While it often feels like every superhero in comics has the ability to fly, most superheroes don't actually do so. Therefore, they need another way to get around; thus, the creation of the superhero vehicle. Pretty much every non-flying superhero has had some sort of vehicle over the years, although most of them are just nondescript ones like generic motorcycles and jets. However, a few of them really stand out.
RELATED: The 21 Coolest Star Wars Vehicles
A few qualifiers for the list before we begin to count down the greatest superhero vehicles of all time. A vehicle, for the purposes of this list, is a transportation device that you sit in or ride on top of, like a car, a plane, a ship or a bike. Iron Man's armor is not a vehicle. Similarly, it has to be something that the superhero doesn't power his or herself, like Orion's Astro-Harness or Static's saucer. Without Static making his saucer fly, it's just a cool disc. That's not a vehicle. S.H.I.E.L.D. vehicles are also disqualified, since it seems like cheating to call them superheroes (also, they have so many cool vehicles, they could practically have their own list).
The list opens up with three spaceships with a lot in common, namely that they are all guided by an artificial intelligence! The Starjammer was a Shi'ar starship that was operated by an artificial intelligence system. The ship was stolen by a group of escaped prisoners. They named themselves the Starjammers and used that name for their ship, as well. They named the artificial intelligence on the ship "Waldo."
The Starjammers became space pirates, and the Starjammer was a perfect craft for both speedy attacks and for living quarters during downtime between piracy. Eventually, the Starjammers began to work for the very entity that they had formed to rebel against, the Shi'ar Empire, as Lilandra took over the empire and made it less evil. Ergo, the Starjammer was once back in service of its creators. Around this time, Professor X (who was a visitor on the ship) changed Waldo's personality to make him more human-like. Sadly, the Starjammer was badly damaged during a mission involving Kree refugees and Waldo was erased.
Skuttlebutt was the sentient flagship of a fleet of starships that ferried the entire population of a doomed planet around the universe, looking for a new planet where the people could live (since they had no food supply, the population was placed into cryogenesis). Skuttlebutt was partnered with one of the aliens who was genetically modified to be able to stay awake and defend the fleet if need be. They accidentally ended up passing too close to Earth, which alerted SHIELD, who sent Thor after the fleet. The warrior, Beta Ray Bill, was sent to defend the fleet from Thor and in the ensuing battle, Bill discovered that he could wield Thor's magic hammer, Mjolnir!
After things were settled between Beta Ray Bill and Thor (Odin made Bill his own hammer, just like Thor's), Skuttlebutt and Bill completed their mission and found a planet for their people. They then headed off into the universe together to seek out adventure.
The final sentient spaceship on the list (but not the last sentient ship period) is Friday, the "smartship" of Power Pack. Friday was the personal starship of the Kymellian being known as Aelfyre Whitemane. Whitemane was headed to Earth to stop the evil alien race known as the Snarks from kidnapping James Power, a scientist who had just discovered technology that could be used for devastating weapons. Whitemane was mortally wounded in battle with the Snarks and arrived too late to save Power and his wife from being kidnapped. He managed to save their four children from the Snarks, though, and as he was dying, he offered to share his powers with the children so that they could save their parents.
The children, now known as Power Pack, saved their family and continued to use Friday as their ship to fly around the world (and also as a sort of secret headquarters when the need arose). Friday was destroyed once but was later repaired. Currently, Friday is still out there, ready to help the Pack if they ever need it.
12 Hell Charger
Eli Morrow was a gangster and a Satanist. When he died, he managed to cut a deal where he could return to Earth by possessing a human. He ended up choosing his nephew, Robbie Reyes. The possession took the form of transforming Reyes into the All-New Ghost Rider, complete with transforming a 1969 Dodge Charger, which Reyes had borrowed from the mechanic he worked for to use in drag races, into a sort of "Hell Charger."
The enchanted car has tremendous ramming ability, plus the power to automatically heal itself from any damage it receives. It can also "ghost" through solid matter. The trunk space of the car is also used to hold magical items, to boot. The Hell Charger also enables Reyes to use a teleportation ability known as "shadow porting." Perhaps the most important thing about the Hell Charger, though, is that it looks really, really cool.
Moon Knight's helicopter is one of the most advanced vehicles of its kind in the Marvel Universe, which is saying something, considering the technology that exists in the 616. It has vertical lift off and landing capabilities, plus guns, of course. The most important aspect of the ship is its noise. The rotors are designed to somehow cancel out any aeronautical cacophony that they might make, allowing it to be a super fast, super quiet mode of transportation. This obviously comes in handy for a superhero who gets by often on the element of surprise (helpful when you don't have any real superpowers).
