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March 28, 2008


John Nowak


"Agonized with the knowledge that the history and art of Krypton is lost forever, Superman becomes obsessed with insuring those he loves will not be lost to history. The Fortress is his time capsule, designed to be found when it breaks free of the polar ice cap in six centuries."

Hmm. No, still kind of crazy.

Mark Engblom

LOL! Where did you get that quote? It sounds familiar (I've probably run across it during my research this past week).

I suppose on one hand it's kind of touching that Superman is so motivated by his sense of personal loss and the need to preserve the things he has....but wow, lighten up a little, Supes.

John Nowak

Sorry; as far as I know, the quote's original to me. There's a good chance that someone else has come up with the same idea, of course.


Oh, crazy as all get out, but I still like it better than the crystal movie fortress: no cool stuff, no giant key, no doors...

Mark Engblom

Ah...but the movie Fortress has that huge bed with the shiny silver sheets. That's gotta count for something.

"Shiny Silver Sheets". Say that ten times fast.


I like seeing cool Silver Age Superman elements re-appearing in modern stories by Kurt Busiek, Grant Morrison, and others... in large part because, while we've seen them many times before, we generally haven't seen them in a context that *wasn't completely bugf*** insane!*

Pat Curley

Terrific series of posts, Mark. I seem to recall at one point that Supes made the Clark Kent room so that if anybody stumbled on the friends' wing they wouldn't be curious as to why Superman had rooms dedicated to Lois, Jimmy and Perry, but none for Clark. Of course, that's completely contradicted by the statue of Supes as Clark's secret identity.

Mark Engblom

"I like seeing cool Silver Age Superman elements re-appearing in modern stories by Kurt Busiek, Grant Morrison, and others"

Yeah, as you've probably guessed, I'm pretty happy with how they've been handling Superman's current Fortress....after years and years of stumbling around. It's now a mix of the classic Fortress I've been highlighting, along with the look of the crystal movie Fortress...which to me is the best of all worlds (though, admittedly, I kinda miss the giant gold key).

Another version of the Fortress that can't be missed is Morrison's take on it in All-Star Superman #2. The regular-sized key made from ultra-heavy white dwarf material was a stroke of genius.

"Of course, that's completely contradicted by the statue of Supes as Clark's secret identity."

Glad you've enjoyed the posts, Pat. As for the Clark/Superman statues, it's apparent there was really no overarching editoral policy about what was actually in the Fortress each time it appeared, which explains alot of the features that only appeared once and then never again (like the dinosaur Superman would take for a trot). This was obviously before anal retentive fanboys like us began demanding that this stuff be written in stone, so the Fortress evolved and shifted quite a bit over its nearly 30 years of active "service" (before John Byrne tossed it out with the bathwater in 1986).


IIRC, the "Clark Kent Room as deception" notion might have been in Action Comics #500, an anniversary issue whose framing device was Superman and Supergirl giving a bunch of ordinary folks a tour of the Fortress.

That was a really fun issue, one I'll have to dig out sometime and re-read. It also included the revelation that lots of Earth-1 regular folks *thought* Superman and Supergirl were either brother and sister, or married to each other.

There was a great text feature, too, all about Action Comics #1's *other* features, and tracing the history of Action's non-Superman features down through the years. Very interesting, and the first time I'd even *heard* of weird stuff like Congorilla as a kid.

Mark Engblom

Hi, suedenim. You're right, Action Comics #500 is fantastic issue...and one of the highlights of my early collecting years. I still remember buying it and being amazed at how fat it was...just packed with great stuff. The "infinity cover" was pretty cool, too (loved the "Price Is Right model" look to both Lois Lane and Supergirl). The story, written by fan-turned-pro Martin Pasko, was a wonderful way to bring much of the 1960's Fortress lore into the context of 1970's storytelling...still retaining many of the odder elements, but smoothing them out a bit with the more sophisticated style of the late 70's. Pasko also included some surprisingly poignant bits...one of which I recall in a scene showing Superboy and the newly-found Krypto, as Superman remembers finding another being who knew what it felt like to "feel the wind in my face as I flew"...or something like that.

John Nowak

Reading these is nothing but pure delight. Of course, I'm the one who made The Amazing Transformations of Jimmy Olsen my personal favorite comic of 2007, although they are reprints.

I'm not sure if I prefer "Cosmic Brain Olsen" (Jimmy is evolved into a future human species with heads like lightbulbs, and shows his terrifying other-ness by mocking Lois Lane's primitive typewriter) or the time Jimmy Olsen drank part of a Chamelion Boy Power Potion and was able to turn his head into almost anything.

It's every bit as deranged as Fletcher Hanks, with none of the uncomfortable feeling that I'm laughing at someone with a mental condition.

Captain Average

A great week of posts Mark! Today left me thinking about different stories about the alien superhero motif, and that no matter how much they try to adjust to Earth's culture(local culture really), they can't escape their lack of innate understanding of humanity that all people should have. Maybe that's why Superman needs a quiet place where he can be stone cold insane.

Mark Engblom

That's an interesting thought, Cap. Despite all those years living among humans...being raised as a human...it still doesn't quite erase his "otherness". The Fortress allows him to celebrate that otherness rather than trying to discount it. I guess that still doesn't quite explain the exploding wax dummies, but it speaks to a place that Superman can just let his blue-tinged hair down and be his truest self...not a public persona or a caricatured oaf, but just himself.


This is like the deranged guy in "Seinfeld" whose room was a shrine to Elaine Benes.

Pat Curley

Found it! In Superman #152, The Robot Master, robot duplicates of Clark, Jimmy, Perry and Lois wander through the Fortress and on page 6, the robot Clark says "How clever! Superman built this room as a decoy! If intruders found rooms honoring all his friends but Kent, they'd suspect Kent was secretly Superman!"

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