Six Signature Superhero Sound Effects!
One of the singular pleasures of being a comic book fan is puzzling out their onomatopoetically-rendered sound effects!
“Sound Effects” from MAD, by the brilliant Wally Wood
While sound effects have somewhat fallen out of favor in contemporary comics writing, I still love them. And while I love a good BLAM! or WHAM! as much as the next guy, I particularly enjoy sound effects that are strongly associated with a specific character or comic. While most comic book sound effects are made up by a creator on-the-spot, a signature sound effect is always the same, and as much a part of a character as their costume or name.
My criteria for calling something a “signature” sound effect is simple — you have to know it in the dark. If all you have is a black panel with a single sound effect, but you still know what is happening (and who is making it happen), then that’s a signature sound effect!
Here are Six Signature Superhero Sound Effects! Why only six? Because I love alliteration even more than onomatopoeia (and I couldn’t think of a seventh)! But my draconian rules have doubtless caused me to exclude your favorite sound effect, so be sure to take me to task for my cruel exclusions in the comments section, below.
In the meantime, in rough and reverse order of their fame and recognizability …
… drum roll please …
(drum roll sound effect courtesy of my very own Dudley Serious Saves The World!)
… here are Six Signature Superhero Sound Effects!
All right, this is a little bit of a cheat, but it’s my blog and I get to make the rules. “Pow” is a generic sound effect, and not especially associated with Batman, but the use of visual sound effects was a signature element of the classic Batman TV show, so “POW!” gets an honorable mention.
I know full well that the real Captain Marvel is the Big Red Cheese, but my favorite Captain Marvel is still the enlightened Kree man of war that I have celebrated several times here at Longbox Graveyard. Just as Billy Batson could change into Captain Marvel by shouting, “SHAZAM!” (a term that would top list list, if it were a proper sound effect!), so for a time could Rick Jones trade places in the Negative Zone with Captain Marvel by clashing his “Nega Bands”together … with the characteristic sound of KTANG!
4) PING PING PING!
One of the coolest things about Jack Kirby’s New Gods is that it is full of things that Jack never fully explained. What was the Source? What was the Anti-Life Formula? Most intriguing of all … what was a Mother Box?
The indispensable gadget of every New God, a Mother Box was one part computer, one part iPhone, and one part genie-in-a-lamp. Built by hand and customized by their owners, Mother Boxes seemed able to do just about anything. But the one thing they all seemed to do was to go PING PING PING when activated!
Nightcrawler’s characteristic teleportation sound effect is as recognizable as his devilish tail and three-toed feet. BAMF became such an X-Men stand-by that I’m convinced someone eventually referred to Nightcrawler “bamfing” someplace, rather than teleporting … but I can’t find that particular reference (and a Longbox Graveyard No-Prize to someone who does!)
This one goes way back — all the way to Amazing Spider-Man #36 — which means it is almost certainly a Steve Ditko invention. It is the perfect expression for the sound of Spider-Man’s web-shooters — suggesting speed, a rushing of escaped gasses, and the sound of a whip, all-in-one!
Bonus … a clever bit of sound effects-oriented meta storytelling, from Amazing Spider-Man #43, as suggested by Mike W in comments, below!
A second X-Men sound effect tops this list, which makes me wonder if X-Men scribe Chris Claremont had a particular affection for sound effects. Or maybe it was Dave Cockrum? Regardless, the sinister sound of Wolverine’s adamantium claws sliding from their sheath is scary enough to make bad guys wet their britches all by itself! More than any sound effect on this list, if you “hear” SNIKT, all by itself, in the center of a dark panel … you know all Hell is about to break loose!
What did I miss? Sound off with your own sound effects in the comments section, below!
IN THREE WEEKS: #137 Thing vs. Thing!
Posted on September 3, 2014, in Lists! and tagged Batman, Ditko, Jack Kirby, sound effects, Top 10, Wally Wood. Bookmark the permalink. 36 Comments.
With you on the bamfing, and also can’t think of where it was from. Either way, in the Wolverine and the X-Men series, there are dozens (hundreds?) of mini Nightcrawlers bamfing around all over the place. The critters are called Bamfs by the X-Men, but I dropped the title before I could find out what their deal was.
For years I thought the sound effect was named after “that town in Canada” … and it was a perfect theory because Byrne was Canadian and always working Canadian stuff into the book … but the town I was thinking of was Banff, which is not quite the same thing!
I expect it’s a happy accident.
Well, Byrne named Kitty Pryde after a girl named Kitty Pryde, so it wouldn’t surprise me if there was SOME correlation there.
Great post Paul. Love that u found a way to shoe horn Captain Marvel in there again! Lol. Marvel cosmic owes u money! Great stuff and u definately got number one right!
Those Nega-Bands might be the first comic book sound effects that really caught my attention. It was Starlin’s run on Captain Marvel that made me a comics fan for life.
Reblogged this on Reggie's Blog and commented:
Six signature superhero sound effects
I liked how Marvel (usually Stan) would sometimes make meta-references to the sound effects; like in Amazing Spider-Man #43 when Spidey’s fighting the Rhino and Rhino rips his webbing, the sound effect is “FTAKT” and Spidey says “I’ll never understand how you do that!…Whenever I tear any webbing it always goes FTIFFFT instead of FTAKT” Gotta love those meta-references!
That’s nice … I’ll have to run down that panel. Sound effects are playful, and Stan was a playful writer — not surprised to learn he wrote a panel like that!
Added your panel above — check it out!
