Thursday, May 1, 2008

Made of Iron: The Top 10 Songs To Get Your Repulsor Rays Runnin'

Okay, some fun stuff for everyone today, in this very special edition of the blog. The Celtics won last night, Lost is new tonight, it's almost the weekend, and I'm ready to roll. So suit up, strap in, and get ready ...

So like I've said, my enthusiasm for IRON MAN is pretty much at a fever pitch. And so I thought it only appropriate to do a special, pre-Iron Man blog entry greasing the wheels of the hype machine just a little bit more. So what I was thinking was this: as cool a character as Iron Man is, many hear the term "Iron Man" and immediately think of the famous Black Sabbath song by the same name. Now, the truth is that Iron Man the song has no real relation, other than its name of course, to the Marvel comics character. That is, until now. Because as I mentioned way back when here on the blog, one of my simplest yet most strong fanboy dreams, upon hearing that an Iron Man movie was in the works, was for those classic opening Sabbath chords to be coupled with the iconic Marvel comics imagery, in a timeless marriage of Iron Man the song with Iron Man the ass-kicking superhero. So imagine my pure geek bliss last summer at my first ever San Diego Comic-Con, during which the world premiere trailer of Iron Man was unveiled. The footage alone was fanboytastic, but what sent the whole thing completely over the edge for me was the much-dreamed-of inclusion of Iron Man, the song. As the iconic guitar riffs accompanied straight-from-the-comics images of ol' shellhead busting heads, I was in a state of escapist nirvana. This was it, baby. I. AM. IRON MAN!

So anyways, that got me thinking - what are the all-time greatest rock songs to feature a comic book character's name in the title? That's right, in the title. So I'm not talkin' songs merely associated with a character via soundtrack inclusion or whatever (ie U2's "Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me"). And I'm not talkin' songs that at some point MENTION a character (ie "oh Superman where are you now?" in Genesis' Land of Confusion), or even songs that are generically about superheroes or whatever in a more general sense. And finally, I'm not talking songs that are an actual theme song (ie the Spiderman theme song, even the Ramones' cover version). I'm listing only songs that have a comic book characters' name IN THE TITLE OF THE SONG. And maybe the songs don't even have anything to do with said comic book character, but that's not the point, because who knows - someday they just MIGHT (see Sabbath's IRON MAN now used in the Iron Man movie trailers, or Johnny Cash's Ghostriders in the Sky repurposed and remade for the Ghost Rider movie). So, on with it ...


10.) "Superman" by Goldfinger - Like many people, I first listened to this song, and to this band, via the now-classic soundtrack to the original Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, back in the halycon days of the original Playstation's reign. Now, this song really has nothing to do with Superman ... it's mostly about a guy who sucks at life but is pretending he's the man ... or something. But hey, it's a great song, it's called Superman, so, dammit all, it makes the list.

9.) "Return of the Phantom Stranger" by Rob Zombie - One of DC's most classic horror characters, The Phantom Stranger has an awesome name, an awesome look, was in some awesome stories written by Alan Moore, and is just pretty much awesome. So even though I don't love this song and it may even be one of my least-fave Zombie tunes, I'll give it a listen every so often just because ... Rob Zombie actually wrote a song about the Phantom Stranger. Badass.

8.) "Jimmy Olsen's Blues" by The Spin Doctors - Sure, the Spin Doctors were kind of a one-album wonder in the 90's, but who didn't own that one album at the time? I remember buying it immediately (on casette!) as a kid because I looooved "Two Princes", and was pleasantly surprised to find that they had a song all about Superman, Jimmy Olsen, and "Miss Lois Lane." Did the song get kind of annoying after a few listens? Sure. But has the plight of wannabe Mr. Action Jimmy Olsen ever been better depicted in song form? Nope.

7.) "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker" by The Ramones - Here's one that's one of my fav Ramones songs ... but does it actually have anything to do with classic cheesecake comic character Sheena, Queen of the Jungle? No, I don't think so. But it's amusing to listen to it and think of a scantily-clad jungle babe who doubles as a part-time punk rocker. And really, what's more punk rock than a woman who's left her inhibitions at the door and taken to swinging around the jungle fighting villainy? Now that's punk rock.

