Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tune In Tuesday 10-05-10 The Music of DC Comics: 75th Anniversary Collection

In honor of DC's 75th Anniversary, a CD collection of theme songs for its various TV and film adaptations is out today! Spanning all the way back to 1941 and the legendary Superman animated shorts produced by Fleischer Studios, to modern hits like Batman Begins and Smallville, the album is a mix of bombastic orchestral numbers and bright poppy jingles.

Of course, the lion's share goes to these two whores:
"Got a problem with that?" Well, I suppose being the Big Two, they've had far more adaptations than any of the others.

I'll get to the individual songs themselves, but first, there are two huge complaints I have about this collection. First, omissions. I understand that not every theme song could possibly have been included but to include some questionable choices over other more obvious well-known songs just feels off. And second, sequencing. I've already rearranged them in a playlist in my iTunes. The songs aren't in chronological order, they're grouped according to the character featured, so all the Superman songs are first, followed by Superboy song (which is where Smallville is grouped! Ha ha!), followed by Batman. But even then, they are in random order and often shifting from one song to the next is a jarring experience.
The first song is deservedly the Superman March from the Fleischer Studios series, which is followed by Theme From Superman (Album Version) by John Williams from the 1978 Superman movie. Indeed, Williams' score is one of the top, most iconic super hero theme songs ever and the two songs together seem well matched, but then they throw you the wackily 60s poppy theme song from The New Adventures of Superman...
... followed by the Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman soap opera (which is heavily influenced by Williams' theme), the 60s Superboy cartoon, the 80s Superboy live action show and finally Smallville Season 8, which is NOT Somebody Save Me! When did this happen? There was a season of Smallville that didn't have that as the theme? Apparently so, but why did the album's producers use that instead of Somebody Save Me? That's the one everyone knows!
On to Batman, the first Bat-track is the opening music and narration to the 1943 Batman movie serial. Doesn't it look stellar? Ha! You can BUY costumes better than those at Target! Batman's belt is tucked under his armpits! It's a fun inclusion, with oh-so serious narration explaining the characters. The quirky archaic-ness of the serial's theme is contrasted sharply with Danny Elfman's moody, dynamic theme to the 1989 live-action feature, the one that showed the world super heroes had grown up.
Then, once again, it's a random hodgepodge of themes. 1967's The Adventures of Batman...
...1967's theme to the Adam West series (extended version... Holy Bat 12-Inch!)...
...the theme to the most current Batman series The Brave & The Bold, the techno-infused Batman Beyond (from the futuristic animated series), and then incongruously, Molossus from Batman Begins. Does anyone really remember any music from either of the two most recent Batman flicks? I don't! The first truly shocking omission is the theme from the long-running, super successful Batman: The Animated Series.
This show spawned Batman Beyond not to mention an entire "universe," with the producers later creating Superman: The Animated Series, then Justice League and Justice League Unlimited! I've read some people say it sounds too much like the Elfman score from the movie. But like I said the Lois & Clark theme sounded a lot like the Williams movie score, so Batman: TAS deserved inclusion!

And what the heck...No "Batdance?!" I'm kidding. Kinda. It would have been an oddball inclusion if they had, however, it was a #1 hit! I mean, that kinda makes it the most successful of them all! "Get the FUNK up! Go-go-go with a smile!"
Following the intense orchestration of Molossus, once again in an abrupt change of gears, the next song is the theme to the 60s Justice League of America (a segment on the Superman/Aquaman Hour). This begins a block of Justice League/team up songs. It's then followed by two versions of the Super Friends theme. The first season, which featured non-super sidekicks Marvin, Wendy and Wonder Dog.
Followed by the more dynamic second season theme to The All-New Super Friends Hour, with The Wonder Twins replacing MW&WD. Honestly, I'd buy an album of JUST the various Super Friends theme songs. They were all basically the same but re-recorded and rearranged each new season.
It then leaps forward to the theme for 2004's Justice League Unlimited.
But strangely omits the theme to Justice League, the first two seasons of the show that would become JLU.
If the two had sounded alike, that would be understandable, but they sounded very different. The first theme is more akin to the movie themes, very orchestral and bombastic, while Unlimited's theme is more rock-y and fast. When Unlimited first aired a lot of fans complained that the second theme was too hair metal. I've always argued it was more Queen-influenced. The guitar parts are very Brian May!

