The late, great Stan Lee might not have been much of a rock ‘n’ roll fan – in a Soundtrack Of My Life feature published by NME last year, Stan told us that he mostly listened to showtunes while devising Marvel comic characters – but rock ‘n’ roll was certainly a fan of his. Rock titan’s KISS went so far as making a host of appearances – their first being in issue twelve of Howard The Duck in 1977, later getting their own Marvel Comics Super Special, just like The Beatles did a year later. Ironic given that, in Gene Simmons own words, all of the members, save himself, “hated comic books”.
On that inky, very loud vibe, what follows is five great songs based on five of Stan’s classic characters. Excelsior!
Ghostface Killah, ‘Slept On Tony’
Created by Lee, developed by scripter Larry Lieber, and designed by artists Don Heck and Jack Kirby, Iron Man is said to have come to fruition after Stan made a bet with himself in 1963. “It was the height of the Cold War,” he said. “The readers, the young readers, if there was one thing they hated, it was war. So I got a hero who represented that to the hundredth degree. He was a weapons manufacturer, he was providing weapons for the Army, he was rich, he was an industrialist. I thought it would be fun to take the kind of character than nobody would like, none of our readers would like, and shove him down their throats and make them like him. And he became very popular.” You can see the appeal to the hip-hop community: Tony Stark is gangsta.
Of course, the Wu-Tang Clan’s entire repertoire is laden with references to comic books, yet no member is so high on Marvel as Ghostface Killah, who has even used ‘Tony Starks’ as an alternative stage name from time to time. His debut 1996 solo album is called ‘Ironman’. His own label is called Starks Enterprises. He even landed a bit part in the first Iron-Man movie, where this tune is used. His part was later cut, sadly.
It’s extraordinarily complicated to pin down exactly who was responsible for the creation of Spider-Man. What appears to be the truth is that credit is owed to a whole lot of people. Stan Lee can certainly take his for spotting a shift in comic buying habits and coming up with a slightly geeky, pretty ordinary teenage hero. Jack Kirby can lay claim to being the first person to draw the character (Lee allegedly hated his version, describing it as “too heroic”). Artist Steve Ditko took Kirby’s ‘spider gun’ and created Spidey’s wrist web shooters, as well as the fundamentals of the costume Spidey has worn all these years. Even noted fetish artist Eric Stanton, who shared a Manhattan apartment with Ditko at the time, is said to have added a few small details. Still, what we can all agree on is that this version of the theme from the 1967 cartoon Spider-Man, recorded by The Ramones for their final album, 1995’s ¡Adios Amigos! unites two of New York City’s finest, and is a whole load of fun (as is the longstanding rumour that jazz legend Charles Mingus recorded the bass part on the original!).
Megadeth, ‘Holy Wars… The Punishment Due’
Though Stan contributed little to the actual creation of The Punisher, the ultraviolent alter-ego of grieving family man Frank Castle, he can lay claim to giving the character its name. Responsibility for conceiving the basics of the character can be laid at the feet of one Gerry Conway (and at the pens of artists John Romita Sr. and Ross Andru), who was inspired by the Don Pendleton book series The Executioner, in which a Vietnam veteran hunts down and kills those responsible for the murder of his family. Looking for a name for his character, Conway approached Stan. “Gerry came up with the name the Assassin,” said Lee. “I didn’t think we could ever have a comic book where the hero would be called the Assassin, because there’s too much of a negative connotation. I remembered that one of Galactus’ robots had been called the Punisher, and that seemed like a good name. Gerry said ‘OK’.” This song, taken from Megadeth’s 1990 classic ‘Rust In Peace’, somehow manages to deal with themes of religious conflict, as well as the vengeance of The Punisher, which is some achievement!
The Traits, ‘Nobody Loves The Hulk’
The Avengers’ temperamental muscle mountain is a creation of Stan, longtime co-pilot Jack Kirby and Paul Reinman, who inked the not-so-jolly green giant (and shout out to colourist Stan Goldberg, who, frustrated with the grey skin Lee originally intended the character to be covered in, was who suggested green in the first place). Influences for The Hulk include the Golem of Jewish mythology, Jekyll and Hyde and Frankenstein’s monster. “For a long time I’d been aware that people were more likely to favour someone less than perfect,” said Stan. “I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for the Frankenstein monster. No one could ever convince me that he was the bad guy.” This tribute to the titular hero by New Rochelle, New York sixties garage band The Traits shared a similar worldview, creating an outsider anthem for Marvel’s most misunderstood. Only a few hundred emerald green 7”’s were pressed up, but they all sold – principally via adverts placed in the back of Marvel comics in 1969 and 1970!
MF DOOM, ‘Vomitspit’
Victor Von Doom, aka Doctor Doom, is the Fantastic Four’s greatest foe. He’s also a creation of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in Marvel’s Silver Age, after the pair were looking to conceive a “soul-stirring… super sensational new villain”. Stan came up with the name. “Eloquent in its simplicity,” he said. “Magnificent in its implied menace.” The character was based upon Death, with armour replacing the formers skeleton, and Lee often said the character was his favourite supervillain. “He could come to the United States and he could do almost anything,” he said of the characters status as the supreme ruler of fictional Eastern European country Latveria, “and we could not arrest him because has diplomatic immunity. Also, he wants to rule the world and if you think about it, wanting to rule the world isn’t a crime.” Daniel Dumile, aka MF Doom, is the copyright infringing, English born, U.S. living indie rapper whose spent his entire career performing in a modified Doctor Doom mask. We could have picked pretty much any tune from his storied career. They’re all pretty wild. But we picked this one because it begins with the bad Doctor cackling.