Pound for pound, the catchiest superhero theme song of the golden age of TV toons has to be “Spider-Man, Spider-Man! Does whatever a spider can!…”
That classic theme tune from the 1967 Spider-Man cartoon produced by Grantray-Lawrence Animation (and later taken over by legendary animator Ralph Bakshi, and man his episodes got trippy) is so ingrained in the superhero lexicon that it’s been covered by rock bands including The Ramones, and continually gets referenced in big-screen adaptations of Spider-Verse to this day. Thing is, though, Spidey wasn’t actually the first Marvel hero to hit small screens with a snappy theme tune.
In 1966, The Marvel Super Heroes premiered with a rotating roster of 7-minute segments featuring some of the comics publisher’s other biggest names. Grantray-Lawrence also produced this series, which through the process of xerography showcased some of the iconic Marvel art of Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and others, though the actual movement of the animation itself as a result was… well, a little stiff. Each of the heroes got their own theme tune to boot, short though they were, and for today’s Friday Five we’re going to look back and reminisce with these early super-jingles:
Okay, this one is kind of hilarious in retrospect. Who deliberately mispronounces “unglamorous” just to get it to rhyme with “gamma rays”?! The tone of it is interestingly all over the place, too, where the animation shows off Hulk doing a proper smash of army tanks and more, all the while the vocals insist he’s just the most lovable monster you could ever want to meet. I mean, if you’ve spent time hanging out in space with him and Thor, you know that he totally is… but it doesn’t really come off right here!
Behold, in breathless wonder! Thor’s theme from The Marvel Super Heroes kicks off with that soaring chorus singing about the majesty of the rainbow bridge of Asgard, and while the tune itself feels quaint by today’s standards it definitely does a decent job of conveying the splendor of the one hero of this motley crew who is a literal god. Plus, once they get to “miiiiiiiighty Thor!”, he does look kind of like a rock star hoisting Mjoilnir up like that.
No surprise that Cap gets what’s probably the most straightforward of all these little ditties, with a rah-rah celebratory anthem that has more than a bit of military procession to its tempo. There’s a proper shout out to the red, white and blue in the song, and if you’re a fan of alliterative lyrics you’re really not going to do much better than “All those who chose to oppose his shield must yield!” A+, guys, if that were any more complex it’d be a tongue-twister!
Time to get a little swanky, kids! As you might imagine for a mid-60’s show about Tony Stark (“He’s a cool exec with a heart of steel!”), it kicks off with him racing a red sportscar to a jazzy theme tune that has more than a bit of Mad Men-esque coolness to it. The female vocalist crooning here absolutely sounds like they said “get us somebody who sounds like a breathier Peggy Lee!” Of course, the best fun fact about this one is that it turned up in Robert Downey Jr.’s very first outing as Iron Man, in MIDI form as his ringtone when he calls Rhodey from the suit. Heh heh.
Prince Namor the Sub-Mariner
Raise your glasses to the one member of The Marvel Super Heroes who has yet to make the transition to MCU greatness. For various rights reasons, underwater heartthrob Namor the Sub-Mariner has never made it to the big screen despite being a major player in Marvel lore for decades, particularly alongside The Fantastic Four. His theme tune here isn’t terribly memorable, but in the age of Aquaman dominating the global box office you can’t say it doesn’t make you long for the MCU to dip its toes into some deep sea adventure.