Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Superhero Theme Project: Blue Beetle and Green Arrow

For the past year and a half, I have been planting seeds in my daughter's artistic aesthetic though the Superhero Theme Project.  This clearly labels me as both a superhero fanboy and a music nerd.  Guilty on both counts.  Since before she was born, I have been eager to introduce my Little One to the characters I found inspiring as a kid, but I have bemoaned the general lack of kid-appropriate superhero media.  Arguably, one of the reasons I began this whole thing was to get her excited about reading, but I started to wonder where the superhero comics are that are actually written for kids - and especially little girls!

Last fall, I was overjoyed to discover the Superman Family Adventures, by Baltazar/Aureliani. DC comics is well-known for its multiple universes, and this series proposes one in which all superheroes are slightly silly, engage in relatively low-key violence, and have pets. The Little One really latched on to this last bit, and wanted to know the name of every animal that came into view. Krypto and Streaky were easy enough, but no amount of online research could keep me informed of all of the super-pets names.

During a browse at the local comic shop, however, I found the holy grail – the Super-Pets Character Encyclopedia. This tome listed an exhaustive set of super-pets and their attendant owners in Baltazar's universe, both hero and villain. There was no plot to the encyclopedia – only images and descriptions. Regardless, at her request, over the course of two months, the Little One and I read the entire thing cover-to-cover three times, and she became surprisingly well-versed in the DC universe.

Despite having no relationship to a storyline or character development, there were some characters that she became very excited about. In particular, she became enamored of the Blue Beetle. When she saw him in the book, she wanted to skip ahead to find out who he was and she immediately insisted that I put his song on my phone.

This was a character I knew absolutely nothing about, however, especially in his current incarnation. From what I could glean, he was like a weird cross between Green Lantern, Spider-Man, Iron Man, and the Greatest American Hero. I had only the vaguest impressions, so the research in finding a good theme was rather like clutching at straws.

There was an interesting lead I tried out from Elmer Bernstein’s score to Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, a b-rate science fiction movie from the 80s.  In some ways, this theme would have been really great, but it ran just a little too long and I felt like there were themes that were similar in style already on the list. Despite my strict “no-edit” rule, I was considering cutting it in half, when she unexpectedly asked me if I had Blue Beetle on my phone. A trial run confirmed my suspicions: at about 2:15, right when the second theme came in, she said “this is a long song.”

Fortunately, I had a back-up. Around the same time I discovered the Grand Canyon Fanfare, which seemed perfect as a general superhero theme. At 2:10, it fit within a very comfortable attention window, and it was clearly distinctive from many of the other themes that I had used. It also covered a lot of thematic ground in its short running time, with a little choral section in the middle that added just a hint of sci-fi.  By the next time she heard Blue Beetle, I had "rewritten" him in the form of James Newton Howard’s theme, this time in the car at full blast with an attendant graphic, much to her delight.  This one was the keeper.

We soon discovered that Blue Beetle plays a recurring role on the animated series Batman: the Brave and the Bold, and for her TV time, she began consistently requesting these watching the four or five episodes in which he appears. She now refers to this series as "Blue Beetle." This Christmas, I gave her a Blue Beetle action figure based on his design from this series, and it was one of her favorite gifts, along with her Anna and Elsa alarm clock.

I also took advantage of this new wave of interest to throw a theme from the Arrow series on the list. She saw Green Arrow in both the Pet Enyclopedia (with his pet porcupine "Quill") and on Brave and the Bold, so it was a pretty easy sell. Although the Arrow theme is not particularly rich in melody, thanks to the show it has come to evoke the character for me. Don’t fret, conservative parents, I recognize that Arrow is way too adult-themed for her. She will not be watching it any time soon. It is a personal favorite, though, so I have to concede that this one is kind of for me as much as it is for her. Still, she likes it enough to be able to recognize it without the graphic.

These last entries came in on what I thought might be my last opportunity to expand the playlist.  At three and a half, her own personal music tastes were beginning to emerge, but I was able to ride her interest in superhero characters just a little further before she began to really assert herself.

To go to the previous post in this series, click HERE.
The next one happened several months later, and you can find it HERE

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