Early on in comic book history, it was established that nearly every superhero needed a base of operations. While future generations would thank the inventors of this concept for the way that their idea allowed them to manufacture elaborate and expensive superhero secret base toys that were about as expensive as the down payment that most parents dropped on their actual homes, back then, the superhero base was a practical way for every hero to have a sanctuary that provided a little stability in their lives.
Since their early days, these bases have only gotten more elaborate. While part of that could certainly be attributed to the influence of the aforementioned toy market, the exploding popularity of secret bases has much more to do with how cool they are. Writers and artists everywhere came to understand how much fun it is to craft the most elaborate and awesome bases they could possibly imagine, and it wasn’t long before an arms race of sorts started over the matter of who could create the greatest secret base of them all. While opinions on that particular matter remain as heated as ever, there is an elite class of secret bases that have managed to become as iconic as the heroes they house.
Here are the 15 Coolest Secret Superhero Bases Of All Time.
15. Dr. Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum
Conveniently located in the very posh Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan at 177A Bleeker Street, the Sanctum Sanctorum is the residence and base of operations for Marvel’s own Doctor Strange. This three story townhouse was originally conceived during Doctor Strange’s black magic early days, which would probably help to explain why it was built on a site that once hosted Pagan rituals and Native American sacrifices. That incredibly eerie location does come with some advantages, though. Namely, it allows Strange to draw a tremendous source of magical power that he uses to fuel his research as well as several magical devices.
There have been many incarnations of the Sanctorum over the years, but the one aspect that remains constant is the idea that Doctor Strange uses this surprisingly spacious location as a combination laboratory, mythical centerpiece, and stately manor (thus making it the Marvel equivalent of the combination Pizza Hut/Taco Bell). It’s full of wonders the likes of which the world has never seen (not unlike the various Pizza Hut/Taco Bells of the world) as well as some of the most diabolically clever booby traps in all of comics. It’s also capable of being shifted between dimensions, making it one of the world’s best mobile homes.
14. The Tower Of Fate
When Kent and Inza Nelson (better known as Doctor Fate and the wife of Doctor Fate) decided they needed a little place to hang their hats, put their feet up, and draw power from ancient forces in order to prolong their lifespan by a few millennia, they didn’t look towards the suburbs like many of us might do; they turned to The Tower of Fate. This massive tower is located in the Earth 2 multiverse somewhere in the countryside of Salem, Massachusetts. It has no conventional doors or windows, and it’s difficult to say just how large it really is, but we do know that The Tower of Fate is one of the most impenetrable structures in all of DC Comics.
Then again, it would have to be, considering that The Tower of Fate is home to a number of incredibly powerful artifacts such as the Orb of Nabu, which lets Doctor Fate see into the past, present, and future. The tower also served as a kind of rallying point for DC Universe heroes during their battle with the Anti-Monitor in Crisis on Infinite Earths, and it’s is believed to exist in several universes at once.
13. The Power Rangers’ Command Center
So far as architecture goes, the Power Rangers’ Command Center finds itself a step or two behind some of the most elaborate bases of operations out there. Located atop of a cliff in California, the Command Center might initially be confused for an observatory that, for some very odd reason, comes equipped with a rather large chimney. Then again, that’s likely because the exterior is a real institute (the Brandeis-Bardin Campus). What the Command Center lacks in sex appeal, however, it more than makes up for in functionality.
The Command Center isn’t just the rallying point for the Power Rangers and home of Zordon and Alpha 5; it’s the starting line for most of the Power Rangers’ victories. Equipped with a number of incredibly advanced computer systems, the Command Center can teleport our heroes to nearly anywhere, retrieve data on any species in the universe (even if they were just created by the evil Rita), and establishing a line of communication with nearly any entity. Oh sure, the Power Rangers end up doing the dirty work, but their fight is won thanks to the contributions of the Command Center.
12. Titans Tower
Given that Titans Tower is shaped like a giant T and is currently located just outside the major metropolitan city of San Francisco, we’re really stretching the whole idea of a “secret” base by including it on this list. Despite the fact that the Teen Titans should really consider utilizing a little more design subtlety (although, the tower’s ability to project an above ground hologram is a nice stealth touch), it’s impossible to talk about the greatest headquarters around without showing some love to the home of the Titans.
There have been three main incarnations of Titans Tower over the years, and each of them has retained the same capital T exterior design and general amenities that include training grounds, computer labs, jet hangers, underground lairs, recreational rooms, and personal living quarters. It’s a fully-equipped space for all superhero needs that gains a leg up on its command center competition thanks to the recent inclusion of an iconic memorial area where giant statues pay tribute to the Titans lost over the years. Titans Tower has actually been destroyed a few times, but it just keeps coming back better and better.
