Perhaps kids have always built forts. Maybe for boys it was a way to play house without acknowledging it’s playing house. During World War II the fort was a bunker, a place to fight the Nazis and Japs. In the 50s, with a glut of Westerns on TV, the fort became a cavalry outpost or a cowboy hideout. As the US space program took off, kids imagined space stations and interstellar vessels. Any hidey-hole could become the conn of the Enterprise. The only requirement for a fort was a place that kids could call their own, protected from intruders.
The first mention of the Batcave in comics was in a daily strip as early as 1943, so it’s no surprise that when the Fortress of Solitude was introduced in a 1958 story in Action Comics by Jerry Coleman and Wayne Boring it closely followed the Bat-template for a super sanctum. Carved into the polar ice, only Superman’s strength can heft the key used to gain entry. Primarily a place to retreat from the world and think, the Fortress of Solitude also eventually housed a lab for researching an antidote to Kryptonite, a place for recuperating after battles, and a collection of artifacts honoring Krypton, including the shrunken city of Kandor. Superman also keeps a manly diary, a book with steel plated pages which he writes on using his super-strength finger.
At DC, aside from Superman and Batman, super-hero teams had the monopoly on secret headquarters. Before the Justice League of America moved to their geosynchronous satellite (orbiting at 22,300 miles above the Earth) their headquarters were in a secret cave near Happy Harbor, Rhode Island. The Challengers of the Unknown occupied Challenger Mountain, hidden deep in the Colorado Rockies. In the 30th century, the Legion of Super-Heroes had a clubhouse paid for by eccentric millionaire R.J. Brande.
Of all the heroes who had secret hideouts, it’s perhaps ironic that the youngest hero of the 60’s, Spider-Man, the one who most needed a place of his own, didn’t have one. This link, from the 70’s, emphasizes this need.
But there was one for fort me that was the best... (continued on next page following)