Doc Savage Wiki

The Fortress of Solitude is Doc Savage's refuge.

The name has also been used for a novel published in 1938.

☀The first Fortress of Solitude belonged to Doc Savage, the original for Superman

The Fortress of Solitude was featured in the Doc Savage 1975 movie and other various comics

* Blatantly ripped off by the writers of DC's Superman comics five years after its appearance in the Doc Savage stories.

☀Whether it was publisher Henry Ralston, editor John Nanovic or writer Lester Dent who came up with the name in 1932 when planning the new Doc Savage series, they hit just the right note. The Fortress was introduced in the very first novel and mentioned in nearly every one which followed, yet the readers never got a glimpse of the place. It remained a teasing, magical reference. Until October 1938.

Despite himself, Doc shivered. Beneath the insulated parka, his shirt was torn to shreds....

SPOILERS AHEAD (But geez, the book IS titled FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, so how much of a surprise can it be? The cover and back blurb to the Bantam paperback pretty much give it all away, too.)

Be that as it may, this is one of the essential books in the series that every Doc Savage fan should include in their list to be read. FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE was intended by Lester Dent to be Doc's greatest adventure, continuing directly into the next issue. Unfortunately, Street & Smith fouled this up by publishing THE GREEN DEATH (by Harold A. Davis) next. So, Dent dropped a lot of material from THE DEVIL GENGHIS which would have cleared up some loose ends. Then, sixty years later when the new Doc Savage books were coming out, Will Murray intended to write THE WAR MAKER, which would be based on Dent' original outline and would explain what had happened between FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE and THE DEVIL GENGHIS.

Only this time, Conde Nast (heirs to Street & Smith properties) discontinued the new adventures before Will could write the book. So again, the epic was derailed. Drat!

Oh well, we all have worse things to worry about. In any case, FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE must have been a stunning surprise to a pulp fan in October 1938. Since the first chapter of the very first Doc Savage story five years earlier, there had been tantalizing references to the mysterious "Fortress of Solitude". Not even Doc's closest friends, his five aides, knew exactly where this sanctum was, other than it was somewhere in the Arctic.

There, the man of bronze had gone to meditate and study, to invent and train. Readers were teased repeatedly with references to the wonderful laboratories and facilities Doc had at the Fortress. It was there, too, that he safely stored all the horrendous Mad Science weapons he had confiscated from defeated super-villains, so that the world would be safe from the Red Snow, the Blue Meteor, the Pop-eyed Death of the Crime Annihilist, Repel, the Cold Death ray and much more.

At the beginning of FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, the infamous John Sunlight escapes from a Siberian prison camp and (months later) lands his stolen icebreaker ship with his starving gang on a rocky island surrounded by hundreds of miles of ice. Here he finds something a wee bit unexpected, a strange blue dome a hundred feet high, perfectly smooth and featureless, made of some unknown material. Sunlight captures a tribe of Eskimos (okay, it is know we are not supposed to use that unacceptable word anymore, but the PC Mind Control monitors have to cut a 1938 book some slack) and from them finds a way into the strange blue dome.

John Sunlight turns up next in New York City, where he wants to settle a grudge against the Russian diplomat Serge Mafnoff, who had been responsible for his sentencing. Right in front of his servants, Mafnoff turns into a solid black silhouette which then dissipates like smoke. Naturally, Doc Savage soon hears about this. He is always alert for any inexplicable Fortean events in the world, and this is right across town. When he investigates, he and his aides are then attacked by a weird blackness... not a thick smoke or gas, but something so total that even flashlights or matches can't be seen. In fact, it's something that causes temporary blindness.

After escaping this, even Doc has a look of horror on his normally expressionless mug. ("Doc Savage seemed to get hold of himself with visible effort. Then he did a strange thing; he held both hands in front of him and made them into tense, metallic fists. He looked at the fists. They trembled a little from strain. Finally he put the fists down against his sides and let out a long breath. 'It cannot be anything but what I think it is,' he said.") We've seen the bronze man face certain death dozens of times without a twitch, confront the most horrifying situations imaginable with a deadpan stoicism. To see him so upset really jars his aides (and the reader).

For he knows the alarming truth about what must have happened. When two enormous women named Titania and Gigantia get involved in the case and make a remark about a strange blue dome, Doc is so shaken he runs into another room to get a grip. His worst fears have come true. ("... there was an expression on his face that shocked his men. It was a stricken look - one of such intensity that it was startling, for Doc Savage so rarely showed his emotions.")

It turns out the weapon that turns people into black smoke and the ray that causes blindness were his own inventions, and they had been stored at the Fortress of Solitude for safekeeping. Now, of all people in the world, John Sunlight has found the Fortress and made off with inventions Doc judged too terrible to ever be used. Sunlight has decided to auction off the forbidden weapons to the various European nations which are gearing up for the next World War (coming up fast).

Trying to locate John Sunlight, Doc and the usual team of Monk and Ham (with sourpuss Long Tom along for this adventure) disguise themselves as bodyguards for a drunk nitwit European prince who has been offered a chance to buy one of the doomsday gadgets for his country. Complicating things are the big bruiser women Gigantia and Titania, as well as their adorable little Kewpie doll sister Fifi, who is a severe pain south of the belt in the back. Although Monk and Ham are of course hopelessly smitten with Fifi, Long Tom seriously wants to toss her off the plane, calls her a "little idiot" in a shouting match and threatens to paddle her with a frying pan. (He's consistent, our Major Roberts.)

