underground complex in a mountainous cliffside.

Traditionally, this Fortress of Solitude is located in the Arctic,[1] though more recent versions of the Superman comics have placed the Fortress in other locations, including the Antarctic, the Andes, and the Amazon rainforest. The general public in Superman's world is either unaware or at best only vaguely aware of the existence of the Fortress, with its location kept secret from all but Superman's closest friends and allies (such as Lois Lane and Batman). A trademark of the Fortress is that it contains a memorial statue of Jor-El and Lara, Superman's Kryptonian parents, holding a large globe of Krypton. Although Superman has living quarters at the Fortress, his main residence is still Clark Kent's apartment in Metropolis. The arctic Fortress of Solitude concept was first created for pulp hero Doc Savage during the 1930s.

Original version[edit]

The concept and name "Fortress of Solitude" first appeared in the Doc Savage pulps in the 1930s and 1940s. Doc Savage built his Fortress of Solitude in the Arctic and retreated to it alone in order to make new scientific or medical breakthroughs, and to store dangerous technology and other secrets. Superman's original Silver Age Fortress, as it appeared in 1958, was also located in the Arctic and served similar purposes. Built into the side of a steep cliff, the Fortress was accessible through a large gold-colored door with a giant keyhole, which required an enormous key to open it. The arrow-shaped key was so large that only Superman (or another Kryptonian such as Supergirl) could lift it; when not in use, the key sat on a perch outside of the Fortress, where it appeared to be an aircraft path marker. This was until a helicopter pilot followed the direction of the arrow straight to the entrance of the Fortress, forcing Superman to develop a cloak to camouflage the entrance and key (which now hung on brackets on its side beside the door) and to ensure the Fortress's secrecy.

The Fortress contained an alien zoo, a giant steel diary in which Superman wrote his memoirs (using either his invulnerable finger, twin hand touch pads that record thoughts instantly, or heat vision to engrave entries into its pages), a chess-playing robot, specialized exercise equipment, a laboratory where Superman worked on various projects such as developing defenses to Kryptonite, a (room-sized) computer, communications equipment, and rooms dedicated to all of his friends, including one for Clark Kent to fool visitors. As the stories continued, it was revealed that the Fortress was where Superman's robot duplicates were stored. It also contained the Phantom Zone projector, various pieces of alien technology he had acquired on visits to other worlds, and, much like the Batcave, trophies of his past adventures.[1] Indeed, the Batcave and Batman himself made an appearance in the first Fortress story. The Fortress also became the home of the bottle city of Kandor (until it was enlarged), and an apartment in the Fortress was set aside for Supergirl.

A detailed depiction of the Fortress and its contents forms the background to DC Special Series #26 (1981); Superman and his Incredible Fortress of Solitude, in which Superman minutely inspects the Fortress, suspecting an enemy has planted an Earth-destroying bomb within it. Another noteworthy appearance of this version of the Fortress was in 1985's Superman Annual #11, a story by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons titled For the Man Who Has Everything, in which it served as a battleground for Superman, Batman, Robin, and Wonder Woman against the alien would-be overlord Mongul. This story was adapted to animation in Justice League Unlimited.

In addition to Mongul, the Fortress has been independently broken into at various times by villains Lex Luthor and Brainiac (comic appearing in Action Comics #583 and Superman #423) and the Atomic Skull, among others. According to Action Comics #261, Superman first established secret Fortresses in outer space and at the center of the Earth before settling on an Arctic location.[1]

Additionally, Superman established an undersea Fortress of Solitude - hollowed out of the side of an undersea cliff - in September 1958. The undersea Fortress, which is reportedly located at the bottom of the Sargasso Sea at 28 degrees North latitude, 50 degrees West longitude, is stocked with numerous exotic ocean relics and is equipped with sophisticated monitoring apparatus to enable Superman to keep abreast of events occurring throughout the seven seas. Superman later abandoned the undersea Fortress and the structure is now used by the mer-people of Atlantis as a showplace and a tourist attraction.

This version of the Fortress made its last appearance in the 1986 non-canonical (or "imaginary") story "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?".

Post-Crisis versions[edit]

In John Byrne's 1986 Man of Steel miniseries, which re-wrote various aspects of the Superman mythos, the Clark Kent persona was described as a "Fortress of Solitude", in that it allowed him to live as the ordinary person he saw himself as and leave the world-famous super-hero behind. This concept was often invoked in later stories, with one story even featuring Superman hiding his secret identity from a telepath behind a door identical to that of the pre-Crisis Fortress. By that time, however, a more physical Fortress had been reintroduced.

