One of the challenges of compiling these lists of songs about DC superheroes is that not every song with a superhero name in its title is actually about the superhero, so you find yourself debating in your head with some of these songs. For instance, Swamp Thing and Wonder Woman are frequently used like that, with the latter becoming a name a lot of guys give their wife or a lot of women use to either boast themselves up or bring themselves back to earth. The former, meanwhile, is evoked for any kind of monster or weirdo from a swamp setting.
That’s where the debate begins, trying to judge whether the song belongs in the list even if it isn’t strictly about the character. Does it capture the essence of the character even without the specifics? Does it in some weird way work with the character as perceived by the world around the character, even if it’s inaccurate? Could you see it played in a movie or series about the character?
But then things trip me up, like the song “Green Lantern Hula.” It’s in no way about Green Lantern, but instead about a night club in Oahu where they would hang green-colored lanterns. Maybe Allen Scott frequented the place, though, who knows? My favorite version is by Iwalani Kahalewai and there’s an evocative more recent one by Izumi Pahēpuaokalani. But I’ll play it safe and not include them in the official list.
Ditty Twisters – Swamp Thing
This is a funky swamp country love song to Swampy that acknowledges his slime as a turn-on and begs him for a marriage proposal. The band is from Portland, Oregon and though they’re no longer together, they did leave the world this nice cover version of “You Spin Me Round.” Buy it here or stream it on Spotify.
Fairly Handsome Band – Wonder Woman
Excellent ukulele-driven song straight out of Toledo, Ohio, and given those components, that’s kind of a surprise. Seems to be celebrating the idea of flying around in the sky with Wonder Woman following dessert, but whatever, it’s a good song. Buy it here.
Emma Forman – Wonder Woman
Forman is a Scottish singer, but I have no idea who she is duetting with here. There’s a lot of superhero and general geek name-dropping here — desire is expressed through commercial nerdism and, yes, Wonder Woman is one of the choices. Buy it here.
Ian Frazier – The Ballad of Jonah Hex
Jonah Hex seems like good musical fodder for Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, but this is probably as close as we’re going to get … I guess. California singer-songwriter Frazier doesn’t sound anything like Cave and the style of his musical presentation doesn’t either, but I can kind of hear it somewhere in there. Regardless, this is a total Jonah Hex story song, no playful reconfiguring for lyrical or poetic purposes like, say, having Jonah Hex be a stand-in for your dreamboat or portraying Jonah Hex as someone you conjure up to teach you about love or any of that stuff.
GallyC – Wonder Woman
This is a super fun and catchy synth driven lounge-style song by a band from Lyon, France. It has a little superhero theme refrain in there and though I can’t tell you exactly what it has to do with Wonder Woman, I can tell you that it has a great disco section where the words “Wonder Woman” are sung again and again and again and that’s good enough for me. Buy it here or stream it on Spotify.
Ghoultown – The Death of Jonah Hex
I don’t believe this is how Jonah Hex actually died, but this some damn good cow-punk, so it doesn’t matter. And I may not actually remember the full details anyhow. Actually, the band itself says that it’s “hellbilly.” Ghoul Town is from Texas, so as far as I’m concerned, they can take their pick of either. Buy it here or stream it on Spotify.
Giant Sand – Swamp Thing
This song from 1993 starts with a spelling of Swamp Thing, just to clarify that we’re talking about the same creature, and once we’re on that same page, becomes this rambling, cryptic slow-burner that sets the right mood, for sure. Giant Sand was an Arizona band helmed by Howie Gelb that first started recording in the mid-80s, and as near as I can tell has existed in one form or another since. The band also has a more recent song called “Brand New Swamp Thing” but I can’t tell if it’s the same song recorded really differently or a new song recorded really differently. Buy it here or stream it on Spotify.
Mike Gibson – You’ve Got A Gun
For several years, every February musician Mike Gibson would challenge himself to get into his studio and write and record 14 songs, and at least half of these projects focused on superheroes. In the spirit of diversity, I’ve chosen this amusing song about Green Arrow, but he also has songs about Superman, Wonder Woman, Batgirl, The Flash, Robin,
Batman, AND he has an entire album about the Doom Patrol. So you can take your pick of DC superhero music and know that Mike Gibson bulks out the list pretty well with some fun, energetic stuff. Plus I just love his February studio challenge idea. Buy it here.
The Gor-Gons – Swamp Thing
More fun garage swamp rock about Swamp Thing, who, if he’s aware of all the songs with his name, could hold one hell of a party, particularly since — if I remember correctly — hallucinogens grow on his body. I bet you could distil his big toe into some nice swampohol. Stream it on Spotify.