11. The Sewer Lair (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
We’ll be the first to admit that so far as ideal living conditions go, the sewers of New York City won’t top many people’s personal lists, despite the fact that anyone who has to pay above ground NYC rent prices will surely sympathize with the desire to save a little money by turning raw sewage into home sweet home. In the case of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, however, it’s impossible to think of a better place for a secret base.
Unlike so many other superhero lairs that come fully-equipped with every single thing a crimefighter could ever need, the Sewer Lair manages to distinguish itself, in part, due to its relative modesty. There’s a kitchen (mostly used for the reheating of pizza), a living space, some personal rooms, and a dojo. While the Sewer Lair always looks quite comfortable, its primary purpose is to allow the Turtles to hide away from the world when necessary and focus on their training. It’s also quite advantageous that their lair is naturally built into the nearly impossible to navigate depths of the New York City sewer system, making it one of the more effective secret locations out there.
10. The Justice League Watchtower
Given how many impressive structures the Justice League calls home, one must start to wonder if they are collectively compensating for something. While not typically their primary base of operations, the Justice League Watchtower is perhaps the most structurally impressive base for DC’s mightiest collection of heroes. Located on either the moon or loosely floating in space based on which comic you are reading, the Justice League Watchtower is primarily made of Promethium and features technological contributions from the races of nearly every hero that it houses.
No matter where it happens to be currently located, the one thing that never changes about the Watchtower is how intimidating it is. This nearly impenetrable fortress looks like the staging ground for a universal war that it so often is. At the very top of the Watchtower is the absolute greatest conference room you’ll ever find, complete with a medieval-style round table, while the levels below contain a trophy room, promenade, aquarium, armory, and monitor area used to watch over the multiverse and detect any problems that require the Justice League’s intervention.
9. The Shadow Gallery
Given that V for Vendetta’s V is public enemy number one rebelling against a ultra-oppressive society that is capable of monitoring nearly everything an individual does in order to detect the slightest sign of disorder, it makes sense that he would need a home that isn’t exactly on the beaten path. So, V constructed The Shadow Gallery, an underground abode built into the tunnels of the old London transport system. Much like the sewers that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles call home, the primary purpose of this establishment is to help V avoid detection.
However, that hasn’t prevented V from converting what little space he does have into a museum of sorts for the things the modern government considers to be contraband. V’s lair contains every book, record, and piece of food that he could get his hands on that those in power fear someone might have access to. It’s as if the Louvre merged with a quaint bookstore and decided to base themselves in an underground tunnel as well as spread a few comforts of home all about, just in case someone decided to settle in there for the evening.
8. The Wonderdome
No discussion regarding the virtues of the Wonderdome would ever be complete without sharing the canonical story of how it came to be. See, one day, someone decided to take control of Wonder Woman’s famous invisible jet in order to wreck havoc on Gateway City. Eventually, Wonder Woman sorted the whole mess out, but the sentient jet was left feeling remorseful over what it had done. As such, it decided to make amends by transforming itself into a floating fortress called the Wonderdome. So far as apologies go, this one ranks among the very best.
The Wonderdome is a giant floating fortress in the sky which, in and of itself, is pretty awesome, but the really special quality of this fortress is the way that it allowed Wonder Woman to travel the world and spread her heroic performances to areas that would otherwise have never received them. Actually, Wonder Woman eventually abandoned the dome, as she felt its intimidating nature would ruin her image. Still, it occasionally makes appearances whenever a great need arises or whenever the artists feel like exploring what a giant flying dome loaded with Amazonian artwork and artifacts would look like.
7. Avengers Mansion
All due respect to Stark Tower, but when we’re talking about bases dedicated to The Avengers, Avenger’s Mansion is the best of them all. In the Marvel universe, Avengers Mansion can be found at 890 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. You wouldn’t necessarily need the address to spot it, however, as this mansion’s stunning old-world beauty and imposing nature easily stands out even in the sight-rich New York City neighborhood it calls home.
Originally designed in 1932 as the Manhattan home of Howard Stark, the Avenger’s Mansion was later repurposed (like so many other Stark possessions) by Tony Stark as a tool intended to help that little group known as The Avengers do their Earth’s Mightiest Heroes thing. Edwin Jarvis, the butler, remained, but nearly everything else about this Mansion’s original design has changed over the years. In fact, early on in The Avenger’s run, Thor and Iron Man physically moved the entire mansion about 35 feet in order to have more room to work with. Along with private rooms, most of the mansion is designed to accommodate whoever should happen to be a member of the team at that time.
6. The Baxter Building
The Baxter Building broke the mold of comic book secret bases. Whereas all previous superheroes had made sure to keep the location of their lair as secret as their identities, Reed Richards decided to make sure that the general public knew that the Fantastic Four can be found occupying the top five floors of the Baxter Building at 42nd Street and Madison Avenue. At the time of its construction, the Baxter Building’s 32 stories and solid structure was a marvel of New York City architecture. Even after the building itself was dwarfed by neighboring structures, the Fantastic Four’s part of the premises has remained a true wonder.
