75 years into his crimefighting career, the Batman is still revealing himself as a versatile icon not only in comics, but on the silver screen, the TV, and the stage. The Dark Knight even steals the show when he’s comic relief in a feature-length ad for a toy.
November 11, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment will release Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham, which renders characters from DC Comics and our world as walking, talking, playable characters. A second sequel was a no-brainer following this year’s box-office smash The Lego Movie, which grossed over $250 million (according to IMDB). The flick completely stripped Batman of his character, instead recasting the cowled do-gooder as a self-centered, gravel-voiced jerkass who dabbled as a techno musician — and he still emerged as a fan favorite. Yeah, the song was that fun.
Composed by Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh, written by screenwriter/directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, and performed by Will Arnett, the Lego Movie‘s ”Untitled Self Portrait” was the best Batman tune since Nelson Riddle’s 1966 Batman TV theme — but certainly not the first.
Over the decades, whether Bats has been interpreted as the World’s Greatest Detective or the psychotic Dark Knight, the character has inspired more than his share of musical numbers. Take a look and listen to some of the better Batsongs.
”Not Allowed to Love”
Sung by Batman (Marcus Lovett) and Catwoman (Karine Hannah)
After Disney hit paydirt with Broadway Musicals, Batman’s corporate parents formed Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures to follow Batsuit. Aiming for the sky, WB hired Jim Steinman (of Meatloaf’s Bat Out of Hell Fame) to write the music and lyrics for Batman: The Musical. Steinman developed the show for years, working around a book by Broadway veteran David Ives (All In The Timing and Time Flies). The story features Gotham City all-stars including Catwoman and the Joker, alongside a Batman whose heart is full of pain… and song!
The show never opened, but Steinman eventually blogged about the project and posted demos, including would-be showstoppers and original, plot-driving numbers like ”In the Land of the Pigs, the Butcher is King,” which plays like a caped version of Les Mis and later turned up in Steinman & Meatloaf’s Bat franchise.
In the lopsided, tinkly ”Not Allowed,” Batman’s part is even funnier than the Lego Movie song. But Catwoman’s verse is classic Steinman, operatic pop that soars like the Batwing. According to the Jim Steinman Wiki, the song also exists in dance and pop versions.
“Batman: The Musical”
Sung by the Batman Beyond and The Batman/Superman Adventures cast
For all Steinman’s epic songwriting talent, his Batman songs are about four minutes too long apiece — as proven by the tongue-in-cheek Batman musical presented in the cartoon series Batman Beyond. In this episode, Bat-protÁ©gÁ© Terry McGinnis drags an aging Bruce Wayne to see the play, and it makes the retired crime fighter experience pain on a new level. Steinman’s version might have killed him.
”Batman (1989) Sings…”
Sung by Batman (Marco Buono)
In 2012, comedian Marco Buono Show donned the Batsuit — as seen in Tim Burton’s arty take on the Caped Crusader — and revisited the Steinman connection, mutating songs by Meatloaf, Bon Jovi, Lady Gaga, and Michael Jackson into Bat-tributes.
”Am I Blue”
Sung by Batman (Kevin Conroy)
In the 2004 Justice League Unlimited episode ”This Little Piggy,” Batman proves he will stop at nothing to protect those close to him. When Wonder Woman is turned into a pig — long story — the Dark Knight Detective saves her by striking a deal to become the caped crooner. And he takes the stage for a moving version of the sad standard ”Am I Blue.” The iconic theatre masks of comedy and sorrow both apply to this spotlight number.
”Say We’re Sweethearts Again”
Sung by Harley Quinn (Tara Strong)
Look deep enough in the Bat-mythos, and you’ll not only find melody, but harmony: Other key characters have brought the razzle-dazzle to Bruce Wayne’s dark world.
In the 1990s, while Hollywood was spending hundreds of millions of dollars to turn the Dark Knight’s adventures into a cartoony neon nightmare, the cartoon Batman: The Animated Series kept our hero’s integrity intact. The consistently excellent show honorably adapted dozens of Bat-characters and even created new fan favorites like the Joker’s partner in crime, Harley Quinn, voiced by versatile voice-actor superstar Tara Strong. In 1994’s ”Harlequinade,” Quinn serenades a room full of mobsters with a morbid love song, ”Say That We’re Sweethearts Again.”
