Monday, August 2, 2010

The Unlocked Fortress

Having Lex break into the Fortress of Sucktitude for a SECOND DAMN TIME, know all about its secrets, and pimp the A.I. for even more information is just ridiculous. Superman should know better than to leave the Fortress open and unguarded, with absolutely no security system of any kind, and foreaven’s sake, those crystals and the Jor-El A.I. shouldn’t respond to anybody but Kal-el. How hard is that to understand?!?
from the Flame On blog.

This idea has crossed my mind before but I never thought to give it voice. The problem with "Fortress security" isn't just in the Superman Returns film but in quite a few episodes of Smallville. Who creates a monument to a long-dead, highly technologically advanced civilization just full of world-destroying artifacts and forgets to put a door on the thing? Clark might as well put a sign on the freaking place saying "Come on in and raid my advanced Kryptonian technology! Really! I don't mind a bit. It's like Homer Simpson from another galaxy.

Actually, both the Silver Age and modern age comic book versions of the Fortress have unique security features. The Arctic lair of the Silver Age Superman has a door; a giant door, with an equally giant-sized key hole. One wonders why someone, discovering a great, golden door in the middle of an arctic ice cliff just wouldn't walk through the key hole? The answer (and I can't find the source, but I remember reading the comic book explaining this) is that Superman put sensors in the key hole. Anything but the key (which is "disguised" as an airplane directional arrow) entering the lock will trigger a force field, repelling the intruder (except Batman, who beat Superman's security in a comic book story 40 (or so) years ago, but hey, it's Batman.

In more modern times, the Fortress is under the Antarctic ice, floating as it were, and thus never being in a permanent location. When Superman wants to visit the Fortress, he has to use his X-Ray vision to see where it is below the ice and then use his heat vision to burn a temporary tunnel to the entrance (the melted ice refreezes after him). Only highly sophisticated detection and boring techonology could locate and invade the Fortress (unless Global Warming proves to be Superman's undoing).

What you may not know is that Superman stoled the Fortress. Well, not actually, but the idea was clearly not an original concept of the Superman comic book creators.

Pulp fiction hero Doc Savage built his own arctic "Fortress of Solitude" (yes, he even called it that) back in 1931, though the fortress didn't debut in fiction until the Doc Savage story Fortress of Solitude was printed in 1938, the same year Superman first appeared in Action Comics #1. By contrast, Superman's Fortress didn't appear in comic books until 1958, 20 years later. The astute fiction reader of the day couldn't help but notice the similarity ( or "rip off" depending on your point of view), but in the 21st century, it's not nearly apparent.

One of my desperate hopes, like in the Flame On blog, is that the Christopher Nolan Superman Reboot film will create a more "realistic" rendition of the Fortress (assuming it appears in the film). Neither Clark nor Jor-El are (supposedly) idiots. If mere mortal Earth people can invent the door, door lock, and key, so can Kryptonians.

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