Thor Odinson, is a character that appeared in numerous comic books that have been published by Marvel. He is based upon the Norse God of thunder and carries his trusty magical Hammer Mjolnir with him. This Hammer has special powers and transfers these to Thor, allowing him to have super strength, the ability to fly as well as enabling him to control the weather. The character first appeared in comic form back in the August of 1962 in Journey into Mystery. The powerful character was created by Jack Kirby, Stan Lee and Larry Leiber.

He was also to become one of the founding members of the Avengers team and was a regular in various publications from the house of Marvel making an appearance in every single Avengers tale. Thor also transferred well to an animated series for TV, as well as being on trading cards, video games and having clothing lines. In recent years has become a firm favorite of superhero fans in the Avengers movies and the three Marvel produced motion pictures that focus upon him.

 Thor, (2011), Thor-The Dark World (2013) and Thor-Ragnarok (2017). The character was in many peoples opinion even more impressive on the big screen and actor Chris Hemsley took on the role bringing energy and adding a new and vibrant persona to the character. It is without a doubt that Thor has become a success story all round. Hemsley was supported wonderfully by veteran thespian Sir Anthony Hopkins and the love interest being provided by Natalie Portman. I think this Marvel franchise remains my favorite out of all of them and the appeal for the character and his adventures has increased even more since his appearance on the big screen.

The musical scores for the movies have all been commanding and exciting, with the thundering and relentless music for Thor-The Dark World by composer Brian Tyler edging its way to first position and Patrick Doyle’s atmospheric and driving soundtrack for Thor, the first in the series of the franchise coming a close second. The third movie in the series Thor-Ragnarok, was somewhat unfairly ignored, and the score by composer Mark Mothersbaugh was also overlooked by many. With the composer doing more than an adequate job enhancing and supporting the further adventures of the god of thunder.

 The character of Thor might well have ended up as part of the DC family, as his creator Jack Kirby originally pitched the idea to DC in the 1950’s, which was some years before the Nordic superhero manifested in a Marvel publication. The image of Thor or at least the image we now associate with the character would have also been a little different if DC had taken him onboard. The character appeared in 1957 in Tales of the Unexpected and although the look of Thor was vastly different to what we know now, Kirby did retain some of the characters original features and combine them with fresher notions which would be utilized when he eventually landed at Marvel comics.

Another character that appeared regularly in the comic books and has featured prominently in the recent trilogy of movies is Loki, played brilliantly by actor Tom Hiddleston, who in the movies is seen as Thor’s mischievous and untrustworthy Brother, but in fact they were not related in Norse Mythology.

Loki became the target one of those famous but at the same time incorrect Hollywood studio re-vamping’s and was cast as Thor’s brother to benefit the films storyline.  In Nordic folklore and mythology, Thor is the son of Odin and Frigg the latter his Mother was also referred to as Jord which means Earth. Loki, however, is the son of the giants Farbauti and Laufey of the Kingdom of Jotunheim. Loki was born to the Jotun, who in Nordic mythology are the enemy of the gods. Being unusually small for a Frost Giant, Loki was abandoned by his parents in a temple hoping that he would die, but after the war between the Frost Giants and Asgardians (gods) had ended, Loki was found by Odin. Odin took pity on the baby and altered his appearance with sorcery so that he would resemble an Asgardian,

Odin then raised him as his son alongside his true son Thor. As the child grew up Loki always felt that he was living in Thor’s shadow and was envious and resentful of him for being the future King. Loki is often referred to as the blood brother of Odin and counted among the Aesir gods of Asgard. His is the god of mischief and is cunning, intelligent, and dangerously wicked. Thor and Loki often lock horns in battle against each other, but also join forces to fight against monsters and the enemies of Asgard, Loki can never be trusted and is full of trickery, which often leads to Thor being betrayed. In the big screen movie versions Loki is an essential character and vital to the storylines, creating chaos and being underhanded and totally unpredictable, but also wonderfully.

From a superhero who is a god to a superhero who has no super-powers to speak of, he is mortal and relies upon gadgetry and intelligence to bring a halt to wrong doings and stop and snare criminals.

Batman, has been around for as long as I can remember, my own personal first encounter with the character was on TV in the form of actors Adam West and Burt (Holy Dynamic Duo) Ward in the guises of the crime fighting pair Batman and Robin, during the 1960’s.

The TV series was produced by CBS and ran from 1966 through to the latter half of 1968. During this time, the series introduced us to many arch enemies of the duo and villainous characters that were not only dastardly but at times clumsy and to be honest stupid. The series also introduced us to the rather dazed character of Commissioner Gordon (Neil Hamilton) and Gotham City’s dim-witted Chief of police O’Hara (Stafford Rep),

Batman or Bruce Wayne was aided not just by Robin or Dick Grayson, but there was Alfred the faithful butler, who was much more than just a man servant played by Alan Napier. Then there was Aunt Harriet or Mrs Cooper (Madge Blake) who was a regular in over ninety episodes of the show.

With the appearance of Batgirl/Barbara Gordon played by Yvonne Craig in 1967.  

But Batman’s enemies outnumbered his allies and came in the form of The Joker (Cesar Romero for 19 episodes), The Penguin (Burgess Meredith also in 19 episodes), The Riddler (Frank Gorshin 9 episodes and John Astin in 2 episodes), Cat woman (Julie Newmar for 12 episodes and then Eartha Kitt for 3 episodes) King Tut (Victor Buono in 8 episodes), Egghead (Vincent Price in 5 episodes) and so many more that it would an age to mention them all.

The series even included an appearance of The Green Hornet. I think the appeal of the series for adults was that it never took itself seriously and no matter what situation the dynamic duo were in at the end of each episode we all knew they would emerge unscathed and victorious in the following one, children too loved the series because there was no real violence, many of the fights between Batman and Robin and whatever villain and their henchmen were involved that particular week, no one got hurt, the punches being covered up by a “POW”, and “SPLAT” or some other comic book terminology on screen in big bright letters. The music was the work of various composers, but the original theme was the work of Neal Hefti, with Nelson Riddle providing an arrangement of the theme for later episodes, Riddle also worked on the scores for around 90 episodes with Billy May and Warren Baker also writing incidental cues for the series.


The Neal Hefti theme is a fusion of surf music and spy bop, with guitars percussion and chorus. Its one of those pieces of music that once heard can never be forgotten, its more annoying than haunting, but has become an iconic piece that is associated with Batman. The series also included a number of performances from actors that were well known at the time and are a part of cinema and TV history, with Lesley Gore who had a hit in the 1950’s with It’s My Party also appearing as one of Cat woman’s disciples Pussycat and Bruce Lee also making an appearance in 2 episodes as the character Kato. Shelley Winters also turned up in 2 episodes as Ma Parker with the likes of Ida Lupino as Dr Cassandra and Zsa Zsa Gabor as Minerva also making appearances on the show, when you look at the cast list for the entire series it does read like a who’s who in TV and film from the sixties. Woody Strode, Cliff Robertson, Carolyn Jones, Milton Berle, David Wayne, Glynis Jones, Van Johnson, Maurice Evans, Roddy McDowell, Liberace, Michael Rennie, and even Otto Preminger the esteemed filmmaker appeared in 2 episodes in the role of filled with Mr Freeze in 1966 which was a role that Eli Wallach also took on in 2 episodes one year later. The list is literally endless the series which was at the time popular, is looked upon now as a send up of the original character, and one filled with high levels of campness and over the top and tongue in cheek moments.  

But let us not forget that Batman was a character who appeared long before the TV series was aired. The Batman debuted in an issue of the Detective comic book in March 1939 the character was the brain-child of the artist Bob Kane who together with writer Bill Finger breathed life into the character that was to adopt the name of the caped crusader.

As we all now are aware Batman is the alias of the wealthy American businessman Bruce Wayne, The origins of the character are that he vows to take out his revenge upon criminals and low life’s after as a child he witnesses the murder of his parents at the hands of a thief who guns them down mercilessly in the street. Wayne trains himself to become physically fit and intellectually superior. He then takes on the form of a bat like avenger, who patrols the dark streets of Gotham in search of the criminal elements in the city and to protect the innocent.

 The character it is said came into being because of the success of another DC comics stalwart superhero, Superman, and although Bob Kane often took the credit for the creation of the character of The Batman, Bill Finger’s writing prowess played a large part in the development and also the growing popularity of dark and initially solitary crime fighter, because he developed the character into something that was more like a bat whilst also making him a figure that comic readers could identify with as being dark, shadowy and stealth like, but at the same time standing up for the downtrodden and fighting for justice.

In 1940, Batman was given his own publication, in which he was shown to be a ruthless and unforgiving vigilante who often resorted to violence and even going to the extremes of killing and permanently maiming his adversaries. As I pointed out at the beginning of this section on Batman, he is known as a super-hero, but does not actually have any super-human powers. He cannot fly like Superman, nor does he have X ray vision, or super strength.

So instead, our hero must rely on his own intelligence and also his wealth to help develop the tools he needs to combat the array of villains that descend upon Gotham. The CBS TV series in my opinion was entertaining in a cheesy and humorous way, but I also think that it did a lot of damage to the original creation of Batman, and even when the series stopped production many still thought of Batman and his sidekick Robin as a pair of crimefighters that bordered upon being a comedy duo rather than a dynamic one. For a number of years after the popularity of the TV series and subsequent feature film outings featuring Batman and Robin curtailed, writers attempted to try and restore the darker elements of the character.