What's really jarring is to go from JLU's fast, contemporary theme to the startling inclusion of the aired-only-once Legends of the Super Heroes live action specials from 1979! It sounds... like it's from 1979!Cheesy TV music from the 70s... but it's cool that non-headliners like The Huntress and Black Canary were given a share of the spotlight. While this two-parter was HO-KEY, it's still better than the Star Wars Christmas Special. Actually... maybe not. It's a stretch. They'd have to leg wrestle for the title. (Also, if they were going to include rarities like this, I'd have liked to have seen them include Batgirl's theme from the 60s series.)

The theme to Filmation's 67 Teen Titans comes next. The themes to these Filmation shows are all pretty similar. Same 60s music, same narrator, same basic dialogue... like I said, I put them in chronological order. It sounds better that way. This theme feels tacked on to the Justice League shows, which I don't necessarily care for. Then there's the next big omission...
The theme to the 2000s Teen Titans show, performed by Puffy Amiyumi (in both English and Japanese) is left out. It was memorable as all heck and Teen Titans ran for four seasons. The Filmation shorts only lasted ONE! The only reason I can think of, is maybe it's too new and they felt like showcasing more selections from decades ago, more of an archival thing. But seriously, compared to some of the oddballs coming up, I think I'd have rather gotten Teen Titans!
Aquaman leads the charge of the misfit parade, with the theme from his Saturday morning series, which as I said, sounds pretty much like all the other themes from this show. In another jolting transition, Aquaman is followed by...
Swamp Thing! What the...?! Okay, so yeah technically, Swamp Thing is from the DC Universe roster, but still... kray-kray choice! I could easily have lived without it. Swamp Thing himself narrates it in this cheesy deep, vibrato voice... it's SO campy! This could easily have been left out in favor of Teen Titans or... just... ANYTHING!
Then abruptly, they bounce back to 1974 for soaring-seventies Shazam! Then back once again to the Filmation themes, with The Flash and Green Lantern, followed by the spacey intense theme to Green Lantern First Flight, last year's animated feature. Then, again, abruptly it switches back to the 60s and finishes off the Filmation shows with Hawkman and The Atom.

Springing up next is the slick 70s action tune stylings of The Plastic Man Comedy Adventure Show.
I should consider it an honor that Wonder Woman was chosen to bring it home! Unfortunately, she gets two selections, the first being the New Age-y, this-has-nothing-to-do-with-Wonder-Woman, Wonder Woman The Animated Movie End Title. I felt like I was waiting to get a massage. Even though, it's Wonder Woman, I could have lived without its inclusion in favor of one of the previously mentioned omissions.

But of course, rounding the entire album out is the stellar, disco-lounge-y theme to the 70s TV series! Best! Theme Song!! EVER!!! Although... it's a tad of a letdown, just because it's been readily available forever. Being as popular as i t is, it's one of the easiest theme songs to come by. But hopefully some other comics fan will hear it on this disc for the first time and years and groove out to it! I also hope that when/if this rumored new Wonder Woman TV show happens, they stick with the theme song. It worked for Hawaii Five-O!

So yeah... overall, I am delighted to have all these obscure theme songs in my music collection, but it's an uneven, herky-jerky ride listening to it the way it was compiled. The modern instrumentals don't mesh at all with the quirky, charmingly outdated themes from the sixties and seventies. And there were some pretty bold omissions. I think maybe a better idea would have been to offer a two disc set, one of instrumentals and the other of the more "jingle"-esque TV themes. That way they could have added even more! But... even so, I'll take these tracks however I can get them!

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