Tim Burton’s ‘Superman Lives’: More Images and Storyboards

Published 4 years ago by , Updated August 9th, 2013 at 12:26 am,

Of all the “What If…?” movie concepts that wound up being dumped into Hollywood’s proverbial landfill, Tim Burton’s Superman Lives might be the one I’m most fascinated by.

It’s not that I’m under any delusions that it would have been a faithful adaptation – I’m just unbelievably intrigued by what seems to be a total disregard for everything that came before it and how bold a revision Burton intended on giving the Superman mythology.

I still remember my reaction when I read that Burton was going to direct the film and that Nicolas Cage was going to play Clark Kent/Superman. I was actually a pretty big fan of Burton’s at the time and even I thought to myself: “Is Warner Bros. mad at Superman fans?” What other possible explanation could there be?

I still think such a radical departure from the source material was a questionable decision, but my curiosity over Superman Lives continues to grow nonetheless. Back in October, we received an incredibly detailed look at Superman’s costume from the film thanks to special effects legend, Steve Johnson.

A few days ago, Johnson posted even more photos of the costume and today he added a few storyboard images from Superman Lives as well.


Be sure to check out the rest of these images at Johnson’s incredible Facebook page.

As crazy as the Superman costume is, I do really like the design of the chest emblem. It seems to have carried over into some of that concept art from Superman Returns that Johnson shared last week. If he’s holding onto any photos of the costume completely assembled, I’m really hoping he decides to post them at some point.

As for those creature designs – given Burton’s obvious disregard for the comics (and the countless screenplays), it’s difficult to venture a guess as to which character that might be. Doomsday appeared in quite a few versions of the film, as did Brainiac. I believe at one point there was even a Lex Luthor/Brainiac hybrid called Lexiac. As divergent as these designs are, the one with all of the heads is still pretty creepy and cool.

It’s not hard to imagine this version of Superman grounding the franchise for another several years, but it still would have been wild to see. I think about something like Batman Returns and how it’s terrible as a Batman movie, but a pretty interesting Tim Burton film. There’s a lot to like, but only after you’ve made peace with the liberties it takes with the characters.

Might Superman Lives have been similar in that regard? Part of me thinks so – but the other part of me wonders why call it Superman at all when it’s so drastically different?

Still, I’m grateful for this brief glimpse at what might have been.

Source: Steve Johnson’s Facebook.

TAGS: Superman
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  1. I’ve read Smith’s script, it’s horrendous beyond all belief, but I kinda wish they had made it because it would have been great to watch while pissed or stoned.

    Why can’t anyone get Superman right??? Its all there in the comics, everything you need for a great movie franchise, but consistently directors and writers, Burton, Smith, Abrams, Singer, Goyer, Snyder, all seem to think they know better.

    And they don’t. They don’t know anything.

    • Sam, I knew you’d be first to post on this. lol. I think you musst be supes #1 fan. Question though. didn’t you say on a previous post that superman the movie is the greatest comic book movie of all time?

      • Yes I did and I stand by it. You’ll notice Donner is not on my list of suspects.

        So I shall rephrase; No one has got Superman right since 1978.

        • You did not like SR? I thought the suit and special effects were awesome, I just did not understand the story.

          • SR was a allegory for a gay man who once lived a straight life and is now trying to pick up the pieces after coming out of the closet.

            • Bystander…You do know that this type of humor (I only use that term to show you mercy) was only possibly, vaguely funny back in middle school. Now, it’s just…sad.

          • I very much like SR, it’s a thoughtful, melancholic film, great acting and effects, but something about it just didn’t quite capture the essence of Superman.

            • I think it was that awful storyline. If they would have just rebooted instead of the whole coming back after 7yrs to find he had a son and a nemesis that is still obsessed with real estate schemes. The acting was great. I really wish they would put Spacey back in as Luthor. The writing wasn’t bad and visually I thought it was great. The overall storyline was just kinda blah. A lot of people had a major problem with his suit but I had no problems what so ever. The color was a bit off but I have heard alot of people talking about his underwear. If you are paying that much attention to Superman’s Package then you need a break from comic books and you need to pick up a Playboy. Overall I would give it a 3 out of 5. It looses two points for not rebooting, no big bad guy, and dumb storyline.

