The Music of DC COMICS, and 5 Missing Themes

The Music of DC COMICS, and 5 Missing

For a purely visual medium like comics, one would think that making the leap from page to screen would be hard enough. Then having to somehow put these godly heroes into song for the opening theme would clearly be a building too tall to leap in a single bound.  

However, one look at the track list to the recently announced The Music of DC Comics: 75th Anniversary Collection CD will shock any long-term comic fan with the sheer volume of DC Comics Movies and TV shows that have been produced.  The title tracks available range from the obscure - the 1967 Green Lantern cartoon, to the cultural touchstone that is the 1966 theme to the live action Batman TV series starring Adam West. The impressive full list of 31 tracks follows, though we also noticed some holes in the collection:

1. Superman March - Sammy Timberg (1941)

-Previously unavailable. Digitally remastered. From the Academy Award Nominated cartoon series “Superman” produced by Max Fleischer. This was the first Superman cartoon.

2. Theme From Superman (Album Version) - John Williams (1978)

- From the live-action film “Superman.” Digitally remastered.

3. The New Adventures of Superman - John Gart (1966)

- Previously unavailable. Digitally remastered. From the Filmation cartoon “The New Adventures of Superman.”

4. Lois and Clark / The New Adventures of Superman - Jay Gruska (1993)

- From the live-action TV Series “Lois and Clark”. Digitally remastered.

5. The Adventures of Superboy - John Gart (1966)

- Previously unavailable. Digitally remastered. From the Filmation cartoon “The Adventures of Superboy.”

6. Superboy - Kevin Kiner (1988)

- Previously unavailable. Digitally remastered. From the live-action TV series “Superboy.”

7. Smallville Season 8 (End Title) - Louis Febre (2008)

- Previously unavailable. Digitally remastered. From the live-action TV series “Smallville.”

8. Batman: The Electrical Brain - Lee Zahler (1943)

- Previously unavailable. Digitally remastered. From the live-action serial “The Batman.” This was the first filmed appearance of Batman.

9. The Batman Theme (Album Version) - Danny Elfman (1989)

- From the live-action film “Batman”. Digitally remastered.

10. The Adventures of Batman - John Gart (1967)

- Previously unavailable. Digitally remastered. From the filmation cartoon “The Adventures of Batman.”

11. Batman TV Series Theme - Neal Hefti (1966)

-From the live-action TV series “Batman”. Digitally remastered.

12. Batman: The Brave and the Bold - Andy Sturmer (2008)

-From the cartoon “Batman: The Brave and the Bold”. Digitally remastered.

13. Batman Beyond - Kristopher Lee (1999)

-From the cartoon “Batman Beyond”. Digitally remastered.

14. Molossus from Batman Begins - Hans Zimmer & James Newton Howard (2005)

-From the live-action film “Batman Begins”. Digitally remastered.

15. Justice League of America - John Gart (1967)

- Previously unavailable. Digitally remastered. From the Filmation cartoon “Justice League of America.”

16. Super Friends - Hoyt Curtin (1973)

- Previously unavailable. Digitally remastered. From the Hanna-Barbera cartoon “SuperFriends.”

17. The All New Super Friends Hour - Hoyt Curtin (1977)

- Previously unavailable. Digitally remastered. From the Hanna-Barbera cartoon “The All-New SuperFriends Hour.”

18. Justice League Unlimited - Michael McCuistion (2004)

- Previously unavailable. Digitally remastered. From the cartoon “Justice League Unlimited.”

19. Legends of the Superheroes - Fred Wener (1979)

- Previously unavailable. Digitally remastered. From the live-action TV special “Legends of the Superheroes.”

20. The Teen Titans - John Gart (1967)

- Previously unavailable. Digitally remastered. From the Filmation cartoon “The Teen Titans.”

21. Aquaman - John Gart (1967)

- Previously unavailable. Digitally remastered. From the Filmation cartoon “Aquaman.”

22. Swamp Thing - Christopher Stone (1991)

- Previously unavailable. Digitally remastered. From the live-action TV show “Swamp Thing: The Series.”

23. Shazam! - Norman Prescott & Yvette Blais (1974)

- Previously unavailable. Digitally remastered. From the live-action TV series “Shazam!”