The dusty nugget was a onetime hit from the 1944 musical Meet the People, written by Earl Brent (who wrote for Chet Baker, among others) and originally sung by Virgina O’Brien (whose recorded records and appeared in Marx Brothers movies). (Meet the People stared Lucille Ball and spawned the Snagglepuss catchphrase ”Heavens to Murgatroyd!”) In the tune, the volatile Quinn croons about violent love, dropping cuddly couplets like, ”I thought it was a lark / When you kicked me in the park” and “Life used to be so placid / Won’t you please put down that acid?”
Harley is sexier, but considerably less cute as a homicidal Suicide Girl when she sings a demented lullaby in the Arkham City DLC Harley’s Revenge.
”Grey and Blue”
Sung by Vigilante (John DiMaggio)
Warner Brothers kept things fresh by constantly rebooting the Bat-Cartoons over the next two decades. Musicals were rare in The Animated Series, but common in The Brave and the Bold, which cased Batman and his super friends. Musical highlights include songs by Aquaman and the Joker (voiced by Tony winner Neil Patrick Harris, also of Dr. Horrible fame).
In the 2011 episode ”Night of the Batmen!,” the radio-troubador-turned-crimefighter Vigilante sings about the Caped Crusader like he’s a fellow cowboy, telling the story of the mysterious stranger in the grand tradition of country-western ballads. (Vigilante voice actor John DiMaggio’s prolific body of work include Futurama’s Bender.)
“Drive Us Bats”
Sung by the Music Meister (Neil Patrick Harris)
Warner Brothers kept things fresh by constantly rebooting the Bat-Cartoons over the next two decades. Musicals were rare in The Animated Series, but became increasingly common and elaborate in Batman: The Brave and the Bold, which showcased Batman and his super friends. Vigilante’s cowboy ballad “Gray and Blue” worked in a noble, fading tradition. “Aquaman’s Rousing Song of Heroism” was an improbable triumph. And the series got some legit star power from future Tony winner Neil Patrick Harris, who played the Music Meister, an exceptionally theatrical bad guy with Broadway panache.
”Birds of Prey”
Sung by the Birds of Prey (Huntress, Catwoman, Black Canary) [Tara Strong, Nika Futterman and Grey Delisle]
In the 2011 episode ”The Mask of Matches Malone,” three Gotham City supergals team up, wander into a mob club, and find themselves trapped in a tight corner. But, thinking fast, they improvise a jazzy musical number, complete with racy, synchronized choreography. Fortunately, they’re already dressed like exotic dancers, so it plays.
Performed by Powerglove
The instrumental power metal band Powerglove specializes in movie and TV themes. Their signature tune might be this number, which splashes hot licks and propulsive double-bass drumming onto the swashbuckling theme from Batman: The Animated Series (which owes much to Danny Elfman’s orchestral theme from the 1989 Batman movie).
Sung by the Joker (Mark Hamill)
Batman’s musical roots were already growing strong before metalheads and corporate suits got involved. In the Batman: The Animated Series episode ”Christmas With the Joker,” the Dark Knight’s arch nemesis sings the original grassroots Batman song, then adds a verse.
Performed by Naked Raygun
Chicago punk band Naked Raygun wrote ”Coldbringer” about The Dark Knight Returns, Frank Miller’s legendary mini-series that reinvented Batman in a bleak future. The tune summarizes the plot, which sees Batman emerge from retirement, save Gotham once again, and even whoop Superman’s ass after a Coldbringer nuclear missile weakens the big blue Boy Scout. (The cover its album, 1988’s Jettison, features the Rocketeer, or someone who looks a lot like him.)
”Teen Titans Theme”
Sung by Robin (Scott Menville) and Friends
Bruce Wayne’s ward Dick Grayson strikes out on his own in most versions of the Bat mythos. In the Teen Titans cartoons, Robin is still wound tight after years of training with his unflappable supermentor. But the Boy Wonder does learn to relax and have fun, playing video games, scarfing pizza, and even throwing down at karaoke night.
Performed by Goblin Bones
The time has finally arrived for this obscure DIY punk anthem. It’s an ecstatic tribute to all things Lego, from Batman to Spongebob—but especially the Dark, Plastic Knight.
Two of the hippest people in Portland weren’t even ten years old when they wrote and recorded this track with the world’s coolest nanny, who comped together two improvised vocal tracks over a loop from Teenage Bottlerocket. ”Legos” was the B-side of their ”Candy Pops” debut single, and the trio have since recorded a full album under the name Goblin Bones. The 80-second song’s infectious chorus reinforces what the Lego movies and games prove: ”Batman Legos are the best!”