Comic Con 2014 Highlights

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As another July comes to a close, I find myself once again coming down off the multi-day adrenaline rush that is San Diego Comic Con. This year, there were so many exciting events relating to my projects that there was no way for me to catch them all. Nevertheless, Comic Con 2014 was a memorable and thrilling experience, filled with revelations about my current projects and announcements of new ones. The most exciting event of the con for me was attending and performing at the world premiere of Outlander. Created by Ron Moore (BSG) and based on the global literary phenomenon by Diana Gabaldon, this series has enjoyed the support of a passionate fanbase for two decades. I am honored to be a part of the creative team that will bring this story to the screen. Walking down that red carpet and doing the interviews, I felt like we were all working on one of the biggest franchises out there.  The excitement was palpable.

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I performed a live concert of my original score before the premiere, in keeping with a tradition with Starz (I performed before the premiere of Da Vinci‘s Demons in Florence, and Black Sails at Comic Con 2013). For Outlander, I brought the shredding fiddle player, Paul Cartwright and the stunning vocalist, Raya Yarbrough. Both Paul and Raya have been with me for the long haul, having recorded frequently on my scores for Battlestar Galactica, The Walking Dead, Black Sails, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and many more. I knew that the audience would be in for a treat, experiencing their unique musicianship. Just to make sure the concert wasn’t too good, I put myself up there too, backing them up with accordion! ;)

The entire performance was captured on video and can be seen here, embedded below:

Paul and I came out first, playing three traditional Scottish folk tunes that will be featured prominently in the score: ”Loch Lomond,” “Clean Pease Strae” and “Comin’ Through the Rye.” Then, we performed one of my original themes for the show, the “Claire and Jamie Theme.” This is a theme that fans have speculated about ever since I was announced as the series’ composer, so I was thrilled to tell the Comic Con crowd they would be the first in the world to hear it.

Finally, I introduced Raya and we performed “The Skye Boat Song,” one of the most famous Scottish folk tunes, one that is known to be about the Jacobite uprising, during which Outlander takes place. The lyrics are taken from the lesser-known Robert Louis Stevenson text, with one alteration in the gender of the speaker, which helps the song relate to Claire’s character. I did not make any formal announcement about why Raya was singing that song, or how it would be featured. We just let it exist in the theater, sharing the euphoric experience with the crowd, who basked in every sonorous note that Raya created. The moment was truly magical.

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Photo courtesy of Aggressive Comix

That magic sparked again when the first episode actually screened moments later. After a brief prologue, introducing Claire, the audience suddenly heard Raya’s solo vocal wafting through the theater once more, this time as the Main Title Theme for the show. Sitting in the audience, I could feel their energy as they listened. The Outlander Main Title begins as the quietest Main Title I’ve ever composed, so I was prepared for a wave of well-intentioned applause to drown out the music. That did not occur. You could have heard a pin drop in that room, in between Raya’s subtle vocal phrases. The Main Title builds energy, until at last it bursts into a rousing march of Great Highland Bagpipes and signature Scottish snare drums. At the revelation of the title card, the audience finally erupted into applause. It was a 90-second communal orgasm.

Knowing that the rest of the world would be dying to hear and see this, Starz and Sony put the entire title sequence online!

I am very excited to announce that the Main Title will be available as a single on iTunes, and is currently already available for pre-order!

After the screening, I got to hang with the cast and crew, and had my first chance to meet and speak with Diana Gabaldon herself. I must say, I feel like she and I are creative kindred spirits and I very much look forward to continuing to explore this rich narrative world with her and the rest of the team.

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(L-R: Brendan McCreary, Raya Yarbrough, Toni Graphia, Ron Moore, Me, Diana Gabaldon)

The most unexpected surprise of the night was getting to hang out with my favorite band of pirates, Luke Arnold, Jessica Parker Kennedy and Zach McGowan from Black Sails. We talked about hurdy gurdies for a while, and about how intensely awesome Season Two will be. Seriously… you guys have no idea how insane it gets!

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Speaking of insane, I had an incredible experience at the panel for NBC’s highly-anticipated new DC Comic’s adaptation, Constantine, where executive producer David S. Goyer announced to the crowd that I am the series’ composer. Though I only jumped up on stage for ten seconds, it was incredible to see that huge ballroom filled with thousands of fans. Having grown up a comic book junkie, it is a tremendous honor to be able to provide the musical voice to John Constantine, who is one of the most unique hero / anti-heroes in the medium. Constantine actually marks my second foray into the DC Comics Universe, after FOX’s Human Target.

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Fans got to watch the newly-updated pilot episode in its entirety. Fortunately, the rest of us don’t have to wait until the show airs to hear my score in action. WB has posted the official music video of my “Constantine Theme,” cut by my long-time collaborator Kevin T. Porter.

