In last week’s “All-Star Batman” #1 by Scott Snyder, John Romita Jr. and Danny Miki, Batman leaves the confines of Gotham City for a bit of a road trip. The idea of a road trip is one that has a lot of appeal to comic book writers, as it allows them to take the main heroes out of familiar surroundings and see how they interact with new people and new situations. This has long been a familiar part of popular culture, but it took on special meaning with the release of the 1968 film, “Easy Rider.” The low budget film about two young men “finding” America while driving around the country on motorcycles was a box office smash and led to many imitators, including in the world of comics.
When we speak of road trips, do note that these are differentiated from characters who just naturally wander around the country. For instance, for much of his comic book career, the Hulk moved around the country, but that was because he was on the run from the United States military. That doesn’t count as a “road trip.” Same with a character like “Werewolf by Night,” who kept moving from town to town because of his werewolf curse, not because he was “finding America.” Here, then, are ten notable examples of superheroes going on road trips (we’re also specifically spotlighting road trips that took a few issues, not just one-off stories, like the recent “Harley Quinn Road Trip Special”).
10. Green Lantern and Green Arrow
The most famous superhero road trip was also the one that was most directly influenced by the success of “Easy Rider,” and that was the famous “Hard Travelin’ Heroes” team-up of Green Lantern and Green Arrow that began in early 1970 by writer Denny O’Neil and artist Neal Adams in “Green Lantern” #76. In that issue, Green Lantern protected a slumlord against people protesting the poor conditions in their building. Green Arrow showed Green Lantern how out of touch he had become (that he just instinctively trusted “the man”), so Green Lantern agreed to travel the country trying to rediscover America. They were initially joined on their journey by a Guardian of the Universe, who also wanted to see things from a different perspective. The heroes encountered a number of topical issues as they traveled the land, including a dangerous cult and Green Arrow’s sidekick, Speedy, becoming addicted to drugs. Even after the partnership broke up, Green Lantern continued to travel the country as part of a short-lived trucking business for which he drove a rig.
Following the tragic events of the “Secret Empire” storyline, where a secret organization successfully turned the country against Captain America and his partner, the Falcon, Captain America came to a crossroads in his life. They had managed to defeat the Secret Empire, but not before discovering that the President of the United States himself was involved — something they found out right before the President killed himself in front of them! In “Captain America” #175, Steve Rogers decided to quit as Captain America. After a few issues as just plain ol’ Steve Rogers, with his former partner Falcon picking up the hero slack in the title, Rogers decided to become a new hero in “Captain America” #180 (by Steve Englehart, Sal Buscema and Vince Colletta), with Steve becoming the Nomad. As the Nomad, Steve traveled the country fighting crime, while Falcon was breaking in a new young hero as the new Captain America. When the Red Skull murdered the new Captain America, however, Steve was forced to return to being Cap.
In an attempt to shake up the character, then-Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter wrote a graphic novel starring Alison “Dazzler” Blaire that had the popular singer Dazzler trying to make it as a movie star in Hollywood. However, through various circumstances, she was instead outed to the whole world as a mutant. With her life in Hollywood now turned upside down, Dazzler had to travel the country in an attempt to make ends meet, while dealing with the downside of the whole country knowing that she was a mutant. Archie Goodwin and a young Paul Chadwick worked on a number of these issues together, which basically took place throughout the year 1985 (the series was a bi-monthly at the time). Around this same time, she also traveled with the former X-Man known as the Beast (in a set-up for Dazzler possibly becoming the fifth member of X-Factor). Eventually, her road trip came to a conclusion when she ended up joining the X-Men permanently.
7. The Captain
In 1987, Steve Rogers once again gave up the Captain America identity when the government agency known as The Commission made it clear that he was going to have to answer to them directly or give up the name “Captain America.” He chose to give up the name, and a new Captain America was selected. Steve Rogers began driving the country, even growing a beard (which was quite a sight to see). Eventually he realized that he needed to be a superhero, but instead of being Captain America, he became just “The Captain” in “Captain America” #337 (by Mark Gruenwald, Tom Morgan and Dave Hunt). Joining his friends Falcon, D-Man and Nomad (plus Nomad’s new girlfriend, a new vigilante named Vagabond), the Captain traveled the country trying to do some good. Eventually he ended up having to take back the “Captain America” identity when he discovered that The Commission was being controlled by none other than the Red Skull!
