Kal-El’s home away from blown-up home has been a staple of the Superman mythos for nearly 60 years. When most people hear “Fortress of Solitude,” they probably envision the crystalline sanctuary from the Richard Donner films, a look that the comics adopted for years. But the Fortress has actually gone through many evolutions over the decades. It’s been a frozen palace, an underground complex, a derelict Kryptonian ship, even an undersea cavern. One thing has remained true through all those iterations, however: the Fortress of Solitude is where Supes keeps all his coolest toys.
Batman’s cave may get all the attention, what with the giant coins and dinosaurs and dead Robin costumes. But Superman has got some pretty dope stuff hidden inside his personal hideaway. Since most of us will never get an invitation, let Screen Rant be your guide to 15 of the most interesting things Superman keeps in (or right outside) his Fortress of Solitude.
15. His Parents
Not his actual parents, mind you. Jor-El and Lara got blown to smithereens ages ago, and Ma and Pa Kent are either in the ground or in Smallville, depending on which version of the story you’re talking about. But since Clark/Kal-El is defined by the loss of his birth parents nearly as much as his buddy Batman, it’s no surprise that Superman keeps some reminders of his lost mother and father close at hand. This memorial has come in many forms over the decades, from a towering statue to an ice carving to a pair of holograms, but Jor-El and Lara always occupy a place of honor.
Sometimes, however, his lost parents appear in a more talkative form. Both the Donner films and Smallville allowed young Clark to interact with his long-dead father Jor-El…or at least an echo of his personality, stored away before Krypton’s destruction so Clark would have a touchstone to his heritage. At least he’s not hanging around the graveyard all the time like Bruce.
14. A Ridiculously Large (or Heavy) Key
There’s plenty of people who would love to take a tour of Superman’s Fortress — many of them bad guys. So Supes has to take measures to keep out all the ruffians and people named Luthor. Back in the early days, Superman kept his Fortress locked tight with a ginormous door containing a ginormous keyhole. Naturally, a ginormous keyhole implies an equally ginormous key, and Superman kept his right out in the open, because he was the only one (with a few exceptions) strong enough to actually lift and use the damn thing.
The giant key was first introduced in 1958’s Action Comics #241, and it’s the sort of gloriously goofy concept that eventually fell by the wayside. However, later versions of the Fortress have honored the giant key by updating it. In the Grant Morrison-scripted series All-Star Superman, Superman’s key is still too heavy for any mere mortals to lift, but it’s the size of a normal key — it’s just made of a super-dense dwarf star material, weighing in at a whopping half a million tons. The CW series Supergirl recently blended the two ideas, having Superman’s Fortress locked with an impossibly heavy dwarf star key, but this one was only a few feet long.
13. A Giant Steel Diary
Superman sure did love comically oversized versions of everyday items back in the Golden Age. When he wasn’t unlocking his front door with a key the size of a Buick, you might find Superman writing in his diary. This was a long time before LiveJournal, however, and we’ve already established that Kal-El can be a bit overdramatic. So, naturally, he couldn’t just scribble down his thoughts in a Hello Kitty diary. Oh no, he had to use a giant steel diary that he carved his memories into using either a super-strong finger or his heat vision. Clearly, one of Clark’s lesser-known powers is Super-Impracticality.
To be fair, some versions of the diary used more traditional touchpads, which is considerably more elegant an interface than dragging a super-dense finger across a big metal plate. Still, if you’re going to have a giant steel diary lying around, you might as well go all out and carve your Lois fantasies into the metal with your heat vision.
12. So. Many. Robots.
Superman may have powers like unto a god, but he’s also really freaking busy. Between fighting bad guys, rescuing cats from trees, and somehow holding down that nine-to-five Daily Planet job, do you really think he’s got time to keep the Fortress vacuumed? Of course not. His solution? Robots.
