The mere idea of Tim Burton’s scrapped DC movie Superman Lives feels like a total fever dream. Based on the then-recent storyline “The Death of Superman,” Burton’s weird vision of The Man of Steel, based on a story by Kevin Smith, was days away from filming before it was canceled.
As it was about to be made, a lot of material from the film’s production has surfaced online, with a lot of it being broken down in the late Jon Schnepp’s excellent documentary The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened? This includes a lot of great concept art.
10 Tim Burton’s Initial Sketches
After hopping onto the project and having Smith’s script re-written by writer Wesley Strick, Burton did some rather…Tim Burton-y sketches that broke down his vision of the movie’s characters. These include the bodiless version of Brainiac, as well as the director’s nightmarish take on Doomsday.
Particularly of note is his version of Superman himself, who infamously was going to be played by Nicolas Cage. According to the man himself, Burton envisioned Superman as an outsider, with this Edward Scissorhands-esque sketch of The Man of Steel being indicative of that.
9 Sylvain Despretz’s Brainiac Ship
Artist Sylvain Despretz did a lot of really fascinating work for Superman Lives, with his varying takes on Brainiac’s skull-themed ship standing out. Though a different version ended up being chosen, this take is both haunting and intriguing.
The bizarre mix of natural biology and mechanical piping gives Brainiac’s ship a strange quality usually found in the work of H.R. Giger. Fun fact, Despretz’s mentor, famed French artist Jean “Moebius” Giraud, did some concept work for Ridley Scott’s Alien, a film in which Giger played a major role.
8 Jim Carson’s Fortress Of Solitude
Though a lot of attention has been paid to the artwork done for the various characters, especially Brainiac and Superman, not many fans pay attention to the work on the film’s locations, including this piece depicting The Fortress of Solitude. Most of the art fits with Tim Burton’s warped imagination, but Jim Carson’s take on Superman’s home away from home feels more natural.
The highlight of the piece is the Kryptonian rebirth matrix, which was the device that would have brought The Last Son of Krypton back to stop Brainiac’s evil scheme. The art is beautiful and naturalistic, giving fans a glimpse at what this version of The Fortress of Solitude could have looked like.
7 Superman Versus A Giant Spider By Tim Burgard
If stories about his antics during the pre-production of Superman Lives are to be believed, producer Jon Peters had some odd ideas. Among his bizarre demands for the film was that Superman had to do battle with a giant spider in the climax, with the writers giving this stipulation a good college try.
Drawn by Tim Burgard, the visual of Superman blasting a Godzilla-sized alien spider with his heat vision is actually fairly striking. It may have been a jarring concept, but no one can argue that it doesn’t look extremely impressive.
6 Erich Riglin’s Brainiac
Brainiac, the main villain of the movie, went through a number of passes that more often than not depicted him as a humanoid alien’s head on a robotic, spider-like body. Though other variations were fairly cartoonish, this version by Erich Riglin is far more terrifying.
Looking far more in line with Tim Burton’s style, the mechanics on display in Riglin’s art are incredibly impressive. Meanwhile, Brainiac’s true face does somewhat resemble the aliens from Burton’s movie Mars Attacks, though that may be a coincidence.
5 Steve Johnson’s Doomsday
Though Brainiac was the main villain of the film, Doomsday was the monster who killed Superman, both in the comics and in the movie. Whereas Burton’s take on the brutish monster had faces all over it, visual effects artist Steve Johnson’s take was more in line with the depiction of the character in the comics.
That said, Johnson’s Doomsday feels far more alien than the boney brute the comics had to offer, appearing more like a menacing fantasy creature with strange mechanics built into his arms. It actually looks very similar to the version that would later appear in a Superman-related film that got released, Zack Snyder’s Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice.
4 Mark Goerner’s Krypton
Unlike the colder, more sterile version of Krypton that was depicted in Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie, artist Mark Goerner’s version of Superman’s homeworld feels vibrant and colorful. Also, the planet’s more realistic look feels almost counteractive to Burton’s more German Expressionist style.
Honestly, this version of Krypton looks like something from a Star Wars movie, which would have set it apart from most versions of the planet. Though it may have been a good thing the movie was scrapped, the fact that fans never got to truly see this version of Krypton is a shame.
Based on what the writer himself has stated, Dan Gilroy’s rewrite of Superman Lives would have been more emotionally driven than prior drafts. One of the writer’s most interesting contributions to the script was the robot known as K.
Replacing the character of The Eradicator, who served a similar function in Kevin Smith’s draft, K was essentially a Kryptonian teddy bear designed by Jor-El to take care of Kal-El throughout his life, ultimately playing a role in his resurrection. Though the artist of this piece remains unknown, their work on what the character would have looked like is stunning.
2 Jacques Rey’s Tomb Of Superman
Much like in the comics, after Superman was beaten to death by Doomsday, his body was going to be placed in a special tomb, which served as a memorial of sorts. Artist Jacques Rey’s piece depicts a man and a little girl paying the tomb a visit.
The art is absolutely haunting, using the blend of light and shadow to fantastic effect. Though Rey’s vision of Superman’s tomb never saw the light of day, the piece is an interesting reminder of how Superman’s demise would have affected people.
1 Jack Johnson’s Daily Planet
A key component to the film was the romance between Clark Kent and Lois Lane, the latter of whom had not actually been cast prior to the film’s cancellation. Their love is front and center in this piece, which depicts them dancing together at a Christmas party hosted by The Daily Planet.
Jack Johnson gives fans a glimpse at what The Daily Planet was going to look like in Burton’s movie. It’s certainly a more romantic take on the place where Lois and Clark work than the more gritty Daily Planet audiences were used to, feeling similar to the work of artists like Norman Rockwell.
NEXT: Every Live-Action Movie Featuring Superman (Ranked By Metacritic)
West Side Story: Every Lead Actor (& Their Most Famous Role)
About The Author