            • Like CGI flying Superman, CGI flying Superman at end credits, and wished the would of used a more traditional suite.

            • Like CGI flying Superman, CGI flying Superman at end credits, and wished the would of used a more traditional suite. Please delete the duplicate below Vic.

          • @ Happyman: SR had a story? But I agree on the costume. It looked good.

    • @ DSB

      I think it’s because some of these directors and writers see themselves as being better than the original and current crop of comic book writers and artists.

      After all they work in motion pictures…lar..dee..da..da. Bunch of SNOBS some of them. :-)

      Their EGO tells them that they must put their own spin on it. The fact is they aren’t being original in their ill conceived creativity, because they aren’t adding to the mythos; they’re actually destroying everything that made these characters popular in the first place.

    • @ DSB

      I think it’s because some of these directors and writers see themselves as being better than the original and current crop of comic book writers and artists.

      After all they work in motion pictures…lar..dee..da..da. Bunch of SNOBS some of them. :-)

      Their EGO tells them that they must put their own spin on it. The fact is they aren’t being original in their ill conceived creativity, because they aren’t adding to the mythos; they’re actually destroying everything that made these characters popular in the first place.

      • Whoops! Two posts. Sorry must be my EGO at work. :-) Darn it!

      • You’re spot on there, and unfortuantely THAT is exactly what I think Snyder and Goyer are doing with The Man Of Steel.

  2. Monsters: Good.

    Shiny: BAD.

    • what about shiny monsters? does the aliens in the alien moves count? they do have the wet shiny look… just saying…

      on a side note, i hate everything burton does, he makes classic children fairy tales into something that i half way expect into turning out to be a snuff movie half way though…

      i went into blockbuster a while back, and walked right up to a life sized cut out of depp’s mad hatter… i sharted then and there…

      i hope burton never does another movie and instead moves back into his moms basement and is never heard of again… i cant be the only one that thinks that either…

      • I think you might be… I thought Alice in Wonderland ROCKED

        • Alice in Wonderland(2010) was a crappy movie

        • I didn’t like Alice at all. Burton’s had some good movies, but his specialty is animation IMO – Nightmare before Christmas (although I don’t think he directed it) and Corpse Bride are his best movies, and the short film Vincent is really good too. Edward Scissorhands, Batman 89, and Beetlejuice were all pretty good.

          He just needs to be barred from doing remakes, seriously barred (cases in point = Charlie and Chocolate Factory, Alice, Planet of the Apes)

          • I don’t think Charlie or Alice are remakes. Charlie was more likethe book than Willy. And Alice was a sequel to the original story

            • Yes it was.

  3. I actually liked both of the Burton Batman films, especially the first one. I am not, however, a canon stickler. This Superman stuff, on the other hand, is completely wrong for Supes. Although the creatures would be cool to see on the big screen.

    • I will always love Batman ’89. Batman Returns has its moments and it has a great score and cinematography. The thing that bothers me the most is how little screen time is devoted to Bats and how many unnecessary characters there are (*cough* Christopher Walken *cough*).

      Superman Lives sounds and looks so bizarre that I can’t help but be perversely curious.

      • Christopher Walken rocks!

        • He does, but Max Schreck was an extraneous character. I was a lot more interested in Batman, Catwoman, and the Penguin and every time that guy was on screen meant a better character was getting sidelined.

          Apparently one of the earlier versions of the script featured Harvey Dent (not Schreck) dealing with that whole power plant subplot. At the end, instead of being killed during the climax he would have been transformed into Two-Face.

          That might have been interesting.

          • Did you really want to see Billy Dee Williams as Two-Face?

            • Billy Dee Williams is awesome!!!

