The Supermobile. The name doesn’t exactly strike fear into the hearts of men, does it? Super. Mobile. It just kinda sits there, really. The first question that pops to mind is “Why the fuck does Superman need a jet plane?” He can fly, he’s invulnerable, and he’s super-strong. You don’t need a car at that point, do you?
Not really, no.
Still, when you have to deal with falling kryptonite, you improvise. Superman improvised by creating the Supermobile. It was blue. It was all nifty shaped. But then came the problem: Superman can’t use guns or missiles, so how can he do anything but fly around in his protective spaceship? Simple answer: We’ll give it big metallic fists so he can punch the rocks out of the sky! Of course, eventually he also used it to punch out bad guys. Because when you have a freaky-shaped spaceship equipped with punchin’ arms, you fucking well use it!
When it was invented, the rundown went a little something like this:
The time—Action Comics #481
The events—A red sun explodes in deep space, and eventually waves of Red Sun energy hit the Earth, causing Superman to lose his powers when he’s outside. Which makes no real sense, since the sun is still yellow and pumping out rays too and… oh forget it. Anyway, he gets progressively weaker as the wave gets closer, right? Which is when Amazo attacks.
Now, a quick word about Amazo. Sure he’s a robot who has all the powers of the Justice League. Sure he’s mean and tough. He also has pointy ears and wears a green striped vest with matching arm and leg cuffs. Yeah. I’m just sayin’.
Anyway, Amazo comes by, traps the Justice League in their satellite in space, and decides to kill Superman. I know that’s what I do when I have a free Tuesday.
So Supes works with a professor (comic book scientists—gotta love ‘em) and builds the Supermobile. But what the hell is it made out of that can withstand the mighty blows of Amazo? Let me quote the comic for a second…
Wonder Woman: Somehow the vehicle shields Superman from the red radiation that’s been sapping his powers!
Batman: …which leads me to deduce it is constructed of Supermanium!
Wonder Woman: Supermanium—?
Batman: The strongest metal ever created—so strong in fact, only Superman’s heat vision can soften the surface and only his super-strength is mighty enough to mold it! He had to build his car in a radiation-shielded room of the Fortress!
Green Lantern: The Supermobile’s as invulnerable as its driver is!
Leaving aside the rampant yelling the Justice League does (Let’s have pie! I want some cheese! My socks are yellow!) let’s just tweeze out the key point here: Supermanium. This was the first time it was ever referenced in a comic, and the last. Where does it come from? What does it want? The world may never know. All we do know is that it is an element that could be incredibly useful… Why doesn’t Superman make the Batmobile out of Supermanium so that Batman’s ride can be indestructible, too? Why isn’t the Justice League satellite made out of it?
Who knows. The only thing ever made out of Supermanium was the Supermobile. That wacky, pimped-out ride of stupidity.
Now, to be fair, I have always loved the Supermobile. It was one of those ships, quite unlike the Spider-Buggy, that just looked so wrong it came out right. It was a space ship/jet plane that had punching metal fists attached. Fuck, you can’t get cooler than that.
Well, Corgi agreed. They had been making die-cast toys for years by then (for the James Bond line, a Beatles band tie-in or two, and so on), and around 1979 they landed a deal to make vehicles for DC Comics super-heroes.
Wonder Woman got a crappyass car. Shazam got a Porsche Can-Am racer. Superman got a panel van (I never understood why he wanted a panel van unless he was pretending to be a member of the A-Team), a Daily Planet Helicopter, a Metropolis Police car, a Daily Planet van (in addition to the plain panel van with his logo on it!), and the Supermobile. The only hero who did better was Batman, since he got a boat and a bike and the Batmobile (and that was only for that particular year).
All was right with the world. Superman’s jet had punching arms and Shazam rode around in something that looked like a CHiPs villain-reject’s getaway car. I had a Supermobile toy and I fucking adored it. The arms would punch out with a little spring-loaded switch. It had tiny wheels, just in case, and it looked so very cool.
And then it all went wrong. Kenner had a DC Comics toy license in the 80s. They were doing the oddball Super Powers line of toys. Some good toys came from that line, but Kenner wasn’t known for quality, really. The blow came, though, when they decided they needed vehicles.
Yeah. Kenner made a Supermobile of its own. They reused the name Supermobile but made it big enough for Superman to fit in. Sounds good so far, right?
But no. Because the new Supermobile didn’t have fists! It had a “Krypton Action Ram” and “Villain Captivators.” Let’s be honest here: The action ram? A little silver bumper that would spring out a centimeter or two and look like the dumbest low rider ever. The Villain Captivators? A hinged trunk. Yup! Superman went from punching people with his ship to ramming them face first and sticking them in the trunk.
Needless to say, there hasn’t been a Supermobile since. Thanks a fucking lot, Kenner.
Now, personally? I want a new Supermobile. An old Corgi one, the U.S. version with the silver fists (for some reason in the U.K. they had red fists). These things are either Very Pricey or badly worn and used. That’s OK, though. Because somewhere, Superman is still punching out bad guys, in space, with a spaceship.
(This article appears in my book I SLEPT WITH YOUR IMAGINARY FRIEND right nnow only 2 bucks in print on amazon. Go buy it.)