6.) "I Whupped Batman's Ass" by Wesley Willis - Have you ever heard a song by Wesley Willis? If not, get to downloading. I was first exposed to his KRAZY songs in college, back in the heyday of Napster. He was basically this half-crazy homeless guy who sings random songs that make no real sense and just go on and on with no real rhyme or reason. The funniest of his nonsensical tunes? Easily the awesome and hilarious "I Whupped Batman's Ass." It's about Batman getting on Mr. Willis' nerves, thus warranting a ghetto-style beatdown. Yes, you heard me.

5.) "Ghostriders In the Sky" by Johnny Cash - An eerie, atmospheric tune that evokes a Western-tinged ghost story, it's the type of song that would make an appropriate soundtrack to accompany a vintage issue of Weird Western Tales. But let it be said: BY FAR the best thing (and pretty much the ONLY good thing) about the recent Ghost Rider flick was a rocking, kickass cover of this song thatp layed during the film's ending credits. If nothing else, it makes the song that much cooler by having it evoke the flameing-skulled rider of Marvel Comics fame. Note I said of Marvel Comics fame, NOT of godawful abortion of a movie fame.

4.) "Superman" by REM - Okay, another song that is called Superman, yet isn't really about Superman the cape-wearing S-shield sporting last son of Krpyton. But is this as a pretty classic song, a canonical example of 1990's-era alt-rock at its finest? Yes, and so, yes, the song qualifies for the list. Now, the vibe of this song is pretty emo, and doesn't exactly get you in the mood for action-packed superheroic adventure ... but, hey, avid fans of the Superman comics can attest that, thanks (or no-thanks) to creators like Brian Azzarello and Kurt Busiek, the last few years' worth of Superman adventures have seen the big guy get off-puttingly contemplative, mopey, and even shed a tear or two. In fact, one need look no further than TV's Smallville to see a constantly self-doubting Clark Kent, on a show whose very message seems to scream that everybody, even Superman, hurts.

3.) "Flash" by Queen - Obviously, this song isn't about The Fastest Man Alive, The Flash, but its potentially misleading title earns it even more points for the list. The song is, however, about Flash Gordon, savior of the universe - a character who originated in the pulpy pages of the Sunday funnies way back when and has since enjoyed a number of comic book revivals. This song by Queen, however, is from the 1980's Flash Gordon movie - a spectacular musical action flick of epically campy proportions. With its sci-fi vibe and snippets of movie dialogue intersperesed throughout the song ("what do you MEAN, Flash Gordon approaching?!?"), this is one of the ultimate sci-fi themed songs ever sung, by a band that has its fair share of out-there tunes ("The Invisible Man," "Princes of the Universe"). Come on, who doesn't love to randomly belt out "Flash! Whoah-ohhh! King of the impossible!" ...?

2.) "Superman's Dead" by Our Lady Peace - Not only is this a song with Superman in the title, but it seems to reference one of the most popular storylines in the character's comic book history - the 1990's epic Death of Superman storyline. Now, is the song actually about said storyline? Nope, not really - nary a mention of Doomsday or The Eradicator is to be found in its screechy lyrics. But the song is a staple of 1990's-era rock, just as the Death of Superman story is closely associated with the 1990's-era comics boom. And most importantly, the song pretty much rocks.

1.) "Iron Man" by Black Sabbath - You know it, I know it - as overplayed as this song may have become over the years, as many times as you've heard it, when those first droning guitar sounds begin to drop, you know exactly what time it is: time to rock. As mentioned, the song isn't really about Marvel's Iron Man, but I think it's safe to say that most young fanboys listen to the song picturing a superhero in a red and gold suit of hi-tech steel, stomping around whupping some badguy ass with his repulsor rays. I remember as a kid, I assumed the song was about the superhero, but then in turn never got why "nobody wants him, they just turn their heads." I think I was too busy rocking out to seriously ponder such questions though - and that, my friends, is the mark of a classic.

- And there you have it ... see you guys in the theater on Friday. I'm off to pen a post-punk pop song about Nick Fury, with my new band, the Howling Commandos.

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