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!)…
Who can argue that Mister Miracle’s Aero-Discs aren’t the absolute coolest “gettin’ around town” devices ever created? Earned by Scott during his training as an Aero-Trooper on Apokolips (“As a FORMER candidate for Granny’s flight troops, I EARNED these!”), these nondescript metallic cylinders, each a fraction of an inch thick, give the hero the ability to fly through the air standing up, a graceful and imposing sight, each foot placed atop a disc. It’s obvious, in “Himon,” that Scott took the transport mechanisms with him when he escaped via Boom Tube to Earth — you can see him grasping the devices to his bosom during the arduous exit from Slum Area 10 and into the Boom Tube to Earth. But late in the series, in #15, Mister Miracle makes a curious comment when flying with Barda, she on her own pair:
Barda: There’s more than one way to follow a quarry –! These AERO-DISCS are PERFECT for the job, Mister Miracle!
Mister Miracle: I built these for the act, Barda. Where WE grew up, the Anti-Grav vehicle is as COMMON as an Earth automobile.
What’s THAT all about? (And what’s with the use of the lowly period punctuation instead of multiple exclamation points, eh???!!!)
Imagine an armed force atop huge, ferocious canines pursuing you through the hellacious avenues of sinister Apokolips, snapping and snarling at your heels, threatening to rip the very flesh from your bones with razor-sharp fangs set in impossibly muscled jaws… If you can picture that, you’ve got a good idea of the Demon Dog Cavalry of mighty Darkseid.
Having battled the Para-Demon sentries in the smoke-filled skies over that dread and dismal world, and shaken off an armed horde on the ground, Orion suddenly faces Darkseid’s mounted troops riding… ummm… dogback against the arrival from New Genesis. Firing their radian blasters, the dragoons charge toward their adversary, who exclaims, “Darkseid’s Dog calvary! It is suicidal to run from them! My one chance to live — is to attack!”
Orion dives to the ground, tripping dog and rider (the latter seem knocked senseless), but the mastiffs are tenacious, hungry for the blood of a new god. “These hounds of Hades are swift to regain their feet!” thinks Orion, and “Marshaling his colossal strength loosens a nearby stone pillar!” The column’s collapse spooks the mutts and they flee…
It’s apparent that the elite of Apokolips venerate canines twice the size of earthly Great Danes, as we see Granny Goodness walking her huge “darling demon-dogs” in a “Young Scott Free” vignette and there’s a trio of oversized hounds (doubtless used for hunting) among the poaching interlopers that begin “The Pact.” Mostly though, they seem, like every other life form on Apokolips, bred for war.
Baskerville Hall has nothing on these beasts when next we see them in “The Pact,” as “Raid upon raid is made everywhere on New Genesis!! From one such threshold leaps a snapping unit of dog calvary!! — Led by Steppenwolf!!” The creatures look like giant, ferocious rats in Jack’s depiction, and “When Steppenwolf leads, the carnage mounts until the battleground whines beneath the weight and agony of mass death!!! Nothing lives in his path!” One can only shudder at such butchery…
In “Himon,” the epic’s other “background story,” we see young Scott Free being chased briefly by the dog calvary but, of course, the lad escapes…
As one who was scared of big mongrels as a kid, I can attest Jack’s dog cavalry was an inspired nightmare vision, perfectly apropos to kennel in his nightmare world of Apokolips. Hounds of Hell, indeed…
The “miraculous” Mobius Chair (though it’s been called “devilish,” as well) is the device by which Metron of New Genesis traverses the “dimension winds” of space and time. The academic god boasts, “Walls and distance mean little to me! I can be anywhere — everywhere — when I wish it!”
“There are no barriers to the Mobius Chair of Metron, the knowledge seeker of New Genesis! No world or universe seems unreachable!” Well, truth to tell there is one boundary he has yet to cross: The Final Barrier.
“It can defy any barrier –BUT the one which guards the secret of the ‘Source’!” mulls Metron.
On the edge of the Promethean Galaxy, with the still figures of failed giants who attempted to pass through the Final Barrier and discover the secret of The Source, Metron travels on his Mobius Chair, contemplating the mysteries beyond. “I’ve leaped the stars toward the final barrier!! A lesser celestial would begin to show fear in this area.” (But, alas, before he makes an attempt, Metron is called back to New Genesis.)
