In 1998 Tim Burton was slated to begin work on producing & directing a Superman film that would introduce an entirely new audience to the heroic Kal-El and his newsman alter ego Clark Kent. The project was canned shortly after it started planning & production but many pieces of concept art, prototypes, and even scripts survived the house cleaning. To this day rumors of the project surface every now and then each with bits of the concept art as proof of how far along the project actually was.
Jon Schnepp, an intrepid producer, has closely followed the leaks since the film's announcement and has assembled a vast collection of information including copies of the production material. Jon has worked to produce or animate such shows as Metalocalypse, The Venture Bros., and Space Ghost Coast to Coast for Adult Swim. He has always been excited about the mysterious Tim Burton Superman project but it was his friends that ultimately convinced him to take his hobby and make a movie. Jon has looked to Kickstarter now and wants your help to fund the documentary about what could have been the weirdest superhero film of our generation.
Superman is quite possibly the most iconic comic book hero of all time. The influence of DC's popular character has spanned multiple generations, thousands of individual comic issues, action figures, costumes, apparel, and more than a handful of motion pictures. In the last decade though the movie franchise featuring the spandex clad superhero has come on hard times. Superman Returns, the last reboot, flopped and the series wasn't picked up for a sequel. In the interim Disney went out and purchased DC's biggest rival: Marvel and has since produced the mega blockbuster Avengers as a flagship for its own comic book hero movie machine.
Superman Lives was supposed to be a late 90's or early 2000 released film that featured Clark reclaiming his place as the protector of Metropolis. Kevin Smith was one of the early screenwriters but with Tim Burton coming on board to direct the film he brought in his own choice creative professionals. Supermanhomepage.com reports that Wesley Strick was used to pen another script that failed to get studio approval as it went over budget. Nevertheless this doomed screenplay made it onto the internet and inside are some true gems of late 90's screenwriting.
In Strick's script Luthor is working closely with Brainiac and the two are quickly consolidating their power to form what's referred to within as one of "Brex", "Luthiac", or "Brainlex". References such as this were all tongue-in-cheek as it was the characters spouting the lines but it still set the mood for a film that would eventually get wildly out of control. To be fair superhero movies hadn't yet matured so when the original scripts for Superman Lives was penned we didn't have Spiderman, X-Men, Batman Begins or Hulk to show us that these films could take a more serious approach.
If you had doubts that Tim Burton's unique designs would go missing from a studio driven franchise like this you'll be pleased to know some concept pieces still bear his unmistakable style. The large beady eyes, wildly dark imagery, colorful protagonists and eclectic palette are all visible in different stages of the design. There are even concepts of Nicholas Cage in a modified design for Superman's iconic red and blue suit.
The suit would later be developed into a prototype by special effects personnel who worked on the preproduction of the film. Shots of the working product have been making their way onto the internet. Special effects guru Steve Johnson posted many such pictures to his Facebook page in December of 2010.
Steve has been busy posting different concepts from films he has worked on and it has given the community an inside look into some of the biggest blockbusters of the last two decades. In the case of Superman Lives he has been careful to tag each of the albums or videos he posts as they have garnered thousands upon thousands of views from interested fanboys and fangirls.
In the concept and prototypes Superman's tights would be tossed out in favor of a suit that was far more technical in design. Advanced electronics and theoretical physical properties would power a mostly clear ensemble with bluish tinges and rainbow coloration. Fiber optics ran up the chest and down each arm underneath opalescent shielding. When lit up the effect was striking but even these early tests have earned it the name "Superman Disco Suit" across most internet forums.
Jon Schnepp is going to take the the leaked concept art, scripts, available props, and other disparate material and compile them together to make a documentary. His film will eventually cover the rise and fall of Superman Lives as it went through the planning phase, the execution and eventual failure-to-launch. Schnepp doesn't plan on just using the concept art, he'll go further by investigating the rumors and interviewing anyone he can find who was associated with the film.
Who does Schnepp plan on interviewing? Well everyone but let's be realistic, anyone who is embarrassed by being associated with the film will be less likely to interview with him and his film crew. This disassociation will Initially count out Tim Burton, Nicholas Cage, and possibly even Wesley Strick. Other personalities like Kevin Smith (one of the first Superman Lives screenwriters) and the special effects artists should be willing simply because their fans will love them for their full and honest disclosure on such a quirky and well-loved project. The Internet has been abuzz with rumors of this fabled film for years.
So why Kickstarter? Jon is going all out for this campaign and he's hoping to get a number of high dollar supporters with special artistic tiers. At the most extreme levels he's giving supporters sculpted limited edition replicas of the prototype "Superman Disco Suit" and the Brainiac ship which is highly stylized after the iconic Superman villain. Even at the lower levels he's handing out limited prints of posters he's creating specially for Superman Lives and his doc. For $40 you can get a signed copy of the finished blu-ray package along with your name listed in the final credit crawl. There's some producer and super-fan tiers which I'll call "dreamer" levels higher up at $3,750, $5,000 and $9,950 where you'll get even more limited stuff. Want to get your entire family into the premier and film your own scene for the film where you're interviewed on what the Superman means to you? Schnepp's got you covered.
I'm still skeptical $98,000 is enough to pull off this grand vision especially with all of the premium reward tiers. Hopefully those will pay for themselves. Who knows Jon's already well over halfway to his initial goals so I'm expecting he'll succeed in the next week or two and it'll be smooth sailing from that point forward. I've loved every bit of information that's come out about this film so I'm looking forward to the inside perspective of a documentary. Who knows in a year or so we could be popping Jon's film into the blu-ray player right after watching Zack Snyder's Man of Steel and Bryan Singer's Superman Returns - wouldn't that be a Super-trip.