JD Hall – Wonder Woman
From 1981, this disco-funk defense of Princess Diana does so at the expense of other superheroes, largely because she’s got sex appeal. “You don’t need no rope to make me tell the truth,” Hall assures her, “I’ve been strung out on your lovin’ my whole life through.” Hall released a string of singles throughout the ‘80s, crossing over into rap, though it’s all a bit dated as you can imagine. Still, it’s worth noting with the passionate “Anti-Apartheid Showdown” that his career wasn’t just about tossing innuendos at Wonder Woman.
Horse the Band – The Red Tornado
Hardcore is not usually my thing, but good lord, it’s a song all about Red Tornado, how could I not include this? In the world of songs about DC superheroes, this is a rare thing Apparently this California band is part of what is called “Nintendocore,” which adds a light-hearted, humorous aspect to the thing that makes me kind of like it. It certainly advocates positively for the inner life of Red Tornado. Buy it here or stream it on Spotify.
Jacaranda – Wonder Woman
Mentions Princess Leia, Charlie’s Angels, and whoever they are in Sailor Moon, but Wonder Woman is the queen of the song. With it’s saxophone and funky-and-herky-jerky guitar it reminds a little bit of Romeo Void, but I actually like it, so that’s one thing that’s different, and they also do a fun cover version of the Madness song “Our House.” Buy it here or stream it on Spotify.
Mark Aaron James – Aquaman’s Lament
Greenwich Village-based singer songwriter begins his power pop song with just the right sample of Aquaman from some old cartoon that makes him seem pretty goofy, although I know that big box office and beefy Game of Thrones actors seem to have changed that status. In James’ telling, Aquaman’s sitting around the Hall of Justice, drinking a little too much, and tossing out insults at Batman in an attempt to woo Vicki Vale. “If you see it with perspective,” Aquaman rightfully tells her, “he is just Bruce Wayne in tights.” This is easily one of my favorite superhero songs around, and you’ll want to follow it immediately with James’ follow-up, “Batman’s Reply.” Buy it here or stream it on Spotify.
Jim’s Big Ego – The Ballad of Barry Allen
When this song first appeared in 2003, the name Barry Allen didn’t mean much to most people, but five seasons of television later, and here we are. I wonder if this has helped Jim’s Big Ego any. The song lays out that, as the fastest man alive, Barry sure does have a lot of time to contemplate everything while everyone and everything else around him is sooooooo sloooooow. It makes being the Flash seem not fun, but frustrating. Kind of like the TV show! Buy it here or stream it on Spotify.
The Kinks – Plastic Man
This would not be out of place playing in the background while you read the latest issue of The Terrifics. Ray Davies sings about a guy who is not only plastic — or, uh, rubber — with crazy bendy body parts, including his butt, but also a huge plastic enthusiast who only wants things made out of plastic. Except that I think he’s confusing plastic with rubber. But it’s still fun and catchy, even if plastic has turned out to be a horrible scourge on the world. While you’re at it, you should check out the song “Johnny Thunder” too, which makes it sound like the bow-tied Justice Society stalwart sure has gotten very bitter even though it’s not about him at all, but rather some biker, so it doesn’t actually count as a song about DC superheroes but let’s not quibble. Buy it here or stream it on Spotify.
Kirby Krackle – Ring Capacity
A pioneer in the field of Nerd Rock, musician Kyle Stevens has made a career of singing about comics and games and all that stuff, so he’s not unknown to potential readers of this list, but it didn’t seem fair to not include one of his songs. I’ve opted for this Green Lantern song — it’s catchy and that masks the weird self-seriousness of the lyrics, which are about a fraught encounter with Sinestro while the power ring’s oomph is depleted. Buy it here or stream it on Spotify.
Klondike Kate – Wonder Woman
Finally something loud and raucous and silly about Wonder Woman. “Don’t look at me, boys,” the singer of this Takoma, Washington, sneers. It’s a two-woman band, so it could be either Kate Roxwell or Brenda Davidson belting out the lyrics. Either way, this is a Wonder Woman I wouldn’t want to mess with. Buy it here or stream it on Spotify.
Arthur Korb – The Flash
In the world of songs about DC superheroes, Arthur Korb is special, having written the songs that were featured on the Peter Pan Records’ Songs and Stories about the Justice League record. in 1975 In fact, Korb seems to have produced a number of the story records that Peter Pan put out circa the 1970s, including not only DC and Marvel superheroes, but the Six Million Dollar Man, Kojak, Star Trek, Gemini Man, Planet of the Apes, and others under the Power Records label, and wrote and produced some Richie Rich musical albums in the early 80s. Korb was a Boston native, a Harvard graduate, and earlier in his career wrote songs that were recorded by the likes of Louis Armstrong and Doris Day. He also wrote a couple soundtracks, including one for Pinnochio In Outer Space. I highlight the Flash song because it is my favorite, but there was also the hilarious Justice League Theme, as well as songs about Aquaman, Plastic Man, Metamorpho, and Wonder Woman. A few of these were later featured on the Music of DC Comics Volume 2 compilation in 2016.