Since Moon Knight needs to be able to use the rope ladder of the Mooncopter to swing into action, he typically has a pilot for the craft. For years, that pilot was Jean-Paul "Frenchie" DuChamp, a soldier of fortune who served with Marc Spector in Africa. Frenchie suffered an injury that cost him his legs a while back, so the Mooncopter might be operated by Moon Knight via remote control these days.
Named after the lover of the character, Diabolik, who inspired the creation of Fantomex, E.V.A. was grown from the body of Fantomex and essentially serves as his external nervous system, so that he is effectively impervious to pain outside of her (but he can feel pain when she is injured). However, she was also a ship independent of Fantomex (which is why she qualifies for this list), who was sort of like a flying saucer.
Due to her unusual creation, Fantomex and E.V.A. are constantly in contact with each other; if he concentrates, he can see through E.V.A.'s eyes/scanners. Later, when Fantomex was seemingly killed, E.V.A. decided to transform herself into a humanoid form. She then cloned Fantomex to bring him back to life, but she did not understand that his unique biology (including his three brains) would result in three Fantomexes being created. E.V.A. became a bit unhinged after that.
9 Sky-Cycle/Atomic Steed
We're including these two separate vehicles as one because, really, they pretty much are the same thing. The Atomic Steed was created by the High Evolutionary for his New Men, as they were sort of like Knights of the Round Table, with their horses being this flying device (hence the name). During an Avengers mission, Beast found an old Atomic Steed and brought it home with him. Later on, Black Knight, needing something to ride on after losing his flying horse, took to using the Atomic Steed.
Meanwhile, Hawkeye had been working for the technology firm, Cross Technological Enterprises, and had one of his co-workers there build him the Sky-Cycle. This works basically the same way as the Atomic Seed. They're both hover devices that you can ride like a horse or a bike. However, in this BetaMax vs. VHS-like competition, the Sky-Cycle was the clear winner. The rest of the Avengers began using Sky-Cycles, as well, and it is now the standard transport for short-range flying missions for non-fliers in the Marvel Universe.
8 The Bug
The original Blue Beetle, Dan Garrett, had superpowers that were derived from a mysterious scarab. He and his student, Ted Kord, were investigating a bad guy when Garrett was killed. Ted decided to honor his friend by becoming the new Blue Beetle. The problem was that Garrett's magic scarab did not work for him. So Ted had to find another way to become a superhero. He was very athletic and a strong fighter, but he needed more an edge than that. Luckily, Ted was also a brilliant inventor (and had a lot of money) so he built a powerful (non-lethal) gun to use in combat and, of course, he built the Bug.
The Bug was basically a flying fortress that could ferry Ted around the city so he could fight crime, but it also had offensive capabilities if it were ever attacked. Currently, in the New 52, Ted works with "new" Blue Beetle, Jaime Reyes, who HAS been able to access the powers of the Scarab. They still use the Bug together, with Ted piloting it. Nite Owl's ship in "Watchmen", Archimedes, is basically just a Bug riff.
The Avengers' primary means of transportation as a team is the Quinjet, named for its five jet engines. It has vertical takeoff and landing capabilities and even the Avengers who can fly often will ride in it, as it is just easier. Each Avenger is trained to fly the jet. It was designed by Black Panther and given to the Avengers as a gift.
However, there is an odd thing about the Quinjet: they constantly crash! Even in its first appearance, when it was more of a hovercraft than anything else, it was destroyed! It has become a recurring joke in the Marvel Universe that Quinjets always bite the proverbial dust. Despite this rather significant flaw (which might be attributed, in part, to superheroes without any real aptitude for flying suddenly being given a jet to fly), the Avengers still use the Quinjet as their primary vehicle. It even made its way into the "Avengers" films (where it, you guessed it, crashed).
6 Battle Van
One of the key weapons in Punisher's war on crime is his battle van (or combat van, whichever term you prefer). His original van was introduced soon after the Punisher himself debuted, but later versions of the van were designed by Punisher's technology expert, Microchip. It was basically modeled after the van used by Mack Bolan, the Executioner, in Don Pendleton's "Executioner" novels.
Besides having a ton of surveillance equipment, the van was designed so that the Punisher could operate it remotely. Plus, it is armored and decked out with a bunch of guns, just in case the Punisher needs some armed assistance. The suspension is designed so that it can drive over rocky terrain without it being an issue. It also comes with a strippable layer of paint, so it can be quickly disguised as a different kind of van. It is effectively Punisher's war fortress on wheels.