And Supes has a variety of robots, perfect for all your robot needs. In the early comics, Superman kept a ‘bot around to play chess with him, which doesn’t seem like such a bad gig. He’s got assorted robot servants to handle the day-to-day maintenance of the Fortress, which are overseen by Kelex, a Kryptonian droid modeled after one that served Jor-El back in pre-kaboom days. He also kept several robotic Superman duplicates on hand, which can be helpful when you’re trying to maintain a secret identity but you can’t be bothered to put on a damn mask. Most recently, one of the Fortress’ robotic workers was seen in the Supergirl episode “Solitude.”
11. Kryptonian Battlesuit
One eye-catching display in the post-Crisis Fortress of Solitude was an imposing Kryptonian battlesuit. A relic of the Third Age of Krypton, the warsuit was a remnant from a time when the planet was involved in a violent conflict involving cloning (presumably because they hadn’t seen the Star Wars prequels yet). The warsuits were supposedly all destroyed during Krypton’s more enlightened Golden Age, but the Fortress’ robots were able to retrieve a sample of one from the Phantom Zone and reconstruct it in full. The Eradicator used the warsuit during a tussle against Lobo, and it came in handy for Kal-El when he was recovering after being killed in battle against Doomsday.
Naturally, a Kryptonian battlesuit is the sort of thing Lex Luthor would love to get his hands on, and he did at one point, reprogramming it and siccing it on Superman. Pieces of the destroyed warsuit eventually came in handy for the Metropolis Special Crimes Unit, who used it to create their own Simm-Bot battle armor.
10. Alien Zoo
Apparently Kal-El is an animal lover, because the Fortress also includes an alien zoo populated by strange and exotic creatures Superman has picked up from various corners of the universe. In Superman: The Animated Series, Superman rescues the creatures from The Preserver, an alien being obsessed with capturing rare and endangered species…including, for example, Kal-El himself. Thankfully, Supes teamed up with intergalactic bounty hunter Lobo to escape captivity and defeat The Preserver. Kal then took it upon himself to give the Preserver’s captured creatures a new home in his Fortress.
The zoo also played a major role in the Batman Beyond episode “The Call.” This story reveals that The Preserver’s zoo included Starro, a telepathic starfish creature who’s been bedeviling the Justice League for decades in the comics. More distressingly, it turns out that Starro escaped his enclosure years ago and has been psychically controlling Superman ever since. Future Batman Terry McGinnis then has to team up with the other Leaguers of the Batman Beyond era to free Superman from Starro’s control.
9. A Super Laboratory
Sometimes, Superman needs to get all scientifical. He’s tinkered with Kryptonite on occasion, perhaps running experiments on himself to learn more about Kryptonian biology. Hell, maybe one of the robots got hit on the head and keeps trying to kill all humans. Either way, Superman’s Fortress has a fully decked-out laboratory and medical facilities to suit his super-scientific needs.
One of the best uses of Superman’s Fortress lab is in All-Star Superman, when he gives Lois the ultimate birthday gift: a serum distilled from his DNA that will grant her his powers for 24 hours. Unfortunately, that serum comes back to bite Kal-El later in the series when Luthor uses a similar concoction to survive his own execution, but that’s just how the scientific method works, folks. Sometimes, to give your girlfriend a really kick-ass present, you have to risk empowering an insane supervillain. Omelettes and eggs.
Not every incarnation of Superman plays up his scientific side as much as All-Star, but the super-lab has still been a regular feature of the Fortress over the years…even if it’s occasionally gathering some dust. (Mainly when the robot butlers are on the fritz.)
8. Krypto the Super-Dog
They say home is where you hang your hat, but for many people, home is where your dog runs up and slobbers on you when you open the door. Superman has quite a few creatures tucked away in that alien zoo of his, but there’s one extraterrestrial animal that holds a special place in his heart: his faithful Kryptonian hound, Krypto. First introduced in Adventure Comics #210 in March 1955, Krypto initially belonged to Jor-El back on Krypton. Unfortunately, Jor-El was in need of test subjects for the prototype rockets he was building to try and evacuate his son from their doomed world and…well, there was Krypto, just hanging around the lab looking useful.
