Today's Lesson: Crafting the Perfect Lair
Let's face it: You can pull off the heist of the century, but without a proper hideout, it's only a matter of time before some costumed vigilante kicks in the door of your local Motel Six and puts a violent end to your crime spree. With proper planning and construction, however, you'll be avoiding capture for upwards of an entire week before your do-gooder nemesis gives you any guff.
Picking Your Design
The proper lair isn't just a hideout that you retreat to after stealing the world's largest diamond or a local scientist's prototype shrink ray; it's a space you can make your own. With that in mind, here are a few popular choices to start from.
The Abandoned Warehouse
PROSAvailable and discreet. Recent studies have shown that over 80% of the average urban area is almost completely occupied with unused corporate storage facilities from highly specific companies like playing card manufacturers and makers of Egyptian-themed novelties, with the remaining 20% taken up mostly by jewelers, science labs, and museums which, oddly enough, all feature skylights.
CONSFor sprawling and generic structures that have fallen into disuse, abandoned warehouse ownership is surprisingly well-documented. This information is often readily available online in easily-accessible City databases, so unless you're fighting the Amish Avenger or something, expect to be rooted out fairly quickly.
THE RUNDOWNThe classic choice for the arch-criminal on a budget, the Abandoned Warehouse often has the tie-in to your gimmick that it's just impossible to resist, but the generic structure and original purpose leave precious little room for deathtraps (see Step Three).
PROSEasily defensible and majestic, the Castle is a mark of status for any super-villain. Plus, crenelated towers make a dandy launchpad for anything from nuclear weapons to rockets with laser-beams that devolve humans into cats, depending on your personal flavor of super-crime.
CONSAside from the fact that this same defensibility can make the Castle a difficult site to acquire, it's not exactly the most subtle hideout you could ask for-The first thing a so-called "Good Guy" is going to do when unexpected earthquakes and meteor showers start interrupting his lunch hour is a punch-laden visit to majestic Castle Von Evilstadt. Hence the nuclear weapons and devolution lasers.
THE RUNDOWNEssentially, owning a castle is like saying "Hey, I'm so badass that my hideout is a national landmark," and if you've got the firepower to back it up, go for it. If, however, your crimes tend to revolve around geometry or cleverly-worded crossword puzzles, you might want to stick with Option A.
TIP: If you're running low on construction funds, consider deposing an Eastern European Monarchy! They often come with their own castles and footsoldiers, and despotism can be surprisingly lucrative!
The Volcano Shaped Like Your Head
PROSIsolated and awe-inspiring. A floor built on molten lava makes it easy to heat in the wintertime and an open volcanic crater makes a nice breeze during the summer. Plus, having an open rivers of superheated liquid rock makes hero disposal a simple one-step process.
CONSUnless your looks are routinely described as "craggy" or "mountainous," expect to invest a lot in landscaping. Plus, these things tend to attract nosy European spies like you would not believe.
THE RUNDOWNOdds are, if you've got the kind of money to retrofit an active volcano into a working lair, you've probably got a hideout already. But it makes for a delightful summer lair, and if you don't mind the occasional jackbooted thug from your Army of Minions getting devoured by the local fauna, the investment's worth it.
PROSAssuming you've got the ability to breathe underwater, this should be a natural choice. Otherwise, it's the tops in isolation, and with three quarters of the earth to search and the recent decline in submarine use, Johnny Law won't be crashing through the window to stop your plan any time soon.
CONSThis is the one element of crime that being able to talk to fish can actually stop.
THE RUNDOWNAssuming you're willing to put up with the astronomical operation costs-including transport, oxygen, and hyperbaric compression chambers for whenever you want to hit the local liquor store-the Undersea Facilty makes a fine staging area. And believe us, there's nothing quite like an army of soldiers with laser shooting tridents rising from the ocean to take over the coastal city of your choice.
TIP: To make ANY hideout better, just add tank treads. A castle with an army of loyal soldiers willing to die furthering your evil causes? Good. The same castle able to roll around of its own volition, raining lasery death upon those who oppose you? Much, much better.
The Orbiting Satellite
PROSTrust us, you're going to want this one. There is no better way to exact your revenge than from the comfort of a skull-shaped metal structure 23,000 miles above your foes.
