Several months back, I listed my Top Ten Lamest Comic Book Vehicles, which inspired some good discussion in the comments section. So, to keep the conversation going, let's balance the cosmic scales by taking a look at the Top Ten COOLEST Comic Book vehicles.
(According to ME, that is.)
The Spider-Mobile: In addition to its sporty dune-buggy design, the early 1970's roll-out of the Spider-Mobile was also a clever parody of crass commercialism and celebrity endorsements. As part of their campaign to sell a new non-polluting car engine, the ad agency of Carter and Lombardo convinced a reluctant (yet cash-strapped) Spider-Man to lend his name to the promotion. With the help of gear-head Johnny "Human Torch" Storm, the Spider-Mobile made its debut in Spider-Man #130 (1974)...becoming a source of constant embarrassment and irritation for Web-Head until it sunk into the Hudson River less than a year later. More precisely, a dozen panels after the image below (from Spider-Man #141). Sure, as a concept the Spider-Mobile was a joke (a joke Spider-Man was in on), but it's cool design by artist Ross Andru demands the first slot on my Top Ten list.
The Asgardian Starjammer: Something I've always loved about Marvel's classic Thor series was its "Lord of the Rings meets Star Trek" fusion of fantasy and sci-fi elements. Take the Starjammer, for example. Looking like an ancient Scandinavian dragon ship, the enchanted Starjammer could sail the "seas" of the universe with only a sail and rudder as its only visible means of propulsion and navigation. An odd sight, to be sure, but perfectly consistent with the surreal mythic/cosmic whimsy that made Thor such a consistent joy to read.
Brainiac's Skull Ship: When DC upgraded Brainiac from a green bald guy into a Gigeresque high-tech horror, they also traded in his old 50's era flying saucer for a terrifying new spaceship that mirrored his spooky, skull-like head. Adding to the creepy factor were giant tentacles snaking and probing from the bottom of the ship. Although Brainiac himself has undergone several more upgrades/retrogrades since then, the Skull Ship has managed to stick around in essentially the same sinister form.
The Silver Surfer's Board: Has there ever been a character more perfectly suited to the time of its creation than the Silver Surfer? Channeling the surf culture of the early 1960's, artist Jack Kirby inserted this mysterious chrome-plated character into the artwork of Fantastic Four #48 (1966), taking writer and F.F. co-creator Stan Lee completely off guard...though not for long. In fact, Lee added some polish to the Silver Surfer by infusing his dialogue with noble, philosophical musings that mirrored the hippy-dippy cosmic spirituality of the age. Although the character is still surfing the skyways today, no artist has ever surpassed (much less equaled) the streamlined cool and eerie grace of Kirby's Silver Surfer...with the heiroglyphics of elaborate flight paths zig-zagging in his wake.