24. The Flash - John Gart (1967)

- Previously unavailable. Digitally remastered. From the Filmation cartoon “The Flash.”

25. Green Lantern - John Gart (1967)

- Previously unavailable. Digitally remastered. From the Filmation cartoon “Green Lantern.”

26. Green Lantern First Flight - Robert J Kral (2009)

-From the animated movie “Green Lantern: First Flight.” Digitally remastered.

27. The Atom - John Gart (1967)

- Previously unavailable. Digitally remastered. From the Filmation cartoon “The Atom.”

28. Hawkman - John Gart (1967)

- Previously unavailable. Digitally remastered. From the Filmation cartoon “Hawkman.”

29. Plastic Man Comedy Adventure Show - Dean Elliott (1979)

- Previously unavailable. Digitally remastered. From the Ruby-Spears cartoon “The Plastic Man Comedy/Adventure Show.”

30. Wonder Woman The Animated Movie End Title - Christopher Drake (2009)

-From the animated movie “Wonder Woman.” Digitally remastered.

31. Wonder Woman - Charles Fox & Norman Gimbel (1976)

-From the live-action TV series “Wonder Woman.” Digitally remastered.

Clearly, no DC theme song collection would be conceivable without pieces like John William’s theme to the 1978 Superman movie, a grand march that had kids (and more than a few adults) all over the world tying blankets around their shoulders and running around with their arms out-stretched.  However, this rundown of the album’s 31 overtures reveal (at least) five glaring omissions, whether they be pure oversights or just redactions for legal reasons, that will leave comic book TV/movie fans wanting.

Justice League: The New Frontier Main Theme (2008)

Composer: Kevin Manthei

In his own words, Manthei set the tone for this Silver Age animated paean with a call back to the classic sci-fi films of that period, the 1950s, in particular the work of Bernard Herrmann on The Day The Earth Stood Still.  The opening credits for The New Frontier deliver the feeling of mystery and paranoia that was a key theme of fiction of all types during the early years of the Cold War.  This was a time when technology and ideology threatened the very survival of the planet, captured in metaphor by this film’s adaptation of Darwyn Cook’s mini-series.

Batman: The Animated Series Main Theme (1992)

Composer: Danny Elfman

Elfman may have simply adapted his The Batman Theme from the 1989 Tim Burton film version of Batman for Bruce Timm’s animated series, but this simple move lent this  ‘cartoon’ a cinematic gravitas that was unmatched in all of western animation at that time.  A massive departure from the superhero cartoon theme songs of the past that changed how they were done for over a decade.

The Flash Main Theme (1990)

Composer: Danny Elfman

Elfman’s excellent grasp of the needs of genre material to have a strong tone set right from the start reflects again in his theme for the nearly forgotten (by the general public anyway) Flash live-action television series.  A brassy orchestra seems to accelerate its pace, just like the titular hero, as more and more instruments add to its staccato harmony every few bars.  It’s catchy, feels electric and gets your blood pumping.

Teen Titans, GO!  (2003)

Performed by: Puffy (AmiYumi)

Warner Brothers threw their legions of DCAU fans for loop with their re-imagined Teen Titans animated series, which formed a new continuity with a frenetic, younger skewing style and more then a dash of Japanese anime flavor.  This extended to its theme song, preformed by the J-Pop duo Puffy (AmiYumi).  The new high-energy theme, sung in ‘engrish’ (and occasionally entirely in Japanese) ended up, like the series, being a hit with both the target younger American audience and diehards, leading the duo into their own animated cartoon adventures.

Challenge of the Superfriends (1978)

Composer: Hoyt Curtin

Curtin’s way over-the-top fanfare-esque theme song is as ‘stunning’ today as it was over 30 years ago, when it surely woke parents from a dead sleep early on Saturday mornings.  However, if it were put on a disk alone without the voice of the legendary Hollywood narrator Bill Woodson, that would be a tragedy.  His earnest, hyperbolic proclamation of the so-called Superfriends being “Gathered together from the cosmic reaches of the Universe, here in this great Hall of Justice, are the most powerful forces of good ever assembled!” must be preserved for all time.

What do you think of the track listing? Is anything else missing?

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