CONSTake all the hassles of the Undersea Facility and replace the fear of imploding under the pressure of the ocean with the fear of exploding in the cold vacuum of space. And while astronaut training for every grunt in your private army might seem like a needless expense, we can guarantee that without it, someone's going to pop the airlock open for a smoke break within two hours of settling in.
THE RUNDOWNYou're not going to make it into geosynchronous orbit by knocking over art museums and brawling with sidekicks on rooftops, but if you make it to World Class villain status, it's the only way to threaten the entire planet while staying reasonably certain that your CDs are safe from harm.
Keep in mind, these are just suggestions and you should feel free to mix and match. Got an idea for a townhouse shaped like your head on the outskirts of the city? Go for it! And just remember, with enough time and effort, any structure can be a lair you'll be proud of.
Quite possibly the biggest problem with crafting your own lair is the inabilty to find good, cheap labor that'll keep its mouth shut when the cops start poking around-so if you don't speak Spanish, now's the time to learn.
Before it's all over, you're going to be dealing with electricians, steelworkers, mechanics, gunsmiths, stonemasons (the brickworking kind), stonemasons (the secret-dominators-of-the-world kind), vicious animal trainers, and various contractors for water and power.
Needless to say, this sort of thing can put a dent in even the most serious villain's capital. So in order to keep expenses down, keep these two techniques in mind:
- Familiarize yourself with the basics of construction.If you have a working knowledge of the task at hand, you're less likely to be ripped off by unscrupulous contractors. Also, depending on where your criminal persona falls on the scale of "terror-inspiring" to "slightly ridiculous," you might want to consider meeting out of costume.
- Try to arrange for payment on completion of the job.Since you're pretty much going to kill everyone involved with the construction so that they can't reveal your secrets anyway, this works out to be a fiscally prudent move.
TIP: If at all possible, utilize robot duplicates of yourself in the construction process. In addition to being tireless pawns of your terrible whims, clockwork engines of doom tend to file fewer Workman's Comp claims.
After you've decided on the basic layout of your lair and gotten the foundation poured, it's time to really cut loose and have some fun. In addition to being your place of refuge from the pressures of the day-to-day super-villain lifestyle, your lair should also be a fully functioning arena of death for any who dare challenge you.
This is the time to play to what makes you unique! If you're out there terrorizing the night as Bishop King, the Cantankerous Chessman!, then you're going to want to forego the alligator moat in favor of the electrified checkerboard and soldiers mounted on mechanical horses. The more elaborate the trap, the better: You want deathtraps so unfathomably deadly that you don't even need to stick around to watch the slow, painful, and difficult-but-not-impossible-to-escape death of your most hated foes.
Also, you might want to have several backup plans and escape routes. Just a thought.
Either way, this is your chance to really show your creativity-but in accordance with Super-Villain by-laws, your lair must incorporate the following elements:
TRAPDOORSIf it were possible, we would suggest you make every door in your hideout a trapdoor. Sadly, this would result in a very tall, very thin structure, and those just do not hold up well against the assaults of today's cosmic-powered rock monsters. Still, trapdoors are a thing of simple beauty, and should be used at every opportunity. Consider rigging the entire structure with a sequence of chutes that you alone will fully comprehend, each leading to a challenge more deadly than the last. Or, failing that, a pit with sharp sticks or something.
WALL-MOUNTED MACHINE GUNSMuch like the velvet rope at a nightclub, these are hastily assembled, easy to get through, and only there to keep out the riffraff.
CRUSHING WALLSDespite the fact that crushing walls have never succeeded even once in the entire history of deathtraps, no super-villain lair is complete without them, and they're considered by many villainous subcultures to be signs of good luck. Essentially, activating these slow-moving and easily circumvented obstacles is the lair equivalent of breaking a bottle of champagne on a new ship. Only slightly less dangerous.
Keep these things in mind, and you're well on your way to a hideout you can be proud of in between your long, torturous stays at your local penetentiary or asylum!
NEXT TIME: Henchmen!
Which high-school dropout with a six-word vocabulary and an itchy trigger finger is right for your underworld army?