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Chicks love the car, observed the Dark Knight (Val Kilmer) in director Joel Schumacher's Batman Forever (1995). Guys do, too: For decades, the Batmobile has won the race to be the premier superhero vehicle.

After tooling around Gotham City's mean streets for two years in a variety of unidentifiable autos, in 1941 DC Comics' Batman drove his first stylized Batmobile, a steel-reinforced roadster with a bathead-shaped battering ram, batwinged tail fin, and bulletproof windows. In 1950, the car was lengthened into a sedan with a bubble top, spotlight, and interior crime lab, and got plenty of mileage until the mid-1960s when Batman and Robin traded it in for an open-topped sports car with dual batwinged fins and a batmask hood insignia. The most recognizable version of the Batmobile careened onto television in the campy Batman live-action show (1966–1968). Car customizer George Barris converted a 1957 Ford Futura into a batfinned hot rod with mag wheels and orange racing stripes, equipped with a rear parachute for quick stops, a dashboard radar, and a beeping Batphone to police Commissioner Gordon—all clearly labeled. Multiple Batmobiles were created for the program, but the unwieldy vehicles proved awkward to handle. Stunt driver Victor Paul remarked, That thing was a deathtrap The steering would break on it. Maneuvering difficulties aside, the TV Batmobile was a smash, and replicas—from tiny diecasts to plastic model kits to kid-sized pedal cars—were (and still are) popular items. To this day, Barris' Batmobiles tour the United States in auto shows and at comics conventions. In the comics, with each passing decade Batman has swapped his Batmobile for a newer model: a sports coupe in the 1970s, a drag racer in the 1980s, and a heavily armored rolling arsenal beginning in the late 1980s, inspired by another Barris custom, for director Tim Burton's Batman (1989).

The Batmobile is only one vehicle in the expansive Batcave: Batman and Robin have taken wing in the Batplane (which has also undergone many transformations, including the Batwing, in the 1989 Batman movie), Batcopter, Batgyro, Whirly-Bat, Bat-Glider, Bat-Missile, and even the Flying Batcave; ridden the waves in the Batboat and Bat-Sub (a.k.a. the Batmarine); and avoided traffic jams in the Batcycle (with a sidecar for the Boy Wonder) and the Bat-humvee! Robin tried rocket-propelled roller skates in 1941 before eventually hopping onto a motorcycle of his own, a mode of transit he maintains in his identity of Nightwing.

Not to be outdone, Bat-foes Joker and Catwoman have sped around Gotham in their own villainous vehicles, the Jokermobile and Kitty Car, and early in their careers, Green Arrow and Speedy cruised the highways and skyways in their golden Arrow Car and Arrow Plane. Ideal Toys' Captain Action, who appeared in his own DC Comics series (1968–1969), zoomed over land and sea in his missile-launching Silver Streak, but the Spy Smasher, a Golden Age great, one-upped the Captain with his Gyrosub: plane, helicopter, speedboat, and submarine, all in one vehicle! The Green Hornet and his sidekick (and chauffeur) Kato patrolled the streets in a sleek sedan dubbed the Black Beauty. Loaded with crime-crushing devices ranging from a surveillance camera to a steel-piercing laser, the Black Beauty was a hit in television's The Green Hornet (1966–1967); customized by Dean Jeffries from a 1966 Chrysler Imperial Crown, this supervehicle was profitably merchandized. Even Superman, comics' foremost flying hero, was bitten by the car bug: He took his aerodynamic Supermobile, complete with lead lining for kryptonite protection and retractable giant fists, for several spins in his 1970s comics. Meanwhile, Superman's pal Jimmy Olsen and his young allies the Newsboy Legion rocketed about in a souped-up supercar called the Whiz Wagon, in a series of 1970s comics stories written and illustrated by Jack Kirby. Aquaman, DC Comics' king of the seven seas, usually swam the ocean depths (or hopped a ride from an equestrian-sized seahorse or another of his undersea friends), but once on TV's Super Friends he used an Aquasled; his underwater counterpart at Marvel, Namor the Sub-Mariner, commanded his Imperial Flagship to navigate the seas.

Since most of Marvel Comics' superheroes reside in the dense urban environs of New York City, few drive vehicles. Look up, however, and you may see the Fantastic Four's sky-soaring Fantasti-car, or Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s airborne automobile called the Hovercar. Fury's organization of super-cops also uses a flying headquarters dubbed the Helicarrier, loaded with myriad countermeasures against psionic and telekinetic attacks. Down below, the Punisher seeks human vermin in his shatterproof battle van, and the web-slinging Spider-Man once grabbed the keys to a dune buggy called the Spider-Mobile for a brief ride in the 1970s. Marvel's eerie Ghost Rider prowls the night streets on a motorcycle (with flaming tires!), and he's not alone: DC's Huntress, Black Canary, Wildcat, and cowboy crusader Vigilante are also bikers. (In fact, the Vigilante's cycle has a unique gyro system that allows it to remain stable no matter how the rider leans, and it packs destructive missiles that are activated by a trigger-mech in the handgrips.) On the Batman television show, Batgirl (Yvonne Craig) puttered about on a purple cycle adorned with lace and a big yellow bow (born to be mild?)!

While virtually every superteam from the X-Men to the Legion of Super-Heroes owns a stealth jet or space cruiser, some heroes use even more extraordinary means to travel. Metron, the dimension-crossing couch potato of DC's New Gods, traverses the final frontier in his Mobius Chair, while Marvel's sentinel of the spaceways, the Silver Surfer, hangs ten on his cosmic surfboard. DC's resident spaceman, Adam Strange, and writer/artist Dave Stevens' Rocketeer, use jetpacks to fly into action. Wonder Woman's invisible plane is the most unusual of all superhero vehicles. Even though her jet is transparent (perceptible to the reader's eye in outline form), Wonder Woman herself is not—the seated Amazonian Princess is clearly visible each time she pilots her plane!

With the technological advances of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, sleek, computerized vehicles have rolled out of the exclusive domain of superhero mythology and into the real world: On-board mapping systems, voice-automated instructions, and even televisions with DVDs have become common features in the family car. As a result, the supervehicle of the comics is no longer the awe-inspiring novelty it was during the Golden (1938–1954) and Silver (1956–1969) Ages of comics. —ME

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