In Action Comics Annual #2 (1989), Superman, on a self-imposed exile to space, was entrusted with a Kryptonian artifact called the Eradicator, created by his ancestor Kem-El. Dedicated to preserving Krypton, this device built a new Fortress in the Antarctic as a precursor to recreating Krypton on Earth. Superman broke the Eradicator's control, but maintained the Fortress as a useful location for emergencies. The first appearance of this new post-Crisis version of the Fortress was in Adventures of Superman #461 (Dec. 1989).

It contained many artifacts from the post-Crisis version of Krypton, most notably a number of robot servitors (one of whom, Kelex, became a trusted confidant) and a battlesuit from the Third Age of Krypton.

This Fortress was cast into the Phantom Zone as a result of a battle between Superman, Lex Luthor, and Dominus, a villain who played with Superman's mind and who was also trapped in the Phantom Zone. It did, however, serve as the template for the next Fortress, built by Steel, which was an extradimensional space accessed through a vast puzzle-globe. The now-mobile Fortress was relocated somewhere in the Andes.

In the DC One Million series (1998), Superman's Fortress of Solitude in the 853rd Century resides within a tesseract located at the center of Earth's sun. By this time, Superman has lived in self-imposed exile within the Fortress for over 15,000 years.

During the "For Tomorrow" story arc in 2004-2005 Superman comics, Wonder Woman breached the Fortress in an attempt to confront Superman, causing the Fortress to self-destruct. Superman subsequently established a new Fortress in an ancient temple on a remote village in the Cordillera Del Condor Mountains, on the border of Ecuador and Peru. This version of the Fortress is visually similar to the earliest "Secret Citadel" from Superman #17.

The final version of the post-Crisis Fortress was home to Krypto and his dog-sitter Ned (the last remaining Superman robot), and contained a version of Kandor, a portal to the Phantom Zone, Kryptonian and alien artifacts, and holographic images of Jor-El and Lara.[1] The caretaker of the Fortress was Kelex, a Kryptonian robot that was a descendant of the Kelex robot that served Jor-El.

Infinite Crisis[edit]

Main article: Infinite Crisis

In the 2006 limited series Infinite Crisis, several survivors of the pre-Crisis multiverse - the Earth-Two Superman, Lois Lane of Earth-Two, the Earth-Prime Superboy, and Earth-Three's Alexander Luthor, Jr. - set up a base in the ruins of the Antarctic Fortress following their escape from the "paradise dimension" they had been trapped in since the end of Crisis on Infinite Earths. It was then revealed from Power Girl's repressed memories from her life on Earth-Two that her cousin Kal-L had his own version of the Fortress of Solitude similar to his Earth-One counterpart's Fortress.

"One Year Later"[edit]

In the 2006 story arc "Up, Up, and Away!", Superman recovered a piece of Kryptonian sunstone, which Lex Luthor had used to awaken an ancient Kryptonian warship. Superman learned that the sunstone had been sent with him from Krypton, and used it to construct a new Fortress in the Arctic in exactly the same manner as in the 1978 Superman film. He nevertheless plans to restore the Peruvian Fortress, even if compromised and no longer in a secret location, and plans more Fortresses around the world.[2] This version of the Fortress physically resembles the movie and television depictions, and Superman communicates with Jor-El via crystal constructs as in the Superman film and Smallville.[3]

The New 52[edit]

In The New 52, the Fortress of Solitude is first seen floating in space. It is later revealed to be the orbiting ship of Braniac which Superman had taken over after he physically reprogrammed the Collector of Worlds. This fortress is reported destroyed in the five years between the current Action Comics arc, and the New 52 present day,[4] with the current fortress once more in the Arctic.[5] In the New 52, Supergirl also has her own fortress, known as Sanctuary, and located in the depths of the ocean. This fortress first appears in Supergirl #12 with its purpose explained in Supergirl #13. In Action Comics #15, Superman is revealed to have a fortress which he refers to as his "Yucatan base", a reference to his fortress in the Amazon rainforest in previous continuity.

Other versions[edit]

All-Star Superman[edit]

In the out-of-continuity series All-Star Superman, the Fortress is once again located in the Arctic. Superman has replaced the giant key with a normal-sized key which is made from super-dense dwarf star material and weighs half a million tons, restricting its use to those with immense superhuman strength. It has a team of robots working on various projects. The Fortress itself contains the Titanic, the space shuttle Columbia, and a baby Sun-Eater, as well as larger-than-life memorabilia, similar to the objects found in the Batcave. It has various scientific facilities as well, including a time telescope that can receive brief cryptic messages with reception of limited quality from the future.[6]

Earth One[edit]

In Superman: Earth One graphic novel series, the Fortress of Solitude was built by Superman's Krytonian ship's AI, using the Arctic's cave system.

