Celebrating 50 YEARS of Superman's
Fortress of Solitude
As you've seen over the past several days, the Fortress of Solitude is a pretty amazing place. With its immense scale and unique exhibits, Superman's arctic hideaway exemplifies all the greatness and nobility of comics' original superhero.
Er....except for the Friendship Exhibit wing, which reveals some astonishingly bizarre and disturbing aspects of the Man of Steel...or in this case: The Stalker of Steel!
Sure, much of the strangeness of the Friendship Exhibit panels can be attributed to the slam-bang pacing of 50's and 60's comic books, where any attempt at poignancy or emotional shading was usually steamrolled by the frantic 8-page story format. So, instead of providing deep insight into the hero's human friendships, the "emotional shorthand" of that era's comics made Superman's Friendship Exhibits come across as a little nutty or (at times) deeply insane.
Case in point: Not only did Superman make wax statues of his costumed friends (Batman and Robin) and family (Supergirl), but he also stuck statues of their secret identities right next to them...complete with handy labels (a common compulsion of the Silver Age Superman Family).
Why would Superman, whose powers included a perfect memory, need a physical reminder of what his friends looked like and what their real names were? Even if you allow for the occasional memory gap, ever hear of "photo albums"? Also...think about it: a secret fort filled with a small army of mannequins that look like your friends and family...that you made and dressed yourself. Worrisome.
Anything crazier than making wax dummies of your loved ones?
Yeah...making wax dummies of yourself (with labels)...
and then putting them in a room dedicated to yourself.
Oh, yeah...in case you're wondering why Superman was fiddling with circuit boards on the Batman, Robin, and Supergirl statues, he was rigging all of the statues (including his own) to instantly explode when an intruder entered the Fortress of Solitude. Shrewd...or stone-cold crazy? You be the judge!
When he wasn't booby-trapping wax statues of his loved ones, Superman was creating elaborate rooms (or, more accurately, "shrines") dedicated to his closest friends.
In one story, Clark Kent's boss Perry White accidentally gains mind-warping superpowers and invades the Fortress, taking the battle straight into the Perry White Room:
Although it's hard to get any crazier than a pot-bellied Perry White dressed in a superhero costume and brandishing a Kryptonite sword to attack a lead-encased Superman, take a closer look at the tiny house in the background.
Naturally, Superman's girlfriend Lois Lane also received her own Friendship Exhibit room...though I'd imagine more than a few women might be creeped out by a room plastered with paintings, photos, and busts of their image.
Beyond the stalker-like intensity of this room is the added dimension of Superman's death fixation. Located within each exhibit is a final gift Superman intends to give to that person upon his death. For Lois Lane, Superman was creating a necklace of perfect pearls, as he reminds himself in the panel below:
In the Jimmy Olsen room, Superman refers to himself in the third person (yet another sign of mental illness) as he builds a homemade sports car for his young pal...
Finally, a Robot Detective was ready to make Batman's life alot easier upon Superman's death. But...if he's such a great friend, and defeating crime is Batman's driving mission, why wouldn't Superman give the contraption to him right now?
Of course, it's a little silly to expect logic from such an obviously addled mind. As great as the Fortress of Solitude is, perhaps too much solitude can make you a little crazy. The hair-collecting, model-house-building, exploding-wax dummy kind of crazy.