When our grandparents wanted to experience the adventures of their favorite costumed heroes, they had to scrounge up a nickel and snap up some fading funny book from the drug store window. Now, an avid superhero fan has countless methods of immersion, including blockbuster movies, multiple television series, comic books, novels, video games and mobile apps. And if you want total immersion into those amazing fantasies from the page, there’s even theme park rides. Through a mix of thrills, decor and general ambience, a great theme park ride offers a way to experience the world of your favorite character with every sense you possess. Well, hopefully not taste, unless you just had to have that funnel cake five minute before the ride.
But while the hype is alive for the first Marvel ride in an American Disney park, with Guardians of the Galaxy- Mission Breakout! expected to open it’s doors in May of 2017 in Disney's California Adventure, their comic book company rival DC Comics has been in the theme park game for decades, particularly in partnership with the country-spanning Six Flags parks. We surveyed all the sick twists, loops, and drops to bring you guys the wildest rides to bear the DC brand.
15 AQUAMAN SPLASHDOWN
You’re gonna see a lot of a certain caped crusader and his rogues on this list, but only the folks at Six Flags Over Texas have decided to give the King of the Seven Seas his due. Originally built in 1997, Aquaman Splashdown is, as one would expect, a water based ride. Painted the hero’s colors of orange and green, with a pedestrian bridge adorned with tridents, the highlight of the ride’s decor rests in the center of the seemingly tranquil water, where a statue of Arthur Curry stands poised to strike.
When you board your boat, you begin a gentle journey along the water as you gradually rise. Before you know it, that tranquil ride has lifted you 50 feet into the air, higher than the surrounding trees, and just when you’ve begun to notice the track drop off, you shoot down at 30 mph into the awaiting water below.
Beginning life at Six Flags Great Adventure as Medusa in 1999, the ride was revamped a decade later to bear the name of one of Superman’s most enduring foes, Bizarro. Featuring the fearsome villain looming above it’s entryway and bearing the Bizarro color scheme on both its rails and its dauntingly floorless cars, it’s ok to feel slightly intimidated by the massive ride.
Trust us, even if we tell you about the details of this ride (like the colossal 132 ft. drop that sends you through a series of Bizarro symbols, into a 360-degree loop, then past shooting flames and a wall of mist as you course at 61 mph through an array of twists and turns), you’re not ready for just how intense this two-minute thrill ride is. Our advice: board the ride at night, when the Bizarro logos light up and the towering flames burn even brighter.
13 GREEN LANTERN
Originally opening in Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom in 1997 under the name Chang, this standing steel rollercoaster shattered world records for height, drop and speed. The ride was relocated to New Jersey’s Six Flags Great Adventure and given a retooling to reflect the Green Lantern in 2011, presumably to coincide with the theatrical film Green Lantern. The movie may have underwhelmed, but the ride has been drawing crowds for more than half a decade since.
After walking past a giant Green Lantern power battery and waiting in a queue where surrounding signage relates Hal Jordan’s origin, you’re treated to a ride with decor that includes a trip through Ferris Air and a narrow escape from the clutches of an imposing Parallax (whose portion of the track is painted yellow as opposed to the rest of the ride’s obvious green). But with 5 inversions, a 144 ft. drop and a top speed of 63 mph, you’d be forgiven if you missed some of the decorations the first time around.
12 THE JOKER
It’s a staple of virtually every Batman cartoon, as well as the comics, that given enough time, the Joker will inevitably take over an amusement park and emblazon every rickety ride with his face. Inevitably, Batman & Robin, Commissioner Gordon or innocent bystanders would be tossed into a terrifying and potentially deadly rollercoaster ride, presumably because a “deadly log flume” just doesn’t sound as cool.
Of course, to board The Joker at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom is to be dropped right in the midst of one of those thrilling tales, as both the grinning Joker head at the front of the car and the wooden supports carried over from a previous ride (the lion-themed Roar) create the atmosphere of a classic ’60s story. With 3,200 ft. of crisscrossing tracks mingling with an intertwined grid of wooden supports, The Joker is the kind of visceral thrill that paints a story in your mind.
