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!
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