But it was not really until the 1986 with The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller that we saw any re-kindling of the original ideas of both Kane and Finger.

Batman has featured in many different comics and is also a member of The Justice League alongside other superheroes such as Wonder Woman, and Superman. Batman is one of the most popular and iconic characters in comic book and film history, with his likeness being made into toys most notably the Lego Batman as well as being the focus of video games, with his image depicted on clothing, and being launched to the cinema screen. The character has been portrayed by several actors, Adam West of course for TV, and on the silver screen, the likes of Michael Keaton, (Batman and Batman Returns), Val Kilmer (Batman Forever), George Clooney (Batman and Robin), Christian Bale (The Dark Knight Trilogy), Ben Affleck and soon Robert Pattinson have and will don the cape and cowl of The Batman.

Music for the film series has fallen to a handful of composers, the first two movies Batman and Batman Returns, being scored by the then relatively newcomer Danny Elfman, his scores for both movies are still regarded as the sound of Batman With the composers dark and irreverent music complimenting perfectly the even darker humour and imagery of director Tim Burton. 

Batman Forever and Batman and Robin, contained wonderfully supportive and inventive soundtracks from composer Elliot Goldenthal, but the movies paled in the brilliance of the Burton helmed movies which I think was mainly due to the direction of both the movies by Joel Schumacher, who attempted to bring comedy back into the storylines, but in the opinion of many failed to get the balance right. I think the Dark Knight trilogy from director Christopher Nolan, made the most impression upon audiences, and the scores by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard too have attracted the attention of many.  

What I loved about the music in the Nolan trilogy was that it is as shadowy and secretive as the central character, and it contained a proud and driving musical persona throughout. The music for the second movie in Nolan’s trio of movies, 

The Dark Knight, I thought stood out because of the tense and apprehensive tones that the composer employed, creating a simmering saucepan of water effect, which is on the edge all the time and threatening to boil over at any moment. The highlight cue within the score must be Like a dog chasing Cars, it’s a builder, and it enhances the action, gradually gathering momentum until the percussive elements become uncontrollable and usher in the driving strings and the tense sounding brass, it’s a great piece of scoring and has to it an almost Wagnerian sound and style to it, it is bold and grand, operatic and total consuming. The composition taking on more and more instrumentation as it continues to propel headlong all the time adding tension and excitement to the proceedings. James Newton Howard is credited alongside Zimmer for this but was it a collaboration in the true sense or was it a collaboration when each composer contributed certain cues, its hard to tell, as the style remains pretty constant throughout and it is a sound and a style that I for one associate with Zimmer as opposed to Newton Howard. The entire trilogy of scores are all brooding and unsettlingly dark, but when I have said in the past where are the themes, well, if you listen again like I have, they are there and hit all the right spots with precision timing and are like musical punchlines that are strategically placed to create the most impact and also become an integral component of each and every scene and also are well placed and masterful pieces that lead from one scene into another seamlessly.

 The score not only compliments Nolan’s set piece shots and punctuates the action as well as underlining and making the exciting chases even more frantic and affecting, but it also becomes an integral component of the film making process, at times elevating and creating even more drama. The sight of The Batman standing aloft and alone on a tall building surveying his domain is awesome enough but add to that the musical forebodding as conjured by Zimmer and Newton Howard and this is not only the stuff of cinematic memories but something that will live long in the minds of a generation. 

The Dark Knight Rises is the third in Nolan’s trilogy and Zimmer scored this on his own it seems as no other composer receives a credit. The final movie in this trilogy, I thought was possibly the most action packed, maybe not necessarily the best but that I suppose is a matter of personal taste. Zimmer’s score is superbly mysterious and ominous, but it also contains slithers of emotion that he layers throughout the work. Again, the music superbly supports, punctuates, and enhances, every scene, every line of dialogue, and every sequence, vibrantly lacing and weaving into the action being played out on screen and also becoming an extension of the emotions of the central figures It at times becomes harsh and jagged but also possesses the sensitivity that is required at key moments within the film’s storyline.

The scores are ominous and relentless, as are the movies, which are a return to the darkness as originally imagined for the character. The way that the composer utilises voices within the score somehow gives the movie a softer and less aggressive feel, but this is something that many composers do for example when a scene is maybe violent and chaotic they score it in an emotive or serene way, the music being calming which in fact not only supports the sequence but has the ability to make the scene or the act of violence more impacting and thus become more memorable and affecting for the audience, because the music literally lulls them into a false sense of security. Zimmer is a master at layering, repeating, and building sounds and music to become an imposing force within any movie and has done this on many occasions to great effect. The cue Time, from the movie Inception is a perfect example. But in The Dark Knight Rises the composer seems to take this style of scoring to new levels, slowly building pieces and rekindling smouldering embers that gradually are fanned to grow into a ferocious and consuming inferno. This is displayed perfectly in the cue, Despair, Zimmer ushers in ominous and dark sounding brass that is underpinned with brooding and unsettling electronic support, the horns then become more of a background but remain a force within the composition, the darkness and the swirling synths and strings combine to become a driving and strident sounding piece, in which we hear fragments of a theme raising its head momentarily, and then it subsides until percussive elements take hold and bring both strings, horns and brass underlined by sharp stabs from the percussion alongside choral chanting until he sets a more defined course and brings into play a foreboding and virulent atmosphere.

Despair segues seamlessly into the cue Fear Will Find You, again Zimmer layering, building, and adding textures and colours to create dark and sinister sounds. Its, not something that I would listen to on a Sunday afternoon in the garden, but when the images of a Gotham city in turmoil and under attack are combined with Zimmer’s expressive and at the same time atonal shades and vibrant sounds it is in a word magnificent. This cue then moves into Why Do We Fall which is forthright, and action led, that mixes into the short but effective Death by Exile, which is the introduction to Imagine the Fire, another smouldering and action laced cue that is such an essential piece of the movie, without it the atmosphere and the mood that comes across would not be as taught and edgy. The final cue on the soundtrack release is Rise and it is the music played over what essentially is the end scenes of the film, and it is also an important part of the stories conclusion where everything seems to at last fall into place and we the audience think we know where it is heading, or do we? 

Batman as we all know also transferred well to animation, and the scores for many of these have been made available by La La Land records in the States, the labels Batman the animated Series volume three, is excellent, The four-disc set is impressive and powerful. It contains music from around twenty-three episodes or at least selections from these episodes, the opening is courtesy of Danny Elfman with his familiar and dark Batman theme setting the scene for the remainder of the four discs. Track two through to seven are taken from the episode entitled Robins Reckoning, these first tracks being the work of composer Carlos Rodriguez written for part one of the story and tracks eight through to fifteen are the work of composer Peter Tomashek for part two of the same tale. The first six cues in my opinion are in many ways similar to the sound that was achieved by Elman on the original movies as there is a certain sense of the operatic at times within the work but at the same time Rodriguez maintains a quirky but apprehensive and mischievous style similar to what Elfman had fashioned initially. This I think is mainly down to the orchestration, strings and brass playing a major part in the make-up of the score, with not only drama but hints of the romantic being included along the way. Sections nine through to fifteen are somewhat different in their sound and overall style although saying this composer Peter Tomashek does retain that air of mystery throughout that is tinged with urgency and underlined with driving strings that are supported by booming percussive elements and at times rasps from the brass section that seem to sneer and push their way into the proceedings, his approach however is removed slightly from both Rodriguez’s approach and Elfman’s original take with the composer producing an inventive and original work that although dark at times does towards the end of the score transform into a more heroic or courageous sounding work which for me any way works a treat. Track number sixteen is billed as a bonus track from Robins Reckoning, and is composed by Carlos Rodriguez, it has a kind of circus style to it but in a macabre and somewhat unsettling way. Tracks seventeen to twenty-three are the handiwork of the brilliantly talented Shirley Walker, taken from P.O.V. or Point of View and is one of the composer’s earliest contributions to the series, which is reflected in her score as she refers to the original Elfman theme during some of the action sequences, a trait that seemed to become less and less as the series progressed.

This is a powerful score from Walker, and one that contains so many of her own themes it literally oozes charisma and brilliance which is why she is considered still to be the foremost composer when it comes to the Batman animated series, P.O.V. is a return to a more traditional way of scoring, bold themes, a march, numerous motifs and highly exhilarating action cues with driving strings and tense sounding brass stabs that certainly get the adrenaline going.Above all Walker’s music entertains away from the images as well as working with them. There are another seven sections on the four-disc set credited to Shirley Walker and each one of them is a delight and pleasure to listen to. See No Evil, The Man who Killed Batman, The Forgotten Terror in the Sky, being among them.

 Let’s go back to Marvel for the next character, Spider-man, this is a series of films that has like Batman gone through various stages and had many lead actors assuming the Spidey persona on screen, some better than others it has to be said. Likewise, there have also been a few composers involved with the franchise, Danny Elman, Christopher Young, James Horner, Junkie XL, Hans Zimmer, Michael Giacchino, and Daniel Pemberton, have all put their own musical stamp upon the adventures of the crime fighter.

