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Superhero Headquarters


Beneath a harmless-looking Gotham City residence, a unique cavern lies hidden from the world! announced Detective Comics #205 in 1954. Batman and Robin's subterranean headquarters, located underneath alter ego Bruce Wayne's mansion, has become so ingrained in America's consciousness that one only has to say the word Batcave in order to conjure up images of this top-secret underground labyrinth. Although the Batcave's appearance has varied over the years according to comic-book artists' (and film and TV set designers') interpretations, some of its more well-known features include the crime lab, the crime-file room, a garage and repair shop for the Batmobile, a hangar for the Batplane and Batcopter, docking facilities for the Batboat, a Bat-costume vault, a trophy room, and a fully equipped workshop. Thanks to its portrayal in the Batman TV show (1966–1968) and the Batman live-action film franchise of the 1990s, the Batcave is an icon: Alternately accessible via a spiral staircase, Batpole, and secret elevator from the Wayne mansion (depending upon the era of the story), Batman and Robin often retreat to their laboratory apparatus and crime-detection equipment in order to solve a mystery, referencing their electronic data analyzer and DNA Spectograph in order to unearth information on Gotham's criminals. The Batcave also contains mementoes of some of Batman's previous cases, including a replica of a giant penny, a giant Joker playing card, and a statue of a T-Rex, all salutes to Batman stories from the 1940s and 1950s but visuals maintained in Batman comics in the 2000s.

Sorry, that was then. Fast-forward to now, an era wherein only die-hard Batman fans know that the Batcave as much of America has come to know it no longer exists. The New Batcave, constructed in the aftermath of the earthquake that demolished Gotham City in the lengthy No Man's Land serial that ran throughout the Batman titles in 1999, is a self-contained, eight-level, underground lair for the Dark Knight. This ultra-high-tech hideout boasts a state-of-the-art massive computer system and hologram projector, as well as much-updated renditions of Batman's library, training facilities, forensics laboratory, and vehicle ramps, dockers, and hangars. Bedecked in cool steel structures with retractable walkway bridges, there is no mistaking the New Batcave for anything other than the ultimate superhero sanctuary.

Another Gotham City resident, Oracle, sits perched in the city's Clocktower, ready to dispatch any one of her Birds of Prey field operatives upon the city's villainous. Working high above the crime-ridden streets, Oracle stays posted at her computer—actually, six Yale super-computers—acting as information broker to Gotham's heroes, including Batman, Nightwing, and the Justice League. With her genius-level intellect, photographic memory, and research and analytical skills, she is Batman's trusted confidante, a necessary part of the Dark Night's inner circle. Her secret hideaway—though difficult to reach for most—is, of course, wheelchair accessible for the heroine's special needs.

In stark opposition to the Batcave, Superman's Fortress of Solitude lies inside a dimension of unlimited space. Though original built deep in the core of a mountainside in the desolate Arctic wastes, this location proved to be too vulnerable a hideout for the Man of Steel. It was here, according to Action Comics #241 (June 1958), that the Man of Steel conducted incredible experiments, kept strange trophies, and pursued astounding hobbies—in addition to just putting his feet up. First mentioned by name in the comics in 1949, his secret sanctum was originally conceived as a hidden repository for showcasing Krypton's culture and artifacts, and as such housed Superman's workshop, trophy room, and super-laboratory, where Superman put in overtime in search of an antidote for kryptonite. In addition, the Fortress contained a gym; a bowling alley; an interplanetary zoo (housing wildlife from a variety of distant planets); a Hall of Interplanetary Monsters; the Bottle City of Kandor (a city of Superman's home planet, Krypton, which was reduced to microscopic size by the villain Brainiac); special hyperspace radios for communicating with various distant galaxies and alien dimensions (housed in a communications room that also included hotline channels to the United Nations, the White House, and the Metropolis Police Department); and a number of assorted weapons and scientific apparatus.

In the Superman comics continuity of the 2000s, the Fortress is a high-tech wonderworld bearing little resemblance to the version popularized during the Silver Age of comics (1956–1969). Though fans might find a Krypton memorial, it is in the form of twin holographic images of Superman's Kryptonian parents, Jor-El and Lara. And though Kandor is still preserved, the crystalline diorama of Kandor's capital, Kryptonopolis, is more likely to catch visitors' eyes. Fans stumble upon Kryptonian power crystals; radiation-depleted chunks of Lex Luthor-contrived synthetic kryptonite; and a model of a Kryptonian skyship, a glider from ancient Krypton. The Fortress also houses the Last Son of Krypton's holographic archive, the holographic encyclopedic library that chronicles Superman's life; a Central Computer Nexus; the Phantom Zone Portal, which provides an entrance into that extradimensional space; and a Phantom Zone Control, which monitors the energy sources and all movement inside and outside the Phantom Zone. In addition, the Fortress is home to Ned, the sole remaining Superman robot; Superman's faithful robotic servant, Kelex; and Krypto, Superman's dog.

