Friday, November 2, 2007

DC Storytapes Teach Classical Music

When I was a kid, I had a number of book-and-tape sets, featuring short storybooks and cassettes that read the story for you. In addition to the typical Star Wars, Disney and Peanuts sets, I also had three sets made by Fisher-Price featuring DC Comics characters. These were a cut above the average storytape set: each featured a snazzy hardback book with a little plastic envelope on the back for the tape and all-original art by major DC artists like Jim Aparo and Joe Orlando, and a nicely-written (to my spotty memory) version of each superhero's mythology.

I had three. There was the Batman one, entitled "Batman and Robin the Teen Wonder in the Case of the Laughing Sphinx," which featured the Dynamic Duo against the Joker, Penguin, Riddler and Catwoman, and also told Robin's origin. There was a Superman one called "From Krypton to Metropolis," which included Superman's origin, his time as Superboy and the version of Lex Luthor's origin in which he lost his hair during an experiment in Smallville and turned against Superboy/man in the process. The Wonder Woman one was called "Cheetah on the Prowl," and had her origin and a story where she saves her boyfriend's army base from supervillainess the Cheetah. There was also a Justice League of America one I didn't have.

The reason I bring this up is that each of them used a single piece of classical music as the background theme music. The Batman music I know real well: it was Modest Mussorgsky's "Night on Bald Mountain," famous pop-culturally for its segment in the original Fantasia, which worked really well. The stuttering opening notes of the piece still say Batman to me. Wonder Woman used a heroic fanfare bit from Franz Liszt's "Les Preludes," (the motif in question is declared triumphantly at 6:49 in the video) which was also the theme to the old (1930s & 40s) Buck Rogers serials. I hadn't known what piece it was for about a decade and a half, until my college music history prof played a bit of it in class, and it hit me like a ton of bricks in a moment of AHA. I don't remember what the Superman music was, but have long wondered what bit of music has been bouncing around my subconscious, secretly associated with the Man of Steel. Doug Diamond's Music 262 course at Grinnell solved the Wonder Woman problem. If I stumble upon the Superman book or especially the tape at a thrift or collectible store some day, I might just have to pony up a buck or two to find out.

(Hat tip for the images to some person on Fortunecity.)

1 comment:

Carly said...

hello! i am so glad someone else remembers these tapes as well as i do. you wouldn't happen to have a copy of the laughing sphinx would you? i have been looking so long...
cbarich@gmail.com