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Entering the Fortress of Solitude

Superman's Fortress of Solitude

at the top of the world

Main | History | Layout | Kandor | Apparatus | Security | Diagrams

Deep in the core of a mountainside in the desolate Arctic wastes lies Superman's Fortress of Solitude, where the Man of Steel conducts incredible experiments, keeps strange trophies, and pursues astounding hobbies!

Carved into the rock face of an ice-covered mountain not far from the North Pole, lies Superman Fortress of Solitude, a secret and solitary home where Superman can relax, perform scientific experiments, and escape, if only temporarily, the demands and distractions of the everyday world.

Here in this secret sanctum, far from civilization, are the fabulous trophy room, housing the hard-won memorabilia of more than a thousand adventures; the workshop and super-laboratory, where Superman labors in search of an antidote to kryptonite and performs other experiments; the gymnasium and recreation facilities, where Superman exercises, relaxes, and indulges in a variety of super-hobbies; the interplanetary zoo, containing live species of wildlife from distant planets; special rooms and memorials in honor of Superman's parents, foster parents, and closest friends; the bottle city of Kandor, a city of the planet Krypton that was reduced to microscopic size and stolen by the space villain Brainiac sometime prior to the death of Krypton; special monitors for communicating with Kandor, the undersea realm of Atlantis, the Phantom Zone, distant planets, and alien dimensions; Superman's Superman-robots and other special equipment; and numerous other rooms, exhibits, weapons, machines, and scientific devices.  Indeed, since the invasion of the Fortress by an outsider could result in the placing of these devices in the hands of evildoers - as well as endanger Superman's secret identity - the exact location of the Fortress remains one of the world's most closely guarded secrets.

In the texts, the Fortress of Solitude is referred to as Superman's "mountain fortress of silence and solitude" (1958), his "super-hideaway," and his "secret Arctic headquarters" (1964).

"Whenever Superman wants to get away from it all", notes Action Comics Number 261, "he retires to his secret sanctuary, the Fortress of Solitude, the most glamorous hideaway in the entire universe!"

In Superman's words,

    This is the one place where I can relax and work undisturbed! No one suspects its existence, and no one can penetrate the solid rock out of which it is hewn!

    Here I can keep the trophies and dangerous souvenirs I've collected from other worlds.  Here I can conduct secret experiments with my super-powers and keep souvenirs of my best friends!"


The Early Years

Superman's Fortress of Solitude is not mentioned in the chronicles, at least not by that name, until May, 1949, but its existence is foreshadowed in a number of earlier texts.

In January 1941 a reference is made to Clark Kent's "laboratory" but the text contains no indications of where it is located.

Superman's secret mountain citadel
In July 1942, Superman completes construction of a huge "mountain retreat" - a gigantic mansion - situated atop a remote mountain-peak - whose ornate facade features a huge Superman emblem patterned after the one emblazoned on his chest.  "An excellent location for the secret citadel I recently built for myself," thinks Superman as he flies towards his retreat, " - but there's still some work to be done before I can consider it completed!"

Streaking into action, Superman swarms over the structure, hands flying like piston rods, until the mansion is completed.  The newly completed citadel features a collection of trophies of Superman's past adventures; a fully equipped gymnasium, where Superman indulges in acrobatics that would cause any gym enthusiast to doubt his eyesight; and a circular running track, around which Superman races at so great a speed there appears to be one continuous body girdling the track!

The sanctuary, built into the side of a huge mountain, can be entered by means of an ordinary doorway, but the Superman emblem above the door, which is on hinges, functions as an emergency doorway, enabling Superman to exit from his mountain hideaway at super-speed.


The Arctic Wastes

In May of 1949, the name "Fortress of Solitude" is employed for the first time in the chronicles and, also for the first time, Superman's sanctuary is depicted as being located in a region of ice and snow, described only as "the polar wastes." Superman explains, "I built it here in the polar wastes because the intense cold keeps away snoopers."

It is not until June 1958, nine years after the name "Fortress of Solitude" first appears in the chronicles, that the texts introduce the sprawling Arctic sanctuary - "situated deep in the core of a mountainside in the desolate Arctic wastes" - on which all subsequent renditions of the Fortress have been based.


The Fortress

Located inside a desolate mountain top in the Arctic, either at the North Pole or near it, the Fortress of Solitude was hollowed out of solid rock cliff by Superman with his bare hands.

