Transportation of The Superhero Variety, Part 2: Vehicles


Last week we covered a few of the ways superheroes can get around town, but as I wrote that article I realized there was enough to say that it was worth expanding into a second part, which is what you’re reading right now.

A method brought up in the comments that I hadn’t even considered is the self-powered with a twist, a la Iceman and Sue Storm. Iceman, along with a number of other frozen water based characters, uses his power to create ramps, slides, and platforms to get around. It’s a very cool looking way to travel, but I’m not sure how efficient it would be. Some commenters suggested it would have to be like a roller coaster, with very big drops to get enough acceleration to keep moving along. It’s actually a shame they never tried to portray it in any of the movies, I would have been curious to see what they came up with when forced to show it in motion rather than static on a page. Sue Storm could conceivably use this method too, but one facet of her force fields that has yet to be explored is friction. We see the fields absorb impact all the time, but we don’t know if they’re slippery or not. People, herself included, stand on them, so there much be enough friction for that. And it seems like just having a moving invisible platform is good enough for all involved, but I still think it would be fun to see her with a pair of roller skates trucking along the New York skyline on a completely invisible track. Maybe that’s just me.

En español!

En español!

Another style I didn’t cover last week that a few people mentioned in the comments is teleportation. What is there really to say? You want to go from A to B, so you think real hard and you’re at B. Sometimes the power is enough to transport a whole team, which I find often relegates that character to the status of a vehicle rather than a full-fledged personality. Sometimes a team will have tech-based teleportation instead of having it provided by a character and for whatever reason I have no problem with that. Honestly I think that as a means of transportation it’s just not that interesting, even though it’s obviously the one method I’d pick to have in real life of any of the available options.

Of course, there’s something very obvious that we have yet to cover: vehicles. I think vehicular transport can be divided into two categories, individual and team-based. Since we’re all already thinking about the Batmobile let’s just start there. Since 1939 it has been THE iconic superhero ride. Countless iterations later and it’s still instantly recognizable, which is no small feat. Like the man behind the wheel, one of the things I love about the Batmobile is how it’s always ready to do anything the story requires. Usually that kind of Deus Ex Machina is tiresome, but I feel that in modern stories the Batmobile is used sparingly enough that it doesn’t get old. Bruce and his crew seem to spend more time on the rooftops then down on the streets, and the one ability he hasn’t built into the car yet is parkour. One of the great things about Batman is that he has so many other options; we’ve seen motoscyles, gliders, planes, rockets, boats, submarines, helicopters, and the list goes on. You name it, Bruce has probably had it at one point. All too often other vehicles just seem a pale imitation of the Batmobile. Does anyone remember Green Arrow’s Arrowcar?

Other individual vehicles of note include: invisible jet, spider jeep, stolen nazi jetpack, Owlship, and, of course, rocket skateboard.

This is the aircraft from the real world. Recognize.

This is the aircraft from the real world. Recognize.

But what if you need to get your whole team to the crises? While a teleporter may be very efficient, and a fleet of Batplanes would be very cool, you’re often going to need to spend an issue bickering on your way to a fight, and for that you need one big vehicle to carry the whole crew around. I think, by and large, that it helps for these to be flying vehicles (the Ninja Turtles van being one notable exception). Possibly the most iconic team vehicle is the X-Men’s Blackbird. A modified SR-71, which was already one of my favorite planes, that just looks so freaking cool it barely needs to be modified. Then there is the Avengers Quinjet, and the newly released Quinbird, because the Uncanny Avengers just have to be different. One thing I’ve noticed is that all these flying vehicles have the ability to hover for take-off and landing (called VTOL). This often makes sense for a story, and we do have planes capable of that style of flight, but just once I’d love to see the Blackbird tearing down a runway in Westchester. I think the team vehicle is an important trope because teams are often very dynamic, consistently changing rosters and even bases of operation, but a vehicle is a more or less constant touchstone and integral to the identity of a given squadron. I’m guessing it’s the only way Wolverine can tell who he’s with at any given moment.

I think that covers just about everything I had to say on the subject of superhero transportation. I’m sure you’ll all think of a few in the comments I forgot, in which case there may be a part 3. I mean, there are Helicarriers, but who heli-cares, am I right?


Ryan Haupt wishes more superheroes would bike, it’s good cardio and the only emissions are you breathing out. Hear him spout more planet-saving ideas on the podcast Science… sort of.


  1. To me, the ultimate team based vehicle is the Fantisticar, but that is probably just because I love the FF far more than e X-Men.

    What would you qualify Iron Man’s armor as? It certainly gets Tony Stark where he needs to go.

    Another great method of transportation: Power Cosmic infused surfboard!

    Also, I think we all know the greatest method of transportation in comics is the super powered springs of the Fabulous Frog-Man. Although Dazzler’s roller skates should get N honorable mention.

    • I can’t believe he ignored the Surfer’s board again. That’d be my pick, it looks cool and protects you from space debris and never needs washed. Beat that anyone!

    • The board is a part of him, though, right? Not really just a vehicle. It is without a doubt the coolest way to get around the galaxy, though.

    • No I’m pretty sure it’s a vehicle, other people have been able to ride it like Doctor Doom and Mary Jane Watson-Parker in “Requiem”. I believe he created it out of his energy but it’s not entirely a part of him.

    • Gotcha. I haven’t read enough Silver Surfer appearances.

    • Or flaming motorcycle? Or mobius chair? There are some great vehicles integrated right into the character design. Space truckers!

      I agree the Fantasticar is iconic, and for a good reason. The Flying Bathtub is a great design.

  2. Cool article, I remember the Arrow-car and Arrow-plane. I think Green Arrow should use a motorcycle, still not original but I can’t think of another DC hero who’s made it there own. What about the Black Beauty, that’s got some cool features (bullet-proof, machine guns, knock-out gas, green headlights). Also what about the Human Torch, and how he generates heat to propel himself through the air? Pretty cool, is it plausible? I smell another vehicle centic article in the future.