This is probably one of the weirdest themes I’ve composed yet, and I hope it sets the right tone for fans who are eager to see Constantine on the screen again. His character is such a unique blend of darkness, comedy and attitude, and actor Matt Ryan just nails the depiction, so the bar for the score was raised pretty high. I hope you guys enjoy what I came up with!

Prior to Comic Con, I had teased fans that there would be more opportunities to hear my score than they could anticipate, and I know that was true. There are a few exciting projects that fans might have missed in all the madness.

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Lucky fans were treated to a full-episode screening of the chilling new BBC America series, Intruders, declared by Io9 to be one of the biggest winners of Comic Con 2014! I am honored to be a part of this exciting eight-episode event, that will hit the air next month. The cast is an absolute dream, and I have always admired the work of executive producer Glen Morgan (X-Files, Final Destination), especially because his series and films often featured brilliant scores by Shirley Walker over the years. Fans who saw the first episode heard what I think is my most jarring and unsettling score to date. Several musical instruments, including a grand piano, met their demise during the recording sessions for Intruders. The resultant sound is one I hope matches the series’ moody, dark atmosphere.

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For the third year in a row, I was honored to have a feature film presented in Hall H, after Knights of Badassdom and last year’s Europa Report. This year, director Joe Lynch and star Salma Hayek gave the world the first glimpse of our collaboration, Everly. The film, which debuts next year from the Weinstein Company, is a genre-bending savage action film with horror and comedy elements. My score features authentic Japanese instrumentation, intimate chamber orchestra, hardcore electronics and memorable vocal performances. This is one of the most daring and fucked-up films I’ve ever seen, yet it carries a strong narrative and memorable characters. I think director Joe Lynch has threaded the needle expertly and woven together disparate genres into a female-driven action film that all audiences will be thrilled (and disturbed) by.

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For a great write-up of the panel, and the footage that was screened, check out ScreenRant’s write up.

Everly was one of two features I scored that were presented at Comic Con this year, the other being the highly-anticipated Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie, the theatrical extension of the insanely popular web-series. I have been a fan of James Rolfe’s character for years, so I was thrilled to get work with him and his co-director / co-writer Kevin Finn.

AVGN(L-R: James Rolfe, Kevin Finn, Me & original theme composer Kyle Justin)

I can honestly say that my score for Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie is without doubt the most fun score I’ve ever produced. The music combines a full symphonic orchestra, heavy metal rhythm section and custom sampled synthesis from NES, Super Nintendo and SEGA Genesis hardware. For this score, I got to live out all my musical fantasies, combining influences from my favorite video games and film composers that inspired me when I was a kid. I also got to incorporate the iconic “Angry Video Game Nerd Theme Song,” and collaborate with its composer, Kyle Justin. 

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The film premiered in Hollywood last week, screened at Comic Con and Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal this weekend, and has a limited theatrical run throughout the summer. If you can snag tickets, I highly recommend you go see it with a crowd. This is a party movie. Otherwise, you can bring the madness home when the film is released digitally in September. I’m thrilled to also announce that my label Sparks & Shadows will be releasing my score, along with the film’s original songs by Young Beautiful in a Hurry, in the very near future.

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What else?  There was so much happening at Comic Con, I could hardly keep up with it all. Out on the floor, Outlander had a giant castle, while The Walking Dead erected a full-size replica of Terminus. One couldn’t take two steps without seeing something from TWD or a zombie prowling the streets. One of the highlights of the trip for me was getting to chat with Norman Reedus for a while. After working together on the same series for five years, we’d never actually met before! So, that was a blast. We’re in agreement that fans are not prepared for how intense the fifth season of The Walking Dead will be. And now I know I need to get a cool baseball cap too.

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I missed the Defiance panel this year, but fan response seems to have been amazing! Executive producer Kevin Murphy teased that fan-favorite Kenya will be returning to the series. With half a season left to go, I’ve loved following the fan response to this unique science fiction series as it rolls out.

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I was thrilled to see the updated Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. logos on the trains this year. I hadn’t seen this image before! The combination of the HYRDA and S.H.I.E.L.D. images says a lot about what we can expect this year. Just seeing this gets me pumped to dive back in. I saw the panel and it was incredible.

That’s about as much as I can recall, from my exhausted brain, of this whirlwind weekend. Thanks to all the fans for showing up, and especially to everybody who caught me to say hello or snag a picture. Since I spend so much of my time hunkered down in a solitary studio, these rare occasions when I can interact with fans and friends mean the world to me.  Thank you, everyone, for making this a memorable Comic Con.

My life isn’t settling down just yet, though. This Thursday, I will attend the first performance of my music at the legendary Hollywood Bowl, where my new suite of Battlestar Galactica, will be debuted under the expert direction of Gustavo Dudamel, featuring BSG alums Raya Yarbrough (vocals), Paul Cartwright (violin), Chris Bleth (woodwinds) and M.B. Gordy (taikos). I hope to see some of you there! So say we all!

-Bear