Other media[edit]

Superman film series[edit]

From Superman Returns (2006).

In Superman and its sequels (except for Superman III, in which it did not appear), the Fortress is created by a crystal that Jor-El enclosed in Kal-El's spaceship. The crystal leads teenage Clark Kent to an ice field where, after he throws it down, it melts into the ice and grows into a huge crystalline building, similar to the crystalline architecture shown on Krypton at the beginning of the film. This Fortress contains numerous "memory crystals" that can be used to access Jor-El's artificial intelligence and hologram, interactive holographic recordings of Lara, and other Kryptonians, and a chamber that uses red sun radiation to strip Kryptonians of their super powers.

In Richard Donner's cut of Superman II, the Fortress is destroyed by Superman as its existence was revealed to Lex Luthor and his henchwoman, Eve Teschmacher. However, Superman then turns back time (à la Superman I), so technically the Fortress is completely undamaged, while Zod, Ursa and Non are returned to the Phantom Zone.

In Superman Returns, the Fortress follows the same formula as the earlier movies, but goes into more detail about the crystal origins of the Fortress and Kryptonian architecture. Lex Luthor attempts to use memory crystals he stole from it to create a new continent. An observation is made (following Superman II) that he acts as though he has been there before. The crystals that power the Fortress were lost when Lex Luthor's assistant dropped them out the escaping helicopter into the ocean below. It is unknown if Superman retrieved the crystals from the ocean floor after throwing the continent of "New Krypton" into space. The tie-in book, Superman Returns: The Visual Guide lists the Fortress as sitting on "Fletcher's Abyssal Plane".

The Fortress of Solitude appears in the reboot Man of Steel where it is reimagined as a scout ship piloted by Kara Zor-El. The ship crash-landed in the Arctic thousands of years ago and is discovered by Clark Kent whilst travelling in North America, where it (through a command-key activating a hologram AI of Jor-El) reveals Clark's origins and also contains his Superman costume. The ship is reprogrammed by Zod who erases the Jor-El program and plans to use the ship to rebuild Krypton on Earth, but is stopped by Superman's heat vision, and crashes into Metropolis.

Computer and video games[edit]

In the video game The Death and Return of Superman for SNES, the Fortress of Solitude is shown in one of the cutscenes.

In Superman Returns: The Videogame, it was thought that the Fortress would be accessible[citation needed]. However, it is only shown in one cutscene. The only locations accessible in the game are Metropolis, and a small part of Warworld. The Fortress in the game is the Options menu.

The Fortress of Solitude is also a location in Mortal Kombat vs. DC. Its appearance is based on the Donner-Singer films, but with some added visuals, including ice statues of Jor El and Lara holding up Krypton, and a Jor El image behind a crystal. This same fortress design is shown in the DC Universe Online MMORPG, and is used by Batman and Lex Luthor as a last bastion against the forces of Braniac. A similar design was used in Injustice: Gods Among Us.

Television[edit]

Animation[edit]

Super Friends[edit]

The Fortress has several appearances in the Super Friends animated series. The Superfriends version of the Fortress of Solitude is said to be located "in a deserted region of the frozen Arctic". In the episode "Terror at 20,000 Fathoms", Superman gives Aquaman, the Wonder Twins and Gleek a guided tour of the Fortress showing off many structures such as the Bottle City of Kandor. In a 1980 episode titled "Journey into Blackness", which said the Fortress of Solitude was located "in a frozen and desolate area of the North Pole", Superman spots a Black Hole headed towards Earth using a telescope in the Fortress. In a 1980 episode titled "Revenge of Bizarro", Superman goes his Fortress of Solituide to stop Bizarro and return the Bizarro Super Friends back to normal with an Anti-Bizarro ray. A 1981 episode titled "Evil From Krypton" depicted the Fortress with a somewhat crystalline exterior and without the giant key, reminiscent of its film appearances. In a 1986 episode titled "The Death of Superman", the Fortress more closely resembles the pre-Crisis comic-book version, including a giant yellow key whose use required the combined efforts of Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and Cyborg.

DC animated universe[edit]

Superman: The Animated Series and Justice League Unlimited present a slightly altered version, with the Fortress located in the ocean underneath the Arctic tundra; access was gained by diving into the Arctic water and emerging in an opening inside the Fortress. This version contained an alien zoo housing alien life-forms saved from The Preserver's ship and some computer equipment, along with a Brainiac information sphere stolen from his hijacked spacecraft just before it was destroyed, which is used by Superman to access information about Krypton. The fortress also contains massive sculptures of Superman's biological parents, Jor-El and Lara, serving as monuments to Krypton.

