In a desperate attempt to sell toys, DC Comics gave Superman a ridiculous “Supermobile” that punches criminals in the face with extendable fists.
While Batman is known for his many variations of the Batmobile, his counterpart Superman lacks an accompanying vehicle. That’s not for lack of trying on DC’s part, as the comics giant realized – especially during the Silver Age and Bronze Age – that the toy industry could strongly support sales of comics and vice versa. Thus, plans were put into motion to give Superman his own Supermobile…but unlike the Batmobile, the Man of Steel’s vehicle is best left forgotten.
Batman made his debut in Detective Comics #27 in 1939. The issue also saw the debut of Bruce Wayne’s first-ever Batmobile, which was in the form of a simple red sports car and a far cry from the sleek, armored pursuit vehicles readers expect of the Dark Knight in the modern era. It wasn’t long before DC realized that a similar toy could hypothetically move Superman merchandise in the same way. Thus, in a promotional tie-in with the Corgi Toys toy line, the Supermobile made its debut in Action Comics #481 in 1978.
In the issue, the android and frequent enemy of Superman Amazo escapes his prison on the Justice League of America satellite. The rest of the Justice League are imprisoned, and thanks to an exploding red sun and the subsequent burst of red solar radiation showering Earth, Superman is rendered completely powerless. After luring the android to his Fortress of Solitude, Superman unleashes the Supermobile: a secret weapon that can replicate all of Superman’s powers. As Amazo tangles with the Supermobile, Batman deduces it can only have been constructed out of “Supermanium” – “The strongest metal ever created!”
Supermanium is so strong, explains Batman, that it can only be softened by heat-vision and can only be molded by Superman’s own super-strength. Superman uses the Supermobile to travel forward in time after the red solar radiation passed Earth, regains his powers and defeats Amazo. This final act was a rather large blunder on the part of DC editorial, cementing the Supermobile as a backup weapon. If the vehicle was completely useless to a fully-powered Superman, why would he ever use it regularly?
While Corgi Toys got their wish and produced the Supermobile, it rarely appeared in subsequent adventures. Today the vehicle is more of a Kryptonian footnote than anything of substance – and speaking of substance, “supermanium” is scarcely mentioned in DC comics today. Batman’s Batmobile continues to be incredibly popular, but Superman’s Supermobile is perhaps best remembered as a cautionary tale of how excessive merchandising can negatively effect a story.
Next: Superman’s Escape From Krypton is Explained by Real-Life Kessler Syndrome
Batman Reveals How He Tests Robins (And Why One Failed)