On a previous occasion, Metron has taken the child god Esak across the corridors of time-space to visit a world resembling prehistoric Earth, with giant saurians and savage, primitive men waging battle with reptilian humanoids. The pair from New Genesis shirt the volcanic landscape, low to the ground, as Metron instructs his young charge on the evolution of life.
(Patrick Ford, in a reply to my “Metron” entry here, astutely tells us there’s only one instance where we see Metron not in his Mobius Chair, and that is prior to its creation, in the backstory tale “The Pact.” This begs the question: Is Metron now unable to use his legs or is he permanently attached to the vehicle for other (cyborgian?) reasons?)
In the midst of the “Great Clash,” Metron develops his Mobius Chair after bargaining with Darkseid for possession of the X-Element (discovered by Himon of Apokolips), material that is also used by Metron to develop the “Matter Threshold” and later, its successor, the Boom Tube, technological leaps that change the course of new god history.
“In my Mobius Chair,” the “icy mask” of Metron tells us, “I master Time! Space! Infinity!”
Story update: Allow me to take a minute to finally give you an idea of what is transpiring in the opening pages of The New Gods #1:
In an orgy of self-destruction the old gods perish and their world is ripped in two, and those molten spheres cool to become the sister worlds of New Genesis and Apokolips. We meet Orion, summoned home to New Genesis, to “thwart the ultimate destruction.” He is greeted by LIghtray, faithful companion, who escorts him back to the floating city of Supertown, which Orion notes “still glows with eternal splendor!” A talk with ebullient Lightray shows us Orion is plagued by a darkness not dissimilar to the one covering Darkseid’s sinister planet.
Orion meets with New Genesis leader Highfather and they visit the Chamber of The Source to receive a message. They are joined by scientific god Metron and they discuss The Source, which gives them the dispatch “ORION TO APOKOLIPS — THEN TO EARTH — THEN TO WAR.” As Orion departs to fulfill the Wall’s edict, Metron hints at the shadowy origins of “Orion the Mighty — Orion the Fierce — could this be one born of New Genesis?” Highfather tells him to hush up as it is not time to reveal such a dark secret to Orion.
Aboard his Astro-Harness, Orion takes a cosmic “journey which is to lead him to a strange destiny…” The warrior ponders, “Ahead lies Apokolips — in the shadow of New Genesis –! There’ll be no cheery greetings there.”
Tomorrow: Planet Darkseid!
When we first meet Orion the Fierce, he is traveling the spaceways upon his Astro-Harness, a sort of cosmic glider. Fellow new god Metron calls the device Power Rods and it is named the Astro-Glider by The New Gods #4 and Astro-Harness in #6. (Since Astro-Harness is used more than once, we’ll stick with that nomenclature.)
More important than a mode of transport, the Astro-Harness houses the awesome power possessed only by Orion, the Astro-Force. “I wield the mighty power of the Astro-Force!” the New Genesis warrior exclaims. “It is a grim and fearful responsibility!” (And apparently a danger also to the wielder, as at one point Orion warns himself, “The Astro-Force — I must use it — though I myself may be caught in its unleashed power!”)
But the most vital aspect is that the harness itself houses Orion’s Mother Box because she protects him on the outside from becoming the raging monster within.
Orion tells Slig before the “Glory Boat” epic, “Yes, you croaking frog! [The rumors are] true!! Orion is flawed!!” because his true Apokoliptian face is revealed, and the Deep Sixer responds, “More than that! You’re a mad, tormented animal, Orion!!”
“I would be, Slig!! I would be! — If it were not for the Mother Box!! Mother Box protects me! She calms and restructures and keeps me part of New Genesis!!” (Apparently not very soothing, as he proceeds to brutally kill Slig and, in an especially chilling scene, delight in destroying Slig’s Mother Box, all because the Deep Sixer was witness to Orion’s true face.)
An interesting sequence with his unique mode of transport takes place when Orion goes into a closet while describing Inter-Gang to his Earth allies, he starts putting together the Astro-Harness and disengaging his Mother Box from the thingamagig.
A few other Astro-Harness and Astro-Force factoids:
• Orion can summon Astro-Force through his wrist circuits
• “On Orion’s harness, a small but powerful ‘element-transmitter‘ emits a strong magna-beam, which locks on the raft below!!” (in “The Glory Boat,” NG #6)
• A unit on the Astro-Harness houses the dreaded Astro-Force (or did I say that already?)
