Superman #204: "The Fortress Of Fear!"

Superman #204
"The Fortress Of Fear!"
February, 1968

Script: Cary Bates
Art: Al Plastino

What alien intelligence has entered Superman's Arctic sanctuary... and
turned it into... 'The Fortress of Fear!"  The Fortress of Solitude has
an invader -- who has caused everything inside to attack the Man of
Steel.  In the afternoon, Superman heads over the Arctic... where he
hopes to get some relaxation at his Fortress of Solitude.  He is grateful
to have a private place where he can catch a breather between criminals,
monsters, and mad scientists.

The Man of Steel is startled when the door closes by itself, and figures
that a strong gust of wind must have been responsible.  Now, he is ready
for a super-speed game of chess against a computerized opponent.  But
when the machine is activated... the computer begins to malfunction.
Large chess pieces are being hurled at Superman, but the device must be
deactivated.  The computerized opponent goes from being a chess player to
being a boxer, as its metal arms seek to ward off the Man of Steel.

One solid punch from Superman turns the machine to rubble.  The computer
circuits had been checked on only last week, but this doesn't explain its
sudden rampage.  Within the Bottle City of Kandor... two scientists try
to contact the Man of Steel about the danger he is in, but their
communications systems have been jammed.  Superman is enjoying himself in
an energized radiation shower, which serves to clean his uniform.
BA-BOOM!  BA-BOOM!  His super-hearing soon picks up a strange sound in
another part of the Fortress.

BA-BOOM!  BA-BOOM!  The sound is keen enough to hurt even his
super-hearing.  BA BOOM!  BA-BOOM!  BA BOOM!  BOOM  The Man of Steel is
soon on his knees from the reverberations.  The noise is soon replaced by
the sound of silence... and Superman is grateful, for he doesn't know how
much more he could have taken.  There is an intruder in the Fortress, an
enemy -- either an old one or a new one.  The super-electronic brain is
given the information so that it may deduce what may be behind this.

Minutes pass, with the giant computer brain sorting through the data...
before it blows itself to bits.  The Man of Steel picks up the punch
card, and reads "The Enemy You Seek Is The Fortress I."  More noise is
coming from the interplanetary zoo, where the many specimens have escaped
from their holding area.  Unfortunately for Superman, many of the animals
are as strong as he is.  It is soon a battle of super-brawn vs.

After sealing off the chamber, the Man of Steel is determined to find out
who is behind this strange threat.  Clenching his fist, Superman demands
that his unknown foe meet him face-to-face.  HA!  HA!  HA!  HA!  HA!  The
response is a series of high-piercing laughter throughout the Fortress...
No sooner is this heard, that the ground beneath the Man of Steel comes
to life, and seeks to pull him down.  The mysterious force has also
caused the secret arsenal to become activated against Superman.

A voice calls out to the Man of Steel, telling him to enjoy these last
few moments before the end.  When he asks why his opponent doesn't come
out where he can see him, Superman learns that it's been the Fortress
that's been attacking him all along.  The reverberations he had heard
earlier was its magnified heartbeat.  The super-computers message had
been referring to the "Fortress Itself."  It had been a life-force from
Pluto... on its way past Earth, it had stopped at the Arctic to recharge
its energy.  When it came across the Fortress, the life-force absorbed
it, and became a living being.  It has had enough fun, but it now decides
to destroy the Man of Steel.  Using his remaining strength, Superman uses
his heat-vision to heat up the surrounding area.

Minutes pass, with the entire Fortress radiating tremendous heat, and the
life-force unable to withstand it.  It makes its surrender, and the Man
of Steel knew that coming from a subzero environment, heat would prove to
be its Achilles Heel.  Now back in its original form, the life-force
waits for Superman to destroy it.  Luckily for it, the Man of Steel has a
code against killing, and places it in an escape-proof receptacle -- then
uses his super-strength to hurl it in orbit around the sun.  Superman now
has time to notice the irony of coming to the Fortress for some rest, and
figures that next time, he should relax within the heart of an exploding

Despite the serious style of the lead story in Superman #204, this one
retains the inherent silliness of the Silver Age Superman titles.

After a mysterious malfunction, the computerized chess opponent proves to
be a sore loser.

Two Kandorian scientists try to warn the Man of Steel about his present
peril, but they have fulfilled their two-panel quota for the duration of
the story.

I'm assuming that the energized radiation shower that cleans the
super-uniform has worn off, otherwise there'd be a lot less employees at
the woefully understaffed Daily Planet.

On page 4, panel 1 and panel 4, it looks like Al Plastino got some
last-minute help from Joe Kubert or Ross Andru, and Curt Swan,

After seeing what happened to the computerized chess opponent, the
super-electronic brain no doubt decided to spit out the punch card,
before the Man of Steel delivered the punch line.

On page 8, panel 5, after such a harrowing experience, Superman has got
some lines on his forehead, and arching eyebrows from Joe Kubert.

Steve Chung
"The Fortress of Review!"