11 SUPERMAN ESCAPE
The park with some of the most entries on our list is also probably the least-known to our Stateside readers, but we implore you to seek it out. Warner Bros. Movie World in Queensland, Australia is an absolutely remarkable park whose commitment to total immersion into these fictional worlds rivals even the best of the U.S., evidenced by their exceptionally detailed DC comics-themed areas.
You begin the ride by coasting through a collapsing building aboard a Metropolis Rapid Transit car before Superman comes to rescue you. After hearing his reassuring voice from the back of the car (where a replica of the hero in flight rests), you suddenly take off at super-speed, or 0 to 62 mph in two seconds to be precise. Then you fly through the walls of the building into the open air, soaring to 130 ft. before careening to ground level at a 90-degree angle.
10 GREEN LANTERN FIRST FLIGHT
There are three “Zacspin” coasters, which are tight vertical zigzag coasters with spinning cars along the sides of the track, that bear DC character decor. And while Six Flags Great Adventure’s Joker and Fiesta Texas’ Batman: The Ride each have their perks, it’s Six Flags Magic Mountain’s Green Lantern First Flight that comes out on top for us.
While outside there’s a large power battery and a Ferris Air sign, and the queue contains Abin Sur’s crashed ship, the highlight of the decor is the 10' tall glowing GL logo emblazoned upon the ride, around which the twisting track snakes. Green Lantern First Flight begins by lifting the rider completely vertical to the top and then letting go as the car slinks back and forth as it goes down, the passengers all the while spinning in their seats, sometimes a full 360 degrees.
9 DOOMSDAY DESTROYER
Our second shout-out to Warner Bros. Movie Park comes in the form of the Doomsday Destroyer, the centerpiece of the most dazzling themed area in the entire park: DC Villains Unleashed. Throughout the area are interactive displays devoted to various iconic DC villains, like a Joker and Harley Quinn mallet game, a statue of Captain Cold, mid-heist, spraying visitors with a chilling mist; you can even use magic wristbands to join several villains in simulated crimes.
Then you reach Doomsday Destroyer, which at first appears to be your standard “Pirate Ship” style swing ride, albeit with two ships instead of one. But being decked out in the colors, and bearing the blazing read eyes, of the only villain to ever slay Superman isn’t its only distinction. One wonders whether even the Man of Steel himself could withstand its high-speed 360 spins.
8 SUPERMAN: ULTIMATE FLIGHT
Immersion has been a big criteria for inclusion thus far on this list, so you might be tilting your head at the inclusion of a ride with no “story,” no tricked out lobby, and little more in the way of themed decor than a red and blue color scheme to seemingly distinguish it as a Superman ride.
Or so you think, until you strap in and are suddenly tilted forward, horizontal with the ground, and take off like a rocket, soaring through the sky just like the Man of Steel, the way we’ve all imagined we could running through our yards with our arms outstretched. Soaring over 100 ft. in the air at over 50 mph, you’ll be so immersed that you’ll find yourself shouting “Up, Up and Away!” Or Margot Kidder’s spoken word poem from the first Superman, if that’s your thing. The folks at Six Flags won’t judge.
7 LEX LUTHOR’S DROP OF DOOM/SUPERMAN ESCAPE FROM KRYPTON
Yes, there’s two rides in this entry, but that’s because these two Six Flags Magic Mountain rides are equally wild, but indeed intertwined. Superman: Escape From Krypton walks the rider through the Fortress of Solitude before they board a car launching them from 0 to 100 mph in seven seconds backwards up a 415 ft. tower.
Lex Luthor’s Drop of Doom, on the other hand, takes riders through Luthor’s lair, past his iconic armor, before being raised, legs dangling, up the very same 415 ft. tower. When the two rides' cars meet at the top, just below a massive replica of the Superman logo, you have a brief second to hear the anticipatory exhales of the other cars' riders before you both drop back down. Of course, Lex’s ride only drops 85 mph compared to Superman’s 100, but thankfully Lex isn’t the jealous type.
6 THE JOKER (SIX FLAGS MEXICO)
Six Flags Mexico’s The Joker is one of the rare cases where the queue is almost as fun as the ride itself, and with a ride this wild, that’s saying something. In order to board the Joker ride, you first have to make your way through his “funhouse,” a delightfully disorienting queue with moving floorboards, distorted mirrors and other fitting accoutrements for the clown prince of crime.
