Tuesday Top Ten: Comic Book Adaptation Soundtracks

One thing that can give comic adaptations an edge over comics is the inclusion of music to convey mood and emotion for our beloved characters. Here are our ten choices for soundtracks that bring the emotion and the beats.

M Payoff 1sht

#10. Iron Man:

“2007’s Iron Man is a great example of how to introduce a character to the world. Tony Stark has all sorts of rich guy qualities; boozing, fast cars, fancy house. His taste in music leans to upbeat classic rock like AC/DC’s ‘Back in Black’. When the movie isn’t rocking in the background to the quips and explosions, there’s an exuberant score that builds as Tony flies through the sky or fights terrorists. It’s one of a dozen reasons why the movie is great and made Iron Man such a popular character in the zeitgeist.”-Josh


#9. Spider-Man:

“The importance of the Spider-Man soundtrack has a lot to do with the time of its release. The movie hit theaters in 2002 which was before the Avengers boom of Iron Man, Thor and Captain America. It was even a few years before Christopher Nolan placed Batman into a believable world. It was a time when superhero movies were still a niche market. Then comes along your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man in his first big screen appearance. The movie’s cool webslinging effects and jovial atmosphere were paired with a very popular soundtrack. Danny Elfman leads off the film with a terrific opening track that has both the epic and adventurous feeling of a superhero theme, while sprinkling in some of the creepy Batman overtones to intensify the atmosphere. Add to this great Elfman score a number of rock songs by the leading bands at the time of the movie. A perfect soundtrack for high school kids which mixed the niche world of superheros with some of the most popular early 2000 bands, including entries by Black Lab, Blue, Sum 41, Theory of a Dead Man, Nickelback, Aerosmith and The Strokes. No matter how much I dislike Nickelback, “Hero” will always ring in my ears as one of my favorite superhero songs. Spider-man was an important brick in paving the way to making superhero movies “cool” and that was in part because of the popularity of this 2002 soundtrack.”-Dean

Captain America 2 Paolo Rivera

#8. Captain America: The Winter Soldier:

“Generally speaking, there are two types of movie scores. The first occupies the foreground of the film, lodging itself, for better or for worse, firmly in the viewer’s consciousness. The second is deployed more subtly, fading into the background without losing any of its effectiveness. Henry Jackman’s music for Captain America: The Winter Soldier belongs to this second category. The melodies might be soft, yet, scratch just below the surface and listeners discover something much more abrasive. The motifs are forceful and sharp edged. Their hidden discordance is a perfect match for a narrative centered around betrayals and long dormant threats reawakening. The Winter Soldier details how Steve Rogers is forced to question his ideals, confronting how full of grey life’s moral dilemmas can be. Jackman’s score mirrors this internal conflict while also providing a sonic framework for the Russo Brothers’ visceral action sequences. Audiences may not walk out of The Winter Soldier humming any of Jackman’s music, but that does not make it any less essential to the film’s success. This ambient score is contrasted with Marvin Gaye’s soulful “Trouble Man,” which, in a sense, bookends the story. It is first referenced in the opening scene when Anthony Mackie’s Sam Wilson cites it as his favorite song and definitely something Steve should add to his catch-up list. At the film’s conclusion, the Russo Brothers come full circle by playing the song while the dust settles over the final battle. Gaye’s musing of how he “didn’t make it sugar, playin’ by the rules” matches Steve’s newfound life lessons. The tone of the music may be gentler, yet, its sentiment matches Jackman’s hard-nosed score, demonstrating how two different styles can not only complement the narrative but each other as well.”-Creighton


#7. Ghost World:

“As is appropriate for a film about adolescent angst, Ghost World begins with a blast of defiance. Thora Birch’s Enid is first seen dancing in her bedroom to the sounds of Mohammed Rafi’s “Jaan Pehechan Ho”. This Bollywood tune is immediately addictive and invigorating. (Cinema lovers with long memories will recall that brief period in the early 00s when Bollywood was buzzed to replace Hong Kong action movies as the next big trend in art house cinema). It also makes a very clear statement that Enid’s rebellion will not follow the cliché conventions of rock and roll. After all, when The Who’s declaration of “I hope I die before I get old” had long been tamed as “classic rock” what was a teenager to do? Enid drifts further back in time for inspiration, befriending Steve Buscemi’s Seymour and through him discovering old blues and jazz records of the 10s and 20s. These nearly centuries old recordings give the movie a distinct rhythm which helps it stand out from the more typical “flavor of the day” indie rock soundtrack. (Newer recordings are provided by Vince Giordano best known to audiences for providing many a Woody Allen film with its nostalgic jazz vibe). It also serves as a reminder of the diversity of music which exists outside conventional radio/videos. Besides Rafi, the film features multiple tracks by Lionel Belasco, a mixed race jazz pianist from the Caribbean. His lush, graceful pieces blend the newly emerging New World jazz stylings with Old World traditions such as the waltz. They are a reminder of the riches to be discovered beyond rote and popular, a message which jives quite well with Enid’s own journey of self discovery. “-Creighton


#6. The Crow:

“Anybody who’s watched The Crow recently can certainly ascertain that the movie hasn’t aged well. While the reasons for that are disparate and multifaceted, chief among them is how it exists as a by-product of early 90’s “alt” culture and divorced from that context, the movie is pretty silly. I’d go one step further and say that the specific music from the film, in that time period, is really what gives the film it’s excitement. And with a few minor exceptions, The Crow soundtrack still holds up pretty well today.  The Crow was a soundtrack that literally every one I know had for years after it came out. It was a showcase that trascended musical styles from The Cure, to Jesus & Mary Chain, to The Violent Femmes, to Helmet. And while overall the soundtrack skewed a bit towards heavy metal (Pantera?!?!?!?) songs like Nine Inch Nails Joy Division cover “Dead Souls”, Rage Against The Machine’s “Darkness” or Stone Temple Pilots hit (and incredibly dope) single “Big Empty” certainly introduced listeners to what what might have ended up being their favorite bands when they were still up & coming on some level. The Crow is far from a great movie, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a better use of music in a comics adaptation then Brandon Lee jumping over buildings to Nine Inch Nails and for a soundtrack, that’s as good as it gets.”-Pat


#5. Luke Cage:

“No comic book project compares to Marvel’s Luke Cage in terms of music. If I had to quibble, I would say that its not seamlessly plugged in like songs in most movies and shows. It proudly gives the musicians the spotlight on a stage to perform songs which illuminates certain character’s inner emotion but pulls attention between their conversations and the music. Still, the songs are a strong representation of Hip Hop which in their lyrics convey the heritage of Harlem and the struggle of African Americans living within. My favorite moment might be Method Man giving an original rap over the radio on Luke Cage after the hero saves him during a robbery. It’s political, it’s catchy, and plays over events outside of the performance that show Cage’s impact on Harlem.”-Josh


#4. Superman:

“When  I was a child, before I read a comic, I was obsessed with two film franchises; Star Wars & Superman and for the latter, that John Williams score is what put it over the edge. You’d be hard pressed a better personification for the character then John Williams inspiring score for it’s simple majesty. Listening to it today still gives me the same feeling, it’s pure perfection plain and simple.”-Pat


#3. Guardians of the Galaxy:

“I love the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack. The songs, which are a collection from the 1970’s from Star-Lord’s Mom, fits the scene and hasn’t been played to death like most period music. Before this movie, when would you have heard Blue Swende’s ‘Hooked on a Feeling’? Yet the movie makes you love it, along with hits from the late David Bowie, the Jackson Five, and the Runaways. The movie uses songs you can dance to, which the characters do three times in the movie! They’re inclusion serves a purpose within the story, the songs are Star-Lord’s connection to Earth and his mother, which adds to their emotional significance. If I was to be trapped out in deep space, this soundtrack would be my top choice to take with me.”-Josh


#2.Batman by Prince:

“Prince’s Batman soundtrack has taken a hit over the years for what I can ascertain are two key reasons; one being it’s not about Batman and the other being that it’s not that great of an album. While there is some truth in both these statements, it’s a major overstatement. In terms of it’s relationship to Batman, save for a couple of overt references and “Bat-Dance” Prince was right to shy away from making music about the charachter specifically because that’d be corny. In regards to it’s quality, while it’s in no way on the level of Purple Rain, 1999 or Sign Of The Times, it’s still a Prince album from the 1980’s, meaning it’s superior to almost anything else if you really stop and listen to it. The problem with Prince’s Batman soundtrack musically is mostly in sequencing; it kicks off with one of his most underrated songs of all time in The Future and follows that up with a straight banger in Electric Chair before things slow down a bit too much on the otherwise excellent Arms of Orion. After that, Partyman is a jam, Vicki Waiting is dope and brilliantly layered, Trust and Lemon Crush are kind of meh, Scandalous is incredible with the way it plays the drums against the strings to sound like the music Batman would hear gliding over Gotham and then Batdance, which is as stupid as you remember it being. Still, a pretty good Prince album would be a great album for anybody else and if you’re comparing it with other comic adaptation soundtracks, it’s a cut above.”-Pat

#1. Batman/Batman Returns:

“When the Batman film originally went into production, executives planned for the film’s music to be dominated by Prince and Michael Jackson. Director Tim Burton pushed back arguing that he had no interest in making a movie with the “commercial” sound of Top Gun. Instead Burton gave the job of scoring the film to Danny Elfman. Burton and Elfman previously had collaborated on Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure and Beetlejuice, though, as with Burton himself, this new assignment was more demanding than any other Elfman had worked on to date. Elfman rises to the challenge, however, surpassing all expectations. From the first soft bars gradually building in intensity before exploding into a frenzy of kinetic sounds, Elfman crafts a score which perfectly matches the shifting ambiance of The Dark Knight. This is music with a propulsive force which soars with The Caped Crusader, while skillfully avoiding any bombastic excess. Indeed, the score throughout is full of twisting rhythms and complex arrangements which prevents it from ever falling into monotony. One of the reasons the music remains so striking is its richness which rewards close listening. This is even truer of the score for Burton’s Batman Returns sequel. Here Elfman further elaborates on the soundscape. Returning to the choir writing he employed so evocatively for Edward Scissorhands, Elfman adds new vocal motifs to the music along with hints of carnival color.  As an added bonus, Elfman assists Siouxsie and the Banshees with composing the song “Face to Face” for the movie. A silky, melancholy ode to passion and deception it is a rather concise summery of the tangled Batman/Catwoman dynamic which is a pretty impressive achievement in its own right, as most original songs for superhero films tend towards the generic. All in all, these two soundtracks offer the ideal in movie music: melodies which aptly conjure the atmosphere while also being able to stand independently as outstanding music. Between 1989 & 1992, Elfman composed (all for Burton) three of the greatest film scores ever; Batman/Batman Returns are two of them. They have stood the test of time and shall continue to do so.”-Creighton

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s