              If they had actually done the story like that, then Batman returns might have rivalled the 89 Batman as best Batman film, a character like Two Face in the hands of a deviant mind like Tim burton would have been a good watch..

              • @ Dr.SamBeckett

                I like Billy Dee Williams as a actor myself, he’s great. But still I can’t imagine what it would be like if he had become Two-Face in Batman Returns. Not to sound racist or anything, i just liked that purposed idea of him being scarred in the film instead of Max Shreck.To this day i still enjoy Batman Returns. Michelle Phieffer’s Catwoman, WOW,lol.

                • Williams is a great actor, but the way he portrayed Dent in the first movie was (IMO) way too cocky and arrogant. And Wally, I totally agree with you on Michelle Pfeiffer…

                  • Well, depending on the version of Dent your familiar with, he could be an arrogant individual, I think TDK got Harvey right and Two Face wrong.

                    I liked in the Animated Series, they made Harvey a schizophrenic BEFORE he had his accident, he was always hearing voices and seeing things, his alter ego dark side was already within him.

                    And yes, both you and Wally are right, Phieffer was HOT as Catwoman.

                    Batman Returns is far less of a Batman film than the first one, it is a Tim Burton movies set in Gotham, and its creepy and disturbing, Devito’s Penguin is a childhood memory that will frighten me till the day I die.

                    • DeVito as Arnold´s twin brother in Twins is far more frightening. :D

      • (*cough* Christopher Walken *cough*).

        LOL that’s classic.

        Outside of Nolans’ masterpieces, Burtons’ “Batman” ’89 is pretty cool.

  4. I loved both Burton Batman movies too. I liked actually seeing GOTHAM CITY.

    • @ pawn65

      Same here. I liked the setting of Gotham City myself. Nice & dark/gothic lookin. Like Batman:TAS afterwards. Even though it was around Christmas time, The city still looked as dark lookin in Batman Returns. Then disappointing it was all lightin up in Schumacher’s films.

  5. Hard to judge anything from these pics. That metallic suit looks like it could be cool though. It always disappointed me the way they didn’t put mush effort into Colossus metal skinin the xmen films.

  6. Its rare that we get to see this stuff when it concerns unproduced projects & I cant help but be curious about all the hard work/$$ that went into this!!
    So regardless of how weird, strange, different it was going to be I still wanted it made & I am grateful for the release of these images.
    I read the Kevin Smith script aswell & I got a muddled one too many cooks “lets stuff everything we can!!” vibe out of it.
    As for Nic Cage being Superman, I was all for it because in 1997-98 he was at the peak of his action hero phase(CON AIR, FACE OFF)
    If only they release a full (REAL) photo of Nic Cage in full costume.

  7. Yes folks, popular culture really dodged a bullet with this one! Yeeeech! Siegel and Shuster would have been throwing up in their graves if this abomination had been allowed to see daylight.

  8. When will people learn that Tim Burton is a horrible director and needs to be shot (preferably in the head, just cuz)? We really dodged a bullet on this one.

    • Just because you don’t like his movies doesn’t give you the right to spew such vile garbage.

    • Over-react much?

  9. I remember when all this was coming about,and the Supes movie kept getting pushed back. Seems that they kept putting it off long enough that Cage ultimately chose to do “Snake Eyes” which helped get the movie shelved — according to the newsstand rags at the time. I was a bit bummed. Now I’m terribly curious as to how it wouldv’e turned out.

  10. TheMadContradictor, you are pretty dead on. Burton isn’t as great as everyone believes. He really, really, really, needs to stop making movies.

    Anyways, the only thing that I’m disappointed with this whole “Superman Lives” project is that they wasted Kevin Smith’s time. I think he could have written a killer script, but from what I’ve read, the studio kept interfering, mainly “producer” Jon Peters. Peters was only looking for a profit, mainly in things like toys for kids, so Smith had to keep adding a lot of nonsense into the script to make Peters happy. Since Smith is a comic fan, I really think he would have done his best to make the movie properly.