But, lets leave the musical side of things till later and look at the roots of this superhero, who swings from building to building fighting crime and upholding the law of the land. Spider-man creator Stan Lee wanted his character to deal with certain issues in both the outside world and his own personal life and therefore Lee decided that his central character should also be a teenager. Who after being bitten by a radioactive spider found that he had certain powers. Originally Lee’s publisher thought it was one of the worst ideas he had ever seen or heard, But, at the time there was an increase in the sale and demand of comics books to the adolescence market. Thus, Spider-man the comic book was born, and after a while soon established itself as a firm favourite for all ages. Which is something that it remained to do and went on to become one of the most in demand series of superhero tales in comic book form.    

 Originally Lee approached his long-time friend Jack Kirby, and asked him to come up with ideas as to how Spider-man would look, Kirby did so but Lee was not happy with what the artist had sketched, he wanted spiderman to be more like an ordinary looking person, and not a full on superhero. In the end Lee decided to ask artist Steve Ditko who was also working for Marvel at the time to design the character. After a few submissions Ditko came up with an image that Lee liked, and it was this that formed the look of the character that we still see today, and one that has become iconic. The heroic crime fighter has throughout his comic book and cinematic, animated life seen a few varying costumes, but for the most part they have been the red and blue spandex suit, that has the spider emblem on the chest, and not many have strayed far from Ditko’s original concept. It was in 1962 that Spider-man made his first appearance in the pages of a comic book.

Which was in the last issue of Amazing Fantasy, which was a series that had been cancelled.The story almost never got published as Lee’s publisher was still not convinced that Spiderman was something that people would want to read about. Lee however convinced him to run the story, saying it did not matter because it was going at the end of a comic book that had been cancelled and no one really cared either way. But, as it happened it transpired that the last issue of the series was to become a best seller, because of the inclusion of Spiderman. And it was because of its popularity from this one issue that Lee was asked to write an entire series featuring Spidey which was entitled The Amazing Spider-man. At times it looks like Spider-man has numerous iconic villains to battle, but in truth the hero has not one persistent archnemesis, apart maybe from the leader of The Sinister SixDoctor Octopus, who is widely regarded as one of the character’s more prominent enemies. But there are other lawbreakers such as the Green Goblin and Venom, who are thought of as the characters nemeses. So, the character of Spider-man has become one of the most popular from the Marvel stable and has also converted well to the big screen and TV. The character has appeared in so many animated TV shows and movies, that it is hard to keep track of them, these range from Spider-man and his amazing friends, through to Spectacular Spider-man right up to his more recent cartoon incarnations in the films Spider-man into the Spider Verse (2018) and Spiderman far from Home (2019). There have of course been several animated excursions for the webmaster, Spider-man the animated series, which ran from 1994 through to 1998, The Spectacular Spider-man (2008/2009) and the movie Spider-man Homecoming in 2017. Spiderman made his animated TV appearance on the ABC channel in the United States on a series entitled just Spider-man (1967-1970), the series became known mainly because of its low budget, but this did not stop it becoming popular and remaining on air for three years.

 It is surprising that after the success of the series that Spiderman seemed to disappear from the screens, and did not re-emerge until the 1980’s. When he re-appeared in a re-boot of the series briefly before being seen in the company of the likes characters such as Iceman from the X-Men series as well as new characters such as Firestar and Gwen or Spider Woman.Since those early days the character has featured and starred in Spidey devotees’ favourites such as Spectacular Spider-man, and The Ultimate Spider-man. With a new animated series announced entitled Marvel’s Spider-man. But it is probably the live action movies, that have created the most interest with cinema audiences and subsequent DVD sales and outings on streaming channels etc.


Each of the live action movies had a quality and attraction of their own and although all were Spider-man stories, each had an identity all of its own. Likewise, the musical scores were all different, even when a composer might reprise his duties on a sequel or prequel in the series. The first movie in the series was released in 2002 and directed by Sid Raimi, it contained a vibrant, pulsating, and highly rhythmic score from Danny Elfman, which from the off contained so many familiar nuances and quirks of orchestration that we all associate with Elfman’s composing fingerprint, to be honest it could have been another Batman score or even a revamp of the music Elfman penned for Darkman, but it still grabbed the attention of the watching audience and served the movie well. The score was certainly filled with offbeat quirks and off the wall musical experiments, the track Costume Montage sounding somewhat spaghetti western in places. The score was not all action led as Elfman displayed in the track Alone which was filled with a quiet sadness purveyed by strings and subdued woodwind. But in the main the first Spider-man outing on the big screen contained a full-on action score, filled to overflowing with over-the-top themes and some inventive orchestration and innovative writing and familiar Elfman trademarks. The composer returned to the scoring stage for Spider-man 2, and the music he created again was high flying and sweeping with just as many if not more of those familiar Elfman musical trademarks, but on this occasion the sound seemed even more grandiose with the composer utilising a greater brass section, lavish strings, booming percussion and creating more choral moments. The tense and dramatic sound that he achieved underlined and supported the web hurling crime fighter and also made for a good listening experience away from the images on screen.

 Spider-man 3, again starred Toby Maguire as Spidey, and was also helmed by filmmaker Sid Raimi, the music however was composed by renowned film music Maestro, Christopher Young, but it did also contain some of the themes that had been written by Danny Elfman for the first two moves in the franchise. Now Young had created iconic soundtracks for films such as the first two Hellraiser movies and had been active in the writing of film music for years. His Spider-man 3, score which was revered by collectors was at times condemned by certain critics, and because the movie was not as successful as it was anticipated at the box office, the music that Young penned was never to see the light of day as a commercial CD release. Instead, a song album was released and presented as the original soundtrack, the film company hoping to re-coup some revenue from the sales of the album. The composer issued a private pressing of his score, which contained fifteen cues and had a running time of just over an hour. Young’s atmospheric music is in my opinion probably the best Spider-man score written, grand and imposing, fearsome, dynamic, and dramatic it is a high powered and commanding work.

In the main it is a symphonic score but does contain some electronic or synthesised elements that act as support. Young combined powerful symphonic moments with choral performances and wildly relentless thematic material, which although scored for action scenes still contained an engaging and strong melodic content. It’s a funny thing every time I hear Young’s score for Spider-man 3, it evokes memories of Jerry Goldsmith, Chris Young kind of composes in a similar way, with big brass and driving strings for the action sequences, but he scores the quieter or more intimate scenes with poignant strings and woods and has the ability to fashion beautifully haunting melodies as did Goldsmith. His music from Spider-man 3 is like his many other soundtracks inventive and inspired, and within it one can hear glimpses of past Young scores and sounds and styles that the composer would employ in future projects, Spider-man 3 [jm1] [jm2]  is an underrated work and one that so deserves an official soundtrack release. Next in the series was The Amazing Spider-man (2012) which had a change in the lead actor, and a new director. Andrew Garfield became Spider-man, and the directorial role was taken on by Marc Webb, with the musical score duties falling to James Horner. As one would have expected, Horner created a large-scale score for the movie, but although it underlined, punctuated, and supported throughout, for me it still did not have to it the presence or indeed the inventiveness that we had experienced with both Elfman and Young. In many ways this was a conventional sounding superhero score if there is such a thing. But it was still bristling and bursting with that superhero sound, bold, sweeping, and energetic. Horner also brought melody to the proceedings which manifests itself in a more developed form in the track I Can’t See You Anymore, within which the composer utilises heart breaking piano solo that is enhanced by strings to purvey an emotional and affecting composition.

For The Amazing Spider-man the composer fashioned an original sounding score that was removed from the previous three movies, as in there is little reference to these within Horner’s work, and it’s striking that we cannot hear any of the composers trademarks that he always seemed to include in other soundtracks, yes we know instinctively its Horner, but it’s different and is possibly one of his better works in the latter part of his career. The End Titles are highly emotive and one of the composers most gracious and uplifting pieces that ends in a wonderfully lush way. The Amazing Spider-man 2, was possibly when the franchise hit rock bottom, musically speaking that is, with Zimmer, and Pharrell Williams having a hand in writing the score, as well as contributions from Junkie XL and the Magnificent six? This can be the problem with Zimmer he never seems to create a score by himself, or if he does it happens rarely in more recent assignments, is this because he can’t or is it because if it’s bad, he can blame someone else?

This score for me resembles a hotch potch of styles, that contains fuzzy and crashing elements that are grating and to be honest annoying, no wonder it is such a mix of unsuitable sounds and styles when you have more than nine people working on it. I will not even go any further because this score was, well not that good, it’s a work that should be forgotten as soon as possible, it makes me laugh, that Chris Young’s excellent Spider-man 3, was denied a release but this uninspired excuse for a soundtrack got more than one release with the various four million re mixes getting out there to the poor unsuspecting members of the public. Then in 2017 we got Spider-man-The Homecoming, music by Michael Giacchino, an ok movie with a relatively good score, Giacchino being no stranger to sci fi movies via his work on the reboot of the Star Trek films. The score for Homecoming was a symphonic one although it does rely on some electronic support, Giacchino fashioned an appealing and serviceable score that incorporated the original theme as used for the TV series many years before. Which worked wonderfully, even if it was a little cliched.