The tail end of Ann Nocenti, John Romita Jr. and Al Williamson’s run on “Daredevil” was a strange little road trip. Things fell apart for Daredevil down in Hell’s Kitchen, as he screwed up his relationship with Karen Page when he got involved with Typhoid Mary. So Daredevil headed to upstate New York, where he got mixed up in protecting a genetically altered young woman known only as Number Nine. The man who altered her was also doing some other testing on animals, so his own daughter rebelled against him and enlisted Daredevil’s help. That’s when they learned that they were also testing on humans. So Daredevil and the daughter (Brandy) rescued Number Nine. They learned that it was stolen Inhuman technology that had been used to alter her. So Gorgon and Karnak showed up, as they were looking for Black Bolt and Medusa’s lost son, and all five of them headed off together on a road trip to look for the kid. They then got caught up in a plot by Blackheart, the son of Mephisto, and their road trip from hell ended up being a literal road trip to Hell!
During the X-Men crossover “Fatal Attractions,” the X-Men decided that they had to take care of Magneto for once and for all. They managed to do so, but not before Magneto struck out at Wolverine and tore all of the adamantium in Wolverine’s body out of him. Wolverine’s healing factor (combined with Jean Grey’s telekinesis, holding everything in place) managed to keep Logan alive. He then discovered in “Wolverine” #75 that he actually had bone claws this whole time! While he survived the experience, Wolverine was very traumatized by it all and decided that he needed to be alone, so he decided to take a break from the X-Men and go off on a road trip by himself on his motorcycle in “Wolverine” #75 (by Larry Hama, Adam Kubert and Dan Green), leaving behind a series of letters to his various teammates. On his trip, he learned some more information about the process that bonded the adamantium to his bones and also encountered Deadpool for the very first time!
4. Rogue and Iceman
Right before the “Age of Apocalypse,” the universe seemed as though it was ending and all the various “X-Men” titles ended with major cliffhangers before the event (for instance, Excalibur’s jet was about to crash and Wolverine had just put a third claw through Sabretooth’s brain). In the pages of “X-Men,” Rogue and Gambit decided that if the universe was ending, they might as well kiss each other goodbye. Well, when “Age of Apocalypse” was resolved peacefully, things went back to normal and Rogue and Gambit had to deal with the ramifications of that kiss. Rogue ended up with enough of Gambit’s memories that she decided to travel across the country from Westchester County, New York to Seattle, Washington where something from Gambit’s past awaited. Oddly enough, due to them not being particularly close up until this point, Iceman agreed to go on the road trip with Rogue. Along the way, they visited Iceman’s parents and Rogue got to see how bigoted Iceman’s father was, which helped to make Iceman so repressed.
By the late 1990s, the young heroes who were once known as the New Mutants had gone through many changes as a group. Initially students at Professor Xavier’s School for Mutants, they were turned into a paramilitary strike force by the mutant warrior known as Cable. When Cable went missing, they continued to follow in Cable’s footsteps. However, they then ended back up at Xavier’s, with their leader, Cannonball, graduating to the main X-Men team. They were sort of directionless until writer John Francis Moore and artists Adam Pollina & Mark Morales decided to take them on a road trip in “X-Force” #70. The young heroes traveled the country, finding themselves along the way. They even went to the Burning Man festival in a giant-sized 75th issue, which also reunited them with their old friend, Karma, who came out as a lesbian in the issue.
2. Green Arrow
Green Arrow actually went on a bit of a road trip back in 1994, following the end of Mike Grell’s acclaimed run on the “Green Arrow” ongoing series. Green Arrow set off from Seattle, which had served as his home base for so long, and began to travel. These adventures concluded in his tragic death in “Green Arrow” #100. Years later, writer Kevin Smith and artists Phil Hester & Ande Parks brought Green Arrow back from the dead in an acclaimed new ongoing “Green Arrrow” series. After Smith left the title, novelist Brad Meltzer was tapped to follow Smith with a six-art arc called “The Archer’s Quest.” In it, it is revealed that Oliver Queen had made a deal with the old Starman foe (and now ally) Shade, in which Shade agreed to track down and destroy certain mementos in case Green Arrow were ever to be killed. Now that Green Arrow was alive again, he learned that Shade was unable to find a few of these mementos. So Oliver and his former sidekick, Roy “Arsenal” Harper, went on a road trip/”quest” to find these mementos, including one that dramatically altered how we saw Green Arrow’s relationship with his son, Connor Hawke.
Superman had been gone from Earth for a year for the “New Krypton” storyline, and now that he was returned, new writer J. Michael Straczynski felt that Superman had to do something extreme to get back into touch with the American people. So he came up with a year-long storyline called “Grounded,” with art by Eddy Barrows (and covers by John Cassaday), where Superman would literally walk across the United States to get into contact with the people. Sort of like Forrest Gump in “Forrest Gump.” Each issue would take place in a different city, and Superman would respond to the issues that affected that particular area of the country (like the issue in Detroit dealing with the tough economic situation that the city was in at the time). Halfway through the story arc, Straczynski left the book and was replaced by Chris Roberson, who had a rough outline of what Straczynski had planned and closed out the storyline.
These are just two handfuls of notable comic book road trip stories. Share your other favorite superhero road trip stories with us in the comments.
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