What is the Fortress of Solitude?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

The Fortress of Solitude is often thought of as the province of comic book superhero, Superman. Yet the term originates with the pulp fiction hero, Doc Savage, who had a scientific research station in the Arctic that was so named. Initially in the early comic book renderings of Superman, Superman had a fortress called the Secret Citadel. The Fortress of Solitude doesn’t appear until the 1950s, possibly 20 years after the original Superman comics appear.

Woman standing behind a stack of books
Woman standing behind a stack of books

The early Fortress of Solitude was located in the Arctic, and contained a statue of Jor-El and Lara, Superman’s father and mother. Few knew of its existence, and fewer still could gain access. Only those from Kryptonite possessed the strength to lift the huge key that would open the fortress. The early comics that feature the fortress offer numerous “areas,” which are now all but forgotten, especially in TV and film stories about the superhero. It had a number of different areas, which included an alien zoo and sleeping quarters for Superman. Some comics have added on to the fortress, adding exercise equipment, computers, research facilities, and a collection of alien artifacts and technology.

Like the Bat Cave built by Batman, the Fortress of Solitude was a refuge for Superman, a way to work out problems, and sometimes a battleground. Superman purists may object to the Fortress being used as an area where Superman fights with anyone, since this is his inner sanctum. In fact, the film Superman II cut a scene where Superman destroys the fortress after the location becomes known to Lex Luthor.

There are various accounts through the years as to where the fortress is located and how it was created. Film and television accounts often lean on the idea that Superman possessed a crystal that was thrown into the ice, causing the fortress to appear. These representations take the stance that the Fortress of Solitude was essentially a training ground for Superman, and a way for him to learn about his true origins. One very funny interpretation of the fortress occurs in the short-lived television series Lois and Clark. In one episode, it is revealed that Clark Kent called his treehouse the Fortress of Solitude.

Though commonly located in the Arctic, various representations of Superman in cartoons, comic books, television and film may place the fortress anywhere. It can be in the Antarctic instead, or hidden in rainforest jungles. Sometimes it is camouflaged so it cannot be seen by anyone else. The most common location, the Arctic, often creates the fortress as a world of glass and ice, certainly not making it terrifically comfortable or what we might consider an ergonomically inspired workspace.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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