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Bullet Dodged: What Burton’s Superman Would’ve Looked Like

Superman Lives seems too bad to be true, a bogeyman created to silence fans who complain about Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns. Alas, the nightmarish vision of Tim Burton, Jon Peters and a string of writers (most notably Kevin Smith) was nearly unleashed upon an unsuspecting world: Nicolas Cage was cast as the Man of Steel, costumes were created and Pittsburgh selected to double as Metropolis.

Kevin Spacey was approached for the role of Lex Luthor, a part he went on to play in Superman Returns. Courtney Cox was considered for Lois Lane while Chris Rock was set to portray Jimmy Olsen — hey, it was the mid-’90s. Even more terrifying is that Tim Allen was reportedly in talks to play Brainiac who, in at least one version of the script, fought polar bears at the Fortress of Solitude.

But in 1998 Warner Bros. pulled the brakes over financial concerns, Burton moved on to direct Sleepy Hollow, and disaster was averted. How’s that for a Halloween tale? Sure beats the one about the escaped killer with a hook for a hand!

Official images from the movie’s pre-production are rare — wonder why? — but just in time for All Hallow’s Eve, visual effects artist Steve Johnson has dusted off nearly two dozen test photos for what would’ve been Superman’s costume. You can check out some of them below, or visit Johnson’s Facebook page for the full gallery. Suddenly all the dickering about the belt and trunks in Superman Returns seems even sillier, doesn’t it?

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Comments

  • Justin

    One of the other many rumors I seem to recall from those dark days was that they were going to go with Electro-Blue Supes for the film. If that were the case, those costumes make a bit more sense. They’re still ugly, though.

  • Tomfitz1

    Reminds me of those days where Superman had that white and blue costume, with the “S” in the form of lightning. Didn’t he have blue skin then?

    That would’ve been cool, to have seen Burton’s version of Superman, come to screen.
    Maybe someday.

  • Superman

    Burton didn’t have full creative control.

    Now, he recently directed a film that grossed over one billion dollars. He could do anything he wants now.

    It’s too bad were not getting a Tim Burton directed Superman film with Richard Donner as a producer. We have to settle for a Zack “overrated” Synder directed Superman film with Christopher Nolan as a producer and David Goyer writing. I liked the Dark Knight and Blade, but the makers of those films should never work on a Superman film.

    I would take Tim Burton’s Superman over Zack Synder’s Superman any time.

  • http://twitter.com/just_dan Dan Helpingstine

    That’s really not nearly as bad as I expected it to be…granted, it’s not traditional Superman, but it could have been worse!

  • theotherguy

    Yea a gothed out angst ridden Superman sounds awesome.

  • ryan

    From what you described as Tim Burton’s plans for a Superman movie, that sounds terrible, but I would actually be interested in seeing the finished product.

    And, are people still complaining about the costume in Superman Returns? I actually like the movie- I can see what people don’t like about the movie, but, for me, there is more good than bad. However, there is nothing wrong with the costume. Stop complaining about the size of the logo, or the belt, or anything. It has everything a Superman costume should have. The more you complain about something like that, the more people think that something like this (the Tim Burton concept) is a good idea.

  • gnort

    I’ve read the Kevin Smith Superman Lives script (you can find it online if you search for it) and there was stuff after Supes is killed by Doomsday, he’s brought back to life and has no powers yet. So the metallic suit is the Kryptonian Eradicator formed over his body and duplicating his powers until they return. The reason that Superman had no powers post-death/return is that Lex Luthor launched a satellite with the help of Brainiac. This satellite is called The Shadowcaster or something like that that blocks out the yellow rays of our sun….the source of Superman’s power….while in battle with Doomsday.
    Smith’s version was ousted by Burton once he came on and was rewritten. The rewrites had the Doomsday brought by Brainiac to Earth thing, Superman’s death and resurrection, and the Eradicator, but Burton changed Brainiac from an alien a.i. with full constructed body to Brainiac’s head in a glass bubble floating over a black pyramid (????). Another thing that wasn’t in Smith’s version BUT WAS ADDED by Burton’s writer was that Lex and Brainiac merge together to become….”snicker”……..LEXIAC!!! LOL!
    If you search “Superman Lives concept art” on Google Images or something you can find all this stuff.

  • gnort

    One more thing: Superman doesn’t need a body armor suit. The guy’s bulletproof himself and it’d kind of defeat the thing of wearing the suit beneath his Clark Kent street clothes. Just a thin latex suit will suffice. NO BODY ARMOR! ;)

  • gnort

    I think they look like Tim Burton was trying to do Studio 54 circa 1975 Superman! ;D

  • http://twitter.com/jhota42 James J. Reaves III

    Tim Allen as Brainiac fighting polar bears sounds AWESOME.

  • http://twitter.com/drunkjack00 Jack Derunk

    I like many of Tim Burton’s films, but his ideas for this one and his attitude towards comics (“Anyone who knows me knows I would never read a comic book.” Yeah, well, maybe you should you self important overly serious douche) is not something I like to think about.

  • Sageshinigami

    You should really go look up what Tim Burton’s opinion of Superman and exactly how he wanted it to be done is.

  • Anonymous

    The rumor I’d heard was that Warner’s execs saw the test footage of Cage with Edward Scissorhands hair and goth make-up with the plastic suit on and they baled on the project even though the costumes had been made, the sets constructed and despite Cage’s and Burton’s pay-or-play contracts. Tim Burton, I think on the Howard Stern show, said, “I made that movie. I just forgot to film it.” It came that close to happening.

  • Captaineach

    Why there’s always that need to change for a movie what it worked on a comic book? Superman’s costume is one of the better known for those who are not into comics, even my 1 one year son would recognize Superman. Filmakers use your ego to make a terrific movie and leave the costume design alone.

  • http://khiaao.blogspot.com Khiaao

    Interesting…..

  • RAR

    Shiney!

  • JRC

    You know why there’s no innovation in comics? movies?

    What I’m saying, is how about we let 10 different directors make 10 different superman movies, and let ‘em do whatever they want.

  • multispaz

    You fan boys are such scared whiners!

    This is the litany of remarks frequently made about Superman.

    • Most of the time you complain Superman is so conservative.
    • He’s the big blue boy-scout.
    • Is he even relevant today?
    • He’s so traditional.
    • He’s a relic of an older time.
    • He makes no since in today’s contemporary world.
    • I wish he were more “bad ass”.
    • His values don’t make any sense anymore.
    • He needs a make-over.
    • He isn’t competitive with today’s super heroes.

    I agree some of the plot details sound truly truly horrible, but there seems to be no way to please an audience that can’t be pleased with innovation. That could be making Supes look like he might be from another planet or making Supes seem like he changes with the times. Good luck Snyder, you’re going to need if these girls are going to be there to review your work. This sounds like the recent whining about the Green Lantern’s costume.
    We hated Singer’s version because it was rerun that was probably encouraged by the Warner brothers. We’re rightly scared by Burton’s because it makes us think.

    “Look mom no more red shorts”.

  • Ledphloydgeuse

    Apparently we forget what a stink Burton made when he was attached to direct Batman after only making Pee Wee and Beetlejuice, not to mention his casting choice of Michael Keaton. Burton even got stink for making Michelle Phifer Catwoman and that turned out amazing. You cannot really even speculate what it may or may not have been with Superman considering the guy is pretty inconsistent as a filmmaker. All in all, I would’ve rather have seen a Burton attempt and failure than the mediocre, average, boring after the first 20 minutes, what-you-see-is-what-you-get, mundane product that Bryan Singer put out there.