Musical Anatomy of a Superhero: The Best SDCC Panel That I Didn't Intend To See

superhero music

From Bleeding Cool reporter Erin Wilhelm:

When you attend a con, you always have the chance to accidentally see an awesome panel that you may not have planned on attending. This happened to me today on the very first day of my very first SDCC.

I was in a room early waiting for the next program when the 5th Annual Musical Anatomy of a Superhero panel started. Despite the significant portion of my life that I have spent watching superhero TV and movies, I had not previously spent a lot of time thinking about the music that formed the backdrop to my favorite scenes. However, when the lights went down and superhero footage was shown with dramatic, engaging, and heroic music of panelists Mark Isham (Cloak & Dagger), Brian Tyler (The Mummy), David Russo (Gotham), and Ludwig Göransson (Black Panther), I was hooked.

superhero music

To begin, Tyler showed the funeral scene from Thor: The Dark World. He discussed how, working together with director Alan Taylor, the decision was made to have the musical score be the only audio in the scene. It turned out to be a great call. The music is haunting and emotional, providing a soulful soundtrack to the grief and tributes of the actors on the screen.

superhero music

Russo then treated the audience to brand new scenes from the upcoming season of Gotham, showing footage of the Riddler, the Joker, and Scarecrow set to Russo's energetic, sometimes frenetic scores.

Russo discussed how difficult it can be to score a television show that produces 22 episodes a season, he has little time to make mistakes or second guess himself, because there is no time for a second try. He characterizes the show as "merry mayhem" and gave a lot of credit to the excellent writing and acting talent working on the show.

superhero music

Göransson showed the trailer for the highly anticipated Black Panther movie opening in February 2018. The trailer, like the film itself, was scored by Göransson. First, despite the fact that I had seen the trailer before, seeing it up on a large screen with good speakers blasting the drums and base of Göransson's composition was breathtaking.

The composer talked about how he traveled to Senegal and South Africa recording local musicians to form what he called the "base" of his score for the movie. Göransson played about 45 seconds of this "base" score, which contained a several musical instruments that I didn't recognize with a very distinct, almost conversational sound. If the final score was, in fact, inspired by this music, we can likely expect that it will differ somewhat from the traditional "heroic" scores we are used to.

superhero music

Isham had some of the most interesting footage of the panel, showing scenes from Cloak & Dagger against the backdrop of Isham's soundtrack for the show. The scenes included in the clip showed the lifelong connection between Cloak and Dagger and left you wanting more. Isham said that the show is "extremely character driven" and based on the difficult childhoods of both the characters and how their powers evolve from their contact with each other. The score is dark, but also young enough to keep up with the teenage cast.

One of the most interesting parts of the panel, however, was in response to an audience member's question about what role the four white, male panelists have in increasing the diversity of the musical composition field. Honestly, the panelists seemed sort of stumped by the question. Tyler stated that diversity is vital to the field, as without it the music will all begin to sound the same. Russo and Göransson discussed the importance of spotting and hiring great talent. But none of the panelists really addressed why the field is "old, white, and very male" or what their own responsibilities are as leaders in the field to change that. The response left the end of an otherwise good panel muddied and unsettled.

When leaving I heard one audience member tell those with her "one way they could increase diversity would be to hire an African composer to score a superhero movie set in Africa." Good point.

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About Ray Flook

Serving as Television Editor since 2018, Ray began five years earlier as a contributing writer/photographer before being brought onto the core BC team in 2017.
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