Fortress of Solitude

People don’t always think about libraries in comic books. At least, I know I usually don’t. Despite this, a library has earned its place as one of the most famous spots in the world of comics. This building houses the history and information of an entire planet in one location. It also helps define one of the most famous superheroes ever to exist as we know him today. This amazing library is the Fortress of Solitude.

A History of the Fortress of Solitude

The Fortress of Solitude is where Superman learned about his planet, his parents, and himself. It made its first appearance in SUPERMAN #17, where it provided a sanctuary for Superman. The Fortress of Solitude has moved various times, once even built to reside at the bottom of the ocean, still serving the same purpose. That is, until after the CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS happened. In the new DCU, Superman received the Eradicator, an ancient Kryptonian artifact that served as the complete collection of Krypton’s information.

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Superman buried the Eradicator in the Arctic, because of the danger it presented. Then, the crystalline Fortress of Solitude emerged from the ice. Since then, the Fortress has been destroyed, rebuilt, and rebooted various times. A more recent version was created with a Kryptonian crystal in the “One Year Later” story arc. Designed to resemble the Fortress of Solitude from the films, this is the version readers might know best.

In the more recent history of the Fortress of Solitude, it looks very different from the one we know and love. In the post-FLASHPOINT Prime Earth, Superman creates his first Fortress of Solitude out of Brainiac’s ship. Said ship, reprogrammed to meet Superman’s needs, became his base of operations. Years later we learn that the Fortress had relocated to, once again, the Arctic. This takes place after the destruction of the Fortress made from Brainiac’s ship.

A Digitized Database

The Fortress of Solitude is how Superman learned many things. The Fortress also functions as a digital database of Kryptonian information. There, Superman learned about his birth parents and his home planet Krypton. Superman’s origins were initially very vague. The Fortress, maintained by a robotic servant belonging to Clark, has given readers context to Superman’s life and history.

Fortress of Solitude
Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

In the arc that introduced the Eradicator, we have proof that the Fortress of Solitude, in its essence, serves as a library. The artifact held all of Krypton’s information and intellectual resources. This data was then transferred into the Fortress of Solitude after its creation. Here Superman was taught by holographic projections of his biological parents. The Man of Steel’s second home even keeps this information on a digital system, just like many libraries do. Essentially, the Fortress of Solitude serves the same functions as an Earth library.

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Readers also learned more about why Superman was sent to Earth due to the Fortress of Solitude. In ACTION COMICS #1, readers received a few vague details about Superman’s origins. As Superman’s adventures went on, his origins were revised and rewritten many different times. We even learned about Jor-El, Clark’s biological father, and life on Krypton. The use of the Fortress of Solitude for educational purposes shows another similarity to Earth libraries.

Holographic Librarians

The Fortress of Solitude even comes complete with librarians! Though these curators are holographic, they still serve the same purpose. They exist to interact with and aid the library’s patrons. These responsive holographic figures take the form of Superman’s birth parents. Superman uses these holograms to access the Kryptonian database and, through them, also gains teachers.

Fortress of Solitude
Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Jor-El first appeared as a hologram, and teacher, in the first SUPERMAN film. As a feature of the Fortress of Solitude, Jor-El’s purpose became serving as an educator to the Man of Steel. He had to teach Superman about Krypton, and ensure that Clark could access all of his birth planet’s information. This, essentially, made Jor-El a librarian for the Fortress of Solitude. Librarians exist to help people learn and to guide them towards the information they seek. This is exactly what Jor-El does for the Last Son of Krypton. Jor-El differs from librarians somewhat, due to his nature as an interactive hologram. Though, if I’m being honest, holographic librarians would probably make going to the library way more fun.

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Libraries have often provided sanctuary for its patrons. People go there perhaps for quiet, knowledge, or even a peaceful environment. Readers have seen the Fortress of Solitude as a safe, comfortable space for Superman. The Fortress of Solitude also gave his cousin Supergirl sanctuary.

In SUPERGIRL vol. 7, Kara found a Cyborg Superman possessing the consciousness and memories of her father. As the only place where Kara could really fit in, the Fortress of Solitude was already a sanctuary. Kara went there specifically because she felt disconnected with the people of Earth. She was able to find comfort in her father’s return for a short amount of time. When she found this version of Zor-El in the Fortress it became a place of reunion and family as well, like it had been for Superman. Even after she was forced to defeat her father, she still had the Fortress of Solitude to go back to for memories of Krypton. At the end of the day, she still had a sanctuary.

The Library to Surpass All Libraries

Not only can the Fortress of Solitude hold the label of a library, fans can easily call it one of the coolest repositories of information ever. That is, assuming it hasn’t already won that honor. The Fortress of Solitude has taken many forms, including that of Brainiac’s former ship. However, many people know the Fortress of Solitude as the crystal structure in the Arctic. This iteration is where we also begin to see Superman’s headquarters as more than just another place to call home.

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The first version of the Arctic Fortress of Solitude is where the structure began serving as a digital Kryptonian library. This is how Superman learns about his culture and people. Also, this iteration introduces the holographic Jor-El, essentially acting as a librarian. Jor-El taught both readers and Superman about the Man of Steel’s home and about life on Krypton in general.

The importance of libraries is often overlooked in comic books. Yet, this isn’t the case for the Fortress of Solitude. This shows how a library holds an important place in the mythos of the iconic superhero. Many people who know Superman also know about the Fortress of Solitude. People might not realize that, because of the Fortress of Solitude, they’re already familiar with the most famous library in DC Comics.

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