A year later an animated version of the Spiderman story hit the cinema screens, Spider-Man- Into the Spider Verse, was an interesting updating take on the story and character. British composer Daniel Pemberton provided the score for the film, and like many of his other scores was a fusion of styles, he is a composer who is difficult to categorise as his style never remains the same and he is always evolving and developing his musical sound and style. I enjoyed his efforts on this movie, some of the pieces were very quirky, but I think that is the attraction of this composer because of his undeniable talent and his unconventional approach to scoring movies and TV projects. For his foray into the Spiderman franchise his outlandish and unpredictable style paid off and it is undoubtably a score that people will return to many times once savoured.

In 2019 Michael Giacchino returned to scoring duties on Spider-man far from Home, again the composer created a grand sounding score, filled with urgent and frantic action led cues, a good soundtrack but not as entertaining as the composers work on his Spider-man Homecoming score. I felt that the composer conformed a little to the way in which other superhero movies were being scored, and it had hints of the likes of Silvestri, Williams and even John Ottman within it, whereas it would have been nice to hear a little more of Giacchino as I know he is in there somewhere.

From the wall crawling, web leaping, spandex clad crime fighter, lets head into the territory of the superhero that is the figure many associate with being the supreme superhero. (no not Banana man) Superman, alias Clark Kent, Kalel, or Christopher Reeve, (sorry he will always be Superman). The origins of Superman were that he came from the beleaguered planet Krypton, which was about to explode, he was put in a spaceship and sent into the safety of deep space by his parents and managed to escape the planet’s atmosphere just as it exploded. He then arrives on Earth and is adopted by the Kent’s who find the child after he crash lands.

The original story was the work of Jerry Siegel with illustrations courtesy of Joe Shuster the character appeared for the first time in Action Comics#1 in 1938. Then as more stories were written and put into comic book form the writer established and expanded the information on Superman, these details were about his home planet and how he received his superpowers etc, it also explored the central characters relationships with various other characters that popped up within the stories. The story has gone through many changes in its lifetime and been the subject of not just comic books but Radio broadcasts, television shows, serials, and a plethora of film adaptations, the story continues to evolve and being added to even now with each new cinematic adventure that is released. In the early days, the storylines were at times confusing and muddled when it came to the background of Superman, but as the story began to become more familiar and the character remained popular into the 1970’s and beyond, the continuity of the storylines also began to be clarified by writers and filmmakers, who took the basics from the original writer and illustrator as a foundation, and invariably built on this to suit the storyline of the movie or TV series that they were creating, often adapting it and altering it to suit current trends and tastes. Superman first appeared on screen in serial form after the second world war making his on screen debut in 1948 and then returning in 1950. The two serials each contained fifteen episodes or chapters actor Kirk Alyn took on the role of Superman and Noel Nielle was the love interest portraying Lois Lane. Spencer Gordon Bennett directed, but also shared the credit with filmmaker Thomas Carrin. These early episodes acted as inspiration for a movie, Superman and the Mole Men which was released in 1951, and starred George Reeves as the Man of Steel, with the role of Lois Lane being portrayed by Phyliss Coates. The movie, which was directed by Lee Sholem, was intended to act as something of a warmup act for a planned TV series The Adventures of Superman which hit small screens in 1952 and ran for six seasons through till 1958, the series also starred George Reeves in the central role.


The first two Christopher Reeve Superman movies are arguably the best from that period, with later instalments falling rather short of the mark and becoming ever more camper and comedy laden. Sadly, it was comedy that at times failed to make an impression upon audiences and the punchlines would often miss their target.

Maybe it was because the humour was more Americanised, and audiences outside of the States just did not get it. However, Superman (1978) and Superman ll (1980) were and still are movies that can easily be placed in the iconic category of film. The former being directed by Richard Donner, and the latter movie being helmed by Richard Lester and Donner also being involved but uncredited for his role. The scores for both were also popular with composer John William (who else) being enlisted to provide the score for the first movie and for the second outing composer conductor Ken Thorne would weave the central themes that Williams had fashioned for the man of steel into his soundtrack.

Thorne returned to score Superman 3,(1983), which like its predecessor was directed by Richard Lester, and in my opinion and don’t forget this is a personal take on the films, I felt that Lester was the downfall of the Superman franchise, others will disagree, but his movies were played for laughs, and I know there are no such things as superheroes, but these just seemed to fall apart with an over the top performance from Richard Prior, that I for one think is just, “stupid” and nowadays unwatchable. But there was always Christopher Reeve, and very much like his character Reeve was always there to save the day and the movie.

Superman iv, The Quest for Peace (1987) was the last in the series of the original Superman movies, and it did not fare much better than the Lester directed instalments, for this outing Sidney J Furie, took the directorial reins and musical duties were undertaken by Alexander Courage, who adapted the music of John Williams for the film as well as conducting the score.  

Its an interesting thing that in between Superman 3 and Superman iv, another Superhero made their debut on the silver screen and in full colour, Supergirl directed by Jeannot Szwarc, burst onto our screens. With actress Helen Slater fitting very nicely into her blue, red and yellow suit in the title role. Supergirl was Kara Zor-El, Superman’s cousin.

The film despite having Peter O Toole and Faye Dunaway in its cast failed to create much interest at the box office, and the only real super thing about the movie was the excellent score by Jerry Goldsmith, which contained a particularly stirring opening theme and a beautifully written theme that was used to support one of the Flying sequences.

Talking of excellent scores, I must mention the music for the Superman animated series, a lot of the music from these animated movies was released on the La la land compilation, entitled Superman the Animated series, (what else). Shirley Walker is featured on the compilation, Walker who is sadly missed provided the series about the Man of Steel with some robust and richly thematic material. Her spirited sounding opening theme for the series is also the opening cue for the compilation, with a proud and anthem like sound created by flyaway woodwind and timpani acting as a background to somewhat cautious sounding brass flourishes that are them-selves supported by driving strings and transform from slightly apprehensive into full blown and proud performances. In just over a minute Walker sets the scene perfectly for the adventures of this superhero. Composer Lolita Ritmanis also wrote scores for the series and is represented here with her music for The Last Son of Krypton which according to, John Takis (who penned the excellent sleeve notes for the compilation and also the Batman Animated collection)  was originally broadcast as a feature length movie, but is divided into three sections, the first part being scored by Ritmanis, who created a quite unrelenting score filled with action cues and a multitude of thematic material, in my opinion her style is not dissimilar to that of the late Elmer Bernstein, especially in the more action orientated passages and even at times within the quieter moments of the work as well.

Dark underlying strings laced with brass and percussion erupt into a more sustained onslaught if that is the right way to describe it that although essentially action music somehow remains melodic, Ritmanis at times echoes the Shirley Walker theme or at least fleeting references to it within her score, which also enlists the support of synthetic instrumentation. Part two of the story is scored by Michael McCuistion with part three being the work of Harvey B. Cohen. McCuistion penned a suitably poignant soundtrack for the coming-of-age section of the story where we see the young Kal-El taken in by his earth parents after crash landing near their farm in Smallville and then growing into the young Clark Kent, McCuistion’s score is an accomplished one that includes many variations and serves up so many musical styles, treats us to a particularly rousing Superman central theme where we see Clark learning to fly. These are scores that are pleasantly surprising, all are grand and have to them an epic style and sound they are crammed with action cues but also have to them their fair share of lighter moments that include compositions that ooze melancholy, romance, and emotion. It is also a showcase release that wonderfully highlights the importance of music in animated productions, that sometimes have their musical scores ignored, simply because they are animated movies and not live action affairs.

There have also been several spin-offs along the way the TV series Superboy for example, which ran from 1988 to 1992, was produced by Ilya and Alexander Salkind, who also produced the first three Christopher Reeves Superman films as well as Supergirl. The TV show starred John Haymes Newton as a young version of Clark Kent/Superman who is attending college. The series also features Stacy Haiduk as Superman’s love interest Lana Lang and Scott James Wells as Superman’s nemesis Lex Luthor.

Then in 1993, we were served up another TV series entitled Lois and Clark-The new adventures of Superman, which by all accounts was a surprise hit and ran for four seasons. It featured Dean Cain as Clark Kent and Terri Hatcher as Lois Lane. The series opens with Kent taking a new job at the Daily Bugle in the city of Metropolis. It is where he meets Lois Lane and falls in love, the series was more focused upon the relationship between Clark and Lois but did have some great action that included several new villains.

This paved the way for the Smallville series which aired in 2001 and was successful for a decade.  Tom Welling is the high school-aged version of Clark Kent living in Smallville. It became the longest running Superman TV series, with the Superman origin background being altered slightly for the series. Michael Rosenbaum takes on the role of Lex Luther who is also attending Smallville High with Clark, and other villains such as General Zod and Brainiac also pop up. Music for the 10 season series was the work of both Mark Snow and Louis Febre.