For illustrations of the following descriptions, please see the Fortress Diagrams

The Fortress is three stories high and features gigantic, museumlike, high-ceilinged rooms.  The roof - which contains a huge, electronically operated observation dome - and the walls have been insulated, since April 1961, with a thick coating of lead to prevent kryptonite radiation from penetrating the Fortress.

Superman added a special annex to the Fortress for Supergirl in 1962 and has shared the Fortress with her since that time.

Entrance to the Fortress is achieved by means of a massive metal door set into the face of the ice-encrusted rock cliff.  Sheltered from view by jutting rocks, the door is so heavy that no human on Earth could move it an inch.

Opening the door First seen in June 1958 there is, pointing toward the door from atop a nearby peak, a gigantic, golden, arrow-shaped key that fits neatly into a matching keyhole at the center of the massive door.

Although its primary function is to lock and unlock the massive Fortress door, the giant key is disguised as and also serves as an airline guidepost, its luminosity enabling it to serve as a beacon for air traffic even at night.

In February 2006 Superman replaces the giant golden key with a key of conventional size and appearance, but composed of super-dense dwarf star material and weighing half a million tons.

Inside the Fortress of Solitude are the myriad rooms, exhibits, and special facilities that combine to make the Fortress the world's most incredible sanctuary.

When Superman needs exercise worthy of his super-muscles, there are extraordinary facilities of his super-gym, where the Man of Steel can, among other exercises, swim in a private swimming pool filled with molten lava.

For recreation, Superman bowls in the Fortress' giant bowling alley, filled with gigantic, oversized pins, or matches wits in a game of super-chess with a great robot he has built as a playmate for himself.  "This robot possesses a super-electronic brain!" muses Superman in June 1958.  "He can think and play with the speed of lightning, and plans a million moves at once!  It's tough beating him!"  But Superman does beat him, in a game that's played so fast the pieces move in a blur of speed.

Superman also records his latest adventures in his own secret diary, a gigantic book, made of metal, which Superman inscribes with his fingernail while hovering in midair high off the Fortress floor.

"There's no chance my diary will ever be destroyed," muses Superman in June 1958.  "The pages are made of metal and I engrave all my entries with my fingernails!  And there's no danger that anyone will ever read these pages - I write everything in Kryptonese, the language of the planet on which I was born!"

Super Smarts
Elsewhere in the Fortress is the fully equipped super-laboratory wherein the Man of Steel performs ceaseless experiments in search of an antidote to kryptonite, eyeglasses that will enable his X-ray vision to penetrate lead, a safe means of enlarging the city of Kandor, and other discoveries.  To aid him in research, Superman keeps samples of green kryptonite on hand at the Fortress.  Inside a locked safe, he keeps samples of red kryptonite, each wrapped in a protective lead covering and labeled according to the ways in which they have, at one time or another, affected either him, Supergirl, or Krypto the Superdog.

The Fortress of Solitude also boasts an elaborately equipped workshop where Superman keeps his super tool-chest, an oversized chest filled with gigantic versions of ordinary tools, which, in Superman's words, "come in handy for super-jobs!"

Another room in the Fortress serves as the repository for the many plaques, trophies, and other awards that have been bestowed on Superman in the course of his career.  This may be the room where Superman has hung the special "golden certificate" awarded him by the United Nations, empowering him to apprehend criminals in U.N.  member nations and to enter and leave those nations without a passport.  A similar certificate, conferred upon Supergirl by the U.N.  in 1962, hangs on a wall of the Fortress alongside Superman's own.

Among the most colorful areas of the Fortress are the interplanetary zoo, housing a Kryptonian metal-eater and other live extraterrestrial fauna, and the Hall of Interplanetary Monsters, featuring models of fearsome extraterrestrial creatures.

Many of the rooms in the Fortress have been set aside as tributes to Superman's friends and loved ones.

The Lois Lane room is filled with souvenirs and trophies of Superman and Lois' past adventures together, including a lifelike wax statue of Lois, several life-size photographs of Lois and Superman, and a lock of Lois Lane's hair encased in glass.  The room is decorated with rare flowers and around the neck of the statue is an as-yet-incomplete necklace of perfectly matched pearls which Superman intends as a final gift for Lois in the event of his untimely death.

The Jimmy Olsen Room contains, among other trophies and souvenirs, a lifelike wax statue of Jimmy Olsen and a luxurious handmade sports car which Superman is building as a final gift for Jimmy.

The Perry White room contains a detailed scale model of Perry White's one-story suburban home and other mementoes.