John Sunlight is usually picked by fans as Doc's greatest arch-enemy. He is the only villain in the original canon to survive a clash with the bronze man and come back for another round. (All of Doc's other foes either ended up in the grave or the Crime College --- for a pulp hero often described as a big Boy Scout, he sure gets the job done thoroughly.) There has been a good deal of speculation that Sunlight was in fact Doc's son (I suspect this was something Philip Jose Farmer was setting up in ESCAPE FROM LOKI) but I don't buy it for an instant. It just doesn't ring true to the themes or outlook of the series.

No, if I had to speculate on an origin for John Sunlight, I would connect him with Rasputin somehow. Grigori Yefimovich (1872-1916) had the same tall thin frame, lean ascetic face and burning eyes, strong hypnotic ability and resistance to being killed that John Sunlight showed in even stronger form. Rasputin also reportedly was known for his extensive sexual activity and he was accused by his enemies of practicing black magic. So Sunlight could be seen as either a disciple (a "Rasputnik"), a son by one of the Tsar's maids or the unholy monk himself somehow surviving his supposed murder.

As villains go, Sunlight is pretty impressive. He seems to be in many ways a dark mirror image of Doc himself. He is strictly disciplined and self-controlled, his only emotional sign being an occasional beastly growl when enraged (counterpart to Doc's trilling). He prefers not to kill his victims physically, but to break them down mentally and instill a terrified absolute obedience in them (a bit like the Crime College, only not as humane). And where Doc has that monochromatic motif going, what with the bronze hair and skin and golden eyes, Sunlight tends to dress in outfits of all one color for dramatic purposes. A mastermind with a strong fashion sense who knows how to accessorize, that's scary.

Doc has a special grievance against John Sunlight. Other villains may have claimed thousands of lives in their schemes or had reigns of terror that lasted for years or even threatened world peace. But it was Sunlight that violated Doc's privacy, invaded his personal sanctuary and made off with weapons the bronze man had decided should never be used. Doc takes this all personally. The fact that he blames himself for keeping the forbidden inventions intact just makes him feel worse. ("The bronze man suddenly looked weary and battered. 'The trouble was,' he added, 'the place was so remote that I got to thinking no one would ever find it. So I stored those infernal machines here. I should have destroyed them.' ") Only the Mayan assassin Morning Breeze, who had killed Clark Savage Sr offended Doc as strongly.

The ending to FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE is oddly ambiguous for this series. John Sunlight has apparently been killed by a polar bear, but there's no body and you know how it is with criminal masterminds.... if there's nothing to perform an autopsy on, it's not over. A score of the terrifying weapons are still missing and unaccounted for, too. Two months later, Sunlight would make a slightly less impressive comeback, but readers of this story at the time must have been a little unsettled by how things are not resolved with the finality that they expected from the bronze man.

Now, the last DOC SAVAGE pulp came out in 1949. Nearly a decade later, when the TV series ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN went off the air, editor Mort Weisinger started making extensive revisions to the Superman titles (he had wanted to update the comics but had to hold back to keep them consistent with the TV show). For one thing, he swiped the Fortress of Solitude. Street & Smith had discontinued their pulps, the Doc Savage character was not likely to ever be seen again (or so Weisinger thought). So he gave Superman an impressive mysterious citadel deep in the Arctic, a structure just packed with amazing sights and advanced technology and dangerous Mad Science weapons. Why not? Superman's Fortress had a gimmick that (let's face it) doesn't make much sense but which haunted the imaginations of a generation of comics fans. a gigantic gold-colored metal key about the size of a school bus stood in the Arctic where it supposedly acted as a marker pointing a direction for the rare aircraft in the area. Only Superman, who could fly and was the strongest being in creation, could use it as a key to the giant door set in the side of a mountain.

A new Doc Savage movie has been bandied about for ages now, as well as a new Shadow film, and I'd be glad to see the characters get another shot at starting franchises. But how amusing it would be to see casual moviegoers coming out and saying, "They've got some nerve stealing Superman's Fortress of Solitude!" "Yeah, I'm surprised DC doesn't sue them!"

For miles and miles in all directions the white waste looked absolutely barren - except directly ahead, where there was obviously an island. The bronze man simply disappeared from his usual haunts, sometimes for months at a time, and during these absences, it was absolutely impossible to get in touch with him. When Doc came back from these absences, he explained simply that he had been at his Fortress of Solitude -and usually, too, he brought back some new invention, or the solution of some complicated problem of science or surgery. The island seemed to be solid stone, with no bit of soil and no vegetation. Just a high, bald knob of stone. Amass of rock rearing up from the floor of the Arctic Ocean. It must be as solid as Gibraltar, for it stood firm against the ice pack. The ice had piled up against the island, and for leagues it was broken in great bergs. The floes had squeezed and piled one on top of the other, and the ice had lumped up in masses that were sometimes as large as factory buildings.The Strange Blue Dome stood, a weird−looking thing, on the rock island.It was like half a blue agate marble.Like a marble that some fabulous titan had lost here in this unknown part of the globe, to become buried in stone and surrounded by fantastic ice. It was strange. 

Long before there was a Superman, before there was a Batman there was our hero Doc Savage. And yes comic fans he is the source material for most of the great aspects of our favorite comics.One of these concepts is the lair, the place to retreat to… the Fortress of Solitude. Doc Savages’ Fortress of Solitude was constructed by him and a team member Renny ( yes before the Avengers and X-men Doc had a specialized team). Large sections were fabricated and the materials and construction crews were then airlifted on huge cargo planes to a remote area of the Arctic where the great dome was constructed. The Fortress served as a retreat where Doc could go to spend long uninterrupted periods of time studying, experimenting and pursuing his interests.

For our purposes, the Fortress of Solitude is where we will discuss the things that interest us… our studies, experiments, hobbies and interests and where we go to retreat from the outside world in order to pursue them