Despite the fact that the majority of the building is a relatively unimpressive office building, the section dedicated to the Fantastic Four not only serves as a fully equipped base of operations, but has attracted a number of notable calamities over the years due to the fact that the group operates out of such a public location. The building is constantly coming under attack from one threat or another, which actually grants the building a weathered personality that many other hidden bases could never achieve.
5. The Hall of Justice
“Meanwhile, at the Hall of Justice” are the words that transitioned viewers to the home of the fabled Super Friends during every episode of that famous ‘70s cartoon series. The building was never part of the DC Universe prior to its debut on that show, making this a very rare instance (especially for that time) of an adaptation having a permanent impact on the comic canon. It makes sense, in retrospect, that the Justice League needed a place to call home, and that their home would be a glorious testament to the pure virtue of being a superhero.
That’s what’s so great about the Hall of Justice. As cool as it is that comics got darker, edgier, and more mature, there’s always going to be a spot in the heart of every superhero fan for the idea of a more traditional breed of hero, and the Hall of Justice grants that spot a physical form. It remains the embodiment of a simpler time for heroes and villains, and it’s a pretty cool little base in its own right.
4. The S.H.I.E.L.D Helicarrier
Comic lore tells us that the primary motivation behind the design of the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier was to make sure that S.H.I.E.L.D. did not have to base themselves out of any one country and, as a result, open that country and the fixed headquarters up to all manners of political and physical attacks. That was the official reason, anyway. There’s also the very likely possibility that Stark Industries just wanted to see if they could manufacture the absolute coolest flying fortress ever seen this side of an anime series.
If that was the mission, it was a tremendous success. There have been more than twenty versions of the Helicarrier over the years (it should be pointed out that, despite the best intentions of the designers, it is still prone to being attacked), but each of them has come to invoke the same sense of fear and awe. Like the horsemen of the apocalypse, if you see the Helicarrier flying high above you, then it typically means that your end is near. This fully-operational battle station is capable of not only defending itself, but launching a superhero attack from any point in the world.
3. Xavier’s School For Gifted Youngsters
Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. Such a quaint name, isn’t it? There’s nothing about it that would suggest it houses anything more than some (perhaps slightly affluent) students singled out for their incredible mental abilities. Of course, we know better than that. We know that the school’s students and faculty aren’t gifted in the way that other school’s students and faculty are gifted, and we know that the school’s grounds are used for a lot more than the occasional game of frisbee.
Yet, it is the fact that this building doubles as a school that makes it so unique in the world of superhero secret bases. The underground premises of the X-Men is something that we’ve seen before in many other comics, but no other superhero team operates out of a place that doubles as a source of education. The notion of the X-Men walking the same halls as a group of mutant students trying to understand their own powers and get to Psychics class on time has always brought a smile to fans’ faces, and the mansion has long served as most kid’s dream school (at least before Hogwarts came along).
2. The Fortress of Solitude
The Fortress of Solitude was not always the iconic secret base that we know and love today. Its origins can technically be traced to the ‘30s comic character Doc Savage, who used a Fortress of Solitude to conduct his research, and Superman’s first use of the Fortress didn’t happen until 1958. At that time, the Fortress was opened by a giant key that only Superman and Supergirl could lift, and contained such oddities as an alien zoo, a chess-playing robot, and some computer equipment. It worked for its era, but it just didn’t really feel right.
It wasn’t until the revolutionary Man of Steel miniseries that the Fortress of Solitude was re-designed as a more modest place (at least in terms of function) where Superman went to escape his burdens and meditate. The Fortress still played host to rare artifacts and other comic-book conventions, but its higher purpose as a place of reflection and isolation has always helped to separate it from many other superhero secret bases out there that are designed almost entirely with some kind of tactical functionality in mind.
1. The Batcave
You had to have seen this coming. The origins of the Batcave are about as humble as they can be. It actually began life as an old barn outside of Wayne Manor that Bruce Wayne used for storage. Slowly, writers and artists started to explore the idea of underground hangers built under Wayne Manor. From there, things got more and more interesting. What started as a simple office space soon transformed into an impossible labyrinth of inventions, collectibles, and storage space. By the time that Batman entered the ‘70s, the Batcave was pretty much whatever the writers needed it to be.
In any other context, this might be a bad thing. Yet, in the case of the Batcave, it just works. It works because Batman is such a mad genius of a hero who feels that he constantly needs to have every possible contingency accounted for, and it just makes sense that he would have nearly everything that he could ever need in the Batcave. In fact, while certain items such as the giant dinosaur, Batsuit containers, and supercomputer have become an accepted part of the architecture, what makes the Batcave so special is that everyone who has worked on the series has had the chance to leave their own mark on the lair.
What’s your favorite secret superhero hideout? Let us know in the comments.