That Time Marvel Dropped A Bunch Of (Bad) Rock Albums
By now, we're all accustomed to Marvel being omnipresent in our entertainment, having stretched its Ego-like tendrils to assimilate everything from movies, TV procedurals, novels, and even Shakespearian theater plays. One has to wonder: is there any artistic medium that the Marvel Universe can't thrive in? Well, have a listen to this:
By the late '60s, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were convinced that the first generation raised on their squiggles were ready to take that fandom into their adult lives. To make Marvel more mature, they low-key backed a comic book-inspired rock number called Nobody Loves The Hulk. Performed by New Jersey garage band The Traits, the concept single was sold in the back of Marvel comics next to the plastic ray guns and overpriced decoder rings in the hopes of drawing in college crowds with dirty guitar riffs and punky lyrics like "They shot him with H-Bombs/The Hulk only became annoyed/All he wanted to do was settle down/And get employed."
When Stan Lee took control of Marvel Comics in 1972, he redoubled his efforts to encourage the rock scene to embrace his caped crusaders. This first manifested in the (murkily licensed) prog-rock concept album The Marvel World Of Icarus by the band Icarus, who traded psychedelic sci-fi dragons and Tolkien references to jam about the Silver Surfer and Madame Masque.
Then, in the same year, Marvel's first fully backed album arrived. The Amazing Spider-Man: From Beyond The Grave: A Rockomic (you know it's a bitchin' rock-opera because it has two colons) was created by fictional superband frontman Ron Dante of The Archies. The album is a full-on musical that has a rock-god Spidey who, ahem, "makes all the little girls sigh."
Marvel's biggest musical breakthrough happened in 1975. Spider-Man: Rock Reflections of a Superhero was yet another Peter Parker opera attempt (they just never learn, do they) 'performed' by the most musical Marvel heroes themselves, with Black Panther on lead guitar, Thor on Trumpet and Falcon on … hand claps. It even features vocals from Stan the Man himself -- though sadly only as narration and not by having him belt out "Excelsior" in the background.
But the biggest attempt to make superheroes bigger than Jesus came with Magneto and Titanium Man, written by Paul McCartney and performed during the '75-'76 Wings world tour with original Kirby comic book art projected behind the band. It's not McCartney's best but, then again, it's also not as bad as Simply Having A Wonderful Christmastime.
Sadly, despite having a Beatle on board, Marvel Mania never managed to take off, and Peter Parker'ed out by the '80s. Another music crossover attempt was made in the early nineties after comic books had already gone mainstream with the creation of Marvel Music. However, instead of putting comic books into rock, Marvel Music tried to put rock into comic books, launching a line of graphic novels that turned many of the 80's biggest rock 'n' roll sex pests into crime fighters.
Unsurprisingly, Marvel Music only lasted for one year, collapsing together with the rest of the comic book industry in the mid-'90s. And even though there's plenty of cool music associated with Marvel today (Guardians of the Galaxy and Black Panther carry most of that burden) and liking Marvel has finally become cool, it'll never be metal -- aside from this:
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Top Image: Lifesong Records