But now its back to the new generation of feature films as the Superman saga continues but gone are the comedic undertones as the Superhero gets serious. And with a more dark and serious tone also comes a much more driven and sombre sounding score at times. As tales of Superman entered a new cinema age, we would see something within the superhero that was not fully explored before and that is the emotion of the character as in Superman and his alias Clark Kent, also his human side would also be unearthed, and a darkness and a vulnerability also would rise to the surface. Hardened devotees to the character had mixed feelings about this change in direction, but surely better this way than down the road of cliched half comedic slanted failures, which surely would have happened if the franchise had continued the merry way it was going. Like Batman, Superman had come of age cinematically and had landed in the harsh and violent world that we live in or at least a version of it. And Batman and Superman would also face off against each other in this new filmic take on the Superhero who is arguably the most well-known crime fighter of all time. In 2006 Superman Returns was released, and it aimed to start where the series starring Christopher Reeve left off, however the film starts where Superman ll ended, and completely ignores three and four, (well maybe it’s a better judge of quality than many of us were). Thus, it is a little confusing for audiences, and does not make much sense as the story unfolds.

However, the movie did contain a great score by John Ottman (X Men Days of Future Past, X Men Apocalypse, Valkarie) who thankfully included the original John Williams theme within his score as well as writing some very impressive original action cues, as well as supplying the movie with emotional musical support. But the film is like someone had finished reading issue 1 and 2 of a Superman comic and then jumped to issue 38. Brandon Routh puts in a solid performance as Superman, who has returned to Earth after a five-year absence to find his arch enemy Lex Luthor played by Kevin Spacey plotting to kill him and destroy the United States to create his own continent that he can rule. Superman also must deal with problems in his love life, as Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) has moved on from him during his absence from Earth. Oh well, he should have called at least (oh sorry that’s ET isn’t it).

Man of Steel came next and was the first of what can be categorised as The DC new Universe, darker and more hard hitting the film starred Henry Cavill, who certainly made his own impression upon the character of the Superhero. The movie also had Russel Crowe as Superman’s birth Father Jor-el and Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as Clark Kent’s adoptive parents the Kent’s. After the death of his adopted Father Clark is consumed by grief and decides to travel the world to conceal his true-identity. But eventually he must accept who he is and become Superman once again to save the world from the evil Kryptonians who are led by the power mad General Zod portrayed by Michael Shannon.

The musical score is the work of Hans Zimmer, who also enlists the aid of Junkie XL, Nick Glennie Smith and Atli Orvarrson. It’s a score that at the time of the films release I must admit I did not like at all, but I think like many other film music collectors I had been slightly brainwashed (in a nice way) by the music of John Williams and that stirring theme that accompanied Superman on his many adventures. The music for Man of Steel is completely removed stylistically from anything that had supported and accompanied Superman previously. There are no marches as we know them, but instead the composers involved serve up an at times harsh and rather grating score it is shadowy and brooding in its overall persona, but it’s not all bad news for anyone who loves thematic film music, because there are a handful of cues that at least hint at a theme. But saying this, in the movie the music is brilliant, it supports, it heightens the atmosphere and creates sweeping and grand moods, plus it has a tender and touching side to it. On refection and after re-listening to this score I have to say it is not only serviceable but affecting. The cue Goodbye my Son being one of the soundtracks highlights with its use of female wordless voice choir and underlying strings, that bring a near celestial sound to the proceedings.

In 2015, Supergirl took to the skies once again, but this time on the small screen for the TV series, a series which is still running today. Kara Zor-El is Supergirl played by actress Melissa Benoist, and like her cousin Kalel was sent to earth when she was thirteen years of age, but unlike her cousin’s spaceship her vessel was knocked off course and is taken on a detour, through a phantom zone before it eventually arrives on earth. The consequence of this detour is that she is thrown twenty-four years into the future, where she discovers that her younger cousin is Superman.

Batman Vs Superman-Dawn of Justice was released in 2016, again the score was by Hans Zimmer who on this occasion collaborated with Junkie XL, the score for this movie was I think more developed and had to it a more melodic undertone. But saying this it also had the darkness that had manifested itself in Zimmer’s Batman Christopher Nolan scores and the power and drive of his previous Superman soundtrack.

Plus, it also contained some riveting and robust action music and a driving almost rock sound which weaved in and out of the soundtrack. Again, probably not a soundtrack to sit and listen to as just music although it has its moments in that department. This is a film score that serves the movie, supports the action enhances the images and creates atmospheres and moods wonderfully. The film focuses upon to of the most iconic superheroes, who on this occasion are pitted against each other, Batman seeing Superman as an alien interloper who needs to be stopped and Superman looking upon Batman as not an ally but an adversary because of his vigilante stance and sees him as just as threatening as the criminals that roam the streets. But as the two cloaked warriors engage in battle, they are unaware that Lex Luther, is developing a weapon that will be able to destroy them both.  The character of Superman I think will be with us for many years to come, and there is a new film in the works with plans for a black Superman.


We will return in a FLASH in episode three, to talk about more KICK ASS superheroes, a woman who is a wonder and and machines that were toys and both filmic and comic characters, and the musical scores that accompanied them all.




Ever thought about your favorite heroes on the big screen and where they came from, what were their beginnings and who created them in the first place. Well, many of the superheroes began life as characters in comics, or American comics as I used to call them back in the 1960’s when I first got a taste for them. Other characters were just a random individual within a story about a more prominent super-hero and would eventually become part of the establishment as time went on as either an ally or an enemy of that superhero. Then there were other characters that were the creation of an artist that began to become popular because they were featured daily in a newspaper, or in the funnies as they were referred to in the States. Whichever way it happened these characters have in recent years been elevated to super star status and have become live action incarnations on the cinema screen, and thanks to state-of-the-art special effects, are able to do exactly what they did in the various comics that they were originally featured in. Because of the popularity of comic characters such as Superman, Batman, Thor, Wonder Woman etc etc, maybe it would be better to focus initially upon lesser-known characters that have come to the cinema screen and the TV screen from the pages of a comic book. So where to start, well there is such a wealth of material that is a difficult question, so, I am going for.

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec, which made its appearance in a comic book back in 1976 and is still in circulation today, the character was committed to celluloid in 2010 by ground-breaking French filmmaker Luc Besson. The films that are made by Besson always seem to be either controversial or complex but saying this they are thought provoking and above all entertaining and exciting. The director’s movies have always had a strong link to comic books as in the style that they are conveyed in and the fashion in which he films them/ With classics like Leon and even more so The Fifth Element coming to mind, in fact Besson had comic book writers work on the production design for The Fifth Element, and I think you will agree it shows. It was not until 2010 however that the filmmaker dipped his toe into the waters and made a movie based upon a comic book character. Which came in the form of one of Jacques Tardi’s creations.

The French director remains faithful to the spirit and mostly the look of this long running serial, and it garnered him numerous positive reviews, in fact it was his most widely accepted and applauded film since Nikita (1990). The movie I felt was a fusion of Indiana Jones and maybe the haphazard and slapstick comedy of films such as The Mummy Returns, and I also have to say I thought it contained something of a comedy element that we normally associate with films such as those made by both Peter Sellers and Blake Edwards in the Pink Panther series or even the comedy purveyed by Lemmon and Falk in the Great Race, but it certainly had its moments and the leading lady, Louise Bourgoin who plays the title role is excellent and believable. It’s a rather enjoyable romp if you do not attempt to take it too seriously, and I think that’s the secret, watch it with an open mind and also be prepared for some rather unusual goings on.

Music for the movie was the work of French composer Eric Serra who has been a long-time collaborator with Besson. The score is a varied one with the composer enlisting both symphonic and synthetic elements to fashion the music and musical sounds, but nevertheless I for one have to say it is probably one of Serra’s better scores as it contains just about everything, including full throttle action cues, choral interludes, expansive passages and cheeky and mischievous pieces for woodwind and pizzicato strings that create a light and airy mood, there is even a banjo solo that sounds rather similar to the introduction to Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head, (just an observation) before it gets into the actual swing of things, overall the composer created a charming, at times lush and romantic work for the movie that is interspersed with 1920’s style performances on piano.

It is such an eclectic sounding work and one that is also enjoyable away from the images on screen. In the context of the movie the composers timing is impeccable, the music being robust and vibrant throughout, and it is the music at times that lifts and punctuates the action and the comedy. Certainly, worth checking out as in the movie and the score.

The Road to Perdition also started life as a comic book, it first saw light of day in 1998, and the original story spawned several spin offs. It was later given cinematic life by director Sam Mendes in 2002. The story for The Road to Perdition was also based upon a Japanese Manga series from the seventies entitled Lone Wolf and Cub, the combination of the two stories proved to be a winning one for the director. The author of the story was Max Allan Collins, whose original writings on the subject took it across decades and generations that started at the Depression in America through to the period after the Vietnam war.

The film however did not stray outside of the 1930’s. When watching the movie apart from the rain-soaked photography of Conrad Hall and shadowy characters one would not have a clue that this was once in the pages of a comic book or at least the beginnings of it were. Music was by Thomas Newman, who provided the movie with a stunning score. It starred Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law, Liam Aikin and Stanley Tucci.

Timecop, was also a comic book, maybe not an immensely popular one as it had a short run of just three issues, which began in 1992. Nevertheless, it was engaging enough to raise interest from filmmakers and was made into a movie in 1994, with director Peter Hyams helming it, it starred Jean Claude Van Damme, who was hot property at that time, and was surprisingly good in this. It was for all intents purposes a big movie at the time, with author Mark Verheiden providing the screenplay for the picture. It also extended its appeal when it was made into a TV series and a video game followed in 2007, however the sequel Timecop 2, was not so well received.