The Batman Room, also referred to as the Batman and Robin Room, contains lifelike wax statues of Batman and Robin, as well as statues of their alter egos, Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson; trophies of past cases Superman and Batman worked on together; an array of superscientific criminological apparatus, including a lightning fingerprint classifier, an electronic clue analysis machine, and a crime probability predictor; and an ultra-sophisticated robot detective which Superman is constructing as a final gift for Batman.  "This robot detective should help Batman," muses Superman in 1958, "if ever I can't help him any more!"  Because an outsider who entered this room would learn Batman's and Robin's secret identities, Superman has installed a special protective device designed to destroy his friends' statues instantly - thereby safeguarding their secret identities - in the event an intruder attempts to force his way into the locked room.

The Supergirl Room, which contains a lifelike wax statue of Supergirl and other mementoes, is similarly equipped with a protective device to prevent an unauthorized intruder from learning the secret of her dual identity.

The Jor-El and Lara Room, set aside as a memorial to Superman's parents, contains lifelike wax statues of Jor-El clutching a scientific blueprint and of Lara holding the infant Superman, and a model of the rocket that carried the infant Superman to Earth after Krypton exploded.

Another room in the Fortress, set aside as a memorial to Superman's foster parents, Jonathan and Martha Kent, features a lifelike wax tableau of Superboy and the Kents sharing a meal together in their family home in Smallville.

To help safeguard the secret of his dual identity, Superman has also created a Clark Kent Room, complete with a lifelike wax statue of Clark Kent and other mementoes, modeled after the rooms in the Fortress set aside to honor his closest friends.  Clark is known to be a friend of Superman and if some unexpected earthquake ever opened the Fortress to a stranger, the existence of the Clark Kent Room would help to preserve the secret of Superman's secret identity.

Among the Fortress' secret rooms, however, is a special Superman Room, containing lifelike wax statues of Clark Kent and Superman together with inscriptions revealing Superman's secret identity.  Like the rooms set aside in honor of Supergirl and Batman and Robin, the Superman Room is equipped with a special explosive protective device designed to destroy the statues and their identity-revealing inscriptions in the event an intruder forces his way into the room.

The Krypton Room, set aside in memory of Superman's exploded native planet, contains a scale model of Krypton along with a 3-dimensional tableau of the exact moment that the planet Krypton exploded.  The tableau depicts the destruction of the planet and the escape of the infant Superman in a tiny rocket.

Rooms are not generally set aside to memorialize the exploits of villains, but the Fortress does contain a Brainiac Room.  In it are a lifelike wax statue of Brainiac, a model of his space-time craft, and an array of complex machinery identified as experiments aimed at penetrating Brainiac's force-field.

In November 1962, Superman completes construction of a new Hall of Enemies, filled with colorful wax busts of such infamous villains and villainesses as Mr.  Mxyzptlk, Saturn Queen, Jax-Ur, Brainiac, and Lex Luthor.

Forbidden weapons of crimedom and other unknown, dangerous machines, many of them confiscated by Superman from his most dangerous foes, are also on display in the Fortress.  Among them are a strange apparatus created by Lex Luthor, designed to summon beings from the fourth dimension; the ingenious duplicator ray with which Lex Luthor brought Bizarro into being in July 1959; the enlarging ray employed by the Kandorian renegade scientist Zak-Kul; and the portable raygunlike shrinking ray that Superman once confiscated from Brainiac.

One text refers to a room in the Fortress housing an array of super-inventions, among them a device created by Superman whose vibrations can shatter any known substance to dust.  But it is unclear whether this display consists solely of Superman's own inventions of whether it also includes inventions created by others.

The largest room of the Fortress is probably the gigantic trophy room, where the trophies of Superman's innumerable exciting adventures are on display.


Kandor

Cutaway of the Bottle City of Kandor
The most amazing exhibit of the Fortress is the bottle city of Kandor, a city of the planet Krypton which survived the destruction of its native planet as the result of having been stolen sometime prior to the cataclysm by the space villain Brainiac, who reduced the city to microscopic size and preserved it, people and buildings alive and intact, inside a glass bottle aboard his spacecraft, where it remained for many years until it was finally recovered by Superman.
Views of Kandor

Safeguarding the city of Kandor and its lilliputian population is one of Superman's gravest responsibilities.


Superscientific Apparatus

To aid him in his task of defending Earth and combatting injustice throughout the universe, Superman has equipped his Fortress with a unique array of superscientific apparatus.

Superman's super-univac is beyond any doubt the most advanced computer on Earth.

Elsewhere in the Fortress, a bank of sophisticated world monitor instruments alerts Superman to emergencies and impending emergencies around the world.

