Monday, November 14, 2011

The Secret Sanctuary

In the Silver Age, when the Justice League was created, creators and artists were not focused on extraneous details. If it wasn't necessary to the plot, it didn't get in (and that included characterization).

In its first stories, the Justice League simply... existed. There was no long, drawn out story of Who It Was and How It Came To Be. Later, someone threw together a typically wacky tale of how the League was informed, involving the absurd Ersatzians, er, I mean Appellaxians and their attempt to take over Earth as a side-effect of their electoral process.

So, too, the JLA's HQ was introduced without ceremony or elaboration. They had a "secret sanctuary". It was deep within a hollowed out mountain.

Later on we learned that the Secret Sanctuary was, for no fathomable reason at all, in Rhode Island, by the ocean. Are there mountains sitting by the sea in Rhode Island? I don't think so. That's probably why the writers picked Rhode Island; chances are, most of their reader had never been there and hadn't the slightest idea what it was like.

The JLA holed up in the Secret Sanctuary for the entire Silver Age. Their tenure there--and indeed the Silver Age itself--came to an end when Snapper Carr betrayed the Justice League to the Joker, and the JLA modern to a very non-secret sanctuary "in geosynchronous orbit 22,300 miles above the earth" (as we were reminded in every story).

In later years, the Sanctuary would be used by Justice League successors, like the Detroit League, Young Justice and (briefly) the Justice Society. Those stays gave us several artistic interpretations of the Sanctuary, made possible by the fact that, as originally presented the Sanctuary was a tiny and unprepossessing place.

See those two empty chairs? Batman and Superman's.
They seldom hung out with the JLA during the Silver Age.
Too busy walking their dogs in capes, I suppose.

That was it. An open-face garage for Diana's plane, a meeting table in a cramped lounge, and some funky stairs up to a library and communication center. That was it; the HQ for the world's most astonishing and powerful superteam was little more than a carriage house.

Even later, when it started to be implied that the Sanctuary might be larger, we had no idea what that meant. For the longest time, so much of whatever non-action scenes the plot required in JLA stories took place while they all sat around that damned table trying to figure out what the heck Snapper was saying, so there were few visual clues as to anything else in the Sanctuary.

Eventually, various inconsistent cutaway plans were drafted (see link above). But I only used what I saw in the stories themselves when I made...

The Secret Sanctuary Map!

A custom Heroclix map of the Justice League of America's original headquarters!

I started with a few ideas. "The Conference Table" had to be in the middle of a big, cavernous space. Each of the original Leaguers should have their own quarters in the Sanctuary (even though they were never seen in the stories, it simply made sense as a practical matter), plus a guest room. There had to be a "library level". There had to be a waterway to Aquaman's room, and there had to be exits to the hangar and to the harbor.

I threw in some trophies as hindering terrain (since in JLA: Year One, the League was shown to keep trophies in their main hall rather than in a separate Trophy Room). I added a Teleportation Pad, since that figures so prominently in the Young Justice cartoon, and few suitable items of ostentation like the world rug and the "justice for all" inscription.

The map is fairly straightforward with the exception of Aquaman's uniquely amphibian living quarters, whose "dry room" has a hatch that leads to a pipeway that connects Arthur's bedroom directly with the underground stream that leads to the harbor.

If you print this map (PosterBrain will do a fine job for you; tell Poppy that Scipio sent you!), have fun by having each of the Leaguers start in their own bedroom and the attackers come in from the harbor and teleportation pad. Battle will probably take place in the main hall, with some maneuvering on the library level and the balcony of the quarters level. Let Aquaman take full advantage of the underground stream to sneak up behind his foes. If you field Batman make sure he hugs the walls where the trophies are, otherwise he'll be a sitting duck.

Some day I may try to compose a map that hews much more closely to the original, smaller design of the Secret Sanctuary, rather than being inspired by elements added later. But for now, enjoy this map and the individual touches that each hero brought to his or her living quarters.


Accursed Off-topic-already Interloper said...

Hey speaking of those Erzatzians, is it just me or did that great big "fire creature" in Superman #1 not look awfully Appalaxian?

Citizen Scribbler said...

Say, Scipio! All the time I've been enjoying this blog, you've been tantalizing me with these wonderful maps and other heroclix related posts (I always hoped you would recount more play-by-plays of some of your most interesting matches). Anyhow, what with the holidays coming up and all, I've decided to finally put some heroclix stuff on my wishlist or maybe even just go ahead make them a present to myself. My question is- do you know a good online site to go to for my heroclix purchasing needs? I'm sure you've probably mentioned one before, but I might have some difficulty locating the particular post. When I do get myself a set, I look forward to playing on your many unique, imaginative and, most importantly, fun maps. I thank you in advance, but I'll surely thank you again if you can help! :)

-Citizen Scribbler

Bryan L said...

Of course Batman and Superman didn't bother to attend meetings. When you've got the Batcave and the Fortress of Solitude, why would you bother hanging out in the dumpy Sanctuary? Might as well stay at the Delta Chi fraternity house, or Motel 6.

CobraMisfit said...

The most powerful and influential superheroes in the DC universe headquartered themselves in a rinky-dink hole-in-the-wall called the "Secret Sanctuary?"

I love it!

Scipio said...

Interloper; Yes, it did; I noticed that, but figured it was a coincidence.

Scribbler: Oh, good! I hope you enjoy it. I recommend playing it as a solitaire game; playing against others gives me a headache, LOL. Usually, I get my clicks from a super-secret supplier, but getting them from Popular Collections or Troll & Toad also works. Get the most recent Superman set, the upcoming "Fast Forces: Superman" mini-set; then consider getting the Arkham Asylum set and the Brave & Bold set. Any dials earlier than that aren't going to be very playable.

Misfit: Yes, exactly so. It's very DC, somehow, isn't it?

SallyP said...

This is delightful. I adore maps. I do have to say that the cave wasn't much in comparison to that swanky ski-lodge headquarters that the Green Lanterns had, but hey...the Justice League didn't have John Stewart as their architect! At least not then.

I wonder if Batman had a batpole in his room?

ronald said...

>>>If it wasn't necessary to the plot, it didn't get in

And sometimes, even then...

Scipio said...


"Wait, what? A ... giant pearl? Flying poker chips? An invisible yellow aura? WTF is going on here?!!?"

Citizen Scribbler said...

Thanks for the tips, Scipio! I look forward to getting in on what has sounded like a really fun game. And I know that TotalToyz is the one to ask about custom jobs, yes? Fielding slightly obscure personal favorites sounds a great way to customize your matches.

One more query if you've got a moment- do you know where there's a good tutorial or something so I can learn how it's played? I'm still really confused about how these dial things work. In fact, I'm SUCH a noob, I still need to figure out what constitutes a full "set" such as you've mentioned above. Is that, like, a "block of bricks"? Does one get duplicates? A little further prod in the right direction would be much appreciated.

-Citizen Scribbler

Scipio said...

Scribbler, feel free to contact me directly at (then I can give you my phone number), and I can talk you through. It's a bit much to go into here ;-)

Periodically, Wizkids releases a new "set", a group of new figures, often built around a common theme. A FULL set has about 60 figures. Those are often followed by a mini-set of SIX figures from that set put on different dials and packaged as a sort of 'starter kit' (these are call "Fast Forces"). Definitely get the Superman Fast Forces coming out soon; it will serve as a good introduction.

Scipio said...

You can check out the dials of the Superman Fast Forces at this link:

Those'll be coming out Dec 7. Plenty of time to study the powers on those dials so you are ready to play when they arrive!