"Jan & Dean Meet Batman"

Comic book superheroes have been stirring imaginations for almost a century at this point, but it’s only been since the dawn of rock and roll that costumed do-gooders have regularly been immortalized in song as well. And while some superhero-inspired tunes have become pop culture treasures, many have fallen into the musical memory hole. Here are ten examples spanning genres from surf rock to thrash metal that stand out as particularly memorable and — in some cases — are almost as beloved as the creations that inspired them.

Note: I am not including songs specifically written for comic book movies or TV shows, no matter how good they may be. Sorry, “Batdance” fans.

“Flight of the Batmobile” (Jan and Dean, 1966)

Jan and Dean, one of the pre-eminent surf rock groups of all-time, weren’t content to release just one song inspired by the Caped Crusader — they released an entire album. Released in 1966, Jan and Dean Meet Batman alternated between silly but fun rock homages and scripted comedy skits of questionable quality. Here’s an interesting little ditty that combines the two, “Flight of the Batmobile.”

“Nobody Loves the Hulk” (The Traits, 1969)

When you think of Marvel music in the Swingin’ ’60s, the first song that probably comes to mind is the theme to the 1967 Spider-Man cartoon. But this is every bit as great, albeit less groovin’ and more rockin’. The Traits, an obscure garage rock outfit from New York state, wrote a sympathetic tune to Dr. Bruce Banner’s alter ego. It’s appropriately aggressive, naturally, and was apparently a big enough deal to be advertised for sale in comic books.

"Nobody Loves the Hulk" (The Traits, 1969)Poor Bruce Banner
Was working in his laboratory
When he saw Rick Jones
About to go up in a blaze of glory.
Well he saved the boy
But what a change.
The explosion made him feel so strange
for his molecules had been rearranged
into The Hulk! The Hulk!

The Hulk is a monster who is
Ugly, oversized and green.
His strength is fantastic
And his disposition’s mighty mean.
And whenever people see him
All they do is run around and scream

Nobody loves The Hulk!
Nobody loves The Hulk!
Nobody loves The Hulk!
(’Cept you and me)
We don’t allow no green skin people in here!

The Pentagon announced that the
Hulk has got to be destroyed.
They shot at him with H-bombs but
The Hulk only became annoyed.
All he wanted to do was settle down
and get employed.

Nobody loves The Hulk!
Nobody loves The Hulk!
Nobody loves The Hulk!

“Captain America” (Jimmy Buffett, 1970)

This interesting tune from Jimmy Buffett’s debut album, Down to Earth, sounds more like Bob Dylan than it does the breezy, so-called Gulf and Western style that the King of the Parrotheads built his musical empire on. Nonetheless, it’s a clever and bouncy bit of folk rock that pays tribute to the hero who will “guard you against everything from atom bombs to rabies.”

“Ghost Rider” (Suicide, 1977)

Something about the spooky, droning arrangement to “Ghost Rider,” the first song on Suicide’s self-titled debut album, just feels right. In mind I can picture Ghost Rider, skull ablaze, riding a lonely, dark highway in search of evil. And as the pulsing synthesizers threaten to wash over me, I can almost forget that those horrible Nic Cage movies even existed.

“Holy Wars… The Punishment Due” (Megadeth, 1990)

If Megadeth was going to write a song about any comic book character, it only makes sense to write about one who is not afraid to do whatever it takes — kidnapping and murder among them — to fight his one-man war on crime. And so it was that Dave Mustaine wrote about the Punisher on the second half of the opening track to 1990’s Rust in Peace album, and created a thrash metal masterpiece in the process.

“The Ballad of Barry Allen” (Jim’s Big Ego, 2003)

There are two really cool things about this song (from the album They’re Everywhere!). One, it pays tribute to one of the cooler Silver Age DC characters, and one who usually gets overlooked — the Flash. And two, it manages to find pathos in the life of a hero who is the fastest human alive. Because the Flash can move so quickly, life itself basically moves along at a crawl for him. It sounds like a pretty miserable existence really, but it makes for a cool song.

“Magneto and Titanium Man” (Wings, 1975)

"Magneto and Titanium Man" (Wings)
OK, so maybe this is about villains and not heroes. But it’s just so damn catchy I had to include it. Paul McCartney, apparently a big comic book fan, wrote a quirky little tale of four costumed villains — X-Men’s Magneto, Titanium Man, Crimson Dynamo, and an unnamed fourth character — and a bank robbery that may or may not have gone off. When Wings performed this live in 1975/76, comic images drawn by the legendary Jack Kirby were projected onto a screen, and Kirby was even invited backstage at one show.

“Superman’s Song” (Crash Test Dummies, 1991)

There are enough songs that mention the Man of Steel to do another full list, but the lyrical angle most of them take is to use Superman as some sort of symbol rather than an actual character. But on this, the first single from Crash Test Dummies, there is no doubt that it’s the Last Son of Krypton who is being feted. Lead singer Brad Roberts even scores bonus points for name-dropping longtime Superman nemesis Solomon Grundy, which has to be a first I think.

When you combine the morose tone and lyrics of “Superman’s Song” with its video — taking place at his funeral — it transforms into one of the most moving tributes to a fictional character I’ve ever heard.

“Ring Capacity” (Kirby Krackle, 2010)

All you need to know about this band’s comic book cred is in its name, which is taken from a visual effect employed by the legendary Jack Kirby. This particular song (from the 2010 album E for Everyone) is an energetic rock number about Green Lantern, and is probably the most instantly catchy song on this list. Call it nerd rock if you want, but this is a super song about one of the most iconic heroes around. I dig the video too.

“I Am the Law” (Anthrax, 1987)

Forget that dreadful Sylvester Stallone movie, this song truly captures the spirit of Judge Dredd. It’s brutally efficient and not easy to forget. In addition, it serves as a pretty handy summary of the world of Judge Dredd and his home, Mega-City One. Oh, and it also comes from one of the landmark metal albums of the 1980s — Among the Living.

About the Author

Chris Holmes

Chris Holmes joined the Popdose writing staff only after enduring a humiliating series of hazing rituals. One day he'll write a tell-all book, and then they'll all pay. Until then, you can also catch him at his regular home, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, or you can follow him on Twitter.

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