To enable him to cope with interplanetary emergencies, Superman has equipped his Fortress with an interplanetary alarm which automatically registers the entrance of any alien invader or space ship into Earth's atmosphere, as well as a wall-mounted space monitor, with which he can communicate with the inhabitants of distant worlds or observe events on distant planets.

A special seismic map pinpoints the exact location of any atomic explosion or other major disturbance.

The Fortress' Atlantis Monitor enables Superman to observe events in the undersea realm of Atlantis and a sophisticated interdimensional monitor enables him to communicate, both visually and orally, with the inhabitants of the fifth dimension and presumably other extradimensional worlds as well.

The Fortress also houses the Kandor-scope and other devices necessary for communicating with the inhabitants of Kandor; the various shrinking rays, exchange rays, and other apparatus which Superman has employed to enable him to enter and leave the tiny city; and the special anti-gravity shoes which any ordinary earthling must wear if he is to walk comfortably in Kandor's alien environment.

In addition, The Fortress houses the zone-ophone and other devices needed for observing events taking place in the Phantom Zone and communicating with its inhabitants; the Phantom Zone projector and other devices needed to project individuals into the Phantom Zone or release them from it; and the complete microfilm gallery of Phantom Zone criminals presented to Superman by Kandorian law-enforcement officials.

To enable Superman to broadcast important messages to the world at a moment's notice, the Fortress is equipped with a sophisticated super-telecaster with which the Man of Steel can black out every television program in the world and broadcast his own announcements over every network simultaneously.  Among other instances, he has used this device to make Supergirl's existence known to the world.

Other important apparatus housed in the Fortress includes a super-telescope; a time-space viewer which picks up light and sound waves from the past and thus enables one to view selected historical events; a psycho-locator built by the scientists of Kandor, which, through the electronic analysis and long-distance sensing of brain-wave patterns, can locate a selected individual anywhere in space and time; a spherical, transparent time-capsule for travelling through space and time; and a special ray-device capable of endowing an ordinary individual with super-powers for a period of twenty-four hours.

super shower Many of Superman's Super Robots - and the special lead armor which Superman often wears when dealing with kryptonite - are also kept at the Fortress of Solitude.

The Fortress is also equipped with various facilities with which Superman can clean the stains off his indestructible costume.  He can take a dip, fully clothed, in his lava-filled swimming pool; take a shower beneath the white-hot flame of a special super-blowtorch; or burn away the dirt and grime with an ordinary acetylene torch.

Visitors to the Fortress, unless they possess super-powers of their own, are taken wrapped in Superman's weather-proof, indestructible cape to protect them against freezing to death in the sub-zero Arctic cold as well as against the potentially fatal friction caused by Superman's flight.


Security

Because it would be calamitous if villains were to succeed in penetrating the Fortress, a network of alarms and security devices has been installed to safeguard Superman's sanctuary against intruders. Booby traps of an unspecified nature have been installed inside the lock of the massive front door, and an electric-eye beam, crossing the door in front of the door's gigantic keyhole inside the Fortress, sets off a super-sonic alarm audible to Superman at any distance.  In the 1970s a hidden mirage projector was installed to disguise the Fortress' entranceway completely, creating the illusion of an ice-covered rock cliff where, in actuality, the massive front door and relocated giant key are situated.

In addition, the Fortress is guarded in Superman's absence by the Superman Emergency Squad, and explosive protective devices, installed in the Fortress' secret rooms, will destroy any evidence of Superman's secret identity, or those of his various super-friends, in the event an intruder attempts to force open their doors without knowing the secret combinations of the doors' locks.

Although the walls of the Fortress have been insulated with a thick coating of lead to prevent kryptonite radiation from penetrating the Fortress, Superman has installed both a kryptonite detector and a red kryptonite detector to detect the presence of unwanted kryptonite inside the Fortress.

A special super-fumigation system, mounted in the Fortress walls, releases jets of antibiotic gases into the air to ensure that no extraterrestrial microbes - carried unwittingly into the Fortress by Superman or by any new additions to his interplanetary zoo - will escape the Fortress to unleash a deadly epidemic on Earth.


Other Fortresses


According to Action Comics number 261, Superman first established secret Fortresses in outer space and at the center of the Earth before settling on an Arctic location.  This assertion is unsupported by other texts.

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.


Diagrams of the Fortress



Text on this page taken from The Great Superman Book © 1978 by Michael L. Fleisher.
Superman TM & © DC Comics

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