    • I fail to see why a man who makes millions with every movie he directs should hang it up — just because some comic geeks think he should? My daughter and many of my friends love his films, even if I only find them so-so. Seeing that being as “great as everyone believes” is a subjective matter, I’d say his fan base wins this argument based on his success.

  11. It’s a little hard to judge from these pics what the finished product would have been, but yeah, it’s pretty easy to imagine given Burton’s track record the last 10 years.

    Not to defend the shiny / light-bright suit, but imagine if Batman Begins got shelved and later we saw picks of the tumbler as the batmobile – we’d all be saying that was dodging a bullet.

    Or even the engineering deck of the Enterprise in ST 2009 (I know that’s more of a stretch). Point is that reimagining an old piece of art is always a bad thing.

    • …that is “NOT always a bad thing”

      BTW – is that Jonathon Rys Meyers in the concept supes suit? his career must’ve been in the dumps to be reduced to a stand-in for the effects dept :)

      • Nah, in the immortal words of my dad, “A paycheck is a paycheck as long as it’s honestly earned.”

        JRM probably thought that beat a day of waiting tables.

  12. Burton is an excellent director. I love his movies. This movie had BIG HUGE F’N FAIL written on it from the get go. That suit is an abomination and it should be destroyed. Of course I wanted to bury my head in the sand from the word go when I first heard about this movie. Nick Cage as Superman? In the words of Kevin Spacey… WRONG!!!!!!!! That has to be the worst casting of any super hero ever. I love Nick Cage. Him as Ghostrider was an awesome pick and I can’t wait for the next one. But as Superman? I am so glad they never made this movie.

  13. Lost for words about these pictures. Only one i considered good is the very top one, presumably Brainiac? Rest are crap imo, and why would Superman need a armored costume other if its to protect him from Kryptonite? Only thing missing would be nipples that Schumacher would put on it. I enjoyed Batman Returns frankly. Both of Burton’s Batman films were great before WB let it go down hill. First film was the best & 2nd was a good sequel, reason i like it was it wasn’t really a direct sequel as most sequels are. And i loved the Batmobile chase scene where it leaves it side benders behind & drives thru a narrow opening between two buildings. I agree with Dr. SamBeckett partly, the first two Superman films were great & Singer had good intentions but mistakes were made. That’s the problem with Hollywood filmakers imo, its ethier the directors or the studios who don’t wanna be faithful to the character as much as possible. The way the character is, their origin, villains, etc.

  14. I think this would have been a cool a film and rendering of Superman…if it took place on Earth 4 or 6 or a different reality where Krypton did not explode.

  15. I’ve been waiting for a decent Superman movie since Superman II, Though I did Like Superman III, the first two movies were far better movies, Superman Returns was good in spots, like when the kid wasn’t on screen. Or Kate Bosworth for that matter. The suit had to grown on me for sure

    • @ Chris O’Connell

      Same here. Loved the first two Superman films. I know the effects were bad, but i think i liked Superman 4 little bit more than Superman 3. Lex seemed more serious in it at takin out Superman & even though he wasn’t in the comics i found Nuclear Man a good foe. With Radiation involved, he wasn’t exactly a clone of Superman. With some of the deleted scenes ive seen on the deluxe dvd, i thought the movie could of been better with some of the scenes included, but not all. Superman 3 with Richard Pryor who i like as a comedian & actor, but i couldn’t see that film being taken as serious as other others in the franchise.

      • As far Superman III goes it was nice to see Lana Lang as a love interest, it madde a for a different change of pace instead of Lois, no offense to Margot Kidder, Richard Pryor should have been left out of the movie, or maybe just needed to tone down the comedy a bit. The whole Super Computer thing at the end was I think a nod towards Brainiac, As for IV, I agree abotu Nuclear Man, that was original.