The ride itself may seem small from the outset, particularly when compared to the sprawling sensations we’ve highlighted thus far, but it has the added thrill of theme cars which spin on their own, independent of the ride’s motion. Throw in the surrounding circus posters and Joker props, and The Joker makes for an absolutely riveting ride.
5 MR. FREEZE REVERSE BLAST
These days, for a ride of any type to stick around with it’s original theming for almost two decades is rare, even more so when that ride is themed around one of the most critically reviled superhero films of all time, Batman & Robin. Yet, in both Six Flags St. Louis and Six Flags Texas, Bat-fans can enter an abandoned ice cream factory and strap in for a ride based around the iconic Mr. Freeze.
The idea of the ride, shooting backwards and then dropping them back down, calls to mind Superman: Escape From Krypton, but Mr. Freeze Reverse Blast improves upon that design, not only by incorporating twists and turns into the actual track that the rider gets to experience twice, going both up and down, but also by adding an innovative two-car system, which rotates the car presently on the track, allowing waiting riders to board the next one before the first even returns.
4 ARKHAM ASYLUM - SHOCK TREATMENT
Just as superhero video games can often be lazy cash grabs, so too can superhero theme park rides, and sometimes they're even a little more than half-hearted repaints of old coasters. So when inarguably the finest superhero video game to date -- Arkham Asylum -- needed its own ride, the pressure was on to create something equally impressive. Leave it to the folks at Warner Bros. Movie World to blow us away yet again.
Sure, they did revamp an old Lethal Weapon themed ride, but the queue is so detailed, so immersive and crafted with such passion for the material that you’d swear it was pulled straight out of the game itself. That such a detailed asylum is built around an absolutely wild ride filled with 55 mph, legs dangling, 4Gs of force and five inversions is fitting: your head will be spinning so much you might just need to check in.
3 THE DARK KNIGHT COASTER
In less than a decade, The Dark Knight has become a revered classic, not just of the comic book genre, but of contemporary cinema. It’s the subject of obsession for some fans, ranging from tattoos to themed weddings. But for those who truly want to live out the beloved film, they need to head out to the land of Springsteen and Sinatra.
Six Flags Great Adventure features an indoor “dark” rollercoaster themed around The Dark Knight, introduced by a pre-show that features both Aaron Eckhart and audio of the late Heath Ledger. Once on the ride, you’re rocketed through the dark streets of Gotham City, twisting and turning past Joker graffiti and even the crouching figure of the Dark Knight himself. After years of essays about how profound and artistic Nolan’s second Bat-film is, this coaster reminds us of just how viscerally thrilling it is.
2 JUSTICE LEAGUE ALIEN INVASION 3D/BATTLE FOR METROPOLIS
For our American readers, they’re probably getting sick of hearing about this Australian park packed to the cowls with DC action. But trust us, you’re gonna wanna hear about this. Justice League Alien Invasion is an indoor “dark” ride that allows the riders to participate in the action. Through a mix of animatronics and animated screens, riders must help the Justice League fight off a hoard of Starro aliens. Yes, you shoot at animatronic Starro.
But before you guys in the States get too jealous, the New Gods have smiled upon us, as the ride has been ported to several Six Flags in the U.S., with some changes made. No animatronic Starro, swapped out instead for a Joker shooting laughing gas. Videos of the ride can be found on Youtube, but it’s nothing like getting the real experience up close and in person. It’s everything a DC fan could hope for.
1 SUPERMAN: THE RIDE
This staple of Six Flags New England has been around for almost 20 years, and in that time has gone through a few cosmetic changes, briefly becoming Bizarro, but the thrills and excitement have never faded. It’s received a wide array of accolades, even being dubbed the #1 Rollercoaster in the World five times by Amusement Today, and now it’s our #1 too.
Yet, when faced with changing times and tastes, Superman: The Ride found a unique way to innovate. Fans wanted immersive experiences, akin to some “dark” rides, but Six Flags didn’t want to compromise the visceral thrills of an outdoor, high-speed rollercoaster. To give riders the best of both worlds, they can now don an Occulus headset, programmed with a unique VR scenario coordinated with the movement of the ride. Now you can get the sights and sounds of a battle for Metropolis while still feeling the real wind rush through your hair.
Have you ridden on any of DC Comics' rollercoasters yet? Let us know which ones in the comments!