Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Practical Superheroism 6: Means of Travel

Disclaimer:  Look if you haven't got it by now you never will.  Don't try this at home!

The last couple times I talked about weapons and other items a practical superhero needs to carry around.  Now we get to transportation.  Now since you aren't lucky enough to have been granted superpowers by Earth's yellow sun or a genetic mutation or anything, chances are you can't fly or run super fast or swing around on web ropes or any other nonsense.  Unfortunately you probably also don't have billions of dollars and your own personal workshop to build cars, planes, helicopters, rockets, and whatever else for yourself.

At the same time, as a superhero you can't really take a bus around town.  And that rusty Volkswagen Golf that can't go more than 40mph would take forever to get you to a crime scene.  And your cape would get caught up in the spokes of a 10-speed.  There's always a Segway, but then you'd just look ridiculous. 

The obvious solution:  a motorcycle.  That's the conclusion I came to when I was writing the end of the first draft of A Hero's Journey way back in 2009.  It was inspired mostly by the end of "The Dark Knight" where he rides around on the "Batpod" after the Batmobile gets blown up.  It seemed to me a motorcycle has a few advantages:

  1. Speed:  If you get a decent bike it can go well over 100mph.
  2. Size:  A motorcycle is small enough that you don't need a whole Batcave to hide it.
  3. Maneuverability:  Because it's small it also has a lot better agility than a car.  That's great when you need to weave through crowded streets or alleys in hot pursuit of bad guys or to flee the cops.
  4. Mileage:  Bikes typically get better gas mileage, though if you're driving at 100mph all the time that might be negated.
  5. Cost:  Just a guess here, but I'd wager it's a lot cheaper than buying a Lamborghini or Maserati or some high-performance sports car.
  6. Coolness:  Come on, it just looks fucking cool!  Much cooler than that rusty Volkswagen.  Helps you make a good impression and such.
The obvious drawback is that you don't have as much protection as a car with its airbags and windshield and whatnot, so you have to be really careful.  For me the other drawback is you need to have good balance, which I do not have.

Biker chick!
Anyway, so in A Hero's Journey my hero Dr. Emma Earl, aka the Scarlet Knight, has no means of transportation.  She didn't own a car so she had to take a bus or taxi to work at the Plaine Museum.  When she got the scarlet armor, she traveled mostly by jumping from rooftop to rooftop, which was easy in the old parts of the city where buildings were fairly close together.

By the end of that book she gets herself a motorcycle to ride around on for the reasons I stated above.  It's a lot faster than jumping around and hey, it helps her get to work too, which is an added bonus.

Of course I know nothing about motorcycles except they're loud and annoying and again require too much balance and coordination for me to ever own.  So really I can't recommend specific brands or models or anything like that.  For my story I had her get a Ninja one--a red one of course!--just because I thought it looked cool.  It kind of reminds me of the Cyclone bikes in Robotech--or Mospaeda if you want to get all technical.  Except obviously it doesn't turn into a suit of robot armor.  Dang it.

So it looks sort of like this:
Vroom vroom!
Yeah, that's pretty sweet.  Of course you can get a boring Harley if you want.  Or even one of those three-wheeled Spyder dealies.  That might be better for someone with no balance or coordination like me.  I like the sleekness of this better.

Now here's something important to note:  when she goes out as the Scarlet Knight, she takes the license plate off.  If you're good at engineering you can problem get it so the plate can flip down or something.  Since my character is a genius, she also creates a security system that would shock someone with 5,000 volts if they try to steal it.  You probably aren't that smart, but there are things you can buy to make the bike harder to steal, like a collar dealie like the kid used in "Breaking Bad" and was then used to strangle a drug dealer.  Though later his bike gets stolen anyway.  D'OH!

The obvious problem is if you don't have a lot of money, what are you supposed to do?  I'm sure you can get a used bike for fairly cheap.  Or maybe you could steal one!  (Not that I would endorse that because you'd probably get caught.)  If not, well I guess you'd better make sure you've got a bus pass.

If you want to read about a kick-ass superhero in action then buy my book A Hero's Journey for just $2.99!

Tomorrow is what all of you--or at least Michael Offutt--have been waiting for:  my epic Breakdown of "Breaking Bad"...


  1. I think that you should have it be able to turn into a horse so that the Scarlet Knight could truly be a knight on horseback. It'd be an all metal horse with flames coming out of it's nose.

    1. That would pretty much negate the motorcycle's advantages.

  2. She could turn it from horse to cycle and back.

    That would be cool. I agree with Michael.

    Here's a thought: how do superheroes gas up all these vehicles? The Batcave has to have a bat gas station with a Bat-fueling truck coming by periodically to top off the tanks.

    Not to go all Easterbrooky, here, but if you're talking practical matters, then you have to consider that. Also, if she has a license plate, then the description of the motorcycle would be pretty easy for a cop to track down and find out a similar motorcycle was licensed to her alter ego. So I would simply not license the motorcycle at all. And it should be repainted right away. Preferably by the superhero herself to avoid someone else knowing about this stuff.

    1. Maybe Alfred just goes around with a gas can to various gas stations to siphon what Batman needs. Though doesn't the Batmobile take jet fuel? Bruce Wayne has a private jet, so he could just have trucks deposit the fuel there at the airport and then they siphon it off to the Batcave.

      And really in a city of millions, tracking down one red motorcycle would take a while. Who's going to spend the time to sift through that?

    2. Now that Briane has raised the issue, there's the concern that breaking the speed limit and not being "green" are choices you've made to have the Scarlet Knight be a spokesperson for the fossil fuel industry. Why did you choose this?

      I happen to be a proponent of climate change and support scientists who perform this valuable research, especially given that our planet is experiencing extremes that have never been documented.

      An eco-friendly hero who does not race around but is conservative, car pools, and makes a conscious effort to drive an "electric" vehicle would be more in line with standing up for good causes.

    3. LOL. The Black Dragoon is terrorizing the city! Oh, sorry, I have to wait for my ride to show up. Exciting!

      Actually, I could probably pitch that as a sketch to Robot Chicken. "Batman waits for a bus."

    4. Quit it boys; all this unheroic giggling is making me spew wine on my keyboard. What a waste . .


  3. Now the Scarlet Knight has been turned into that chick from the T'Mobile ads.

  4. I generally don't write super hero stories. I agree a motorcycle is probably a sensible choice.

  5. In the old TV show, I think the Batmobile had some kind of nuclear engine or something. I'm pretty sure they mentioned it once.

    Could you even ride a motorcycle in plate armor? I want to try that now.

    1. You probably can't with regular plate armor. Fortunately hers is MAGIC plate armor. Incidentally that's the answer to any other holes people might try to poke: MAGIC!!!

    2. I wasn't really trying to poke a hole; it just hadn't occurred to me before you started talking about the motorcycle thing, and, then, I wondered.

  6. I've never been on one, but the motorcycle idea seems the most practical way to go.

  7. I like the bike. Looks super cool for a super hero. And yeah, red and black.


  8. Great suggestion Pat. It makes me think of all the superheros that have motorcycles. Wolverine. Captain America. Cyclops. About the only real superhero car I can think of is the Punishers's War Wagon...and the Batmobile of course.



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