        • @ Chris O’Connell

          That’s what i liked about Superman 3. Clark goin back to Smallville to re-unite with his high-school sqeeze Lana Lang & was a nice break from Lois Lane. To this day, i couldn’t stand Margot Kidder’s Lois Lane. I read they thought about having Brainiac in the film, but i think the Salkinds were against the idea. the scene between Clark & Superman himself id liked to think it was Clark battling Bizarro even if it wasn’t. I like Superman 3, and after what i read online, id say Superman 4 was a flop cause the studios gambled with money sort of speak by makin both Superman 4 & that Sorry to say piece of crap Masters Of The Universe which i find a insult to the 80′s cartoon imo. Sorry for the langauge.

  16. I should have said the suit had to grow on me. lol.

  17. WOW

    Gayer than Joel Schumaker’s batsuits!

    Gayer than George Takeai on John Travolta’s private plane!


    Can’t they just use the friggen suit from the original film?
    Look at Alex Ross art, still works

    What’s with all the latex fettish crap with these costume designers?
    Most of these actors like Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gylan-whatever, Dan Craig, Gerard Butler, Hugh Jackman, all of them work with hollywood personal trainers (better known as the guys that get them on a mild GHB-anabolic steroid program to prepare for the film) that juice them up for action roles. That’s how-why they can gain 25-30 lbs. of lean muscle for a film role and then lose it as fast as they gained it. Do they really need f-ing rubber padding?

  18. meh

  19. Well, at least Burton recognized the desire of the movie-goer to see Superman battle a fantastic, super-powered villain. That is something we still really haven’t gotten to see.

    But yeah, this doesn’t look like the Superman we knew either. I do appreciate the concept though – it’s easy to visualize an alien that became a superhero on Earth to don an uniform that is otherworldly. But that is not the story of the Superman we read about. The Superman we know came to Earth, became ingrained into a simple American lifestyle, and essentially, became American. The blue, red, and white is representative of just how far he has come from being an alien immigrant. It’s a solid story – Superman IS the American dream.

    What this movie almost turned out to be was an alternate reality of Superman which might have been fun to see, but I still feel it’s better to get the story and character right to do justice to him. Superman comics HAVE endured over 70 years for a reason.

    • Yes, exactly. I’ve read that Burton really connected with the idea of Superman the alien. The outsider. Someone who didn’t feel like he fit in with the rest of the world. That’s obviously a recurring theme in a lot of his films.

      But it’s not really Superman. I mean, I can see how someone who hasn’t read the source material could take that idea and run with it but part of what makes Supes mythology so endearing is that it’s not just the Kents that adopt Kal-El, it’s Earth.

      I know he struggles with his identity here and there, but I think for the most part Superman considers himself one of us. And by extension, he becomes representative of something that the rest of us can aspire to. He speaks to the better person inside all of us.

      Superman is inherently optimistic about the human race and Burton seems to be inherently pessimistic about it. It was always a strange match.

      • Very succinctly put, Chris. I couldn’t agree more.

  20. the studio should revisit the script and remake as a film wholly unrelated to Superman – the alien outsider angle is good and to have a fight with a super/fantastical monster would be cool

  21. i heard an interview with nicholas cage several years ago. one of his reasons for not doing it was the movie studio wanted to make him more appealing to the youth….with hip and cool clothes, shorts as superman costume…they wanted to sell merchandise and over-commercialise superman. nic cage backed out, tim burton backed out..

    this is the same reason rob zombie didn’t make a new “CROW ” movie. he was approached to make one years ago, but he didn’t like their idea of a new crow. he wanted to go with someone older who lost a family, they wanted to go young and hip with some young hot actor..wouldn’t have been dark enough

  22. Yes this should of stayed out of the light. This movie sounded like a train wreck back in the day. That was back when Nick Cage was trying to get in any superhero movie he could. Yes we dodged a big bullet with this one and yes Superman IV was better than Superman III. I think what hurt SR was the CGI Superman flying around bad cgi and still didnt like the suite.

    • @ pawn65

      Glad im not the only who seemed liked Superman 4. Figured id be asked why i liked it by now lol.

