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SDCC 2021: Music in Motion Pictures and Television: The Soundtrack of Comic Book Characters and Superheroes

Image Source: Pop Disciple

In the panel for The Soundtrack of Comic Book Characters and Superheroes, we met with four great composers, who have been writing music for some of the biggest movies and TV shows of the last decade. We met with Tyler Bates, who has worked on such projects as 300 and the John Wick franchise, Christophe Beck, who has worked on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the WandaVision series, Christopher Lennertz, who has worked on the Medal of Honor video game and the Lost in Space series and Brian Tyler, who has worked on the Rambo and Fast and the Furious franchises. One thing that they all had in common, was that they used emotion to create their scores.

Starting off the panel, there was a huge discussion about the influence of John Williams and how he is such a powerhouse. He has created some of the best scores and all of them are rememberable. From Star Wars to Jaws, the major themes are easy to pinpoint. As a former musician myself, I always loved John Williams. When I was a kid, I think two of the movies that made an impact on me was listening to the Jurassic Park theme song for the first time. I still love to listen to it to this day and I even got to play it in my orchestra class in high school. Second, when I went to see Harry Potter for the first time, that theme song really stuck in my head. Even though John Williams didn’t compose all the movies, I think his inspiration continued throughout the films.

Image Source: Mixcloud

Brian Tyler:

  • When Brian was discussing his time working on scores, he said that he was already a big comic book fan. He described his thoughts on how he thought up some of the music for certain characters, and one that was interesting, was Thor. Since Thor is a demigod, he wanted his music to have a requiem style and appear more classical, but with a little bit of humor. He also mentioned that even though he already had his ideas of what the music should sound like from being a huge comic book fan, he did end up creating the music based off of the personalities that the actors and the directors gave them.
  • Talking about the back and forth you need to have with a director, he said that one time he was talking to a director, and he said that he could do pretty much everything to create this movie, but one thing he had no skill in, was writing music, so he told Brian that he was at his mercy. Brian said that directors must be a little hesitant about handing over their baby to someone else because at that point, the director doesn’t have any control. There still is a dialogue between the two though, and it’s all about emotion. At the end of the day, the emotion is what sets the tone for a scene, and that can be discussed.
  • In a discussion about how the composers start writing their music, Brian said that he does it in an inverted way. Most composers write the big themes first, but Brian likes to write the the soft melodies first, and then figure out ways to make those melodies more epic.
  • You can catch Brian’s scores now on the Yellowstone series, and in upcoming works like the upcoming movies, Scream and Redeeming Love, and the Rescue Rangers reboot.
Image Source: IMDb

Christophe Beck:

  • Talking about his experience working on comic book movies and shows, Christophe said for the Ant-Man movies, he already had experience working on comedy and heist movies, and since Ant-Man has those components, he used that to his advantage. And when it came to scoring WandaVision, he knew he would be scoring to eras from the past, so in a way, it was an homage to those eras, but besides that, he wasn’t familiar with the characters.
  • When working with directors, he said that there’s always that vulnerability, but in the end, it always comes down to the directors vision.
  • WandaVision was a different kind of experience for him. He brought in a specialist, who knew more about “old timey” music, so that they could compose music to support the styles of the older shows portrayed, and instead of creating the music individually for each episode, he treated it more like a six hour movie. He could look at the series more as a whole and plant seeds from the beginning of the show, into some of the scenes at the end.
  • Going into the production of Ant-Man, Chris had an idea for how he wanted the movie to sound, but didn’t get the green light. He originally wanted the music to sound more electronic. He wanted the sounds to be more brittle and glitchy, and all together, more “insect-like.” Since that would more likely be distracting, his next plan was to go with what he knew. Since he had experience with heist movies, he looked to movies such as Mission Impossible. He kept the score light and used more percussion, flutes, etc.
  • You can look for Chris’s work in a new mini series for Marvel, which he couldn’t talk about.
Image Source: IMDb

Christopher Lennertz:

  • Working on Agent Carter, Chris used his knowledge of jazz to create the score. He originally majored as a jazz guitarist, before switching to composing.
  • He has an easy time communicating on The Boys because he’s friends with the creator, Eric Kripke and has worked with Seth Rogan, who produces the show. They have created a shorthand between them.
  • He got the job on Agent Carter from his work on the video game, Medal of Honor. They liked his sound of Americana. And when breaking down his process of coming up for the score on The Boys, he said that at first, he made the music sound very clean and professional, but got notes along the way saying that they wanted the music to be messier and more dirty. To achieve that sound, Chris went to junk yards and purchased any instruments that were broken. He gave the music a more industrial/punk/garage sound and when he uses an orchestra, he goes back in and bends the sounds, so that they sound more distorted.
  • You can hear Chris’s music on the new seasons of The Boys and Lost in Space.
Image Source: Music Tech

Tyler Bates:

  • When hired to compose for Watchmen, he didn’t want any preconceived notions.
  • Working with directors and big studios, he said there’s always that pressure to push the story along muscially.
  • When creating themes for movies, he said that the theme can be twisted into modes and contextes and it’s important that there is a relationship between your larger themes.
  • When composing for Guardians of the Galaxy, Tyler said that there were many licensed songs, and he had to think about the culture of those songs, and be able to transition into and out of those songs smoothly. And he phrased that the songs he composed, were palette cleansers out of those liscensed songs.
  • You can find Tyler’s music on Primal, the animated series.

1 comment

  1. Part of what makes a good movie, or any good story that’s told on a screen, is the right music. It can do just as much to tell the story as the dialogue and action. Heck, John Williams is so good, he can tell the story of Star Wars through the music alone.

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