The best way for Apokolips invaders to transport dozens of Earth prisoners quickly and under the radar of local authorities? Why, the flying Aero-Van, of course! Sporting a roomy, box-like interior for maximum people-packing and flanked on each side with jet propulsion engines, there’s also an exterior cockpit for the pilot’s maximum visibility of 360 degrees! Its hovercraft vertical take-off and landing capability and design to ride the Electron Stream make it perfect not only for transporting undesirables but for traveling dignitaries, as well! Even great Darkseid has used an Aero-Van during his visit to Happyland!
The Aero-Van is primarily used by Glorious Godfrey’s Justifiers and we first see its usage during the “targets round-up” in “Life vs. Anti-Life,” when, “swooping down upon the unsuspecting city –” an Aero-Van is landing on an apartment house rooftop. The pilot explains, “This is the part of town we want! The people we’ve chosen as targets live here!” Armed Justifiers, wielding Apokolips-made rifles, swarm out of the cabin doors, raid the dwellings and drag the victims into the vehicle to cart off to Desaad’s Happyland. A little later, the captured Forever People are also kidnapped via Aero-Van to suffer the attention of the Apokolips great tormentor.
Not long thereafter, “One of the strange hovercraft that service ‘Happyland’ arrives with a cargo of highest priority!” A visitor to the theme park tells his son, “Head’s up, Junior! There’s another one of those aircraft!” The boy says, “I can see the air-jets on the underside of it, Dad! See ’em?” The next caption reads “In a part of ‘Happyland’ reserved for the invisible ‘management,’ the hovercraft descends!!” As the Aero-Van vertically drops into an underground landing area, a controller radios the ship, “All clear for landing! The realm of Desaad hails our leader!” The pilot replies, “Message acknowledged! Stand by for the coming of Darkseid!”
Later, when Happyland is devastated, “Air-van ‘shuttles,’ flown by Glorious Godfrey’s ‘Justifiers,’ take off in panic!! The prisoners they brought for Desaad will now set the law on their trail!!” Aero-Vans are flying en masse out of the aera, with one pilot hollering, “Let’s get out of here!”
But one of the “Justifiers” is delayed from leaving the secret landing strip!
Big Bear is restraining the Aero-Van from departing by his own power! “Hey! Cut that out!” orders the pilot, whose helmet has come off because of the Super-Kid’s action, “I’m trying to get this Aero-Van off the ground!!” But Big Bear implores the fellow to lend an ear. “Oh, please, sir!! I’m seeking transportation for myself and my friends! Please listen!” The pilot is outraged and powerless, “Mad-dog hippie!! You’re holding back this tonnage with your bare hands!! You must be stronger than a bull elephant!!” Big Bear is balancing the huge vehicle with a single hand and, with characteristic good manners, he replies, “My stars, sir!! Can it be that high density atoms flow through, and reinforce my own atomic structure?” Suddenly the pilot screams, “You moving mattress!! You’re from New Genesis!” and he pulls out a pistol and fires at point-blank range to the back of Big Bear’s head, who is startled but apparently uninjured as he replies, “Oops!! Well, Big Bear is the name, sir! — and power is my game!! That’s my bag, sir!!” explains Big Bear. “I store an excess of free atoms and send them where they’re needed!! Here, perhaps!!!” With that, Big Bear punches the underside of the exterior cockpit and the impact sends the pilot flying skyward.
After his fellow Forever People are consigned to different time zones courtesy of Darkseid’s Omega Effect, Serifan is bowed in the Aero-Van terminal when police officers arrive on the scene. The Super-Kid jumps into action, climbs into a damaged Aero-Van’s cockpit and applies one of his Cosmic Cartridges to “atune itself to the principle that powers this vehicle!!” Just as the cops burst in with guns drawn, Serifan is successful and the Aero-Van has a vertical lift-off! “Hold it! Come back or –” says one policeman. “We’ll stop him!! We’ve got helicopters in the area!” says another.
But no flying vehicle made on Earth can overtake an object that speeds in the Electron Stream! — Still undiscovered — and never traveled — here!!
Serifan’s flies toward the Super-Cycle, which takes defensive measures and the copycat cowboy leaps from the Aero-Van to join the Forever People vehicle.
In other Fourth World tales we see vehicles that are similar to the Aero-Van but not identical. Darkseid and Uncle Steppenwolf use a hovercraft, albeit one that travels between planets, for their fateful hunting trip to New Genesis in “The Pact.” The Magna-Lift is more like a helicopter, which we see dropping off a bunch of minions who are stalking Big Barda in “Doctor Vundabar and His Murder Machine.” We also see some AntigravShips in “The Apokolips Trap” and “Himon” used for transporting troops and Granny Goodness Finishing School recruits.
It appears that Aero-Vans are specifically constructed for Glorious Godfrey, as the Magna-Lifts are manufactured especially for Virman Vundabar and no doubt the entire Granny Goodness contingent. The ability to fly the “Electron Stream” certainly indicates Apokolips design but were they assembled here, on Earth? They surely look too big to be transported via Boom Tube (unless one can summon an inter-dimensional bridge of varying width!)…