Spider-Man’s forgotten Rock Opera

If you thought that the Broadway show Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark (written by U2’s Bono and The Edge) was the first time Spider-Man’s been adapted to a musical medium, think again. In 1972, Ron Dante (lead singer of The Archies) created songs for Spider-Man: From Beyond the Grave, an opus that was billed as a “Rockomic”. A mix of radio play and funk rock tracks, it tells a barebones story involving Aunt May getting kidnapped by the Kingpin. Along the way, Doctor Strange makes an appearance, and we get a retelling of Spider-Man’s origin story. But what makes this album memorable (in a good and bad way) are the musical tracks.

Spider-Man: From Beyond the Grave picture disc.
Spider-Man: From Beyond the Grave picture disc.

The songs are not titled on the sleeve, but I found this track listing online:

  1. Peter’s Nightmare 
  2. Theme From Spider-Man (5:10, Part 1)
  3. Spider-Man Remembers 
  4. A Groove To Be Free (Part 1, 13:20)
  5. Spider-Man’s Dilemma 
  6. A Strange Ally 
  7. Stronger The Man (Part 2, 1:25)
  8. A Strange Ally (Cont’d) 
  9. Goin’ Cross Town (Part 2, 7:45)
  10. From Beyond The Grave

That Spider-Man theme is worth the detour, a funky ode to his prowess whose lyrics seem to have been written by someone only vaguely familiar with the character, as evidenced by lines like these:

“Crawl like a spider, love like a man”

“A product of the American Dream, I see him fly. I see him fly!” Hmm, you sure you got the right guy there?

“A modern day sex machine, he makes the little girls sigh”

OK. Whatever you say man.

“A Groove to Be Free” is a soulful ballad capturing the character’s teenage angst along with… OK, sorry, I can’t type this with a straight face. It’s a typical Broadway musical cheesy ballad.

“Stronger Than Man” is much better, and so is “Goin’ Cross Town”. Still “grade B Off Broadway musical” level, but fun, and totally of its time.

According to the Internet, Spider-Man is voiced by Rene Oberjonois, best remembered for playing Odo on Star Trek: Deep Space 9. It doesn’t sound like him, but who am I to doubt the Internet. The other actors have been lost to time or more likely this job was erased from everyone’s resume.

It couldn’t make my list of great superhero music because I intentionally limited myself to TV and movies, but damn it, this needed to be showcased.

This disc is available from all digital retailers and was obviously ripped from an LP as there is a lot of hiss, pops and clicks.


Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark on Broadway
Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark on Broadway, which has nothing to do with this record
Jean-Frederic Vachon
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