The musical score for Timecop was by trumpeter and synth programmer turned composer Mark Isham, who fashioned a pleasant enough soundtrack for the movie, and supported the action wonderfully throughout, with a symphonic/electronic work filled with tense strings and jagged brass stabs underlined by percussive elements that kept the momentum going. It is a more than serviceable score, with the composer heightening the action and creating tense atmospheres and moods. For me personally it evoked the style and presence of composer Jerry Goldsmith but it also contained many innovative and inventive moments.

Barb Wire, is a movie that if you mention the title raises a smile or two amongst movie buffs, or generates grimaces on the faces of many others, but was it that bad?  Based upon the dark horse comic series, the movie was not actually true to its comic roots, instead it was indeed more faithful to the storyline of the movie Casablanca, with Bogart’s character being replaced by the corset wearing Pamela Anderson in the title role. The backdrop of the films storyline however was different with the second world war staging being replaced with the scenario of an on going second American Civil war. So, Barb Wire was based upon a comic book series and characters, but also one could see its connections to Casablanca in the references and certain scenarios that had already manifested in the 1942 Classic film noir. With Anderson taking on the role of a club owner who decides to give refuge and assist her ex-partner Alex Hood played by Temuera Morrison and his wife who are attempting to escape to Canada.

The movie was panned by critics and audience alike, and for me focused more upon Miss Andersons ample assets rather than concentrating upon any feasible or convincing plot. It’s a movie that once seen that you would rather forget but saying this many including me have revisited it in recent years and found it not as grating or annoying. And to be fair Anderson did at least try and give a performance that in some ways mirrored that of Bogart in Casablanca even if not that convincingly, what she lacked in her acting skills she certainly made up for in the appearance department with lots of leather and high boots replacing Bogarts overcoat and hat, but Barb Wire is certainly not a movie that is remembered for anything indistinctly entertaining in many people’s eyes.

The movie had a rather banal title song which was performed by Tommy Lee who was Anderson’s partner (its not what you know etc applies here I think). And a video game version based on the movie soon followed. Released in 1996, the movie was directed by David Hogan (Life in a Basket and Most Wanted). With a rather limp and lacklustre script by Ilene Chaiken and Chuck Pfarrer. The movie attained its R or restricted rating in the U.S.A. because of its nudity and sexuality.

Michel Colombier.

The music was by Michel Colombier, who in the same year scored Foxfire and a decade previously had re-scored the Eddie Murphy movie The Golden Child replacing a score that had been written by John Barry. Barb Wire is definitely not one of the best adaptations of a comic book character to the cinema screen, but does this make the actual comic book creation any less thought of I am not sure, but the movie has since its appearance gained the status of being a cult movie, love it or hate it Barb and her antics are imprinted on our mind forever and are also here to stay.

Surrogates is another from comic book or graphic novel which ever you prefer to silver screen adaptation, but in this case, I think the cinema audiences that did go and see the film would have preferred that the story stayed firmly within the realms of printed matter. The comic book was first published back in 2005 and lasted for approx. a year, the film burst or should I say more like whimpered onto the cinema screen in 2009 and skulked off without leaving much of an impression at all. Many thought that with Bruce Willis involved it would have been a runaway success, but things do not always work out how one thinks they will. It is indeed a great pity that the movie was not accepted by audiences, because the director Jonathan Mostow made a fairly good job of it and for the most part kept true to the original notion behind the story from the graphic book by Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele firmly upfront.

The fact that Bruce Willis was given a ridiculously ill-fitting hairpiece for his role did not help and it was at times hard to take his performance seriously because of the focus that was being afforded on this wig. Willis plays an FBI agent Tom Greer who ventures out into the outside world where humans each have remotely controlled androids to do their everyday things, Greer is attempting to track down a murderer. The director did add elements to the storyline, because in the comic book the murderer only destroys the Surrogate or remotely controlled android. Whereas in the movie the killer sets about destroying both the Surrogate and its human controller. This is I have to say not a great movie but has its moments, however it is also not one that I would rush to re-visit anytime soon, but I suppose if there is nothing else to do one day soon, I might just dust it off.

One thing on the positive side about the film is that it does attempt to and to a certain degree succeeds in adding or expanding upon the original storyline.

Richard Marvin.

The music score is the work of Richard Marvin, who provided a more than atmospheric soundtrack, which had to a a scattering of dark and brooding themes, and surprisingly although the storyline was one that concentrated upon a futuristic dateline and also upon androids and a hi tec environment the composer utilised symphonic sounds more prominently within the score, with driving strings, female voice and percussion, which were supported by synthetic and electronic sounds. Marvin has also worked extensively on TV scores and composed the music for popular series such as Grimm, In Treatment, Without a Trace and more recently, Lincoln Rhyme Hunt for the Bone Collector. He also had success with his score for the WWll drama U-571 in 2000.

The next entry started out its life as an idea for a movie but was thought that it would not be a viable or worthwhile project by a handful of studios, because at the time the special effects that were required were thought not to be possible to achieve. However, undeterred the writer Chuck Pfarrer decided to present the story in the form of a graphic book, and in 1992 Virus was published by Dark Horse comics, it ran as a comic book for three years, and in 1999 director John Bruno took up the gauntlet and began work on turning the story into a feature film. By this time the special effects required were starting to become quite common place in movies, sadly things did not go well for the movie and it was a commercial and critical disaster.

With cast members even making critical remarks about the production. An American crew do deadly battle with an alien life form on a Russian ship that has been abandoned, maybe a little bit too much like Alien but a maritime version. Just a thought. There was one good thing to come out of the movie and that was the superb music penned by composer Joel McNeely, his score is supporting, and wonderfully melodic, it is certainly a case of the music being far superior to the film it was composed for, the score was released on a compact disc and it is always the superbly thematic end titles I head for when listening to this soundtrack, it is six minutes of gloriously anthemic music.  

A History of Violence (2005), is without a doubt a classic piece of cinema and that is because it is probably one of the best adaptations of a graphic book which appeared in 1997 to cinema screen that has ever been carried out although saying that writer Josh Olson did drastically alter the story to fit Cronenberg’s requests. It is without any contradiction a David Cronenberg masterpiece, but there again aren’t all his movies little masterpieces that are iconic pieces within the cinema history puzzle?

The comic book was a lengthy affair with the story being told in a flashback that went into the background of the central characters association with the mob. The movie however was more of a gradual progression and took the story on a step-by-step basis, with the central character of the film being altered from a childhood friend into the hero’s brother who is a ruthless and unforgiving mobster boss. Both characters are marvelous and each give something to the respective storylines both in the comic book and on screen.

Music is by Howard Shore, who else? Shore and Cronenberg have a long history of collaborating on movies, and it’s a partnership that can be likened to that of Leone and Morricone, or Hitchcock and Herrmann, Shore just gets what Cronenberg is trying to achieve and scores each movie accordingly, A History of Violence is no exception.  It is one of Shores more melodic but at the same time edgy and understated and unsettling works, with at times a gentle nod in the direction of John Barry via the breathy woods. It is a score that I would recommend you listen to if you have not heard it. Its majestic, dark and sinewy, but also contains real thematic properties.

I think that most people associate the likes of Batman, Spiderman, Superman, and other such heroes with the comic book, and to a degree yes, I suppose up until recently I did also. But as you have probably guessed on viewing the first few entries of this article that there are far many more characters to be explored and uncovered from the world of the graphic novel. Comic book characters began to adorn the silver screen over 70 years ago, and it is probably these characters that have become the basis for many feature films and TV productions over the years, so much so that maybe just maybe we have kind of forgotten where these characters began their lives.

Flash Gordon for example, I remember well going to the Saturday morning picture club at the Astoria cinema in the mid 1960’s as a kid and being served up episodic instalments of Flash Gordon, in glorious black and white, I watched wide eyed not knowing that Flash had been a comic book character before transferring to celluloid, the central character is the protagonist of a space opera adventure comic strip created by and originally drawn by Alex Raymond. It was first published in the January of 1934, the strip was inspired by the already established Buck Rogers adventure comic strip and also would be a rival to it in the coming years.

The Flash Gordon comic character has been the subject of many movies and TV projects, including an animated series and also a rather offbeat and over the top cinematic version which was released in the 1980’s and had songs by Queen on its soundtrack, whilst the score which was virtually ignored because of the success of the song score, was by Howard Blake. At the time of its release the movie was looked upon as a hammy comedy rather than a serious attempt to establish Flash as a hero to cinema audiences, but because the film is at times quite bad and also because of the involvement of Queen on the soundtrack the movie has since it’s initial release gathered a cult following. The latest version of the story was a Flash Gordon television series, that appeared on the Sci-Fi Channel in the United States in 2007–2008. The original serial film versions were produced in 1936 and four years later in 1940,

Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe, a serial of short episodes was released in cinemas, it starred Buster Crabbe, Carol Hughes, Charles B. Middleton, Frank Shannon, and Roland Drew. Also mention must now be made of Buck Rogers, another comic book hero who transferred well to the cinema screen in the early days, like Flash Gordon, the adventures of Rogers were filmed in serial form and shown each week in a programme alongside other movies.