The Fortress of Solitude is also a major setting for the Justice League Unlimited episode "For the Man Who Has Everything". A fight with the warlord Mongul took place there, after he delivered a parasite capable of hypnosis to Superman and was detected by Batman and Wonder Woman. In this version, the name "Fortress of Solitude" was given by Professor Emil Hamilton in a sarcastically humorous remark while he visited the Fortress in one episode.

In the future of Batman Beyond, a Starro from the Fortress' intergalactic zoo is revealed to have latched on to Superman years prior and subtly controlled his actions since then, including allowing an entire population of the creatures to breed in one of the aquatic chambers. The Justice League of the future travels to the Fortress where they are themselves taken over by Starros, until Batman is able to free Superman and the rest of the League from their control. The League then sends the Starro population through a boom tube back to the world where the original Starro came from.

Legion of Super Heroes[edit]

The Fortress also appears in the Legion of Super Heroes animated series. It appears in the episode called "Message in a Bottle". In that episode, the Legion chase Imperiex to the Fortress, where he shrinks himself to enter Kandor, to steal highly advanced ancient Kryptonian technology invented by Jor-El.

Young Justice[edit]

In the Young Justice episode "Failsafe," the Fortress of Solitude appears on Robin's satellite imagery as a location that was being investigated by alien invaders.

Live-action television[edit]

Lois & Clark[edit]

On Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, the "Fortress" was conspicuously absent, presumably because the series' aim was to explore the idea of Clark Kent being the true identity and Superman merely being the disguise (therefore, the character would have no use for an otherworldly fortress). In the earlier issues of the John Byrne revamp of Superman, the Fortress was also absent so the show was probably following suit.

In the tradition of this approach, the Fortress of Solitude was the name of Clark Kent's childhood treehouse in Season 1 Episode 16 "The Foundling".

Smallville[edit]

In Smallville, Jonathan Kent once referred to the loft space in the Kent farm's barn as the "Fortress of Solitude" since it was the place where the teenage Clark Kent usually preferred to be alone.

The fifth season premiere episode, Arrival, introduces a Fortress of Solitude that is almost identical, both in appearance and construction by self-replicating crystals, to that depicted in the original Superman movies. During the episode, Clark carries an injured Chloe Sullivan from the Fortress to a hospital in the Yukon, suggesting this is one of the nearest inhabited/medically proficient locations to the structure.

An Artificial Intelligence built into the Fortress by Clark's biological father, Jor-El, would provide Clark with various 'Trials' throughout the series to help steer him toward his destiny as a symbol of hope for humanity. The Jor-El A.I. was for the most part, omniscient, with the ability to send characters through time, open portals to alternate dimensions, and remove, restore and also transfer Clark's powers to other characters, seemingly at will.

In later seasons, the Fortress is exposed as being vulnerable to other Kryptonian technology - namely Brainiac, and the Orb of Kandor. Lex Luthor would later use the Orb to revert the Fortress back into its original, handheld crystal form after becoming obsessed with Kryptonian conspiracy theories, and mistaking the structure for an alien invasion base. Lex also uses the orb to locate the fortress. The orb levitates and constructs a 3D globe of the world and isolates a circular section of Greenland.

When the crystal was later recovered by Lex's sister, Tess Mercer, as she searched for the now deceased Lex in Northern Greenland, Clark successfully rebuilt the Fortress to resume his training with Jor-El. During the series' tenth and final season, the Fortress became home to a Martha Kent-crafted, classic Superman costume, which Clark would go on to (appear to) don in the final episode. Rather than being specifically made for the production, the costume was originally designed and created for Brandon Routh to wear in Superman Returns.

The Fortress is also referred to as Jor-El's 'Fortress of Knowledge' by his assistant Raya.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Jimenez, Phil (2008). "The Fortress of Solitude". In Dougall, Alastair. The DC Comics Encyclopedia. New York: Dorling Kindersley. p. 133. ISBN 0-7566-4119-5. OCLC 213309017. 
  2. ^ Johns, Geoff, Kurt Busiek (w), Woods, Pete (a). "Up, Up, and Away! Finale: The Adventures of Superman" Action Comics 840 (August 2006), New York: DC Comics
  3. ^ Johns, Geoff; Donner, Richard (w), Jiminez, Phil, Andy Lanning (a). "Secrets of the Fortress of Solitude" Action Comics Annual 10: 22–23 (March 2007), New York: DC Comics
  4. ^ supergirl #12
  5. ^ Action Comics #14
  6. ^ Morrison, Grant. All-Star Superman #2 (Feb 2006), DC Comics

External links[edit]