Cool…I love that panel! (Although I had to look it up in my copy of Marvel Tales to get the dialogue right!)
Using Marvel Tales is hardly cheating. If you’d had that committed to memory, you’d deserve a LOT more than a Longbox Graveyard No-Prize!
Puny Pink baboon, how dare you deny to a man of the Kree his rightful ranks as first signature sound effect and one and unique true Captain Marvel?
Your perception is so clouded that you may have forgotten to include:
Captain America — Klanng! (Shield)
Iron Man — Swooosh! (Jetboots)
Hulk — Smash!! (Hulk Smashes!)
Hmm … Hulk is always going on about how he will smash things, but is it really a sound effect? It’s more like a catch-phrase. And if you just saw, “Smash,” in a panel, alone, over black, could you be sure it was the Hulk?
Your Cap and Iron man SFX feel more proprietary, but again, I don’t associate them exclusively with those heroes, and I’m not sure I’d know them “in the dark.” I’d have to see a run of panels where those particular effects were used and spelled the same way before I’d be convinced.
One of the things that makes the SFX on this list unique is that the creators of the books settled upon a specific word, with a specific spelling, as being an integral part of a character — as much as their name or identity or costume. It sure seems that sounds associated with Cap’s shield (especially) should be on this list, but as a Cap reader for decades, none came quickly to mind.
(And the first guy that mentions “Wank” stays after class!)
I’ll agree for Iron Man and Hulk and I might concede for Cap’s Shield but you’ll have to “Ktang!” your wrists above your head in public every times you failed to acknowledge that Mar Vell is the one and only real Captain Marvel!
By the way… What about “Klik Klak”, used both as a sound effect and as a name in Kamandi?
I am redressing my scandalous unfamiliarity with Kamandi right now, having just bought three dozen digital issues through Comixology, so I will look for this one! It wouldn’t surprise me, as Kirby had strong musicality in his writing (and Mother Box already made this list!)
Somehow I really envy you.
I wish I could experience again some Kirby first times but it’s a path you can’t take twice. Kamandi is my second favorite Kirby creation at DC… Right after The Demon. By the way, Klik Klak is the 12th issue. Happy lecture!
First times will always be first times, but with comics (and art) I think you really can’t step into the same stream twice. We change as people and that profoundly influences how we regard a story or a piece of art. I feel very differently about Kirby’s 1977 return to Marvel today than I did as a fifteen-year-old. I re-read all or part of Kirby’s New Gods every year and it’s always different for me.
So, sure, there’s that precious novelty of experiencing something for the first time, but re-reads have their rewards. I sometimes find I can’t really appreciate something on the first viewing anyway. This frequently happens with superhero movies — I enjoyed my first (and only) viewings of Guardians of the Galaxy and Winter Solider this year, but for the most part, I’m distracted by seeing how the gears turn. It’s only on second viewing that I can calm down and just enjoy the movie.
I’m taking Kamandi slow. I’m on issue three or four right now. No rush. Great fun.
I agree but there’s no reasoning with the memory of an eleven years old kid who read, in the same afternoon and for the first time, issues 45 to 51 of the Fantastic Four!
It felt like Kirby put my brain on a frying pan and cooked it!
The Golden Age of EVERYTHING is “twelve!”
(But those FF issues would have cooked the brain of anyone, regardless of age).
Impossible Man “Pop”?
That fits. It’s kind of obscure … but probably no more so than “KTANG!” I almost included Godzilla’s “Mrraww!” from his short-lived Marvel Comics series but that seemed a reach.
Do I have to? Every time I clash my bands in penance I am transported to the Negative Zone, and sometimes it takes hours to get back.
What did you expect? It’s supposed to be a punishment unless…
Repeat after me: Mar Vell of the Kree is the one and only true Captain Marvel!
I agree with anonymous’ comment above!
Before reading the blog content, I tried to guess which 6 SFX you’d be singling out. I quickly recognized SNIKT and THWIP. BAMF took a few minutes to occur to my feeble consciousness… and then. nothing. Lost all steam after thinking it would be easy!
Right before reading the post, I thought of one more candidate. Let’s see if you can identify it: BOOM!
Fun read, as always.
That’s Apocalypse and New Genesis’s transportation device :
The Boom tube!
The Boom Tube is a good one (and another Kirby, I see a trend). It might easily be our Seventh!
I toyed with including the “Doom” sound effect from Simonson’s Thor that teased Surtur’s appearance for about a year.
A great list. For me, #7 would have to be the sound of Sgt. Rock’s machine gun: BuddaBuddaBuddaBudda. It’s Pavlovian to me whenever someone says “Sgt. Rock” (which, admittedly, doesn’t happen that often). http://goo.gl/XGhndd
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Sgt. Rock! Sgt. Rock! Sgt. Rock!
(There, now it will seem like the D-Day landing in your head, Dr. Pavlov!)
That’s a good one, Tom — Kanigher’s war books certainly had that kind of repeating musciality with their sound effects. I just finished writing a scholarly article about the Haunted Tank (words that have never before been used in a sentence) and the old Stuart tank at the center of that book makes the same KLANK KLANK KLANK effect every time it shows up.
I expect I could do a post just about the way sound effects were used in DC’s Big Five war books. It always seemed like they were killing the same Germans every month — did they make the same sound effects when they died? Imagine the “Acks!” and “Aaaaiiiiiiieeeeees!” I might unearth!
BuddaBuddaBudda is hardly specific to Sgt Rock? You can find such a machine gun sound effect in many japanese manga for example.
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