Jor-El launched Krypto into space, but the rocket was knocked off course. Eventually, thanks to the wonders of plot contrivance, the rocket crash landed on Earth and Krypto was reunited with his beloved Kal-El, now a teenager and operating as Superboy. Since Krypto’s Kryptonian biology granted him similar powers to Clark’s, naturally, Supes slapped a cape on his mutt and enlisted him in the fight against evil. Because that’s just how things were done in the Golden Age.
In the post-Crisis stories, Krytpo even had a designated caretaker inside the Fortress — a robotic Superman duplicate who went by the name “Ned.” Good old Ned was even programmed to smell like Clark, so Krypto wouldn’t miss his Super-buddy when he was away. Dawww.
7. The Titanic and the Space Shuttle Columbia
No, really. In All-Star Superman, Clark really does have the Titanic tucked away inside his Fortress. He recovers it from the ocean it sank in and refurbishes the infamous doomed vessel, and at one point he and Lois have a birthday dinner inside one of the ship’s staterooms. That might seem a bit morbid, since they’re chowing down in the remains of a vessel where some 1,500 people died, but we guess Supes will do anything to get just the right romantic ambiance.
He also has the space shuttle Columbia on display, but it’s at least somewhat less creepy because, in the world of All-Star Superman, Kal-El rescued the spacecraft before it was destroyed. Apparently NASA just said he could keep it after that? In reality, of course, the Columbia disintegrated during re-entry over Texas and Louisiana on February 1, 2003, killing all aboard. On second thought, All-Star Superman’s choice of trophies is still super creepy.
6. Anti-Bizarro Ray
Superman’s rogues gallery might not be as impressive or as well known as Batman’s, but he’s still got some doozies he’s had to contend with over the years. One of the most frustrating is Bizarro, his twisted doppelganger who speaks in broken reverse-talk and often winds up making a huge mess without really meaning to. Unfortunately for Supes, Bizarro is often all about making more Bizarros, at one point using a duplicating ray to breed a whole planet’s worth of the buggers. (Naturally, they live on a cube-shaped planet called Htrae — that’s “Earth” backwards. Because, you know, Bizarro.)
The 1980 Super Friends episode “Revenge of Bizarro” reveals that Superman has an ace in the hole when it comes to Bizarro problems: a so-called “Anti-Bizarro Ray.” Which seems like an improbably specific thing to just have lying around the Fortress, but it comes in handy after Bizarro has Bizarro-fied the other Super Friends. We wonder if he kept it in a wall case that said, “In case of Bizarros, break glass”?
5. Baby Sun Eater
What with the alien zoo and all, Superman has more than a few dangerous creatures hiding inside the Fortress. But in All-Star Superman, he’s keeping a pet that’s on a whole other level: a baby Sun Eater. It’s an ironic pet for a guy powered by the sun, but it also comes in handy later in the series when Superman faces off against a malevolent living star named Solaris. Kal-El’s little baby proves to be worth all the time and care he had invested in it, as it attacks Solaris, saving Supes and weakening the villain enough to be captured.
Before all that business, however, the cute little fella lived happily in the Fortress, chowing down on miniature suns that Superman crafted on his “Cosmic Anvil.” That’s right, not only did the Fortress have a cuddly little critter that could destroy the solar system, Supes also just happens to own an anvil that can make stars. Maybe Bruce was right with that whole “we have to kill him” thing…
4. Red Sun Chamber
Speaking of suns, the Fortress from the Christopher Reeve films features one device that seems like an incredibly bad thing to have sitting around out in the open when you can be depowered by the rays of your native red sun. We’re talking, of course, about the red sun chamber that reduces Kal-El to a mere, puny mortal in Superman II. He makes that choice so he can live a normal human life with Lois, but he also makes it with spectacularly poor timing, since he powers down right as General Zod and his cronies are arriving on Earth in a conquering mood.