Of all of the vehicles on this list, Batman's have probably gone through the most variations. The first time Batman had a flying vehicle of any kind was when he had a small Bat-Gyro helicopter (that was the same storyline that introduced the utility belt and the Batarang, by the way). Over time, he got a Batplane. The Batplane eventually became a jet plane, which was the standard Batplane for decades (with slight changes over the years, of course, mostly just artistic license). That was the plane that he would often use on Justice League missions (as he needed some way to keep up with his flying teammates -- being carried by Green Lantern leaves much to be desired).
After a new version of the plane was used in the original Tim Burton "Batman" film, dubbed the Bat-Wing, future Batplanes began to look more like the it in appearance; sort of like a giant plane version of Batman's Bat-emblem, or even one of his batarangs.
One of the most interesting things about the X-Men's famous ship, the Blackbird, is that it was initially just a real airplane that was being produced by Lockheed called the SR-71, nicknamed "Blackbird." Chris Claremont's mother was a pilot and Claremont loved planes, so it made sense that he would use an actual plane for the X-Men. Amusingly enough, the X-Men's version of the Blackbird has stayed around longer than the original plane, as it was retired for good in 1999, after being one of the top military jets for decades.
Of course, the X-Men's version of the Blackbird was always capable of more things than the actual Blackbird, which only got more obvious when Professor X started putting Shi'ar technology into everything. The Blackbird nowadays is practically a starship. Also, while not quite as pronounced as the Quinjet, Blackbirds also have a bit of a tendency to crash.
While the All-New Ghost Rider's Hell Charger is an awesome ride, you really can't compete with the original Hell vehicle, the Ghost Rider's Hell Cycle. Johnny Blaze was a stunt motorcycle driver who worked in a traveling stunt show with Crash Simpson. He soon fell for Simpson's daughter, Roxanne. When Crash was diagnosed with a fatal cancer, Blaze decided to turn to the occult to save him. He cut a deal with Mephisto (Blaze thought it was simply "Satan" at the time) to cure Crash. Mephisto did so, but because he is a jerk, he knew that Crash was going to die soon after doing a dangerous stunt. When Mephisto came to collect his part of the deal, he was stopped by the purity of Roxanne's love for Johnny. Instead, Mephisto bonded Blaze with the demon Zarathos, so that Johnny would become the Ghost Rider. Hell of a punishment.
Part of being the Ghost Rider meant that Johnny's motorcycle would be transformed along with Johnny into a Hell Cycle. Later, Johnny had the ability to create a Hellcycle out of pure Hellfire. In any of its incarnations, the Hell Cycle had awesome-looking flaming wheels and could ride up the sides of buildings and pretty much ride on any surface you could imagine... especially the bones of his enemies.
2 Invisible Jet
The Invisible Plane was invented in the comics for a bit of a sad reason. Wonder Woman's mother had a special plane, but whenever she would fly to Man's World, it would get shot down. So, Princess Diana developed a super-sonic invisible plane that would prevent them from being fired upon by outsiders, since no one could actually see it. The Invisible Plane was given to Diana when she became Wonder Woman and came to live in Man's World. The major reason Wonder Woman had a plane back then was because she could not fly before "Crisis on Infinite Earths".
The invisible plane remained "just" a plane until the great "Wonder Woman" creative shift of the late 1950s, with Ross Andru and Mike Esposito replacing the title's original artist, H.G. Peter. Andru and Esposito gave Wonder Woman an invisible jet. It was this that became ingrained in popular culture due to its use in the "Super Friends" cartoon and the "Wonder Woman" TV series. Since Wonder Woman can now fly in the comics, she has less of a need for a jet, invisible or otherwise. She still does have it when she needs it, though.
1 The Batmobile
Few items in comics are quite as famous as the Batmobile, Batman's primary means of transportation since his initial appearance back in 1939. Of course, back then, the "Batmobile" was just a regular car. It would be a couple of years before Batman gained his first true "Batmobile," in the sense that it was actually decked out in Bat-designs and a Bat hood ornament.
Over the years, the car has been continually upgraded to make it match whatever car technology and design met the era. The most famous Batmobile, of course, was the one that was used on the 1960s "Batman" TV series. The popularity of that design kept it in use in the comics for a lot longer than most Batmobile designs. In recent years, the Batmobile, which was always armored, has taken on more and more tank-like features, while still decked out with powerful engines to allow it to go extremely fast.
What is your favorite superhero vehicle? Let us know in the comments!