Michael B shares views on superhero tunes


For my Oklahoman column this week, I talked to DJ Michael B about the superhero-themed episode of his program “Tonic: The Funky Groove Show,” an original production of KGOU radio (105.7/106.3 FM) that airs at 9 p.m. Fridays. Each week, “Tonic” features a mix of instrumental funk and groove music spanning the past six decades

Michael B, who many around Norman also known as musician and artist Michael Bendure, is also the host of 40 Minutes of Funk, an interview-based podcast with funk artists and experts from around the globe. Now in its second season, the podcast is available online at www.40minutesoffunk.com or anywhere podcasts are offered.

The Feb. 3 episode of “Tonic” focuses on superheroes, and I got a lot more great information from Michael B than would fit in my typical column length.

So here at the website are some “bonus tracks” as Michael B talks about how he selected music for this show and what he thinks about how superhero-related music has changed over the years!

And be sure to tune in Feb. 3 to KGOU to check out the show!

MP: Tell me about the origins of this episode.

MB: Each season, I try to pepper in special episodes that concentrate on fun and sometimes unexpected themes. In addition to annual Halloween, winter holiday, and Mardi Gras shows, I’ve also created science fiction shows, all-vinyl record episodes, and programs focused on specific artists. I’m excited to share my love of comic books in this new episode, and I think listeners will enjoy hearing some of their favorite superheroes represented by funky, upbeat music.

MP: How did you go about selecting music for the show?

MB: Since I began researching music for this radio show back in 2018, I’ve built a massive database of songs and artists that now tops more than 6,000 albums and artists. Every time I’ve come across songs with comic book character titles or themes, I’ve tagged them with a specific code so that, one day, I’d get to build an entire episode around them. That day has finally arrived, and I can’t wait to share this fun collection of music with fellow superhero fans.

MP: What goes into a successful superhero song?

MB: When you’re dealing with instrumental music, it starts with a title – it has to represent or be named after a specific character. From there, a song has to have attitude, something interesting that perks your ears and makes you want to move while also reflecting well on the particular personality of a character. Some songs may not have actually been written for that character; for example, the Don Ralke Orchestra’s 1960 tune, ‘Black Panther,’ predates the Marvel character’s appearance by six years. However, the song has this dark, creeping-in-the-shadows vibe that I feel represents T’Challa very nicely.”

MP: Are you leaning more John Williams or Jimmy Olsen’s  Blues? Neal Hefti or Batdance? Or can all versions learn to coexist peacefully in this new world where everyday citizens are somewhat comfortable with the idea of a multiverse?

MB: I think we’re learning how to navigate this new multiverse, where different iterations of characters can live and work together. In light of this, I think it’s safe to mix a 2007 funky iteration of the Superman movie theme with a 1972 Moog keyboard-based British library song by the same title. Superman is Superman, no matter what continent or decade a song about him comes from. And yes, we will most definitely get to hear an iteration of ‘Batdance’… only 60 years after its recording.

MP: While comic books are words and pictures with no sound, comic heroes jumped quickly to the radio, in the case of Superman and Batman, and in the case of the Shadow, actually began on radio before moving to the comics. Little Orphan Annie lived both on the radio and on the comic strip page of the newspaper. So figuring out what sounds and musical motifs worked for these heroes goes back to fairly early in their incarnations. What changes do you see in how the music tied to these characters, and those who have developed since, reflect the culture and developments of said characters?

MB: Musical motifs for superheroes have come a long way since the ‘pows’ and ‘zaps’ and spirally segues of Adam West’s TV version of Batman. Whereas every Marvel and DC character now has their own orchestral theme when they step onto the screen, I rather miss the campiness of a disco-fied dance version of their theme song. So Tonic gives me an opportunity to remind listeners of the magic of some of those fun songs that address the lighter side of comic book characters. But we’ll definitely dive into some of the more serious treatments heroes have been given, like Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad’s dark themes for Netflix’s ‘Luke Cage’ series, which have huge throwbacks to 1970s Black action film music, which are appropriate and seem to be appreciated by that particular audience. As a funk music fan (what we in the biz call a ‘funkateer’), I’m a huge fan of the show, and the soundtracks those two wrote are definitely a huge reason why.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s