When you consider the fact that most rock stars try to pull off a superhero persona anyway, it's no surprise that everyone from Peter Parker to the Boy Wonder has inspired a few hit (and several deep-cut) rock 'n' roll tunes over the years. Heck, everyone from Prince to the Black Lips has wanted in on the action at some point.
So what are some of the greatest (and weirdest) rock songs inspired by comic book characters?
The Ramones—"Spider-Man" (1995)
Seminal punk rockers The Ramones thrashed their way through a cover of the Saturday morning cartoon theme for Spider-Man back in 1995. The track was included in a cartoon greatest hits release, and was also tossed in as a B-side on their album Adios Amigos.
The Kinks—"Catch Me Now I'm Falling" (1979)
With a name like Captain America, it's no surprise long-time rockers The Kinks latched on to Steve Rogers' alter ego when they were looking for a symbolic stand-in for America. The Kinks used Cap to make their point, singing, "Now I'm calling on citizens from all over the world/This is Captain America calling/I bailed you out when you were down on your knees/So will you catch me now I'm falling."
Snoop Dogg—"Batman and Robin" (2002)
Though it's not rock per se, legendary rapper Snoop Dogg recorded a 2003 hip-hop track inspired by the Caped Crusader. The tune also name-drops everyone from Robin to the Penguin.
Black Lab - "Learn to Crawl" (2002)
Black Lab is probably better known as "that band that did that song on that one soundtrack I liked" by most people, with their only successful album coming with their late '90s debut Your Body Above Me—but they still put out some good stuff, several of which are buried on myriad film soundtracks. This deep cut from the Spider-Man soundtrack is loosely written from the perspective of a young Peter Parker, still trying to figure it all out.
Our Lady Peace—"Superman's Dead" (1997)
A hit in the late '90s, this tune from Canadian rockers Our Lady Peace used Superman's "death" as an allegory for the loss of innocence. Deep. Plus, it has a great hook.
Crash Test Dummies—"Superman's Song" (1991)
A quirky early-'90s band best known for their ridiculous hit "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm," the Crash Test Dummies also penned an ode to the selfless Son of Krypton, performed in all its spoken-word-ish glory.
Rancid—"Side Kick" (1994)
The punk rockers were inspired to give Batman's protege Robin first billing in this rollicking tune, which is actually pretty catchy. It's two minutes of thrashing, side kick-lovin' glory.
Suicide—"Ghost Rider" (1977)
This rock 'n' roll take from the late '70s was inspired by the Marvel hero with a flaming skull. The punk anthem was included on the band's well-regarded self-titled debut. Interesting tidbit: The band was actually named after the Ghost Rider comic Satan Suicide.
Black Sabbath—"Iron Man" (1970)
Though not actually written about the comic hero of the same name, Black Sabbath's dark rocker about has all but become synonymous with Tony Stark's alter ego. Depending on who you ask, the song is actually about everything from trying to prevent the apocalypse to the overall weariness of the world we live in.
Fink Brothers—"Mutants in Mega-City One" (1985)
This may be one of the stranger songs inspired by a comic, with the all-business Judge Dredd serving as source material for a weird '80s jam that stays shockingly close to the comic canon. With lyrics like "From Justice Hall, to Zappa Block, We patrol, Around the clock," it's easy to see Fink Brothers at least took the Judge seriously. As much as the '80s would allow, anyway.
Black Lips—"Spidey's Curse" (2011)
Modern-day blues rockers the Black Lips recently took a stab at Spidey's plight, laying out some of the moral dilemmas he might face. As the Lips sing, "Peter Parker's life is so much darker than the book I read, 'Cause he was defenseless, so defenseless when he was a kid," it's plain to see: It ain't so easy to put on those tights.
The Kinks—"Johnny Thunder" (1968)
The deeper you dig into The Kinks' catalog, the more superhero nuggets you seem to find. Inspired by the fairly little-known DC Comics character of the same name, "Johnny Thunder" tells the tale of a biker on the road, living the dream.
Anthrax—"I Am the Law" (1987)
Judge Dredd seems to be fairly popular among rockers of a previous generation, with Anthrax devoting an entire song as an ode to everyone's favorite judge, jury and executioner. When they scream "Truth and justice, Are what he's fighting for, Judge Dredd the man, He is the law," you kind of start to believe them.
Now, this is an interesting one. At first glance, pop god Prince may not seem like the obvious choice to produce some tunes based on Batman—but it's exactly who Batman director Tim Burton tapped to pen some tunes for the original film. Turns out it was a great move, as "Batdance" was a hit in its own right and stands up pretty well today.
The Flaming Lips—"The Supreme Being Teaches Spider-Man How to Be in Love" (2007)
Seminal rockers The Flaming Lips were commissioned to write this track for the recent Spider-Man 3 soundtrack, which touches on Peter Parker's challenges with love. While no embed of that original song is available, check out the Flaming Lips' take on Spidey's theme song.
A cover of a 1969 song originally written by The Clique, R.E.M.'s take proved to be a hit in the mid-to-late '80s. The song is a fairly simple tune about love, with the sing-along refrain "I am, I am Superman, and I can do anything."
3 Doors Down—"Kryptonite" (2000)
If you're at least 20 years old, you've probably heard this song. A lot. 3 Doors Down scored a massive hit with this track, which imagines Supes as a timeless being watching the world tear itself apart, but humanity still remains his one weakness (i.e. kryptonite).
Wesley Willis—"I Whipped Spiderman's Ass" (1995)
Now, this is a weird one. Willis based an entire tripped-out song around a fight with Peter Parker's alter ego—and as Willis tells it, he took Spidey down a peg or two. "Spider-Man beat the hell out of me, He whirled me and knocked me to the floor, I tore out his world and threw him against the radiator, Spider-Man was being such a stupid jerk." Like I said, weird.
The Brunettes—"Hulk Is Hulk" (2005)
The Hulk tends to smash things up quite loudly, which makes The Brunettes' take on Bruce Banner unique: a subdued pop tune filled with mellow contemplation about what it would be like to love as The Hulk. (While we can't embed a video, you can listen to the audio here.)
moe.—"Captain America" (2001)
Interesting rock track that name-drops both Cap and Clark Kent. With lyrics like "Captain America said you gotta be like me, Or you're gonna wind up dead last," moe. sings about how we all have problems, even superheroes.
Five for Fighting—"Superman" (2000)
A singer-songwriter lament that was a monster hit in the early 2000s. Takes a look at life from the perspective of Superman, noting that, hey, he has feelings, too. As they see it, most folks focus a bit too hard on the "super," instead of the "man."
Vanilla Ice—"Ninja Rap" (1991)
A favorite of late Generation X-ers everywhere, Vanilla Ice's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle jam, featured in the 1991 film, is pure ridiculousness. With lyrics like "Yo! It's the green machine, Gonna rock the town without being seen, Have you ever seen a turtle Get Down?, Slammin and Jammin to the new swing sound," this one should live in awesome infamy forever.
Did we miss your favorite song? Tell us about it in the comments!