On sale this week is "Batman: Gotham Knight," the latest release from Warner Bros.' DC Universe line of direct-to-DVD features based on the iconic DC Comics superheroes. Split into six chapters created by six different teams of writers, directors, animators, and composers, "Gotham Knight" bridges the gap between 2005's live-action "Batman Begins" and the forthcoming sequel, "The Dark Knight."
One composer was in attendance for the world premiere of "Batman: Gotham Knight" at last month's Wizard World Chicago, and that was Christopher Drake, who wrote the music for the "Have I Got A Story For You" and "In Darkness Dwells" segments. A longtime fan of the Batman franchise and an avid CBR reader, Drake took some time out of his convention weekend to speak to us about what he thought of working with the caped crusader.
CBR: Not every creator at the "Batman: Gotham Knight" screening seems to be excited, but you seem to be really fired up for this premiere.
Christopher Drake: I haven't worked on a theatrical film yet, so the stuff I've done has been direct to video or on television, where you don't really get to view it with an audience. So I'm really stoked to kind of like hang out in the back and see people react to it. It should be a lot of fun. Visually, ["Gotham Knight"] is like you've never seen Batman before. Really beautiful. Really beautiful stuff.
You've handled two separate segments. Did you approach them differently? Did you collaborate with the other composers?
This is how it was -- there are six segments, and three composers that worked on it. Each of us did two segments. The other composers are Kevin Nancy who did "Justice League: New Frontier" and Rob Carl who has done some stuff for "Angel." I'm not too sure how we were assigned our segments, but I can tell you that we were all sort of sequestered from each other. There was no cross-pollination, there was no sharing of ideas. The point was to have the music be as unique in each segment as the art was, as the design was. So we were kind of let loose to bring our own musical voice to it. The first time we heard each other's music was when Kevin edited for the end title. We all presented kind of a theme. There's Rob's theme, there's Kevin's theme, there's my theme, and we all heard it for the first time. So we were all like, 'Wow!' It was like show-and-tell. We all talked about how we were inspired, and how we each wrote a completely different take. Which was the whole point, you know?
What do you think your reaction is going to be in the screening room when your music comes on for the first time?
I can't wait. I don't know, man. Like I said, this is my first time, and I got to say, as far as premiering something, you can't ask for a better crowd than a comic con crowd. I hope people lose their shit when this thing open up. Because, again, it's like nothing anybody has seen in Batman before. I was worried about the character. It was so open for interpretation. But they found a story.
You've worked on the animated Hellboy DVDs, so you've got a comic book background, and now you're working on "Batman: Gotham Knight." Are you a big Batman fan?
Some composers fall into a gig where they're not necessarily a fan. Some composers hate horror movies, but they're typecast as horror composers. For me, I'm a true fan. As a kid, I'd come home and watch Adam West. I had Neal Adams Batman artwork all over the place. As a boy, I loved the character. My mom would ask, "Where the hell are all the navy blue towels and safety pins?" They were awesome Batman capes.
It was a huge thrill for me and an honor [to work with producer Bruce Timm]. It was an honor to get that phone call that Bruce was a fan of my music because I did music for the Hellboy animated features. [A Warner Bros. executive] was trying to explain to me who Bruce Timm was and why he was important. She had no idea what a geek was on the other line of that call. I tried to be cool, "Oh, yeah, Batman anime? We should probably check that out." And then I hung up and just freaked out.
It is a true honor -- seriously -- to be a part, and contribute to something in Gotham City and be a part of another interpretation of Batman. It really is. I can't be more proud. And I'm honored to be a part of this show because it's so unique, so different and so beautiful just on a pure artistic level. The story is great but on a visual level, it's such a wicked thing. It's also an honor to be next to these other composers, Kevin Nancy and Rob Carl, because these guys are guys I have great respect for. I had to bring my A-game with those two here.
What was especially cool about working on the two segments you were assigned -- "In Darkness Dwells," and "Have I Got a Story for You?"
If anyone knows me, they know there are two things I love -- Batman and monsters. Most composers have busts of Mozart, I have Bella Lugosi creature statues. In essence, the two stories I did were monster stories. In the first one, it's these children interpreting Batman, they're seeing him as being monstrous. He's Batman, you don't see him, he's in the shadows -- I got to write really scary horror music. And the second one, "In Darkness Dwells," again, monster story -- Killer Croc, this big giant behemoth, and Scarecrow. A lot of scary, atonal avant-garde music. I loved it. If I had to choose the two segments, I would have chosen these two. They were tailor made for me. I don't know if they flipped a coin, or if Bruce chose them for me.
Was there any competition between you and the other composers on this project?
It's a total respect. You have to realize that the whole point, each segment is so unique and so different -- that's the whole purpose. We brought our own thing. When we heard our music, it was like show-and-tell. It was like alternate universe versions of stuff that we wrote. It's interesting because I think Rob and I came from the same place, as far as Batman is gothic, you have gothic idioms. Kevin's piece all takes place in India, so it's a lot of ethnic Indian music. It's all so unique. You've got Kevin playing Indian music, you've got me playing guitar and punk rock drums. It's all different. So there's no competition, we're all just serving our stories, and these are the best guys to have.
Tell us about your inspiration for your two segments.:
I didn't want to create my Batman theme and use it for both of my segments, because my segments are totally different. The first one, "Have I Got a Story for You," is point-of-view story with skater kids in Gotham, written by Josh Olson, and the second one that I did, the fourth segment, is "In Darkness Dwells," written by David Goyer. For that one specifically, because it was written by Goyer, and because it has characters and dialogue relating to "Batman Begins," specifically relating to Scarecrow -- I hated it when "Star Trek II" didn't have the same music as "Star Trek: The Motion Picture." And "Star Trek II" and "III" had the same music, and then "Star Trek IV" came out and had another composer. I'm passionate about Batman, and I'd like to have a deep continuity with it. So for "In Darkness Dwells," because it was Goyer, I said, okay, I'm going to write my own Batman theme, but for fans and for me, I want to have something that kind of echoes what was heard in the score for "Batman Begins." So I used a lot of synth and processed percussion. So I still brought my own voice and my own theme.
When I wrote the Batman theme, I used the tried-and-true music theory idea, "How many syllables is it in a hero's name?" For instance, John Williams' Superman theme was "du-na-naa!" -- three notes, "Su-per-man!" Batman is two syllables, "du-naaa!" That was the idea I had, and I built it all around those two notes for "In Darkness Dwells."
I mean, it's been a dream to work on Batman. In the beginning of "In Darkness Dwells," there's this intro into the city. It looks like "Blade Runner." It's a beautiful piece of animation. To get a chance to write music for something like that really is a dream come true.
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