Buck Rogers premiered in cinemas in 1939, three years after Flash Gordon, which was ironic as Buck Rogers was partly the inspiration for Flash Gordon, the series of short but exciting films also starred Buster Crabbe who was at times billed as Larry Crabbe, it was based upon the character in the novella Armageddon 2419 A.D which in turn crossed over into a comic strip character and began to appear in comic books and magazines as early as 1928, the character was created by Philip Francis Nowlan. The music for the serial was the work of a handful of composers, but not specifically written for the serial, it was stock music from the likes of Franz Waxman and Heinz Roemheld, which was placed on the film by musical director Charles Previn, which was the norm in those early days. But saying that, Flash Gordon which premiered in cinemas in 1936 three years previous did have some original score, that was used in conjunction with classical music, the original music being the work of Clifford Vaughan, who had sections of his music along with other stock music recycled for the score to Flash Gordon Goes to Mars in 1938.

Then in 1940,for Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe, the producers utilized more classical and stock and library cues which included, Les Preludes written by Franz Liszt which was used to enhance the main titles sequence and also popped up during the film, behind main title and throughout the serial. Other music cues used included, compositions by some well-known composers, The Sun Never Sets (1939)  music composed by Frank Skinner. Bombay Mail (1934) and Die Weifse Holle Vom Piz Palu (1929) by Heinz Roemheld, The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) by Franz Waxman and The Invisible Man from 1933 also by Roemheld. There was also a TV series that aired in 1954 of Flash Gordon, and this ran for over a year and comprised of thirty-one episodes, with Steve Holland taking on the central role. It was a US/German/French co production and had a theme by German composer Kurt Hueser and an incidental music score by Roger Roger, (no that’s not a typo). He was a composer and a performer and played on the soundtracks for other TV shows in the UK such as Dr Who and Adam Adamant lives. In fact, some of his compositions have been used recently in movies such as Hidden Figures, Blood Father, The Stepford Wives and Captain Underpants.

In the 1970’s a TV series appeared that was produced by the same team that created Battlestar Gallactica. In Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, we find a slight adaptation of the original story and Buck is a NASA astronaut William Rogers who has met with an unfortunate accident, and therefore his body is frozen in time. Many years pass and a team of scientists manage to revive him in 2491. The series began to air in the late summer of 1979 and was popular with viewers of the NBC network who also sold it to channels around the world, it continued to be a regular of Saturday evening entertainment in the UK until 1981. Producer Glen A Larson, also produced shows such as The Fall Guy and Quincy M.E.

Stu Phillips.

The musical score for the Buck Rogers series was credited to the composer Stu Phillips and it is certainly this composer that one thinks of when discussing the series or when hearing the music, it was also Phillips, who was responsible for creating the music for Battlestar Gallactica. But, as for Buck Rogers Phillips was not the only composer involved, Phillips only scored three episodes of Buck Rogers in its two seasons. The main composer for season one being Johnny Harris and additional scores being provided by veteran composer Les Baxter, JJ Johnson and Richard La Salle. The main composer for Season two was Bruce Broughton with additional work by Herbert Woods and John Cacavas. It’s funny that in the series they used a phone type instrument which was worn on the wrist like a watch on which they spoke to each other but also could see each other a bit like what we know as facetime. Or whatever the individual social media site calls it nowadays At the time we all thought wow wish we could do that, now its “Oh no not another facetime call”.

Original LP art work.

From Super-heroes and fighters of evil and saviours of the world to something a little lighter. Comic book characters do not have to don capes, wear a mask or even have super-human powers to be interesting you know! They can be actual comic characters. Some can use a catapult to do their work, others can just have lots of disposable cash and there was one that got famous by eating spinach and let us not forget a friendly little guy who just happened to be a ghost. So, Dennis the Menace, Richie Rich, Popeye, and Casper. The friendly ghost Casper, I think came to the big screen relatively late, as did Dennis and Richie, although all three had been the subject of animated shorts and films, the live action or maybe dead in the case of Casper all seemed to get filmed at around the same time. Its funny that Hollywood seems to go through fazes of what genres they are filming, and once one of these characters starts to get a live action version then everyone decides to start production on another four or five.  

So, let us go back a little way and focus on Popeye and the movie that starred Robin Williams in the title role. Released in 1980, it was directed by Robert Altman, and received mixed reviews most of which were less than positive, it was a musical comedy with a score and songs written by Harry Nilsson. The film just did not seem to sit right or have any kind of flow. There was an awkwardness about it, with much of the humour falling flat. Williams was brilliant as always but even with him and Altman on board this supposedly mirth filled maritime slanted adventure things did not go well, and one could hear the cries of women and children first as the movie began to take on water and then eventually sink.

The film which was a joint effort between Walt Disney, King Features, and Paramount cost 20 Million dollars to produce, and although it did make over 60 million at the box office, it is a movie that many would prefer to forget and is referred to as one of the many classic catastrophic flops in Hollywood history. It co-starred Shelley Duvall as Olive Oyl, with Paul J Smith as Bluto and Ray (My favourite Martian) Walston as Poopdeck Pappy. The characters of Popeye and Olive Oyl were both created in 1919, with Bluto being brought into the equation in 1932 by creator Elzie Crisler Segar. The original cartoons had always proved popular, and it was said that because Paramount lost out to Columbia pictures to bring Annie to the big screen, the studio rushed into the deal on Popeye to try and save face, which proved costly for them.

The character of Popeye initially found popularity in 1919, but it was not until 1929 that the character of the jaunty sailor was introduced into an already existing newspaper comic strip, the jolly joker Popeye gains what are likened to being super-human powers when he cracks open an ever handy can of spinach. Which I am sure you will agree inspired the saying “Eat your Greens”.  

So. the character and also his co-stars were already popular in comic strips and shorts for TV and cinema, before being transferred to live action big screen entertainment, and maybe that was the problem, audiences had become used to the animated version of the character on screen, and on seeing the live action incarnation were not impressed? The same I suppose can be said for Dennis the Menace, there are two Dennis’s, the Beano comic being the home of the British attitude riddled naughty schoolboy and the American version which appeared on the same day as the British character in an American daily newspaper. The British version of the character remained more of a popular comic character, but the American version of the ill-mannered, mischievous, lad after a successful TV outing became a big screen incarnation in 1993 and spawned too sequels. Based upon the Hank Ketcham comic strip of the same name. The first movie was helmed by filmmaker Nick Castle and written and co-produced by John Hughes (Home Alone) and distributed by Warner Bros. The American produced cinematic adventures of Dennis the Menace concern the chaotic life of a mischievous child, Dennis Mitchell portrayed by Mason Gamble. The character like his British counterpart wreaks havoc on many people but mostly in this version of the story his neighbour George Wilson played wonderfully by Walter Matthau, Dennis usually hangs out with his friends Joey and Margaret Wade, and is followed everywhere by his dog, Ruff.

The movie featured a cameo appearance by Jeannie Russell who was a cast member on the original television show (1959). Despite negative reviews from critics, it still proved to be mildly popular at the box office. A direct-to-video sequel called Dennis the Menace Strikes Again was released in 1998 without the cast from the first movie. Another direct-to-video sequel called A Dennis the Menace Christmas was released in 2007 with a different cast from both the first and second films, it was a case of the films becoming weaker as the series progressed, very much like the Home Alone movies, with the gags becoming less funny and the scenarios also getting silly rather than entertaining. The British version of the character remained one of the main stays of the Beano comic, plus there were several animated shorts produced which were shown on British TV.

Dennis alla’ Gt Britain first made his appearance in 1951 and at times was accompanied by his dog Gnasher, his trademark being his bright red sweater which had black horizontal stripes and at times a catapult being his weapon of choice.  But the British Dennis has yet to make his debut on the big screen.

The music for the first Dennis the Menace movie in America was written by Jerry Goldsmith, it is not in my opinion one of the composers best works, as I also think he never did particularly well when scoring comedy, but it is serviceable and does have some nice moments. To a character now that Dennis probably would have loved to have met just to terrorize him, or take his pocket money.  

The poor little rich boy Richie Rich. The character first appeared in 1953, in Harvey Comics in the U.S.A. Created by Alfred Harvey and Warren Kremer, Richie, is the only child of extremely wealthy parents and portrayed as the worlds richest kid.  The character appeared in his own Saturday morning animated series in 1980 and then in the 1990’s two feature length films were produced, the first was released in theatres in 1994 entitled Richie Rich and starring Macaulay Culkin which bombed at the box office not even taking as much as it cost to produce.

The second was a straight to video movie, Richie Rich’s Christmas Wish, which was even greater disaster with Culkin not returning in the title role, instead this being taken up by David Gallagher, who had previously featured in movies such as Look Who’s Talking Too.

So, Moving swiftly on, and to Casper, The friendly Ghost. This amiable character was originally created during the late 1930’s by Seymour Reit who put together the idea of the stories around the character, and then teamed up with Joe Oriolo who provided the now iconic illustrations. It was originally supposed to be the foundation for a children’s storybook in 1939, but when the idea was pitched there was no or at least little interest in it.

