Although 2008 marks the 70th "birthday" of Superman, it's also the fiftieth anniversary of The Fortress of Solitude, his legendary arctic hideaway that made its first appearance in Action Comics #241, 1958 (click on the cover image for a larger view). With cover dates typically three months ahead of the actual sale date, issue #241's June cover date means it most likely hit the newsstand in March or April of 1958...in other words, right about now! To celebrate this momentous milestone, I thought I'd devote an entire week's worth of Comic Coverage blather to Superman's secret sanctum.
For the first 20 years of Superman's history, various private
laboratories and secret citadels were mentioned, but never formalized
with a consistent look, location, or even an official name. However, a
story in Superman #58 (1949) mentions both a location in the
"polar wastes" and the first use of the name "Fortress of Solitude".
Well, at least its first use within the Superman mythos. The term itself actually goes much further back to an old pulp (pre-superhero) character named Doc Savage, who also had a Fortress of Solitude located in the arctic.
The blue-domed arctic sanctuary of Doc Savage is discovered by the evil John Sunlight in the story The Fortress of Solitide (published in 1938).
Despite the previous history of the Fortress of Solitude term, and its brief mention in that 1949 Superman story, it would be another nine years before the aforementioned Action #241 made it the official name of Superman's home away from home. Curiously, "The Super-Key to Fort Superman" finds Superman visiting an already completed Fortress of Solitude, with no insight into how or when the structure was created. It wouldn't be until Superman #176 (1965) that Superman was actually shown scouting out the location and beginning his one-man construction project:
"All kinds of things" indeed! Be sure to tune in for all kinds of Fortress facts...and maybe even a secret or two! Coming up tomorrow: Key information on the most famous feature of the classic Fortress of Solitude!