• The Astro-Harness creates “a shield of air molecules around him” for Orion to travel underwater
• The emissions from the Astro-Force weapon are called both “Astro-Blasts” and “Cosmi-Force”
• It can be programmed for others to use, as Lynn Sheridan is flown to safety onshore in the “Glory Boat” story
Besides his rage, Orion’s Astro-Force is his greatest weapon: Amongst the wreckage of its wielding: Used against Kalibak; destroys Darkseid’s Fear Generator; utilized to slow a rapid descent; shatters the Inter-Gang “Mother Box Jammer”; antagonizes a giant clam mutated by Slig of the Deep Six; zaps said Slig; unravels a “mummified” Lightray; and, “like lethal lightning,” completely destroys Jaffar, Slig’s brethren.
Me, I say, the Astro-Harness is the absolute coolest super-hero accoutrement ever! I mean, look at this, the Orion concept drawing by Jack!
The Forever People’s road hog, the Super-Cycle, is a suped-up Supertown Harley Davidson motorcycle — seats fives! — that traverses not only earthly thoroughfares, but also the Boom Tube and the Electron Road, the latter which Beautiful Dreamer describes as, “I-it’s like your jet-stream — only a little more complex!!” (Yeah, right, “a little”!).
But the metal beast, helmed by Big Bear (he with the perpetually giant grin who obviously relishes being the driver), is more than just a mode of transportation: It also can shift, Transformer-like, into “fort mode,” for self-defense. “On New Genesis,” a caption describing the re-arrangement states, “the creed is ‘life!!‘ Programmed to ward off ‘death,’ the ‘Super-Cycle’ defends itself!!!” It is equipped with paralyzer guns to keep evildoers at bay…
Seems to me that the supersonic tricycle actually lives, cares about Big Bear & Co., and has the will to survive, whatever the “programming.” Ya gotta wonder if Jack could have featured a solo story or two just to this vehicle alone had the series continued. This ain’t no “Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch”!
Here, on the first comic book story page Jack wrote and drew for his legendary ’70s stint at DC Comics (first, according to the job number assigned to it, X-100), on page one of The Forever People #1 [Feb.-Mar. 1971], is the transportation device he created to get his Fourth World characters from New Genesis and Apokolips to Earth and back again. A kind of hipster “rainbow bridge” [see Thor, The Mighty], the Boom Tube was used by both the children of Highfather and denizens of Darkseid in the Super-War that was only just now beginning between the new generation of cosmic gods, using our small green globe as battlefield.
The Boom Tube (a name coined, I reckon, because it sounds like the contemporaneous derogatory term Americans often used to describe their televisions, “The Boob Tube”) is an inter-dimensional tunnel that appears out of thin air — with a sonic boom heralding the arrival — in our world’s environs and, with its travelers safe on earthly soil, just as suddenly disappears with a thunderclap. It is also used between the two worlds of the new gods.
The question begs an answer: Just where do New Genesis and Apokolips exist in relation to Earth? Is it, indeed, in a parallel dimension or in or around the Promethean Galaxy, which we see Metron (the developer of The Boom Tube, by the by) teleporting to its edge in the opening of New Gods #5? It’s probably a silly question — where does Asgard or Valhalla or Heaven or Hell reside, for that matter? — but the deeper and deeper we read into the Fourth World saga, the more the connections between the three worlds matter…
Oh, never mind. I need to relax and enjoy the new story that’s only just beginning: Who or what is traveling through this Boom Tube and what adventures are in store? Find out tomorrow…
The Levithan of the Zoomway! The giant vehicle — the exterior made to resemble a giant green monster, the chassis a converted missile carrier, the interior “a buzzing world of mechanical wonders!” — is driven by the Hairies, a clan of young geniuses who are creating an amazing array of devices and creatures for the even-more mysterious underground complex called The Project! Why the fearsome appearance? To ward away unseen enemies and Wild Area innocents alike, so The Hairies can continue their super-scientific efforts to make a better planet without interference, earthly or Apokolipian… and, yep, the hippy geniuses actually live and work in what’s later described a gignormous mobile home!