Few heroes enjoy such elaborate bases of operations as Batman and Superman, although the X-Men headquarters is a site to be reckoned with. Marvel Comics' mutant band of superheroes, spend most of their time at their mentor Professor X's mansion, located in Westchester County, New York. Xavier's estate houses the X-Men's training facility, the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning, which fronts as an Ivy League–like school. It's here that the telepathically and telekinetically inclined fine-tune their intellectual skills and learn to strengthen their powers. Some of the mansion's more interesting features include the Medi-Lab, an advanced medical facility that provides full-scale medical treatment for the mutants; the Cerebro computer system, an elaborate system of machines that Professor X designed to locate mutants by tracking their psionic energy; a subterranean Danger Room, where the X-Men hone their athletic and combat skills by pitting themselves against super-robots in combat-training classes; and a subterranean War Room, which houses computers that collect top-secret global information. The property boasts such extravagances as an underground hangar and runway, specially designed for the X-Men's Blackbird jets; an ultra-fast monorail carries the X-Men from the mansion to the hangar in only twenty seconds. Finally, all manner of internal and external high-tech security (courtesy of wealthy industrialist Tony Stark, a.k.a. Iron Man) protects the mansion from would-be intruders.

Just a train-ride away from upstate Westchester lies New York City, home to many Marvel superheroes. The Fantastic Four (FF) battle crime in the Big Apple from Four Freedoms Plaza, located in midtown Manhattan. Just a stone's throw from the United Nations headquarters, Four Freedoms Plaza was built on the former site of the Baxter Building, the Fantastic Four's previous headquarters before it was destroyed by the villainous Thunderbolts. Designed by FF leader Reed Richards (a.k.a. Mister Fantastic), Four Freedoms Plaza is a forty-five-story office building topped off by the FF's four-story base of operations—a self-sustaining, heavily armored barricade, containing both the superteam's meeting place and individual members' living quarters. Relying heavily on computers, guard robots, and other high-tech devices to maintain security, this ultra-cool command post houses several major state-of-the-art research laboratories, complete with one-of-a-kind mechanisms permitting entry into the Negative Zone and a duplicate of Doctor Doom's time machine.

Quarantining the FF headquarters from the rest of the building is a buffer zone of top-security equipment; if the Fantastic Four's HQ should come under attack, emergency security devices seal the headquarters area off from the rest of the building. However, most visitors prefer to enter via the more traditional first floor, through elevators guarded by Mr. O'Hoolihan, the trusty doorman who serviced the superteam at the Baxter Building. Although permission for entry is required from none other than the FF themselves, visitors who are admitted take an elevator up to the reception room, attended by Roberta, a robot receptionist that appears human from the waist up.

The Avengers Mansion is one of the few hero hideouts to carry an exact street address—890 5th Avenue—and comes complete with all the accoutrements hard-living heroes need to unwind at the end of a long day: an Olympic-sized pool, workout facilities, even a combat simulation room, though it doesn't benefit from the interstellar Shi'ar technology that creates virtual environments for the X-Men's Danger Room. The Teen Titans do business from the T-shaped Titans Tower. Still other heroes simply prefer to live life in the apartments of their alter egos: Peter Parker and Matt Murdock are content to hang out in their New York City brownstones when they aren't swinging and leaping from rooftops as Spider-Man and Daredevil, respectively (though Spidey's alternate-universe daughter, Spider-Girl, has operated out of an abandoned historic meeting-hall refitted with high-tech equipment and renamed—what else?—the Web Site).

Far away from New York City lies the moon-based headquarters of the Justice League of America. The Watchtower is the most advanced command post of DC's superteam, who have in days past convened in the mountain-top base of their Secret Sanctuary near Happy Harbor, Rhode Island, as well as in an underground Bunker in Detroit, Michigan. (Perhaps the team's longest-running redoubt was a satellite orbiting Earth, homaged in the 1990s and 2000s by Honor Guard's hovering mobile command center in Astro City and the Five Swell Guys' own space satellite, High Five, in Promethea.) The Watchtower, a high-tech solar station, boasts all the accoutrements of a five-star hotel, including living suites, a well-stocked kitchen, and training and workout facilities. Of course, this is outer space, so all types of super-equipment make it possible for the team and its visitors to come, go, live, fight, and breathe: landing docks and entry ports; a teleport tube; an armory loaded with last resort weapons; a deep-bore ice miner; a deep water tank; and a hydroponic forest. —GM

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