    • bad CGI?

      Superman Returns is one of the best movies ever made

      there is almost nothing i didnt like about it

      • I love your passion Dennj, but I found there to be many flaws with Superman Returns.

        If you compare it with Superman: The Movie I & II then it hardly compares, Christopher Reeves is a funny, unique and charmingly awkward Clarke and a strong, vibrant, powerful Kal-El.
        The story structure and villains of the 2 films are crafted by master actors and each film a a wonderful sense of tongue in cheek gaga and actions mix.

        NOW Superman 3 & 4… compared with Superman Returns… Superman Returns might even win….

        But,I do not think it is a flawless movie. Brandon Routh, is more confident as Clarke than he is as Kal-El, spacey -who I always enjoy, seems to pitch his performance in the wrong direction and I think – obviously you do not – misses the mark completely on luthor. it was supposed to be a bit darker, but superman 3 had a dark Kal-el getting drunk and messed up of fake Kryptonite showing the damage a bad superman could inflict on the world, and how important it was to have him on side. Showed elements of Red Sun superman comics, it was a great element to the film. Returns had supermans son battle a pedophile.. thats not darkly superman, thats just scary rape.

        I had many issues with the films CGI and effects as well as basic plot points and costume.

        BUT! A bullet hitting his eyes was AMAZING, that may well be the greatest moment in superman film history. Super eyes.

  23. This looks like it would have been terrible.

  24. This is a awesome concept. Maybe it wasn’t right for a movie, yet it would make a very good alternate reality version Superman comicbook which has been done very successfully many times. Please respond with your agreement.

  25. LOL “Superman Lives” if greenlit would have been hideous.

  26. There comes a point where deviation from the base concept and look is so radical is does not embody the character anymore. This crossed that line in my opinion and might as well have been called “Stupendous Guy Lives!” because that would NOT have been Superman.

    If you want to make it that different, be original about it and make something NEW but for heaven sakes do not trash the original concept.

    • Agreed 100%. Well said.

  27. Somewhere. in a warehouse full of boxes (Raiders Style!) is that suit. And to be fair, with a cape it would have looked pretty cool. be a great Hallowe’en costume.

    • Cool? Absolutely. Superman? Absolutely not.

      Marvel learned this hard lesson when they attempted to turn Superman into “Mr. Electricity”. The public hated it for one reason…..it was NOT Superman. So why can’t people learn from others mistakes and why did this idea even get as far as a costume?! Marvel should have said no out of the gate because I would have THOUGHT they had learned this simple lesson. “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it!” or “Don’t f*** with the source material!”

      • I’m surprised no one has pointed out to you that Superman is a DC character, not a Marvel character. It’s not a judgement against you; it’s just that you discussed the wrong company.

        • haha you are right. I obviously had Marvel on the brain when I typed that (was discussing Thor movie previously) and they (Marvel) are making similar mistakes. i.e. are letting directors screw around with established source material.

          I WISH I had an edit function!

          Just substitute “Marvel” with “DC” and it works. ;)

  28. Bring Bryan Singer back!

    • Your kidding right? Bryan Singer should be kept as far away as possible from ever making super hero movies again.

  29. Batman is the only thing keeping DC Comics movies alive. Superman returns suck, especially the ending. Now he has a son that willonly have someof his traits not all of them. He is of this earth and can be harmed just like any human, he may have super strength and speed, but what else. And now that Luther knows, whats to stop Lex from Destroying superman through his son. Anyway, DC Comics is failing and Batman is whats keeping it alive. You would have figured that they wouldve come out with a Wonder Woman, Flash or Aquaman by now, those characters cant hold a movie by themselves and Green Lantern will suck, Ryan Reynolds should have stayed with Marvel

    • Actually, quite a few people (myself included) enjoyed “Superman Returns”), and I believe “Green Lantern” will be great. Your opinions are only as valid as anyone else’s, so calm down. DC seems to be progressing (if a bit slowly for some people’s tastes); they’ll be be fine…