“Man, you don’t grab it!” a terrified Yango explains to Jimmy, “The Mountain — I-it’s not like a place — I-it’s more like a thing! Like Moby Dick! You go out and meet it — and die!” Two other Outsiders later describe it: “The howling White Whale! The mammoth Moby Dick –” “–that can make you turn chicken — or man!”
The Whiz Wagon is the super-cool, silver-coated, flying (sporting vertical-takeoff capability), TV camera-mounted “Miracle Car” designed by Newsboy Legionnaire Big-Words and piloted by Superman’s pal, Jimmy Olsen for much of Jack’s run on the title [#133-139, 141-148]. It sure looks like the “Hot Wheels” vehicle of the dreams of many a kid… Remember, Jack made up his own real version out of Matchbox toys for use in the photo collages in subsequent issues of JO.
The comics creator is firing on all cylinders with his futuristic vehicle, finally giving the non-super-hero cub reporter some stylish wheels, which we learn in this issue is financed by the suspicious new owner of The Daily Planet, media mogul Morgan Edge (who is also — gasp! — an agent for the evil Darkseid, dastardly ruler of Apokolips), with a nefarious intention!
Let’s hear from the creator himself, in the JO #134 text page essay, “The Whiz Wagons Are Coming!” excerpt following:
“…The age of the multi-purpose vehicle is rapidly ‘fleshing out’ — and not even the sky can be termed as the limit. Add enough accessories to the average car and it would take you anywhere, to the submerged canyons off the Continental Shelf or outwards to the ‘deeps’ of space. This would take heaps of money to accomplish, at present, fanatical dedication on temper-tantrum level, and the readiness of universal acceptance.
“Nobody owns a Whiz Wagon yet. But we’ve got a proxy model at National Periodicals [DC Comics] and it’s being tested by young, enthusiastic superstars like Jimmy Olsen and the Newsboy Legion. The ‘miracle’ car is real in their realm and they’re having a wild, wild whirl at it. It’s an experience in true projection. Each successive story situation becomes another hurdle for the Whiz Wagon to overcome its spectacular drive towards eventual reality. It is bound to enrich us in some manner, whether we wreck the consarn multi-gadget or refine it to function in the most extreme conditions. The idea is to theorize, analyze, explore and modify, accept or reject a variety of materials, create the schematics and fluid designs which change in many intricate ways to satisfy our individual vision of what a Whiz Wagon should be.
“After all, it is part of man’s dream to do whatever he lawfully wishes, to go wherever his fancy takes him, to enjoy an unfettered freedom he cannot yet experience.
“We invite your involvement with the Whiz Wagon. What the heck, the professional engineers will produce it in time, but it won’t look as groovy as ours. Not if we have a kind of ‘Create-In,’ take what we know about anything which is relative to the subject, pour it into practical channels, and zero in on the developing image.
“At worst, the results will certainly separate the pragmatists from the visionaries. At best, there will be something in your effort that the next individual can use. something he didn’t think about, something which could open up newer, wider, constructive avenues.
“At present, the Whiz Wagon is no more than life in search of stimulating ZONK and ZAP. It may be its happiest stage. There are no standard models. Each individual has the opportunity to ‘roll his own.’
“National’s Whiz Wagon was designed by myself, put through some wild initial paces on a ‘Hairie’ Zoomway specifically created for that purpose. [...]
“But the point is that with each successive test of the National Whiz Wagon, a newer and greater experience for the reader must materialize from it. It’s a kind of ‘Kirby’s Law,’ if you will: label it best as the ‘Super-bonus Effect.’ In real life, the principle would still hold. The multi-purpose vehicle must produce the multi-effectual experience. If you have a car which can tunnel its way to the center of the Earth, the Super-bonus Effect must ensue. The trip will far from parallel a drive through Main Street.
“At this junction, we must eternally pause, for the eternal wiseacre to counter with the quixotic: ‘After the Whiz Wagon, — what?’ And the answer is, ‘That’s all there is’ — unless you find the roads you can’t see — listen for the traffic you can’t hear — and take all the turns not shown on the map. Take a positive step in any of these directions — and you’ve got a brand new Whiz Wagon!”
Seats six and is equipped with magnetic repulsion and the GPS-like Computi-Pilot, but I’m betting the mileage is awful… and, please, no trying to “roll your own” while driving, as you need to stay alert and keep your eyes on the Zoomway!
Tomorrow: The “New” Newsboy Legion!