Ah, the Batmobile. Bruce Wayne's jalopy has gone through oodles of iterations ranging from Adam West his-and-his windshields to Christian Bale's wheeled samurai empanada. But on some occasions, the Batmobile won't suffice. Here are the unsung vehicles of comics.
Sure, the Batmobile has every power you'd ever want from a crimefighting automobile: smoke bombs, rockets, bulletproof siding, and unadulterated iconic cool. The Batman: The Animated Series model even had the power to look like a dildo designed by H.R. Giger.
But the problem with the Batmobile is that it's been a little too successful in its own branding. Indeed, it is the paragon of a superhero car, but familiarity breeds complacency and imitation. When you peel up to stop Two-Face from robbing a pizzeria ("I'm going to add artisanal pancetta to one side of this pie and strychnine to the other!"), his goons won't know if you're the Caped Crusader or a children's birthday party entertainer.
Gotham City was once probably littered with the corpses of panhandling Batmen until they wised up and began dressing like superheroes nobody cares about. Yes, the Hollywood Boulevard of Gotham is probably shoulder-to-shoulder with Wonder Twins imitators.
So yeah, if you're going to appropriate a superhero ride, you'd be better served cruising around in something one no one's ever heard of. Here are some of our favorite comic book rides. They don't have the cachet of the Batmobile, but you'll always have the element of surprise.
Green Arrow's Arrowcar
The Arrowcar is like the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile of superhero automobiles. It doesn't have its own jingle, but it does have a sexed-up, mustache-twirling billionaire dressed up as Robin Hood at the helm. To be fair, I can see the Green Arrow singing, "My bologna has a first name, it's O-L-I-V-E-R. My bologna has a second name, it's Q-U-E-E-N." The Green Arrow also had an Arrowplane (which just looked like a normal plane).
Back in the 1970s, Spider-Man was particularly skint, so he took up Corona Motors' offer to tool around in an experimental "Spider-Mobile." Spider-Man was embarrassed sell out, but he drove the Spider-Buggy for a few issues. That is, until he drove it into East River and the Kingpin turned the Spider-Buggy into a Clunker of Doom.
Japanese Spider-Man's Spider Machine GP-7
Unlike American Spider-Man, Japanese Spider-Man had a flying car that he stored inside his spaceship, right next to his giant robot. It continues to baffle me why everyone's agog over Peter Parker when Takuya Yamashiro clearly had his act together. I mean, all Peter Parker ever lived in was a psychic prison girded by his own undiagnosed neuroses.
Superman's Justice Jogger
The closest thing to a Supermobile.
EDIT: There is a Supermobile, I always assumed it was just called "The Fisting Jet" or something equally inane. Thanks to commenter Sui Generis for pointing this out.
Anyway, in the 1980s, Kenner built Superman some sort of robotic gurney specifically for overland villain chasing. I don't remember the Superfriends TV show that well, but I'm guessing Superman was allergic to soil.
Yes, the Clown Prince of Crime has been known to drive an automobile with his own face. I love how you have to pilot from the trunk. Lex looks smug.
Batman's Anti-Swamp Thing Conveyance
Okay, so I guess this could qualify as the Batmobile, but I think it highlights Batman's maniac penchant for building vehicles for absurdly particular events. During Alan Moore's "Garden of Earthly Delights" arc on Saga of the Swamp Thing, Swamp Thing battles Batman in Gotham, and Bats tries to run him to the county line with his Lumberjack Tank.
Razorback's Big Pig
Razorback was a mutant trucker with the power to drive any vehicle. He also dressed up as a warthog for reasons I can only presume are vaguely sexual. Given that he could preternaturally pilot something like Batman's buzzsaw mecha, you'd think he'd ride around in something spectacular, no? Well, he drove around in a series of trucks known as the Big Pigs. Did Razorback have the mutant power to generate his own amphetamine? One can only guess.
The War Wheel
DC Comic's Blackhawks fought this diabolical Nazi disc. I'm hoping the evil inventor of the War Wheel had an even greater superweapon in mind, ran over his deadline, threw up his hands, and handed in a crudely drawn squiggly circle to his superiors. "Ja, es is ein wheel...MIT SPIKES."
You'd think the War Wheel would corner the market on giant-wheel-based supervillainy, no? Well, a fellow named Jackson Weele (oy!) once piloted what can only be described as a state fair disaster with guns. Unsurprisingly, he's mostly used for comic relief these days.
Ulysses Archer's U.S. 1
In the 1980s, Marvel introduced readers to Ulysses Archer, a cybernetic trucker driver/starship captain. Along with the power to pick up CB signals in his head, Archer fought numerous other foes that wouldn't be out of place in a Bob Seger song.
U.S. 1's tenure as a superhero was depressingly short — for instance, he never had a thrilling adventure exploring the intergalactic truck stop cruising scene.
Top photo via Candy or Medicine's Flickr.