However, whilst Reit was away on active service in WWll, Oriolo decided to accept an offer to purchase the rights from Paramount Pictures for whom he worked for on occasion previously. Six years later The Friendly Ghost a cartoon that featured Casper appeared, it was somewhat different from the original story as envisaged by Reit and Oriolo, Casper is in the cartoon a cute ghost-like boy who speaks with a New Yorker accent, he is different from other phantoms as he prefers to make friends with people rather than scare them, but sadly animals and others do not see the cute side of Casper and run away when ever he introduces himself. Casper becomes sad and decides to commit suicide by laying on the train tracks, but he is forgetting that he is already dead. But then he meets two children who befriend him and take him to their house, their Mother is at first a little scared but soon warms to him and even sends him into town with her children after realising that he is a friendly ghost. Casper reappeared in other cartoons, but his appearance was to alter from an obese looking child to a slimmer more streamlined figure in later productions, Casper became one of the most popular commodities from  Paramount’s Famous films studio.  

The cartoon series also boasted a catchy title song which was the work of Jerry Livingston and Mack David. By 1955, however, composer Winston Sharples was commissioned to write a whole new instrumental theme for Casper’s cartoon escapades. The story or stories involving the friendly ghost were too become even more popular, and a series of animated shorts were soon on TV and also in cinemas, Casper’s popularity endured down the generations, and is still popular today. In the 1990.s there were feature films that starred Casper, the most notable being the movie directed by, Brad Siberling, and starring Bill Pullman, Eric Idle, Christina Ricci and Cathy Moriarty, the story focuses upon a teenager Kat (Ricci) who has recently lost her Mother and moves to an old mansion house her Father Dr. James Harvey (Pullman) who is an afterlife therapist. They move to the house so the doctor can carry out tests to see what is haunting the place, on the instruction of the villain of the piece Carrigan (Moriarty) and her partner/dogs body Dibs (Idle).

Shortly after moving in Kat and her father meet a friendly ghost called Casper, and a trio of not so friendly ghosts who are Casper’s uncles, Stretch, Fatso, and Stinkie, who are the three spirits responsible scaring everyone that enters the building.

The movie has a surprisingly clever screenplay which deals with the subject of loss with sensitivity, as in Casper’s Mother and Kats Mother, which brings the girl and her Ghost friend closer together and as their friendship grow’s we see the similarities between both. It is a touching and emotive movie, and although aimed at the younger audience is also pleasing and entertaining for all ages. The musical score is the work of Hollywood giant the late James Horner, who provided the movie with a soundtrack that was not short of the dramatic and even the madcap, bit also oozed poignancy and was filled with lilting and memorable themes.

Casper’s Lullaby being one of the composers most heartrending melodies for film, the theme which Horner utilised for Casper, ran throughout the movie and added a fragility and delicate air to the proceedings. Richly symphonic, heartbreakingly affecting and a comedic joy because the composers timing for the more humorous scenes is impeccable. The movie itself had mixed reviews but was praised for its faithfulness to the original character of Casper and its soundtrack but criticised for dark humour in what was conceived to be a children’s story.

Although a popular character from the pages of a comic book, the original live action film from 1995, failed to generate enough interest for more features to receive a theatrical release, but there were some interesting sequels which went straight to video or DVD, Casper a spirited beginning (1997), Casper meets Wendy (1998), Casper’s Haunted Christmas (2000) and Casper’s Scare School (2006).

From the light-hearted and funny side of the comic characters who have made it to the silver screen, lets once again dip into the world of superheroes, anti-heroes, villains and the unusual.

In late 1992 a group of artists that were working for Marvel began to become disgruntled at the way that they were being treated.  And the way that Marvel were exploiting their artwork, consequently these artists parted company with Marvel and set up Image comics, this was a company that allowed each individual artist to retain the rights to their creations. One of their original creations SPAWN would prove to be one of their most popular. Spawn creator Todd McFarlane also was responsible for creating the striking art-work for Marvels Spiderman. SPAWN is a CIA agent who has met his end by being murdered, but he makes a pact and a deal with a demon called Malebolgia and returns to earth as an immortal being. Initially Spawn was a good guy fighting crime wherever he could, but as the stories develop and progress the character becomes increasingly dark and malevolent.  

Sliding into an anti-hero persona, and as he did so, so the story lines also altered and became more twisted and a lot shadier.  In the late 1990’s there was an HBO animated series for television, which was applauded and won awards, however the big screen version of the story which starred Michael Jai White, was not received as well.  Released in 1997, it was directed by Mark A.Z. Dippe, and featured Martin Sheen, Nicol Williamson, and John Leguizamo. But even having good actors onboard was not enough to save this and the movie just seemed to fade away. The soundtrack was made up of a variety of grime and rock songs by the likes of Prodigy and Marylin Manson and had an original score by composer Graham Revell who was born in New Zealand in 1955,

He was graduated from The University of Auckland with degrees in economics and politics. A classically trained pianist and French horn player, he worked as a regional planner in Australia and Indonesia and as an orderly in an Australian psychiatric hospital. Revell was a member of SPK, a 1970’s Industrial music group, for which he performed keyboards and percussion. “In Flagrante Delicto” which was one of their single releases became the foundation for his debut film score which was for the movie Dead Calm and won him an Australian Film Industry award. Since this he has worked on several film scores, which have been big box office draws such as The Craft, Sin City, The Crow, The Saint, and Chinese Box amongst them.

His music for Spawn is created via electronic elements and is at times as harsh and crashing as the songs on the soundtrack. But totally supports the action on screen, it is a case of film music being just that and doing a job enhancing and underlining situations, scenarios and sequences, rather than being a collection of nice tunes to listen to on a sunny afternoon. The score is dark, and vituperative sounding, and at times contains a real sense of foreboding, but its not one for the feint hearted as there are many crashing and chaotic sounding passages.

The Japanese Manga series, Old Boy has inspired the production of two movies thus far, the original stories were the work of Garon Tsuchiya and Nobuaki Minegishi appearing in comic book form in 1996 and staying in circulation until 1998. There are however many differences between the Manga and the live action versions. Although the foundation is the same, we find that in the Manga original the central figure is imprisoned for ten years, but in the first live action movie from 2003 directed by Park Chan-Wook, this increases to fifteen years, and then in director Spike Lee’s adaptation from 2013 this increases again to twenty years. The 2003 adaptation there is a more apparent dark element, but in the original manga there are no deaths until the film reaches its climax. Plus, there is no mention of the Hammer fight in the original, but has been added to the 2003 movie, and filmed in such a way that one would automatically think it was taken straight out of a comic book environment and placed into live action. The Park Chan-Wook film too includes a plot that has at its core incest, but again this does not materialise in the original Manga. Music for the 2003 production was the work of three composers, Jisoo Lee, Choi Seung-Hyun and Yeong-Wook Jo, which was a fusion of styles ranging from romantically and dramatically symphonic to electronic and upbeat synthetic pieces. The score for the 2013 movie was by Spanish Maestro Roque Banos, which was a vastly different take for a movie based upon the same elements, the composer created a dark and brooding work that although contained some conventional instrumentation was largely an electronically fashioned work but saying this still retained a melodic foundation.

Swamp Thing, first made his appearance in comic book form back in the 1970’s and since then has also appeared in five American comic book series to date, which included a number of specials. The character also crossed over into other DC comics and became popular right from the start. The popularity of the character endured throughout the 1970’s and also into the 1980’s, when Alan Moore, Stephen Bissette and John Totleben, collaborated on the comic series. The series of comic books garnered Awards but also generated criticism from some.

However, in the ensuing years Swamp Thing comics sales declined and struggled to recover from low sales, which then had a knock-on effect with various re-boots and series being cancelled.  Director Wes Craven, was responsible for transferring Swamp Thing from the pages of a comic book to the cinema screen, released in 1982, Cravens take on the story starred Louis Jordan, and had a score by American composer Harry Manfredini.

The film came in for a lot of negative criticism but has since its initial release became something of a cult movie. Then came Return of The Swamp Thing, which was directed by Jim Wynorski, and had a music score by the director’s long-time collaborator and friend Chuck Cirino, now personally I prefer this score to the original movie, for me it has far more appeal, but there again I have always enjoyed most things that Cirino has done.

He works on mainly low budget movies but his scores are in no way budget sounding, and Return of the Swamp Thing is no exception, it’s a great listen, and also a score I have returned to many times, the track Love in The Swamp sounds somewhat out of place for this type of movie, but it’s a delight when you first discover it and subsequently repeat playing it, its tender, emotive and delicate. The movie too is quite appealing even if it does at times lack finesse, but I am sure we can forgive it seeing as the budget was so small and the there is always the score for us to fall back on.  It’s a rather tongue in cheek version of the story, with the weed covered creature falling head over heels in love with the rather attractive daughter of Dr. Arcane, played by Heather Lockyer. Swamp Thing decides that she needs rescuing from her own Father and all sorts of malarkey ensues. All good fun though. Cirino’s score is a sheer delight as the composer also throws a spaghetti western vibe into the mix, which is brilliant.  


TUNE IN SOON TO MMI FOR THE NEXT THRILLING EPISODE…When you will believe a man can fly, and Holy film and tv score could this be the most annoying Television theme ever?