Everyone’s a Rock Star in Gotham

Whether or not it was the tryptophan’s fault, I spent a lot of time dreaming this weekend.

From Gotham Central to Spider-Man’s Tangled Web, going all the way back to Damage Control, one thing that has always captured my imagination even more than a world full of superheroes is what it must be like to be a regular guy trying to get to work in one of those worlds. In a universe with mutants and Batmen, you’re going to see entire new branches of government and law enforcement sprout up. You are going to need an insurance company that comes in and deals with the aftermath when Thor knocks Fin Fang Foom through the Chrysler Building. There is a rich trust fund a-hole in Oz whose entire family fortune was built on generations of dependable yellow brick production. In the world of the Muppets, jobs have been created around the manufacture of frog-sized banjos. Waste management companies have to have a grouch rep in their unions.

This is what a long car trip is like with me.

Though it doesn’t directly move the story along and (judging from the way some people have read it) doesn’t exactly need to be there, I always thought one of the nicest touches in Watchmen was the observation that in a world where costumed crimefighters were real, comic books would be about something else entirely. In the last ten years, we’ve seen what comic book superheroes can do to pop culture as fictional characters; real superheroes would hit pop culture like a bomb. How well do you think Superman DVDs sell in the world of Irredeemable?

I can’t remember how I got fixated on music this weekend. Maybe it was catching a preview of the completely bananas Spider-Man musical; maybe it was seeing a highlight reel of every insane thing Kayne has said in the last few years. One way or another, the thought hit me: What must Top 40 radio be like in a world where Doctor Doom and Namor are distinguished heads of state? Would anyone even bother trying to be a rock star?

How bonkers must pop music be in the Marvel universe? What could Lady Gaga possibly put on her body to compete with any two Grant Morrison supporting characters? She would either end up in the hospital rocking back and forth, or she would hire an army of meat-suited henchmen to kidnap the Statue of Liberty to promote her upcoming tour.

And poor Kanye. How could a man so convinced of his own greatness and so ravenous for attention ever stand a chance in a world where Asgardian gods are actual things? Here’s what I think would end up happening: KODOK.

Only KISS and Bowie would remain unchanged in each world.

Then again, maybe it’s like the comics in Watchmen. Maybe music responds to such a crazy world by becoming as bland and pedestrian as possible, a warm blanket for the listener to huddle under as his car is getting thrown by the Thing, again. As I sit here trying to think of the bands in comic books, I do not exactly conjure a list of mind-blowers. Rick Jones was a rock star in the Marvel universe, for crying out loud. He’s got to be one of those stool-sitters, doesn’t he? Up on stage in a plaid work shirt strumming away at his folk-blues number about mending the Hulk’s pants for ten years. Come on, Rick! You ended the Kree-Skrull War! Glam it up a little.

Who was that rock star in New Mutants? Lila Cheney? (Any relation, you think? And if so, what’s that Thanksgiving table like?) A band full of space aliens, teleporters and mutants, and none of the shows looked like they gave Lita Ford anything to lose sleep over.

And yes, I know, Dazzler. Look, I’m no music critic, and as far as I can recall no Dazzler lyrics have even been committed to paper. Still… how good can those songs be? Sure, the show is great. “The thing about Dazzler is, you’ve really gotta see her live,” I can hear the guy at the record store saying. Maybe I just read too much Claremont dialogue coming out of her mouth over the years; a lot of those conversations read like song lyrics to begin with. (If someone took an X-Men comic from 1989 and replaced all the word balloons with the lyrics to “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” how long do you think it would take you to notice? At the very least, you have to concede that “turn around, bright eyes!” would have been a great thing for Wolverine to yell right before hitting a guy.)

Given the lure of celebrity and the constant attention they must get from TMZ, it’s surprising more superheroes don’t try their hand at recording an album a la Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and Bruce Willis. You know the Human Torch has thought about it; he has a “Party All the Time” in him somewhere burning to get out. One of Tony Stark’s houses has a studio in the basement where he works things out. And why not? Captain America croons an album of standards: who doesn’t fire up iTunes for that album?

I think I may have a pitch for a book here. I’m going to gather my notes together and submit this to some editors. Look for it next year: An Empty Slot on the Shelf Because This Has Already Been Canceled.


Jim Mroczkowski has already heard “Wonderful Christmastime” eleventy-seven times.


  1. These are great!  I have also, possibly, spent too much time wondering what *serious* literature looks like in the Marvel Universe.  I feel like there was a year in the 90s where John Updike & Philip Roth or maybe Norman Mailer had novels “imagining” the life of  Magneto competing for the National Book Award.

    Don’t get me started on Marvel U public radio (which has, canonically, crossed over with the X-Men from time to time).

  2. In Alan Moore’s TOP 10 there were scenes where lyrics to songs on the radio were being played. They had lines about having a secret identity, and other superhero world norms.

    (jesus. I saw my numerous typos in my first post.)

  3. Don’t forget Roy Harper’s band Great Frog in the DCU, which I imagine is like phish

  4. Kinda have to assume that in times of economic crisis the people of the Marvel and DC universes invest in spandex rather than gold to keep their money safe.

  5. I ask my commodities broker to buy Web Fluid and Vibranium futures while listening to Sparkle Motion: The Very Best of DAZZLER

  6. @ResurrectionFlan  (It sounds like Kylie Minogue)

  7. I have to assume their is an element of pop culture fiction in comic book universes be it in music/movies/telvision that explores the glorious fantasy of “What if these Whackjobs in Spandex Did Not Exsist” Wouldn’t such escapism be necessary?

  8. @DaveCarr  Brilliant.

  9. @DaveCarr  and no doubt within that genre is a set of fans interested in the popculture of a world without spandex.

  10. Of course there would be bands based on the superheros. “Tonight only, The Dead Bucky”s” or “The Web”

  11. There’s probably already a million highschool ska bands in our universe called The Ultimate Nullifiers right?

  12. This has given me new avenues of thought…

  13. The Onion figured out what Lady Gaga would do in Gotham…




  14. If someone took an X-Men comic from 1989 and replaced all the word balloons with the lyrics to “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” how long do you think it would take you to notice? At the very least, you have to concede that “turn around, bright eyes!” would have been a great thing for Wolverine to yell right before hitting a guy.

    Will someone please make this happen?  I don’t have the Photoshop abilities, but this could not possibly be worse than X-Men Forever, and, more likely, would be about 1000% more awesome.  In fact, the project could go even further and replace the word balloons with other 80’s Hits, like “White Wedding,” “(I Just) Died in Your Arms Tonight,” and “Broken Wings” (for the Scott Summers/Madeline Pryor wedding, the end of the “Dark Phoenix Saga” and the Angel scenes in “Mutant Massacre,” respectively).  This is a comedy gold mine.

  15. Lady Gaga is Dazzler. You will never convince me otherwise.

  16. WonderAli:

    I think I remember you mentioning that before…untill I see Dazzler in an outfit made of Muppets, you’re not convincing me! 😛

  17. I think it may have been mentioned on here (I got it from somewhere), but there has to be some major religious differences in a world in which we KNOW gods exist.

    There’d be more Norse god worshippers than any other

  18. This article is just awesome. I have had these thoughts as well. What are summer blockbusters like in the marvel universe? Would people pay to see a movie like The Matrix in a world where literally dozens of people can fly and lift cars over their heads. I bet in the Marvel Universe, Garden State was the biggest hit of the summer