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Bam, pow, vroom: Cars and comic books

Car and nerd cultures rarely intersect, but when they do, great things can happen. Superheroes with more money than powers need a way to get places fast, and the cars writers and artists have created to get them to those places have become (almost) as famous as their drivers. Like any good comic book character, these cars are loaded down with gadgets and can hold their own against the bad guys.

Comic books take the real world and add a bit more action, so its not surprising that cars play such a big role in so many comics, just as they play a big role in brick-and-mortar existence. Here are a few of the best.

The Batmobile

The ultimate comic book car really needs no introduction. The Batmobile has taken on many guises over the years, from an essentially stock sedan to Christopher Nolan’s “Tumbler.” In between, there was the repurposed Lincoln Future concept car that drove Adam West to television stardom, and the winged wonders from Tim Burton’s films.

1960s Batmobile

The Black Beauty

The Green Hornet has a lot in common with Batman: an orphan’s desire for revenge, a faithful sidekick, and a lack of superpowers. Given that, it’s not surprising that Britt Reid’s crime-fighting alter ego has a tricke out car of his own. The Hornet’s ride was designed by George Barris, who built the Adam West-era Batmobile. Based on a 1966 Chrysler Imperial, the Black Beauty is loaded with enough weapons to survive the apocalypse, let alone Mafia gangsters.

green hornet black beauty car

The Question’s Volkswagen Beetle

Hub City’s protector has no face (really the best way to protect your secret identity) and his ride of choice is equally anonymous. What appears to be a stock red VW Beetle is packed with a Porsche engine, racing shocks, and a Ferrari transmission. This ultimate stealth racer is actually somewhat plausible: early Porsches and Volkswagens shared many parts, so an engine swap isn’t out of the question. The Ferrari transmission is another story.

original Volkswagen Beetle

The Fujiwara Eight-Six

Before drifting became a real-world phenomenon, most fans read about it in the manga Initial D. It starred a tofu delivery boy named Tak Fujiwara and his trusty steed: a 1986 Toyota Corolla AE86, or “Eight Six” for short.

The cheap, tunable, rear-wheel drive Eight Six has always been a favorite of real life drifters, but it was still an underdog in the stories, which took place in Japan’s Gunma Prefecture. They always pitted the little Toyota against Mazda RX-7s, Mitsubishi Evos, and other high tech machines. Somehow, the Eight Six always came out on top.

Initial D Toyota Corolla AE86

The Devil Z

When wayward Japanese teenager Akio Asakura wanted a fast car to race on Tokyo’s expressways, he found a derelict Datsun 240Z whose owner, Akio Asakura, was killed in a crash. The Devil Z became the star of the manga series Wangan Midnight, beating everything from Nissan GT-Rs to a Ferrari Testarossa, while nearly killing its new owner on several occasions.

Wangan Midnight Datsun 240Z

The Star-Spangled Kid’s Star Rocket Racer

Sylvester Pemberton wanted to fight crime, but he had no superpowers. He did have money, and apparently thought a flying car was an important investment for a crime-fighter. The Star Rocket Racer was definitely the coolest thing about the Star-Spangled Kid, or his sidekick, Stripesy. No set of wheels could keep this Captain America-wannabe from falling into obscurity.

Star-Spangled Kid flying car

S.H.I.E.L.D.’s flying car

Captain America likes to travel by parachute, but his less adventurous comrades at the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division need a way to keep up. Since Nick Fury first donned his eyepatch in the 1960s, top S.H.I.E.L.D. agents have had access to flying cars. They’re usually Porsches: Fury first took flight in a 904, and more recent comics have featured a Boxster.

nick fury flying porsche

S.H.I.E.L.D. Acuras

Flying cars didn’t fit the realistic tone of Marvel Comics’ movies, which gave Acura a great opportunity for product placement. Phil Coulson and his squad chased Thor around a desert in MDXs and ZDXs, then showed up in Marvel’s The Avengers with a fleet of matte black TLs. They looked good, but even Joss Whedon couldn’t explain why the U.S. government equipped its spies with Japanese cars.

SHIELD Acura

Hyundai Elantra Coupe Zombie Survival Machine

Most comic book cars start out as drawings, only to rendered in metal later. Hyundai decided to do the opposite, turning its compact Elantra into the ultimate zombie killer for the 2012 San Diego Comic Con. The car was designed by Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman, and was built to publicize Dead’s 100th issue.

With its plow and numerous pointy edges, the Elantra definitely looks like it would be useful during the zombie apocalypse, but one wonders why Hyundai didn’t use one of its beefier SUVs instead.

Hyundai unveils Elantra Coupe-based Zombie Survival Machine at Comic-Con

Mach 5

Speed Racer needed a fast car to win races, and the aptly named Mach 5 is just that. Unlike most comic book cars, it’s not just for ferrying superheroes to crimes; it’s a racecar. That doesn’t mean Speed went without gadgets: the Mach 5 can jump over other cars, or cut them apart with its handy circular saws. With those weapons concealed, the Mach 5 also looks as good as any car, real or fictional.

Mach 5

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