Thankfully, Clark is able to figure out how to restore his powers and, eventually, trick and de-power Zod, Ursa, and Non. See, that Red Sun Chamber is sort of comprised of pure MacGuffinite, so it has this whole handy feature where you can step inside it to remove or regain your powers, but you can also bathe the entire outside room in red rays and stay safe and comfy and super on the inside. Whoever designed this thing must have had a real thing for contingency plans. (Although apparently not enough for “What to do if Krypton is about to explode.”)
3. Phantom Zone Projector
Of course, viewers actually met General Zod in Richard Donner’s original Superman film in 1978. Although he isn’t around long, he and his thugs are found guilty of insurrection and banished to the mysterious Phantom Zone by the Kryptonian Council. The sequence ended with one hell of a unforgettable visual, with the prisoners’ screaming faces trapped inside a shard of crystal, tumbling through space, presumably forever. It didn’t really explain what exactly the Phantom Zone was, but it made it more frightening and mysterious than any take on the Zone before or since. It’s basically Kryptonian Purgatory. So, naturally, Superman has device that can send people there, and he keeps it in his clubhouse.
The Phantom Zone was first introduced in Adventure Comics #283 (April 1961), and it’s figured into countless Superman stories in the decades since. Sometimes Superman is sending people there. Sometimes he’s being sent there. Sometimes he’s dealing with people who escaped from there. Regardless, the Phantom Zone is never good news. Supes should probably find a way to boot the Projector itself into the Phantom Zone, then burn any copies of the blueprints.
2. Legion Flight Ring
Kal-El’s adventures with the far-future superteam the Legion of Super-Heroes have been a recurring part of his mythology since the Silver Age Superboy stories. That relationship has come and gone and evolved as the DC canon has been repeatedly rebooted and modified over the years, but it’s still something many of the fans love. It’s very exciting, then, that the Arrowverse shows have been hinting at the Legion for a while now. Last season, eagle-eyed fans spotted a shot of a Legion flight ring during Barry Allen’s journey from Earth-1 to Earth-2 on The Flash. Another Legion ring — or maybe the same one — appeared on Supergirl, this time on display inside Superman’s Fortress during Supergirl’s visit.
The notion of Superman wearing a ring that grants the user the ability to fly has always seemed like him taking the time to acquire a driver’s license, but the Legion ring is still a very cool bit of fan service. In the comics, Superboy’s friendship with the Legion members — who were of a similar age as him at the time — was a crucial and defining part of his adolescence. (At least in the stories where it hasn’t been retconned out.)
The ring is a pretty clear sign that the Legion will be entering the Arrowverse sooner or later, and since time-travel is already a major part of both The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow, a visit to the 31st century — or visitors from there — seems like a matter of if, not when. Dare we hope for a full spinoff series?
1. Bottled City of Kandor
Batman may have a lot of cool stuff in the Batcave, but one thing he doesn’t have is an entire alien city, shrunk to a fraction of its normal size and bottled for posterity. Kandor’s backstory has been tweaked numerous times over the decades, but in its initial conception, it was once the capital city of Krypton. Braniac miniaturized, bottled, and absconded with the city sometime before Krypton exploded. Which, let’s face it, is definitely a good news/bad news situation if you’re a Kandorian.
After the Crisis on Infinite Earths miniseries shook the DC Universe to its foundations, Kandor was retconned as having been created by an alien wizard named Tolos. Thankfully, the people writing the Superman comics eventually realized that was really dumb and restored Kandor’s origins.
Aside from the trippy notion of being able to keep an alien metropolis (ahem) on your coffee table, Kandor has been one of Superman’s most prized possessions because it’s full of tiny Kryptonians. Even more so than Jor-El’s recordings or the Fortress itself, Kandor is a direct connection to where Kal-El came from and who his people were. Superman can never go home again, but he can visit Kandor.
How many more fun items from the Fortress of Solitude can you think of? For all our thieving readers out there, if you could steal one thing from the Fortress, what would it be? Sound off in the comments section.